First of all, we decided to change the design of the website, choosing a cleaner, simpler theme. We are still experiencing a few technical problems, like the disappearance of the “like” button and error messages appearing in some of the posts; also, you need to subscribe again, if you want to keep on receiving emails every time we publish something. And although you cannot “like” our posts anymore, you can always leave s comment or share our post on social media. But, all in all, we are very happy with the new look.
Anyway, here you find a video with some of the highlights of our 4 weeks in Romania (May 2015). Excluded are the places linked to Vlad Tepes, which we featured in a separate video.
The last place where we stayed in Romania last year before heading back to Belgium, was Sarmizegetusa (county of Hunedoara). Lars and I had chosen the place by accident, not knowing that it actually harbours Roman ruins.
Ulpia Traiana Sarmizegetusa was the capital of Roman Dacia in the 2nd and 3rd centuries, until Goths destroyed the city.
You can visit the ruins at the outskirts of the town. As always, you need to pay a small fee for the entrance. There is a small restaurant there as well.
As you can see on the pictures, these ruins are not as spectacular as the Colosseum in Rome for example, but if you are interested in ancient history, you should really have a look at this place.
You need 1 – 2 hours to see the whole site. It is a lot bigger than you think.
There is another place where you can see parts of these ruins. Locals looted them in order to build their houses and churches. Luckily, nowadays, the ruins are a protected national monument. Anyway, the church of Densus – a handful of kilometres from Sarmizegetusa – is the best example. So, off we went…
It had started raining when we arrived at the church. The churchyard looked quite neglected.
Densus Church is one of the oldest Romanian churches. It dates from the 7th century and in the 13th century, local inhabitants added stones taken from the ruins.
Sarmizegetusa is quite a small town and only has a handful of hotels. Lars and I stayed in Pension Zamolxe – a very nice place – and we can also recommend Pensiunea Sarmis, because of its very good restaurant. You can find all hotels on Booking.
Mud volcano or mud dome refers to formations created by geo-exuded mud or slurries, water and gases. There are several geological processes that may cause the formation of mud volcanoes. Mud volcanoes are not true igneousvolcanoes as they produce no lava. The earth continuously exudes a mud-like substance, which may sometimes be referred to as a “mud volcano”. Mud volcanoes may range in size from merely 1 or 2 meters high and 1 or 2 meters wide, to 700 meters high and 10 kilometers wide. Smaller mud exudations are sometimes referred to as mud-pots. The largest (man made) mud volcano is “Lusi” in Java, Indonesia, which is 10 kilometres (6 mi) in diameter.(Wikipedia)
Or, in other words, it looks like a small volcano and produces a mud-like substance.
Where in Europe can you find mud volcanoes? In Russia, Ukraine, Italy and Romania. If you are driving around in this last country, head to Berca and follow the signs saying “Vulcanii Noroiosi”. You have to pay a small fee at the entrance.
It is better to stay away from the mud. Lars didn’t and afterwards, his shoes were completely ruined.
As you can see, there is little vegetation near the mud (or muddy) volcanoes. This is due to the salty soil. Although these mud volcanoes are not majestic, they create a spectacular lunar landscape!
You can combine your visit to the mud volcanoes with a trip in the nearby Carpathian mountains. Don’t feel like staying in one of the many surrounding villages? The nearest town is Buzau, where hotels and restaurants are waiting for you. Want to know where Lars and I stayed? In our favourite place, of course! Have a look here; it takes a bit longer to reach the mud volcanoes though…
The biggest touristic attraction around Brasov is without any doubt the castle of Bran. It can be really hectic here – and not just in the castle, but also in the whole village – during summer, so try to visit it in spring or autumn.
But there is more… Transylvania is home to a very special kind of building: the fortified churches. And you can find everything you want to know about them in this post. Now, let us head over to Harman and visit its beautiful fortified church.
I don’t think I have ever visited a church that displayed so much tapestry and … pillows. Together with the woodwork, it gives the church a cozy feeling. This is what the fortifications themselves look like.
You can find another fortified church in Prejrem. In both locations, by the way, you have to pay a small entrance fee. We have been to other villages with fortified churches where we did not have to pay anything, but we are not sure if such is still the case.
Doesn’t this all look picturesque? Now, this is the interior of the church itself. The difference with an orthodox church is huge, but that is of course due to historical and religious matters. And it is exactly this cultural and religious diversity that makes Romania such a fascinating country.
Here are some more shots of the exterior. This place looks like a fairytale.
Interested? Stay in Brasov, visit the castle of Bran in the morning and go to Harman and Prejrem in the afternoon.
Let’s go back to the summer of 2011… Lars and I had spent two crazy but beautiful weeks in Ukraine and were on our way to Romania, which is without any doubt the favourite country of my future husband. And I was curious and excited to explore yet another new country.
On a hot summer’s day, we decided to visit Brasov and its Black Church. Lars was happy and impatient to go back to one of his favourite cities. I on the other hand, didn’t feel well; I had woken up with a cramp in my left leg, which made it difficult for me to walk. I was worried and a bit confused, not knowing where the pain came from.
Lars had described Brasov as a charming town, with cobbled streets and old houses. When we arrived there, all I saw where big lanes with lots and lots of noisy cars and huge, ugly apartment buildings. I started to wonder why Lars felt so attracted to all this and my disappointment grew as it took us forever to find a place to park the car. When we got out, the summer heat seemed to beat me down; I struggled to walk and I started to sweat profusely.
Finally, we arrived at the beginning of a shopping street. I sighed; I don’t like shopping and I hate shopping streets with a passion, especially when they are very crowded. Which was the case at that particular moment. Lars assured me that at the other end of the street the Black Church was located, but I simply had enough of it all, the heat, the pain, the crowd… I turned around and went back to the car, proclaiming my hate for Brasov. Lars and I were both disappointed, but for very different reasons.
By the way, the pain in my leg turned out to be the beginning of a pulmonary embolism. By the time we were in Slovenia, I ended up in hospital and it took me 2 months to heal again. Anyway, luckily for us, I decided to give Brasov a second chance. In May 2015, I was in better shape and ready to discover this town. This time, temperatures were mild and we easily found a place to park our car. And we were only a couple of footsteps away from the Black Church.
It truly is the landmark of Brasov. Built in 1477, the Gothic church is indeed black, due to the smoke of the great fire in 1689. The interior is breathtaking, but unfortunately you are not allowed to photograph it. You have to do with these exterior shots.
There is a very cozy square near the church. Lars and I had some breakfast and enjoyed the atmosphere of the nearby market. By the way, there is a tourist information office in the neighbourhood, but it was never open. Maybe it only receives visitors during the high season.
Afterwards, we drove to the outskirts of town and took the cable lift. Yes, Lars and I still suffer from fear of heights and yes, we still challenge that fear. To be honest, we were not completely at ease, because the cabin was very small and narrow. But what a view!
I feel really grateful that I gave Brasov a second chance. In our opinion, two or three days should be enough to explore this town and its surroundings.
Right in the center of town, stands the magnificent Saint Michael’s Church, a Gothic beauty of the 14th century. In front of it is the enormous statue of Matthias Corvinus, a Hungarian king. We had driven past this at least twice a day, so it was about time to have a closer look.
A word of advice: don’t visit the church during the weekend! Not only because of the bigger number of the tourists, but also because of the huge traffic. Lars and I lost a lot of time, because we simply couldn’t find a place to park. Finally, we did get rid of the car, but because we had parked it in a zone reserved for taxis, we had only a very short time to visit the church itself. Hence only a handful of pictures of this rather dark building.
Lars and I regret not having spent more time in Cluj itself. We were so busy with exploring the surroundings that we somehow ignored the city itself. Anyway, we have nothing but good memories of Cluj!
14 hectares with more than 10,000 flowers and plants from all over the world: this is what awaits you in the Botanical Garden of Cluj, also known as the Alexandru Borza Cluj – Napoca University Botanic Garden. Borza is actually one of the founders of the garden.
Entrance is 10 lei (a bit more than €2,-). As soon as you enter the garden, you are greeted by colourful flowers.
Lars and I quickly found our favourite corner, the stunning Japanese garden. We sat there for quite some time, soaking up the peaceful atmosphere.
I know that these paths look empty, but the Botanical Garden is actually a very popular destination. Go as early as possible.
Don’t have a lot of time? Make sure not to miss the greenhouses.
Back outside… More and more people were now in the garden. And it seems that brides and grooms like to have their pictures taken here as well. Lars and I went back to the entrance.
This was truly a little corner of paradise in Cluj. Later this week we show you what else you can visit in this town.
You visited the salt mine of Turda and you had a walk in the town. But is there something to see in the surroundings? The answer is positive and we have three recommendations for you.
If I am not mistaken, the word “cheile” stands for gorge. Cheile Turzii is Romania’s version for a canyon and this one in particular covers more than 300 ha and is about 2.9 kilometers long.
As you can imagine, Lars and I couldn’t wait to start exploring. First obstacle, a bus full with tourists… We waited and waited and waited. They really took their time to make pictures and then it seemed to last forever before the bus drove away. At last, I could take these pictures:
Problem number 2: a thunderstorm which turned the road into a swimming pool. It was simply impossible to come any closer, so we left. We hope to return here one day.
The Catholic Armenian Cathedral in Gherla
As you can see in the pictures, by the time we arrived in Gherla, the weather had changed completely! Anyway, Armenians built this town in the 18th century; Gherla has also been part of Hungary. Quite an interesting mix. The cathedral is easy to find and is definitely worth a stop.
The Orthodox Monastery in Nicula
If you only have time for one location, let it be this one. We really saved the best for last. Nicula refers to both the village and its monastery and comes from the name Nicholas, a hermit who lived in a nearby forest in the 14th century. The monastery itself dates from the 16th – 18th century and boasts magnificent icons.
We still have a lot of catching up to do – the rest of the Romania trip and the big summer trip of last year, but from now on we will also be blogging about the trips we have made this year. So, expect stuff coming up from Paris, Denmark and Eupen!
Photographing the backroads of Europe, exploring beauty and enjoying life at our own pace