Wednesday, August 9, 2017

In Romania where . . .

Had no access to internet yesterday, so we are playing catch-up.

Tuesday 8 August.

As we had travelled to and fro from Casa Dinainte near Cluj, the road passed through this dark, cool, quiet forest. This morning we made a quick stop so we could get a photo.  Had to be quick though as this forest is supposed to have frequent paranormal phenomenon (what else would you expect from a forest in Transylvania?!)  Not sure what the mix of trees are although there is birch among them. 

And the bees couldn't give one hoot or buzz about the ghoulies - they were happy drinking nectar from the roadside flowers.

Today we had a big day of driving - we began by heading west to Oradea where there is a star citadel to explore. We are skirting one edge of the Carpathian Mountains and the scenery is stunning. Its very alpine and you could be in any one of a number of central European countries.  The last of the summer grass is being cut and piled high to dry to provide winter fodder for livestock. Old men seem to do the work here - you never seen young men
wielding the scythe to cut the grass.
The times estimated to travel relatively short distances is amazingly long. But when you add winding hairpins up and down slopes and meandering through valleys beside rivers to the poor condition of most of the rural roads, there lies the answer why. Believe me Helen - the Amalfi Coast has nothing on these corners!

Right along this route, we pass stall after stall after store selling locally made goods.  But alas, they are all too big for us to consider buying for home. 
As we reach Oradea, the architecture takes on a new twist. It soon becomes my castle is bigger, my castle is more colourful, my castle has more ornate guttering - than yours!

I soon realise that we are going to have to keep pushing on if we want to make our final destination of Viseu de Sus by nightfall. So we ration the visit to the Citadel to one hour. We might come back on our return to Cluj if there is time.

The Citadel has been fully restored (probably with EU money) and there are some excellent displays.  Many of the buildings inside are in permanent use by either the Museum or other civic duties.  It began with fortifications in the Roman era and despite being beseiged many times by the Ottomans, the Mongols and much later the Turks, the fortress was never taken. It has been built over many times and in one archaelogical display, the
layers of building and life are clearly visible.  Parts of the original paintwork and some of the sandstone carvings that would have adorned doorways and halls have been found and are on display. We had only just scratched the surface of this fascinating place, but had to push on.

We now turn north to Satu Mare, then east on through Baia Mare, through Sighetu Marmatiei and finally turn south for Viseu de Sus.  We have traversed the first edge of the Mamamures - that stunning range of mountains that straddles northern Romania and southern Ukraine. Oh, if only we had more time.  Is there a promising Lotto game any time soon back home?  I'll throw a few more photos on to Facebook!

And what is so appealing about Viseu de Sus?  Well, it lies deep in the

Maramures and there just so happens to be a steam train here - part of Romania's last working steam logging operation (there were 1500 still operational up until the 1970s with the last steam loco being built for this industry in 1972.)  And to really make Michael's day and night, we are booked in to the Carpatia Express Hotel - where we sleep and dine in railway carriages!

So an exhausting day of driving (only) 447 km where it took a total of 10 hours driving - with that one hour respite at the Citadel!

We were greeted by Bridgette from Switzerland at the Dining Car as we arrived and once we quickly gathered the key for the cabin, she filled our bellies with Vegetable Soup, toasted Ham, Cheese and pineapple on toast, Swedish Meatballs with the yummiest piquant gravy and potato and pea mash and rounded out the night with Swiss Mousse. Two tired travellers gratefully partook!
And tomorrow - the steam train!


  • Mountain roads twist through birch and fir forests - but prove no challenge for maniac drivers hell bent on overtaking at all costs
  • If any building code exists, it isn't enforced - everything from timber sheds converted into dwellings, from besser block or clay bricks daubed with mortar, to concrete cancer riddled leftovers from the days of communist rule, to the newer gaudy 'mine is bigger than yours' painted in every colour of the neon rainbow 
  • Storks nest two by two high on telegraph poles
  • It is still ok or the farmer to take his wife to town in the high sided wagon pulled by horse or tractor
  • Old men deftly wild age-smoothed scythes in the fields as young men race by in late model cars
  • New money eclipses old money - we have never seen so many high end cars
  • Everyone in the rural areas is a market gardener - and they all sit patiently selling the same produce at their front gates
  • It seems compulsory to sit on a bench seat outside your fence chewing the fat with your neighbour and taking the last of the evening sun between 5 and 7 in the afternoon
  • It feels perfectly normal to be sleeping in a railway carriage as you hear the steam locos hauling timber, and being fed by a Swiss cook.

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