Traveling on OPT
I don’t know why I had such a poor opinion of Romania before visiting. I was expecting it be more like the Balkans and less like Central Europe. I was thinking it would be more than a little rough around the edges but in actual fact the cities are much like elsewhere in Europe with their beautiful historic centres, delicious traditional and modern cuisine plus some very cool castles.
It wasn’t long after moving to Europe that I became ‘castled out’. What was once one of my favourite touristy things to do, visiting castles dropped off my itineraries as they all started to look much the same to my weary tourist eyes.
But after a few years of castle-free travel and hearing Romania has some of the best castles in Europe, visiting Dracula’s Castle, Peles and Corvin Castle headed to the top of my Romania must see list.
We entered Romania from the north-west via Hungary. It’s a good place to start a road trip through Romania as it takes you to straight to the unique city of Timisoara. Before visiting, my only knowledge of Timisoara was that the 1989 Timisoara uprising led to the Romanian Revolution. Not much to go on for a first time visitor.
It turns out Timisoara is a city of many squares, parks, churches and the most interesting architecture I’ve seen in Europe. Many of the historic buildings were constructed in Art Nouveau style which explains the quirky, curved lines and in some cases, over-the-top designs. It’s a great city for lovers of architecture.
Even though Romania is one of the largest countries in Europe, the most popular tourist destinations are only a short drive from one another. The longest drive of our trip was the two and a half hour drive from Timisoara to Hunedoara in Transylvania. Hunedoara is where you’ll find Corvin Castle or Hunyadi Castle as it’s sometimes known (Castelul Corvinilor in Romanian), an orange roofed, stone castle surrounded by a deep moat and only accessible via a (now permanent) drawbridge. Some say Vlad the Impaler aka Dracula was held prisoner in Corvin Castle in the 15th century.
Hunedoara is only worth the detour if you’re interested in the castle. The rest of the city is a bit of a ghost town with boarded up businesses and ghetto suburbs. I spent the night there but never would have had I known what it was like. I’m sure they could do with the tourist dollars created by overnight stays but I recommend visiting on a day trip.
It was when entering Sibiu that I realised Romania is just like anywhere in Western Europe. Sibiu could easily be mistaken for a German city which is not surprising seeing much of it was built by exiled Germans, the Transylvanian Saxons. Life in Sibiu is laid back with plenty of cafés, museums and shopping to keep you busy. It’s the Romanian city most suitable for foodies and its easy going lifestyle and relatively high standard of living make it a popular spot for expats. Add to that the pull of the fastest internet in Europe and I was tempted to stay a while.
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