Romanian Road Trip: Amazing So Far

Filed Under: Travel, Trip Reports

READ MORE FROM THIS TRIP

Planning A Romanian Road Trip
Introduction: Transylvania Unknown
Getting An International Driving Permit
Review: The Club At ATL
Review: Turkish Airlines 787 Business Class
Review: IGA Lounge Istanbul Airport
Review: Turkish Airlines A319 Business Class
Review: DoubleTree By Hilton Cluj, Romania
Romanian Road Trip: Amazing So Far
Review: Art Hotel Sibiu, Romania
Brunch In The Transylvanian Countryside
Review: Copsamare Guesthouses, Romania
Review: Casa Savri Sighișoara, Romania
Romanian Road Trip: Part Two
Review: Vila Economat Sinaia, Romania
Driving In Romania: My Experience
Review: JW Marriott Bucharest, Romania
Review: TAROM Lounge Bucharest Airport
Review: TAROM Business Class A318
Review: Hyatt Place London Heathrow
Virgin Atlantic’s Puzzling New Business Class Seat
Review: Virgin Atlantic Clubhouse Heathrow
Review: NEW Virgin Atlantic A350 Upper Class


I really have to thank you guys for all your insights into Romania as we were planning this trip. I ultimately chose our itinerary by pasting all your suggestions on hotels and activities into a geographically-grouped table, chunked things out by how much driving I thought we could reasonably do in a day, and then factored in the day of the week and other practical Ben-and-Tiffany considerations.

Since my travel companion has been asking roughly every hour how I’m planning on sharing details of our trip, I figure it’s time for an update on how the trip is going so far. 😉

Day One — Cluj To Sibiu

The way things worked out our first day was a bit overloaded. This basically came down to the fact that there wasn’t anywhere that looked that special to stay between Cluj and Sibiu, so we decided to do it all in one shot.

With perfect weather and shockingly easy roads we still had plenty of time to sightsee along the way though, and didn’t feel rushed at all.

Cluj-Napoca

I didn’t have any real expectations of Cluj — I’d read that it was a University town, with a fun vibe, but that is also pretty vague.

Cluj is a cool city.

Even in the very early morning the city was bustling, with people grabbing to-go coffees on their way to work. Which let’s be honest, that in and of itself is novel for many European cities.

Of course, there were also plentiful cafes with locally-roasted coffee for those wanting to linger:

The city was quite walkable, with a fun mix of historic architecture and more modern spaces, and overall just felt like a lovely, livable city.

While Cluj doesn’t seem to make many “Top 10” lists, and has limited tourist bingo-style attractions, we really enjoyed our time here, and I wouldn’t have minded spending a few days sampling the various themed bars and other local hotspots.

Alba Iulia

Skipping past the salt mines in Turda (sorry, we’re an anti-salt mine operation here at OMAAT these days), we dropped in to Alba Iulia. The star-shaped citadel looked intriguing, and timing-wise it was the perfect lunch/blogging stop.

We spent a couple of hours walking around and marveling at the variety of buildings, which was the perfect amount of time for us.

There were several interesting-looking museums, so you could certainly spend more time here, but a whistle-stop tour didn’t leave us feeling shorted at all.

Corvin Castle

Early in our itinerary I’d considered staying near this castle, and hoo boy am I glad that we didn’t. Hunedoara might be one of the least-charming towns I’ve encountered in Europe, and doesn’t seem to have much to offer beyond proximity to Corvin Castle.

Which, is awesome, and you should really make a point of seeing.

There wasn’t much to see on the inside (in the grand tradition of many rural historical sites, there was limited signage, and very little contextual information about what you were looking at or why it mattered), but the architecture was interesting.

And pro-tip, if you are hoping to get some instagram-worthy exterior pics, check the anticipated solar position prior to scheduling your visit. The sun was directly in our eyes (and our photos) the entire time we were there, and waiting four hours for the sun to drop below the horizon wasn’t an option for us.

We ended our day with some very boring freeway driving, making it to Sibiu in time to enjoy the town in some beautiful evening light:

Though the alleyways of the lower town were equally charming at night:

A lovely and successful first day!

Day Two — Sibiu To Copsa Mare

While you could certainly base yourself in any of the towns of Transylvania and make day trips, we decided we wanted the cadence of changing hotels every day.

Sibiu

Sibiu was a great stopping point for us, and there’s enough infrastructure that it would be easy to spend a few days here without getting bored of the restaurants, though you’d definitely want to make day trips.

The city is pretty, but also a little bland — there are several museums, and tons of regional history, but it very much felt like a showpiece, and not somewhere people actually lived, despite the Zara, Starbucks, and Vodafone branches flanking the main square.

But we’re also traveling off-season, so it may be a more lively place in the summer.

The Transylvanian Countryside

One of the few pre-booked activities on this trip was a picnic brunch, which I’ll have a full installment on later. I was intrigued by the chance to try some local food, but mostly it was an excuse to get out into the middle of nowhere.

Which also presented some opportunities to explore quaint woods.

And endless tiny Saxon villages with candy-coated houses, horse-drawn carts, and fortified churches.

Biertan

One of the most impressive villages we stopped in was Biertan, which is one of the UNESCO World Heritage Sites in Transylvania.

We pretty much had the place to ourselves, and the climb up to the fortress revealed some lovely views of the surrounding countryside.

We ended the day in the tiny hamlet of Copsa Mare, which you’ll read all about when we review the hotel. But for now, suffice it to say the town was adorable.

Thoughts on Romania and the trip so far

While I’m sure we’ll have more to say as the trip goes on, there are a few things standing out so far.

The hospitality is lovely

I didn’t really expect for people to be quite so warm — we are in Eastern Europe, after all, which often has a somewhat different cultural approach to interacting with strangers — but everyone we’ve met has been so nice, and so helpful.

Everything is beautiful

We have enjoyed better weather than anyone could ask for, which certainly doesn’t hurt, but the towns and cities have all been so picturesque and just nice to look at.

The countryside is breathtaking too, and photos can’t even begin to do justice to the rolling hills, clusters of sheep, and copses of trees.

We really needed the break

This wasn’t at all a factor in deciding to take a road trip, but turns out that having several hours a day where we physically can’t work is pretty good for us. Neither of us would change a thing about our work lives, but keeping pace with the Internet is pretty demanding at times, and it’s been a hard summer in general.

Of course we’re still working throughout the day, though we’ve slowed the pace a bit. Ben is still writing reviews, but other than my half-assed attempts at Instagram updates (feel free to follow along!) we aren’t pressuring ourselves to keep up on social media or anything.

So being forced to disconnect a bit from The World and generally enjoying the time away from everything while getting to reconnect with each other, as sappy as that sounds, has been incredibly relaxing.

Who knew?!

Ben’s Driving Has Been Sorta Spectacular

This is going to come as a surprise to our respective husbands, anyone who drove with him as a teenager, and the greater populations of both Tampa and Bellevue, but Ben is doing a non-ironically fabulous job of driving.

We’ve been through city centers, on expressways, and decent country roads:

Along with some decidedly less-decent ones:

But there have been zero terrifying moments, limited car sickness, and only one missed turn (which was totally my fault, as we missed it by like 10km). I’m so impressed.

And that’s a good thing, because this is now the agenda for tomorrow:

I’m sure that we’ll have a very similar experience in our super-premium Nissan Juke.

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Comments
  1. Just one comment that I think reflects what many of us think.
    Tiffany should write more. A lot more.
    Her articles are always, without exception, interesting, well written, and carry her unique voice.
    Ben is great, but I think the blog needs another voice.

  2. I’m looking forward to the rest of these reviews, especially your trip details Tiffany! Never been to eastern Europe, so this is getting my travel bug itch starting up 🙂

  3. Here’s one thing I don’t understand, why doesn’t Tiffany post more often? Fine, she has a life, but it’s such a waste of talent.

  4. About the lack of information in Corvin castle, did you really thought that Romanians will glorify the glorious Corvin family of Hunyad?

  5. You’re making me miss Cluj…

    I agree that Sibiu is more “museum-like,” but it’s so pretty that I think you would’ve regretted not stopping in. I think Brasov is more lively, though I didn’t find the people to be as warm as in places farther west (still 10x better than the city I’m from, which I won’t even mention lol). Glad you enjoyed Biertan, I was afraid you might not!

    You’re on the Transfagarasan tomorrow… I take it you’re a few days behind and have already seen Sighisoara and Brasov? If not, don’t fret – they could tie in well to a future trip to Moldova (the region, not the country) and perhaps Maramures if you can swing it.

  6. “Though the alleyways of the lower town were equally charming at night”

    That was really nice. Although where are all the people?

    I do all my traveling away from summer to avoid the crowds, except for the Christmas Markets.

    I’ve yet to drive on any trip outside the US. While trains are great, there are some places you do need to drive to and I’ll have to see if I can do it on a trip.

  7. Just to clarify before I get too much flak: Romanians in general are among the most hospitable people. I’ve taken foreigners to my hometown, seen as “meh” or downright nasty by some in Romania, and they said they felt more welcome than in most other places they’d visited.

    I just found – as a Romanian – Transylvanians, Banateni, and Maramureseni to be a cut above the rest; and the deeper you are in that “group of regions,” the more hospitable they get.

  8. Great trip report so far Tiffany!! That point of view on the creepy eyes building – INDEED!
    Looking forward to more installments!

  9. You’re missing out! That salt mine was one of my favourite places to visit. Our 40-voice choir experienced some magical acoustics in the era before the amusement park stuff.

  10. @ Boco — Hah, thanks 🙂 I’d truly love to write more, so it’s less about having a life as such, and more about the other things needing to be done around here, most of which also require considerable, though less public, talents and skillsets, and there only being so many hours in the day.

  11. @ Mine — Thanks 🙂 If I had the time, I certainly would. I enjoy writing, but I’m not that fast, and the context switching exacerbates that.

  12. @ rich — That was my question as well! I’m typically up and walking well before dawn, so I don’t expect to see people out in the mornings, but that picture of the alleyways was taken at like 7:45PM!

  13. @ Bandmeeting — There’s probably a better term, but so often there are all these “Must See Grand Things” that inspire people to rush about and check them all off.

  14. Your photos are amazing! Romania is one of my favorite countries in Europe. Visited Brasov, Bran Castle (also known as the Dracula castle), Sigisoara, and Sinaia and all were wonderful.

  15. @ James S — English is common enough that I think you’d be fine, but the Romanian language also seems to be positioned somewhere between Italian and German, so we may have a bit of an advantage in being able to intuit the vocabulary words, if that makes any sense.

  16. @James S and Tiffany: The big cities are likely to have plenty of English-speakers, as the (barely visible) sign to the right in the picture of the Cluj café shows (it is in English). While the knowledge of English in the countryside will naturally be lower, one language that you might encounter in parts of Romania might be Hungarian, as Transylvania has a huge Hungarian population.

    Romanian is not halfway between Italian and German. It is closer to Italian than other Romance languages, but also fairly distant, as it is surrounded by Slavic countries.

    Small nitpicking: you say that there are Zara, Starbucks and Vodafone shops in the Sibiu city square. Always thought of Vodafone as a company that would have shops in every fourth street, and not as a lifestyle brand.

    Talking of telecom, I presume you are using your Google Fi plan in Romania, and Ben is using T-Mobile Simple Choice. Otherwise applying for a SIM in Romania is a little unexpected, as prices are listed in euro, and not RON (lei), the local currency. Not that I’d know, but some Googling does the trick.

  17. romania really can say for me the place of lovers. We met my wife here and got married again. In fact, we both come from different countries. But his fascination impressed us. So we hope to travel again. Thanks to your content I made a nice plan, thank you.

  18. Hi Ben,

    Try to go to Sighisoara, There is a DoubleTree by Hilton Sighisoara-Cavaler.
    That city is so beautiful and the hotel is nice and cheap. Good location.

  19. I agree that Tiffany writes very well and is a great communicator of events, but wish she would stop overusing “ amazing” and similar hyperbolic terms, eg the headline does need ‘amazing’, just Transylvania Road Trip Days 1 and 2 .
    Yes, I know the readers are mostly millennials and consequently need everything to be described as ‘amazing’, ‘incredible’, ‘unbelievable ‘ or they’ll think it was somehow below standard and perhaps unworthy of a read.
    That notwithstanding, Tiffany is one of the very best travel writers on the net ( as is Ben, although his gruesome overuse of ‘reach out’ is not to his credit)

  20. Tiffany posts are too few and far between….love the writing

    Hoping for detailed post on driving, roads, fuel, tolls, etc.

  21. I have been to Bucharest a couple of times and some other business travel from there and it is no surprise that you have had a warm welcome. I have found the Romanian people some of the nicest and friendliest in Europe.

    One thing I would be aware of is that if you are going to Bucharest the driving standards there are er interesting with speed limits being very advisory and overtaking done using any means possible so be careful.

    So pleased you are having a great time.

  22. Tiffany – really enjoying your articles as you walk us through your trip – and you’re rapidly placing Romania on my itinerary of future destinations! Very nice job, and I’m pretty picky when reading blogs (which is why Ben is also a favorite of mine).

  23. Hi … I have just read this article and some comments …I ‘am happy to read peoples like places from my country ( born there but I live in UK now ) ..make me missing beauty of my country..and are still are alot of nice things to see in Romania . Alot of people speak English and other languages ..easy to communicate . Romanian language come from Latin language same as french , Italian and Spanish ..but don’t have anything to do with German language like some1 say here … Romania is a country who deserve to be visited ..but my advice is to speak before with some 1 who know where to go ..and you will be amazed .

  24. Great read!!! I did a 3-week Romanian language summer school in Cluj during my student days. It was fascinating to say the least. They still had horse-drawn wagons in the city center during that time period, which was shortly after the revolution. Fascinating country indeed. Thank you.

  25. Great post Tiffany, thank you! It’s nice to read more of a “travel blog” post rather than a review for a change. 🙂

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