December 7th-13th, 2017
Shortly after returning from our time in Bulgaria to avoid deportation, John and I realized that we need to leave the country again to buy more time for our Visas to be processed. We ended up going to Romania for 6 days because it was a non-Schengen country, was cheap to get to, and was the only place in Europe where we could cross the neighboring Hungarian border after midnight the same day we would be flying out of Budapest to come back to the States. The research to find all of this out took about 5 hours and had us sitting at our laptops until 3:00 a.m. just 2 days before we flew out.
We landed in Bucharest and stayed there for the majority of our time. I didn’t know what to expect, but I really liked Bucharest. It was December, so their Christmas Markets were in their prime and sat at the base of their Parliament, which happens to be the second largest office building in the world (next to the Pentagon). We went to the Markets the same night that the National Orchestra was playing. Friends, it was one of my most favorite European experiences so far. Thousands of people gathered together in massive, sprawling circles and did traditional Romania dances for hours. People of all ages and social classes joined in arm and arm around each other, all strangers, dancing with huge smiles on their faces. It was remarkable.
If you’re in Bucharest, you have to do a day trip and catch a train up to Sinaia. The world-renowned Peles Castle sits on the mountainous hillside of Sinaia. Peles has been owned by the Romanian Royal Family for over 100 years, and is considered one of the most beautiful castles in the world. Its Transylvanian architecture is embodied in every facet of the building. The very week we were in Romania, the long-time King of Romania, Michael, had died. As a young king, he opposed the Nazis and joined the Allied forces during World War II, all while the Nazis occupied his country and pressured him to join Hitler. His story is truly remarkable, I encourage you to look it up! Peles Castle is where he was born, so it was surreal to be there the week that he died.
We hopped on another train and headed to Brasov, then to Braun. Wedged between 2 mountains sits Braun Castle, the infamous castle that the story of Dracula is based on. Although it doesn’t come close in beauty to Peles Castle, the story of Dracula associated with its history makes it worth the visit.
We needed to be closer to the Hungarian border for when we would depart on an overnight bus, so we caught a really cheap flight from Bucharest to Cluj-Napoca. We were only in Cluj-Napoca for 24 hours, but took time to walk the city and enjoy its gorgeous architecture.
My recommendations for Romania? Definitely explore Bucharest. However, make Sinaia and Braun your priority so you can see and enjoy the castles. Peles is one of the coolest things I’ve ever experienced, including the astounding interior.