Romania

Picture this: a country of snow-capped peaks and wild forests where Europe’s largest population of brown bears roam free. Medieval villages and fortified churches built by settlers from Saxony and Hungary. Fairytale castles whose spires lance a blue sky, painted monasteries and wooden churches decorated with allegorical artworks depicting the lives of the saints. A folk-art culture where woodcarvers, blacksmiths and farriers are part of everyday life, and where women embroider by the fireside during long winter evenings. Romania is Europe from another age, minus the crowds, and it will charm your socks off.

Liz and Michael have constructed a 16-day itinerary that will arc through Romania in June 2020. We’ll start with two nights in Bucharest then fly to Cluj where we meet our bus and guide and drive north across the mountains to Maramures in Romania’s far north. We stay in traditional timber houses that have been transplanted to a grassy meadow, ringed by fences made from plaited willows in the shadow of a mountain known as the cock’s comb. We’re at the heart of a region famous for its timber churches, several of them on UNESCO’s World Heritage list.

We’ll travel east towards Moldova to explore the painted monasteries of Bucovina then cross the Carpathian Mountains into Transylvania to experience the villages and fortified churches built by Saxons and Szeklers, each with their own distinct traditions, beliefs and architecture.

The landscape and culture of rural Romania come from another time.  In spring the fields are covered with wildflowers that have largely disappeared from other parts of Europe. It’s not uncommon to see houses with a well in their front garden, village water mills are still used to grind grain and horse-drawn wagons still do much of the heavy lifting in the agricultural sector.  It is this landscape and this culture that are the focus of our tour.

Romania is still throwing off the yoke of a long and difficult communist dictatorship and its tourism industry is in its infancy. From our own experience, as a broad generalisation, Romanian people are incredibly welcoming to those genuinely interested in their culture, they’re warm and convivial and English is quite widely spoken.

Our accommodation is mostly in village guesthouses. It’s simple but comfortable and full of charm and you’ll always have an en-suite bathroom. There are some steep staircases but if this is challenging we’ll do our best to make sure you’re accommodated on the ground floor.

Some of these small hotels and pensions have only a small number of rooms and we are not able to accommodate single guests who prefer their own room. However those who are prepared to share a room with a like-minded traveller of the same sex are more than welcome, and we can help you find a suitable roommate.

We’ll travel in comfort, in a modern, air-conditioned vehicle, dine on traditional recipes that come straight from the village kitchen in many cases, and the fresh local produce is a highlight. Romanian wine is excellent.

Recommended Reading :

Along the Enchanted Way When William Blacker first crossed the snow-bound passes of northern Romania, he stumbled upon an almost medieval world.

The Appointment by Herta Muller ‘I’ve been summoned, Thursday, ten sharp.’ So begins one day in the life of a young clothing-factory worker during Ceausescu’s totalitarian regime.

A Concise History of Romania  by Keith Hitchins  Spanning a period of 2000 years from the Roman conquest of Dacia to the present day

The Balkan Trilogies by Olivia Manning At the heart of the trilogy are newlyweds Guy and Harriet Pringle, who arrive in Bucharest—the so-called Paris of the East—in the autumn of 1939.

 

Trip Highlights

 

  • Watch bears come to feed at dusk in the forests of Transylvania
  • Dine with shepherds in the high pastures of Maramures
  • Explore the Merry Cemetery, each folk-art grave a poignant story in celebration of a life
  • Walk through hillsides speckled with the blossoming plum trees, the source of a local firewater known as horinca
  • Explore villages with nesting storks crowning the skyline
  • Dine on fruits and vegetables that come straight from the garden and fresh sheep’s milk cheeses
  • See fairytale Peles Palace built by King Carol I
  • Walk the cobbled streets of Brasov and Sighisoara, where chic cafes are set into medieval facades
  • Experience traditional Roma culture
  • Explore the streets of Bucharest, where churches and extravagant belle epoque architecture nestle against brutalist works from the communist era
  • Drive through long stretches of countryside that might have sprung from a woodcut – muddy villages where pastel-tinted houses huddle along the main street and in the fields, scarved peasant women tending goats

Dates 6-21 June 2020

Download the Itinerary here

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