Archive for March, 2011

If you click on the Map button on the top of our website you will find a google map from now on, on which you can follow our exact route.

La Revedere

Advertisements

Read Full Post »

A week has passed since we shared our last musings, so we thought it was about time to provide you with some updates on our whereabouts and latest adventures.

Street Scenery

Street Scenery

We left Budapest headed for Oradea, a town close to the Hungarian/Romanian border. Means of transport was a tiny bus that meandered its way across Hungary’s vast plains.

As Romania is one hour ahead of Western Europe, we arrived at a somewhat dodgy station after dark and made our way into town to find a place to crash for the night. After the town’s hostel no longer exists, we ended up in Hotel Parc. Sounds fancy. It isn’t. Lonely Planet’s description of the hotel as a “place of former art nouveau grandeur, yet well past its best days” is quite a spot on way to put it. Imagine beautiful colored glass, frescoes, golden paint, huge rooms, wooden floors- but all smelly, smokey and run down. Nevertheless, surely an experience in itself- made us think of the Shining a bit.

The plan was for us to leave town as soon as possible to head out into the Romanian wilderness, in order to see something of the country itself- and its people. Since public transport is meager in remote areas, to say the least, we ended up deciding to rent a car. This proved to be somewhat of an adventure in itself, as all the car rental companies the internet had promised us to be located in Oradea where nowhere to be found (at least we got a good idea of the city while searching).

To cut a long story short, thanks to autonom car rentals, we found ourselves on a bumpy road headed south at 7 pm that evening. And bumpy it was indeed- many Romanian roads have given a whole new meaning to the word ‘pothole’- making anything called pothole in good old Germany pale in comparison. Our white Dacia Logan proved to be a good sport, however, and in combo with our advanced driving skills 😉 (some of the drive felt more like a slalom), we managed to avoid axle fracture or exploding tyres.

Snowangel

Snowangel

That night, we made it into a small mountain village just below the entrance to a cave- one of the most beautiful in entire Romania, we were told. We found a pensiune for the night, were surrounded by stray dogs in the dark (imagine opening the door of your car, stepping out into the pitch black village- no streetlights- and all of a sudden having something sniffing your leg…) and got a good night’s rest before venturing out to explore the cave the next morning.

Bear cave, or pestera ursilor, is full of magnificent stalagmites and stalactites- rather impressive. Taking photos cost extra, so we relinquished. Throughout our explorations we were accompanied by a guide, who unfortunately did not speak a word of either English or French, but instead just followed us like a shadow.

Apuseni Mountains

Apuseni Mountains

We headed on into the Apuseni Mountains, along a beautiful, winding road, which took us so high there was still snow everywhere. Next destination was the Ice Cave of Scarisoara. In order to get there, we had to leave the main road and drive up into the mountains proper. And this is where the fun started for real. The road, by now unsurfaced, became narrower and steeper, and, thanks to melting ice and snow, soon turned into a veritable mud puddle. Slipping from left to right, we made it through without getting stuck (for now…). Yet, the color scheme of our white car was somewhat altered (it should maybe be mentioned that the car was more or less brand new, 2000 km was all it had driven- so that sort of road was surely news for the Dacia).

Few from our balcony

View from our balcony

Eventually we arrived in a tiny mountain village (which can hardly be called a village, more a conglomerate of houses spread out across the hills) and to our amazement, we discovered a pensiune and decided to stay for the night. We communicated this to the old lady minding the cows (sign language turns out to be an essential tool in many places) and soon found ourselves in a cute little room.

Anna in the Ice Cave

Anna in the Ice Cave

The ice cave itself turned out to be nearly as exiting as the ride up there. We had been warned that

the descent into the cave might not be up to international safety standards- yet we had not quite expected to find ourselves crawling down an incredibly steep metal staircase covered in ice and snow… The cave was quite beautiful, with huge ice sculptures and icicles everywhere.

Ice Cave

Ice Cave

Scary Stairs

Scary Stairs

Back in the pensiune, we discovered the old lady’s son and his wife spoke French, so we had a pleasant night chatting with them, being served palinka (a sort of schnaps) and playing table tennis- Nico versus the host and his son.

Scary Cave

Scary Cave

On our descent from the mountain, via a different road, we got stuck in the snow for a bit and explored yet another cave- this time a less “official one”. Pitchblack inside, but thanks to our flashlight we ventured on- nevertheless, it was a bit freaky alright. After all, there are bears in Romania…

The night, we spent in Cluj Napoca, a student town with lots of bars and cafes. We discovered a nice jazz place with live music and had our share of alcoholic beverages before heading north the next morning, to Maramures.

The region is famous for its traditional looking villages and wooden churches, which are unique in the country. Meandering through the landscape (which is very beautiful by the way), sometimes gave the impression as if time stands still in this spot of land. Horse carts, wagons pulled by oxen, old ladies and men sitting on their porch chatting, the smell of burnt wood in the air- quite the idyll to the city eye.

 

Funural Romanian Style

Funeral Romanian Style

Wooden Church from the inside

Wooden Church from the inside

We visited a number of churches and their surrounding graveyards, and managed to get into one of the churches to see the magnificent wall paintings (an old man followed us with the key). The night we spent in yet another pensiune, whose owner, surprisingly enough, spoke a bit of German. Our plan to ride on a steam train did not work out, as there was a public holiday and the train did not run. So we decided to visit two more villages before washing the car and heading back to Oradea to drop it off…

Wooden Church

Wooden Church

Church from the inside

Church from the inside

So much the plan. But, as reality bites, things turned out somewhat differently. Having been to village and church number one, we went on to Botiza. The map said that the street would make a loop and eventually lead us back onto the main road. So we drove on. Took a right at a crossing. The road turned from asphalt into gravel into a proper forest road, bumpy as hell. It got narrower, there were stones and pieces of wood in the way. We decided to turn back and take a left instead. Same game, only that it turned into a dry mud road at first, soon followed by a wet mud road that had been pierced by the massive wheels of a tractor, creating depressions way to deep for our car- keyword: underbody. So we scratched along for a bit- and then we got stuck in the mud. Big time.

Stuck!!!!!

Stuck!!!!!

No moving forwards nor backwards. Many of you will probably think: what made these morons attempt a muddy track with a Dacia Logan, which is anything but a 4 wheel drive??? Well. I guess we like adventure. And paid for it. All whining was useless, so we rolled up our sleeves and started digging. I have never dug around in mud like this before, not even as a child…Long story short: eventually we made it out, with much pushing and maneuvering. The car looked like an absolute mess of course and smelled faintly of burnt rubber…After the track did not get any better, we had to realize we needed to drive back the way we came, again having to cross that huge mud puddle.

All of this obviously took a while, so by the time we were back on the road, had found a car wash and gotten the vehicle back into a presentable state, time was running against us. 6pm drop-off time in Oradea, us: 250 km north in Sighetu Marmatiei. It was 4:15. And the road felt like joyriding on the moon. So, introducing our first big fail: we did not manage to drop it off in time and had to pay and extra fee :-((finding a phone on the way to tell that to the rental company proved more difficult than imagined as well).

So, at 10 pm, exhausted and tired, we arrived in Oradea, checked into our beloved Hotel Parc again, and slept like babies. Yesterday, we spent most of our day in a bus headed south to Sibiu, from where I am writing these lines at present.

Sibiu turns out to be quite a pretty place (it was Unesco world heritage city a couple of years back). We felt like communicating these things to you first, and will now be heading out to look for a nice cafe to sit and chill for a while, and read a book.

Part two of the Romania cruise will probably follow in a week or so (more remote areas ahead, as well as Brasov, Sinaia and Bucarest), before we head into Bulgaria.

Cheers,

the travellers

Read Full Post »

Szent István Bazilika

Szent István Bazilika

Four Seasons Hotel

Four Seasons Hotel

Well, the sunshine didn’t last for long and the rain took over again-big time at that. Nevertheless, we are enjoying our stay in beautiful Budapest. From the first moment on we were impressed by the breathtaking architechture. The city has a somewhat Parisian flair to it, regarding its boulevards and stunning houses.

In general, there are a great number of magnificent historical buildings and lots of cozy cafes and bars, as well as spas (thermal water) scattered around the city centre, in the middle of which flows the mighty Danube river- the views from the hills surrounding the city must be really amazing in good weather, but are impressive even in the murky grey.

Anna

Anna

 

 

 

 

 


 

 

 

 

 

 

We found a very cute little hostel right in town, from which we went on exploring for the last three days. On the first night, we just strolled around the streets and went down to the river- photosession time. Yesterday was devoted to Buda, the more historic part of town, with its castle and citadel, today we went walking in Pest and on the Danube island.

We had to realize Hungarian is a language really impossible to master. Many words, to us ignorant people, resemble tongue twisters and are, even if read from paper, impossible to pronounce…

Tonight, we are planning to enjoy a drink or two in one of the many bars, and will head on into Romania tomorrow afternoon.

More soon…

cheers

Read Full Post »

Paddy's Day Budapest

Paddy's Day Budapest

Happy Paddy’s Day! Happy Paddy’s Day! Happy Paddy’s Day! Happy Paddy’s Day! Happy Paddy’s Day! Happy Paddy’s Day! Happy Paddy’s Day! Happy Paddy’s Day! Happy Paddy’s Day! Happy Paddy’s Day! Happy Paddy’s Day! Happy Paddy’s Day! Happy Paddy’s Day! Happy Paddy’s Day! Happy Paddy’s Day! Happy Paddy’s Day! Happy Paddy’s Day! Happy Paddy’s Day! Happy Paddy’s Day! Happy Paddy’s Day! Happy Paddy’s Day! Happy Paddy’s Day! Happy Paddy’s Day!

Read Full Post »

Aaaaand: the first live, on the road insights to be shared.

Vienna has been very kind to us, greeting our humble selves with incredible sunshine and spring-like temperatures, making us wonder why the hell we had to pack that extra fleece (yet we are sure colder times will come).

After a rather relaxing overnight train journey to Austria’s capital, we spent the last 2 days strolling around town, sitting by the Danube river and sampling some good Austrian cuisine. The inner city is full of horse carriages (much to Anna’s displeasure- allergy sends its regards  😉 ), and features incredibly beautiful old buildings. We cruised around the museum quarters, had ‘kleiner brauner’ (milky coffee the size of espresso) in a cafe and stumbled over the Voodoo cafe- some smokey rock bar/pub with walls covered in postcards dating back to the 80’s it seems.

All in all,  a rather pleasant start to our tour, which will continue on to Budapest by bus tomorrow morning.

More soon…

Read Full Post »

Read Full Post »

…less than 24 hours

Weeeeeeell, the day has come, March 14th, 2011. Departure time.

Of course, some unexpected events (see my previous post) did occur, which made us postpone our trip a couple of days (part of it being me lying in bed with a nasty flu) but now the train ticket is booked, the bags are nearly packed (would not be me if I was done on time…) and what remains is saying good bye and boarding the train.

Part of the good bye’s were already done on Saturday evening, and we would again like to thank all the friends that enjoyed some last drinks with us that night- it felt like the proper way to leave in style. Only the hangover was terrible ;-).

The same goes for our families, who we had a nice last dinner with to celebrate the departure.

Our next post will be from on the road, and we can say in all honesty that by now, levels of excitement are rising steadily.

We will stay in touch,

until then

Cheers

Nico and Anna

Read Full Post »

Older Posts »