Cluj-Napoca – The Heart of Transylvania
Two of my best friends and myself, we started our little roadtrip in Vienna early Monday morning. After a few complications (yep, I really managed to leave my mac charger behind and we had to go back for a second) we finally manage to hit the road! First stop: Hungary! Well, actually the first stop is in the middle of nowhere in Hungary as we’re hungry (no pun intended).. Other than that Hungary is just a transit country this time. After around six hours we finally reach the first country we want to visit on our roadtrip: Romania! We really thought that the infrastructure, especially all the roads, would be in quite bad condition. Almost everybody told us to calculate with double the time Google Maps suggests as the roads are going to be full of potholes and horse carriages. Well, actually the street network is in pretty good condition. Most of the roads have been built less than five years ago (I worked in road construction some time ago) and we haven’t seen a lot of horse carts. On our way to our first real stop, Cluj-Napoca, we passed through the town of Huedin. That was something special indeed and I still regret that we didn’t stop: The whole town more or less consists only of fancy mansions. All of them have little towers and ornaments and all that stuff on the outside. It looks quite pretty but at the same time it’s super creepy. All of them are empty and not in use, as the population of Roma, who are owning them, just builds those mansions to show off to their neighbors. We got this information afterwards and at the time we were passing through we didn’t know what the hell was going on. After 10 hours in total we arrive in Cluj-Napoca at around 8 pm. We decide that it has been quite an exhausting day and it’s time to get some rest. As we’re traveling with a motorhome we’re almost always staying at camping sites. In Cluj the camp is located in the outskirts of the city but still well accessible by public transport. We also feel like the campsite has been built just a few days ago, as everything looks kind of unused and – that’s the main point – everything looks like it won’t last for long. The toilets and showers are built out of thin plastic – but yeah, we’re not complaining.
Day number two is all about Cluj-Napoca. We drive to the city center by public bus, which costs us around 2 lei – which is about 40 cents – oneway. After exploring the city on our own for an hour we meet fellow instagramer @mihailonaca who is kind enough to show us around town. We visit the main catholic church and a smaller one, sneak into a few backyards, miss a few staircases and backyards due to the fact that they’re not accessible on holidays. Later on we enjoy food at nice burger place called Casa Boema – really liked that place although the staff isn’t too friendly. Next on our tour is the quite famous botanical garden which also features a huge palm house. We also managed to pass through a traditional Hungarian festival (yes, there’s a lot of Hungarian people living in the region of Cluj-Napoca), the day ends with a wonderful sunset at Cetatuia Park and some vegan pizza afterwards. <3
Things to do in Cluj-Napoca
- Just stroll around old town and discover the lovely streets and alleyways
- Public transport is cheap and working just fine – if you’re in a hurry there’s also Uber available for Cluj!
- Botanical garden definitely is worth a visit – also if you’re not into plants it’s just an oasis and the perfect place for a relaxing walk.
- The central park in Cluj, located directly at the riverbank, is also worth a visit – if you’re in the mood you can also drive a paddleboat!
- Cetatuia park is the perfect sunrise photospot – unfortunately we only managed the sunset version!
- Churches are all over the place – and they are beautiful, especially from the inside! Don’t hesitate and take a look!
- Take your time – I’d suggest at least 2 full days in Cluj!
Enjoy this city – it’s been one of the most beautiful cities on our trip!
Sighisoara – There’s no such thing as bad weather!
We start our day early to finish the two and a half hour drive from Cluj to Sighisoara before lunch. Well, arriving at Sighisoara at around 1 pm we knew that our early start was more of a mediocre early start. The town of Sighisoara is famous for it’s old town which features various colorful houses. Well, it seems to be really famous and the people there seem to know their business – meaning the town is super touristy and they’re trying to sell you everything the can find. As we (well, maybe it’s mostly me) are super hungry, we don’t do any research and check in at the first restaurant we find. Well, you are not going to be surprised that it happens to be a quite expensive and tasted really, I mean REALLY bad. To top it all a few moments later, as we are looking over the city from the clock tower, it’s starts raining heavily. You might think that’s a lot of bad luck but I was actually rather enjoying it as it meant that all the tourists were leaving as fast as possible. Empty streets (especially without hundreds of tourists) are much more photographically appealing. I like. We decide to get up to the old church, which is on a located on a hill. It actually wasn’t really worth it as you have to pay to see the church from the inside, which we skipped and the view is non-existent. Of course we are completely soaked by now and as the rainfall starts to increase rather than decrease we decide to run back to our campervan. Drenched as one can get we return to our vehicle, what a great way to start a day full of driving!
Things to do in Sighisoara
- Either decide to eat somewhere else or do your research on the restaurants!
- Start your day early: As it’s super crowded by day you might want to go there for an early morning session.
- Just stroll around old town and discover the colorful houses and beautiful alleyways
- Go up the clocktower and enjoy the view over old town, it’s totally worth it!
- You might want to skip the walk up the hill to the old church as it’s nothing special in my opinion.
- There’s also the might-have-been birth place of Vlad Tepes/Dracula – it’s a tourist trap as usual.
- You might want to plan around 2 hours for the visit.
Biertan – A hidden gem!
The small village of Biertan has around 2600 inhabitants, with the number dropping over the years. Biertan is not famous for it’s inhabitants but rather for the fortified church which is rated as UNESCO world heritage. We arrive in Biertan just after the rain that got us in Sighisoara. For the first time on our trip so far, the road conditions are, let’s say, not the best. It’s a small road that seems to be used not too much and it finally looks like that kind of Romania that everybody was talking about: Shitty roads featuring crazy drivers. Arriving in Biertan we drive around town looking for a viewpoint from which the fortified church can be photographed in all it’s beauty. As there’s no location we can access by car we decide to change plans and visit the church itself first. There’s almost no tourists in the city expect a small group of expat students visiting the attraction. The church and it’s various adjoining buildings inside the wall aren’t too spectacular, the only fact that I remember is the story of the house for divorcing couples. Over like 400 years there was the tradition that every couple that wants to get divorced had to spent time in the small house. It featured only one bed, one spoon, one chair, one plate and so on. People were kept in there until the figured out that they don’t want to get divorced anymore (or until the killed each other, I assume). To top it all, the city of Biertan is bragging about only one couple getting divorced in the 400 years the house was in service. And no, I have no idea how somebody managed to still get divorced in this constellation.
After we finishing the church tour we try to find a photo spot somewhere on the hills surrounding the village. We actually come up with a pretty decent spot next to the orthodox cementry which is located (obviously) right next to the orthodox church. Climbing up a little hill and et voila, there’s the perfect point of view.
Things to see in Biertan
- First of all, this is a really small village, there isn’t too much to do!
- Visit the fortified church right in the middle of the village, go inside, it’s cheap and kind of interesting
- The perfect spot to photograph town is next to the orthodox cementry – just act like you belong and climb up that little hill
- You may want to wander through the village and look for the cute little houses that are freshly colored – they stand out!
- As I said, it’s a small village, why are you looking for more bulletpoints?!
- Oh, you’ll need approx. 1 hour to cover all of Biertan.
We finish the day at a campsite in Sibiu, which is operated by Germans and they’re all over the place. It’s clean and well organized (surprise, surprise!) though. Read more about our adventure on the next blogpost, which will take me another long period of time to finally finish. Sorry.