Hunedoara – Corvin Castle
I already told you about the first few stops of our 13 day-long roadtrip through Romania and Bulgaria in this blogpost a few days ago. I left off with us sleeping at a campsite near Sibiu. Next stop: Hunedoara. Our Romanian friends told us to rather avoid the city itself, as it is an old steel town and – since the steel industry is gone – there isn’t much going on. Our destination isn’t the city itself but rather it’s most famous building: Corvin Castle (also known as Hunyad Castle or just Hunedoara Castle) which is located in the middle of the city, although it looks like it’s standing completely by itself on pictures. The castle itself has been rebuilt many times over the centuries, thus looking somehow fake and unreal. Being quite the tourist attraction, the castle is well-attended but not completely overrun. Overall it’s quite interesting if you are into castles, but there could be some more detailed information – some rooms seem like they are just filled with random objects. Also there’s a lot of “stories” rather than general historical information – we found that happening to us on more than one occasion throughout Romania and Bulgaria.
Things to do in Hunedoara
- Well there’s Corvin Castle, that’s it.
- It’s interesting and worth the visit – if you are interested in castles and history (be prepared to research some historical facts on your own though)
- We spent around 2 hours in the castle!
Sibiu – Welcome to the most beautiful city of our trip!
After the short visit to Hunedoara we are on our way back to Sibiu to actually explore the city after driving through twice on our way to the campsite and back. Our first impressions don’t fool us, the city proofs to be extremely beautiful. We don’t really have a plan on where to go but a friend of ours told us to visit the Lutheran cathedral for it’s tower and the overview of the city you get from the top. Well, I can tell you that view really is something. We spend around half an hour up there as I have to get shots from every angle, constantly changing lenses and stuff.. Well, nobody said it’s easy to travel with a photographer! We also spot the orthodox cathedral from the top and as it looks quite stunning, we decide to give it a try. There’s service at our arrival, thus we cannot really stay inside without disturbing someone. Still, I have the chance for one quick shot inside and it’s totally worth it. We stroll through the city, filling with people as the later it gets. Quite hungry from the exhausting day we decide to do something I’d never recommend: We try the highest rated restaurant on tripadvisor in town. Well, against all odds it is actually good, traditional food. Maybe a little bit too expensive for Romania, but still not a bust at all! (still the first and last time I’ll rely on tripadvisor!) Full of cheese, polenta and meat we return to our campsite and call it a day!
Things to do in Sibiu
- Stroll through the old town and find some lovely squares and colorful houses.
- Definitely get up the Lutheran Cathedral – it’s more than worth the entry fee of approximately 50 cent!!
- Check out the stunning Holy Trinity Cathedral – it’s interior is mindblowing!
- You might want to plan at least 1 full day for the visit.
Bran – Don’t be fooled!
The next day we hit the road again, this time our first stop is – surprise – another castle. Maybe the most famous one in Romania, as it is the so called Dracula-Castle in Bran. Actually, the historic paragon of Dracula, Vlad Draculea (also called Vlad Tepes), never owned this castle. There’s only one source that says he has slept at the castle overnight once. Doesn’t matter, let’s just go on pretending Dracula owned this castle and let’s make it a tourist attraction. It works. Unfortunately it works so well, that we had to jam through the small city of Bran for almost an hour. Around the castle there is hundreds of small shops trying to sell the same huge footballs and handmade wooden stuff. We decide against the castle itself as it is 1) super crowded and 2) everybody recommended that it’s just a very expensive tourist trap.
Things to see in Bran
- Actually nothing.
- The castle looks nice from the outside though.
- Please keep in mind that all the Dracula/Vlad Tepes story never took place in this castle, you might rather want to visit Poenari castle!
- Oh, you’ll need approx. 1 hour to get through Bran. Without visiting the castle of course.
Bucharest – Ceausescus Playground.
Next stop: Bucharest. From Bran it’s usually a three hour drive to Bucharest. Usually. Unfortunately it’s stop-and-go for the next 1 1/2 hours and we arrive in Bucharest a little later than planned. As the only campsite near the city is an hourly drive away, we decide to stay in a hotel in the inner city. Our motorhome is 7,32m long which makes it a little bit difficult to drive in a city like Bucharest (remember: Romanian drivers are crazy) and we also have to find a hotel which has a parking lot on ground level that fits our vehicle. We finally find a place directly next to the Palace of Parliament and after some discussion we are able to park our campervan and stay for the night. It’s about 7 pm and we spend the first hours in Bucharest exploring the old town, which turns into a touristy party center at night.
For the next morning we book the tour through the Palace of Parliament, formerly known as the People’s house. The building – being the second largest administrative building in the world, only surpassed by the Pentagon – has been the center of Nicolae Ceausescu’s reconstruction plan for Bucharest after the earthquake 1977. Ceausescu himself never saw the finalization of the building in 1998, as he has been ousted and executed in 1989. The building itself has been officially finished in 1998, although we learned at the tour that there’s some areas which are not 100% finished and still under construction. The tour through the building is quite impressive but most of the facts presented to us are about weight of the chandeliers, size of the rooms and the used materials rather than background stories about Ceausescu and his dictatorship.
After the tour we meet local instagramer Cristi (@raidenbucharest), who happens to be the perfect city guide if you are interested in the historical development of Bucharest. He’s not only a photographer but also organizes tours around the city, trying to make the furious city planning under Ceausescu’s regime understandable. We walk along the oldest merchant street in Bucharest and approximately every 100m we have to stop as we stand in front of a huge apartment building. After the earthquake in 1977 Ceausescu used the destruction as an opportunity to rebuild the city after his imagination. Unfortunately he did not seem to care about city planning at all, thus the old streets are hidden in the city, completely cut off from the main streets and nowadays mostly decayed. We walk past old merchant houses with prominent ornaments and facades that once have been beautiful. Cristi leads us around the apartment houses which now destroy the city’s original street layout, we cross the Bulevardul Unirii, Ceausescu’s homage to Champs Elysee which is even wider and almost twice as long as it’s paragon. Not only did Ceausescu build apartment blocks but he also destroyed a lot of important buildings in order to fulfill his ideas of the cityscape. Some of the buildings have been to important to get destroyed so he just moved them out of his way. Yep, he really moved them. Somehow attaching a concrete framing to the foundation of the building and using rails to move for example the church of Schitul Maicilor to it’s new place approximately 100 meters away. Crazy!
Later that day we went to Lacul Morii, a reservoir in the north-west of Bucharest which features an island which has been planned as a sport venue, but never came to use. Although built in a antique-looking style with a lot of greek-inspired columns and buildings, the venue has been built in 1980. Today it’s just an empty, abandoned island. The surrounding area is one of the poorer regions of Bucharest, with huge apartment blocks next to gypsies living in barracks. We end the day at a hipster burger place called Modelier, which is definitely an insider tip! Great food and atmosphere!
Things to see in Bukarest
- Stroll through Old Town rather in the evening with all it’s restaurants and bars, it’s not too interesting during the day and more of a tourist trap.
- Take the tour at the Palace of Parliament – it take around 2 hours and is quite impressive to see the second largest administrative buidling from the inside! You might want to read about the Ceausescu regime beforehand.
- Hit up @raidenbucharest and ask him to show you around, best guide in town!
- We didn’t see a lot of Bucharest as we just had one full day, definitely more time needed.
- Modelier: A nice burger place with great food, drinks and atmosphere at Strada Duzilor.
- You’ll definitely need 2 days to see the most important parts of Bucharest. You better want to plan 3 or 4 full days in order to be satisfied.