I’ve never been as clueless backpacking through a foreign country as I was in Romania.
I don’t ever recommend going somewhere without knowing at least a little something, although not knowing anything about anything was exciting. I was all for it! If I were completely on my own, sure…I would have researched a bit, but since I had American Clay and French Ermeline as my new companions, I felt content with just going with their flow. Eastern Europe is definitely not my area of expertise.
I could have stayed longer in Brașov. That place was magical. I felt like I could have dove deeper into the world of Count Dracula, but there were two other cities of interest: Sighișoara and Sibiu. What’s there? No freakin’ idea. I heard from backpackers in Brașov that they were worth a visit. Good enough for me. Usually word-of-mouth is the best suggestions I get while traveling.
The three of us took a rather long train from Brașov to Sighișoara. Once we arrived, we met another backpacker by the name of Laurențiu (Belgium). We found our hostel, one of the only ones in town, within the confines of what was essentially a giant fortress.
While walking inside the fort, it felt as if we were transported back a few centuries in time, except all the people had on modern-day clothing. Tall towers with humongous dome bells at their height boomed echoes inside the fort. Neatly stoned roads ran through the colorful hues of shops, inns, and old churches of ministry. There were many pubs and cafe’s, some even catered and themed around the legendary tales of Dracula and Vlad the Impaler. There were tourists around, mostly older chaps from surrounding countries. And not very many of them.
We seized the day and explored the whole fort. We began at a cemetery, just opposite our hostel, that overlooked the city beyond the walls.
Cemeteries generally give off an unsettling vibe, but this one…this one was strangely peaceful. May have had to do with the positioning of the sun at those given moments. The sun was transitioning into the short period of time before setting.
We were led to the ledges of the fort, that gave us a view of the impressive scene on the outskirts of the city center.
We traced back to a random pub somewhere, almost stumbled upon, where we met with Laurențiu and put back a few brews before we went off to find actual food, which proved to be a difficult task because everything closed early as heck!
We only stayed in Sighișoara for one night before we took another train to Sibiu. Sibiu was like Brașov, except much bigger. Here, we checked into our hostel, where Ermeline and I met another backpacker from the US. She was on her own solo wander around Eastern Europe. After I expressed my less-than pleased infatuation with Bran Castle, she told me of an even grander castle just about an hours drive west. It’s called Corvin Castle and it turns out that the best and most convenient option would be to rent a car and drive ourselves there. And so that’s what we did!
There were four of us total to split the ride as I drove us to Hunedoara, the home setting for Corvin Castle. Just from the looks of it, this castle was much more impressive than Bran Castle.
Corvin is one of the largest castles in Europe and one of the seven wonders of Romania. I’ve seen this familiar castle before…somewhere featured in some form of media, be it movies, television, or books. It was humongous, surrounded by an empty moat and a long bridge that crossed it. The palace wings along the castle were built with turrets that overlooked into Hunedoara. We paid a minimal fee to enter the castle and began our exploration in the inner court and straight into the Knight’s Hall.
According to descriptions scattered about, this castle is said to be where Vlad the Impaler was held prisoner by Hungary’s military leader. This castle is also said to be a source of inspiration for Bram Stoker’s imaginative Dracula’s castle. Who knows?
The castle featured several interesting rooms, such as the throne hall, a tomb site, the Matthias Loggia, a dungeon filled with torture equipment, and a trophy room, just to name a few. What I appreciated about Corvin Castle was that everything was still intact, unlike Bran Castle which felt more like a museum rather than medieval architecture.
On to the Food 🙂
I didn’t really get full on to the Romanian delicacy until I arrived in Sibiu. The food was great, but I was particularly fond of their desserts, especially their papanași.
This is a version of papanași I demolished in Sibiu…
Papanași is a Romanian traditional fried or boiled pastry resembling a small sphere, usually filled with a soft cheese such as urdă and any kind of sour jam. This is according to Dexonline. It was absolutely delicious and I had it again the next day.
I also had one of these…
Sorry guys. I was so into eating this that I forgot to jot down what this was called. Let me describe it as best as I can from what I can remember. Muddled raspberries wrapped in lightly fried crepes, stacked on top of each other. Then drizzled with an easy layer of a yogurt sauce and then topped with shaved milk chocolate. Just as tasty as the papanași. Oddly enough, I believe this dish is Moldovan inspired.
Eventually, I also tried this.
This was also a taste of heaven and it’s called goulash. Goulash is basically a stew with the essential components of some type of meat (usually beef), onions and paprika. This version used potatoes and other ingredients. However, as tasty as it is, the goulash dish is actually Hungarian inspired, but it’s popularity soared here in Romania.
Sibiu treated us to spectacular nights and lots of rain.
Where to next? A major city called Cluj-Napoca or just Cluj for short. Ermeline studies there and she invited Clay and I to come and visit her. Of course we will!
“What’s so special about Cluj?” I asked Ermeline because I’ve never heard of the place until she mentioned it.
She explained many things about it to me. It has a nice botanical garden, lots of restaurants, museums, interesting architecture, and that it’s a student city.
But, there was one thing in particular about it she mentioned that completely won me over.
“Cluj also has the most haunted forest in the world.” she said, almost as an uninteresting side note.
“The most haunted forest in the world?! I basically shouted. “I must go there!”