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Monday, 16 June 2014

Project Apuseni



  • Day 1:
- Left Braşov later than we would have wished, at around 6:00pm, direction Alba Iulia. I had hoped to also reach Câlnic and explore its fortified church complex for a short while prior to reaching our final destination for the day, but I then decided to leave it for another time.
- Reached Alba Iulia relatively early, but struggled a bit to find our accommodation. However, we had time to marvel at the beautiful citadel (claimed to be the largest in Romania), and visited some of the city’s clubs. In the end, we did reach ‘RYMA’, home also to ‘Fort Hostel’ (50 RON/person, 1 cup of tea/coffee included), a place I recommend with all my heart. Plus a Mojito served at this cosy club.

  • Day 2:
- Our morning was spent walking along the ‘3 fortifications route’ (the Roman Castrum dating back to 106 AD, the medieval fortress, and the modern ‘Alba Carolina’ citadel) [15 lei/adult – cannon firing (every Saturday, following the change of the guard, 12:10-12:30) included –; recommended visit: 50’; opening hours (Su-Mo): 10:00am-9:00pm]. The heat was hard to bear; however, we did witness the cannon show and it was worth it. Well, some places, albeit commercial, have a certain charm about them, making one’s time spent there quite enjoyable.
- We afterwards had lunch at ‘Pub 13’ Restaurant, just off Gate 3 of the Citadel. Not particularly great food, but our choices were limited: we were starving [no restaurant is open in and around the citadel before noon] and we were in a hurry.      
- The ruins of Trascăului Fortress (1296) were our next stop. I fell deeply in love with the surroundings and vibe of this place! You can easily find it, taking a dirt road on your left from the centre of Colţeşti Village and the main road. There is also a sign indicating a 45’ walk; well, it’s half that time if you climb the steep ridge.
- Vidolm larch reserve was what we were trying to reach next. Unfortunately, time was of the essence and the route (by foot) actually takes 4 hours (return) from the upper part of the village. We will probably go back someday, as the area is impressive in beauty and peacefulness.
- We had first found out about Ocoliş Village at the end of March, during the Transylvanian Tourism Fair. We drove by to have a feel of this rather remote place and then decided to continue north, along Runcului Gorges, quiet, isolated, and shady.
- Before reaching Arieşeni and our accommodation for the following two nights, Pensiunea Cota 1000 Arieşeni (80 lei/double room, ensuite), we had dinner at ‘Rivaly’ Restaurant. I got familiarised with the famous Balmoş and the kind waitress even made a call to be sure that there was a gas station in town accepting credit cards. It could be a great option to fuel your vehicle in Câmpeni before really heading into the mountains.        
  • Day 3:
- After breakfast at our guesthouse, we started driving towards Chişcău, home to one of the most impressive caves in our country, Peştera Urşilor [The Bears’ Cave], or so I remembered from some postcards seen when I was a child. Prepare 3 lei for the guarded parking lot, 20 lei – entrance fee/adult, and 15 lei/photo tax; opening hours (Tue-Su: 10:00am-5:00pm; Monday – closed]. The cave is indeed beautiful, but I admit that I was a bit disappointed by the lack of organisation and by the very limited number of guides compared to the huuuuuge crowds visiting.
Back from Groapa Ruginoasa
- We had several routes on our mind, but decided to go for a short and spectacular one due to the clouds gathering menacingly on the horizon: Groapa Ruginoasa – an amazingly colourful ravine, 100 meters deep and 600 meters wide. You will see a panel on your right (when heading from Chişcău to Arieşeni); you may leave the car in the parking lot, cross the brook, and follow the sign (yellow band) for 20 minutes.
- For the evening walk and following an early dinner at ‘Vank’ Restaurant [and I do recommend their traditional jams and pickles; I sampled the blackberry and milk jams], we decided to climb one of the hills facing our guesthouse. Our nostrils were invaded by the smells of the countryside, of the wild flowers, and of the trees seen through the small stretches of forest we came across. The view on the other side of the hill was unforgettable: Cobleş Village in the dim light of the setting sun. ‘It should be quite a feast waking up every day to this view’ I told an old lady approaching us. It all felt so mellow, light, and close to the original beauty of places and goodness in the people.        
 
  • Day 4:
- After breakfast at ‘Vank’ Restaurant, we headed straight to Scărişoara Cave, home to the oldest underground glacier in the world [10 lei/adults; 7 lei/students; 5 lei/parking; opening hours: Mo-Sat: 9:00am-6:00pm; Su: 10:00am-5:00pm]; phone nos. of the guides: +40756439203; +40742010347]. Aaaah, and the surroundings will leave you breathless. Guaranteed.
- After having sampled a yummy traditional blueberry pie, we turned left after returning from Scărişoara Cave and reached Casa de Piatră Village after some 9 km driven (the road is not the best and it will take some time). The house of the guides is the first one with a blue roof, on your right. You can park your car there for 5 lei and – should the guides be at Vârtop Cave upon your arrival –, you can reach them at the following numbers: +40766016482 (Ioan), +40752113341 (Mr. Balasoiu). Follow the sign to the cave, straight ahead; at a point, you will start climbing (for about 25-30’); you will need some warm clothes, but you will be provided a flashlight if you haven’t got one on you. The entrance fee is 10 lei/person; you will enter the cave based on your own liability; the tour will take around 40’ and will definitely whet the appetites of those keen on adventure caving. It did whet mine. [The guides are usually there during summer weekends from 10:00am to 6:00pm.]
- My great wish was to get to Blaj when returning to Braşov and to actually stand on Câmpia Libertăţii [The Liberty Field], where two assemblies took place during the 1848 Revolution. I did get my wish and found out – to my surprise – that AWOLNATION had a concert there one day earlier. We followed the scenic route through Copşa Mică (very colourful place despite what I had been told during my childhood) and Mediaş, and finally reached the end of our trip.

And I’m still dreaming to head back.           

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