Later during that same summer of 2012, I spent around a month in the beautiful country of Romania. I visited several historic cities, including Craiova, Brașov, Sibiu, Cluj, and Arad. I toured both Castelul Peleș and Castelul Bran (commonly known as Dracula’s Castle), and a bunch of monasteries, including Curtea de Argeș, Mănăstirea Sfânta Maria Radna, and Biserica Neagră. I took a road trip on the Transfăgărășan. And I visited a cave full of bear skeletons, Peștera Urșilor.
The village of Ususău is where I spent most of my time, at my grandmother’s house. Ususău is a rural village where life is lived at a slower pace. It’s one of my favorite places in the world.
My cousin, his wife and son, our aunt, and I took a road trip that summer through much of Romania. We crossed the Transfăgărășan, one of the most beautiful roads in the world.
If you’ve ever driven on European roads, you know that they are somewhat hazardous to your health. People cut each other off nonstop, and on roads with only one lane in each direction, that can be very dangerous.
We stayed in Sibiu for a while, attending a wedding. We stayed at a Pensiunea Marcu, which is literally the pinkest pensiune I have ever seen. It is located at STR. DOSULUI, 491, Com. Rasinari, Sibiu, 557200, Rășinari 557200.
Let me explain what a “pensiune” is. It’s usually a house in which a family lives, which has guest rooms separate from their space that are rented out to tourists. Rooms are kept clean and usually have a TV, but a bathroom is usually located on the hall and shared by all guests. Staying at a pensiune is much cheaper than staying at a hotel. I know we got a room one night for 50 lei, which is around 15 dollars.
We especially enjoyed spending time at the Ocna Sibiului. This used to be a salt mine before it flooded, and now the natural lakes attract tourists, who come for the healing properties of the salt water, which is so concentrated, that you can’t even swim in it- all you can do is float.
We visited many historic sites on this road trip, including Castelul Peleș, Castelul Bran, and Curtea de Argeș. Castelul Bran, which is mainly known as Dracula’s Castle, had many medieval torture devices inside, and was more rustic than Castelul Peleș, which was much more of a palace than a castle.
I also spent a while in Pâncota, where I have a few cousins. I had a blast, playing volleyball in the park at midnight, and visiting the piaţa (pronounced pee-ahtza), where we ate giant mititei (an oxymoron, because “mititei” literally means tiny), which are a traditional Romanian dish of grilled ground meat rolls made from a mixture of beef, lamb and pork with spices such as garlic, black pepper, thyme, coriander, anise, and sometimes a touch of paprika
This was also where I almost got struck by lightning. My uncle was driving me and my cousin back to Ususău, but he had to stop by someone’s house to talk business. It was raining, and we were waiting in the car, next to a sunflower field. My cousin was egging me on, trying to convince me to get out of the car and get her a sunflower (I think she wanted to eat the seeds?). She kept telling me that if I got caught, it would be fine, cause I was an “American.” I said no. The next second, a bolt of lighting literally passed outside the car, hitting the lighting rod on the house.
My aunt and I took a train from Lipova to Craiova, which took eight hours. We spent a couple days there, visiting with family and seeing the sites. Among other things, we visited the Nicolae Romanescu Park, the largest natural park in Eastern Europe. We took a rowboat on the pond there, which is filled with lily pads. We also visited the Grădina Zoologică, which is a small zoo located within the park.
One night, we went to the Mercur, which is sort of like a mall. Then we walked around the downtown area, where we saw the Fântâna Muzicală, a fountain that is synced to music.
Before leaving the country, I spent a couple days in Lipova. Mănăstirea Sfânta Maria Radna is located there, and every year, a festival takes place on the streets surrounding the monastery, with vendors coming from all around to sell their wares, and the devout coming to visit the monastery. It was a really great experience, and I got to spend more time with my cousins before heading back home.
My plane was scheduled to leave from Cluj, which is about four hours from Ususău. Two of my uncles and my aunt decided to drive me there. We set out the day before, thinking we had a lot of time to get there, and could visit some more sights along the way. Thanks to car trouble though, it took us almost the entire day to make the four-hour trip.
We did get to stop by Peștera Urșilor, which is pretty much translated into “Bears’ Cave.” The cave, located in Bihor County in the western Apuseni Mountains, was discovered in 1975. Inside, they found over 140 cave bear skeletons.
After we toured the cave, we happened upon a museum called Muzeul Etnografic La Fluturi, which is an ethnographic museum, containing over 2,000 historical objects.
all photos taken by me on an iPhone 3Gs