As I stated before, travelling isn’t about the destination, it’s about the experience. (I needed to get this one out) Having a long weekend to spend, I organized myself a car trip around Romania, which included some not so touristic places, of which I’ve heard more from my parents or from other people who went to those places.
Travelling is to experience something, not necessarily travelling abroad, or visiting an exotic island. Well, that could count too, but it’s not the topic of my post today.
Travelling by car is one of the best ways to travel because it gives complete freedom over the schedule and the overall plan. I changed my itinerary almost every day, and I believe I made the best possible decisions.
The itinerary of my 4-day car trip around Romania
Day 0: Bucharest – Tg Jiu
It was already evening by the time I managed to escape from Bucharest, and the traffic was terrible on the highway to Pitesti. Driving further away from the capital city, roads get bad, no signs, lights. It just doesn’t get better.
I should have reached Tg Jiu by 1 am, but luckily I had a flat tire to deal with. Neither I or my friend ever had to change a flat tire before, but 1 hour later, we were on the road again. Reached Tg Jiu at 3 am. Slept like a baby.
Day 2: Tg Jiu – Hunedoara – Orastie
Woke up at 9 am. Wanted to sleep more, but it was already hot outside and there were plenty of things to see in Tg Jiu.
Went to the car shop to fix the flat tire. It was unfixable. Had to buy a new tire. When taking a closer look, the one on the left side was in bad shape too, so I changed that one too. Just my luck!
One hour later, and 2 new tires, I was good to go. Thanks, Mr. Jean (the oldest tires and wheel shop in the city) for your support!
It was almost 12 pm when I sat down to the highest-rated cafe in Tg Jiu on TripAdvisor. They only serve coffee and drinks. I was hungry. Apparently, TripAdviser is not such a good advisor.
The centre of Tg Jiu is small, having on one side the park with The Kissing Gate, The Alley of Stools and the Table of Silence.
The sculptures of the famous Romanian sculptor, Brancusi, are guarded. People are allowed to take pictures near them, but it’s not allowed to touch the sculptures. Also, there are crowds of people, so taking a picture can take ages, waiting for everyone to disappear for a few seconds.
Had lunch, and then headed to see the Endless Column, which is in the opposite direction from the park. The column is in the middle of a small park, and it is also guarded.
Read more about my visit in Tg Jiu and the story of Brancusi’ sculptures.
Next stop: Hunedoara Castle. (Castelul Huniazilor or Castelul Corvinilor)
We got there at 7 30 pm. Visitors are allowed in till 7 45 pm and they close at 8 30 pm. It is huge. For a proper visit, I estimate 3 h to spend in the castle and then when you get out to spend another hour in front of it for taking pictures. It’s just breathtaking.
The admission fee was 30 lei. Taking professional photos or video is charged by the hour.
We left around 9 pm. By that time the castle gets lit up. It’s worth seeing it by night too.
Read all about the story of Corvin Castle.
After hours of struggling to find accommodation, we ended in Orăștie, which is a 30 min drive from Hunedoara. In moments like these, you feel lucky you are on a car trip around Romania.
Day 3: Orăștie – Sarmizegetusa- Albac
I heard about Orăștie before but had no clue where it was on the map. This town/village has a small but cute centre, home of a big orthodox church, and 2 fortified Lutheran churches, for the Saxon population from Transylvania. Luckily we found the gate open and got in. There was the keeper of the place, explaining the remaining of some underground tunnels to 2 other tourists.
He opened one of the churches for us to visit, and we even climbed up the tower of the church. The main reason I visit churches. No joke.
Spent more than 1 hour in this small town, and then stopped to eat at the only restaurant in the centre, just behind the big orthodox church. It took forever, and at around 4 pm we continued the car trip around Romania and headed north.
Sarmizegetusa Regia is was the capital and the most important military, religious and political centre of the Dacians (the people living on these lands) prior to the wars with the Roman Empire. If you are familiar with the Roman empire’s history, you might have heard about Decebal. Yes, there is a sculpture of Decebal’s face in Romania.
It was a long drive to Albac, a small village near the mountains, Apuseni Natural Park (Parcul Natural Apuseni). Don’t expect road signs, or lights, or even gas station. Once you are out of bigger cities, you might get lost in Romania. Good thing we all have smartphones and internet connection.
Day 4: Scărișoara Cave – Bears Cave – Alba Iulia
In Apuseni Natural Park are 2 known caves in Romania: Scărișoara and Bears Cave.
Scărișoara is not far from Albac, the signs will lead the way. Scărișoara is a cave into a glacier and inside there are 0 degrees less. Not too deep, but the stairs that lead to it are impressive. Hence the name of the cave.
Across the park, an hour and a half drive, is the other one, Bears Cave, in Chişcău village, Bihor County. The cave is a huge underground limestone structure, which was discovered by accident in 1975, due to the nearby exploitations at the limestone quarries in Chişcău.
A must see when in Transylvania.
After the caves, I jumped into my car and drove my way to Alba Iulia, to continue my car trip around Romania.
Day 5: Alba Iulia – Transalpina – Bucharest
Alba Iulia, one great attraction of Romania. The city has many historical stories to tell, from the Roman Empire to the Habsburgic domination and then the place of the first Romanian union. The Citadel has been restored and it deserves a visit.
After witnessing the changing of the guards, with the entire parade of guards, horses and cannons, off to Transalpina.
As the name suggests, Transalpina is the highest road in Romania, offering a landscape which can rarely be seen while driving. It’s not for the faint-hearted, so the driver should not lose his or her temper. Breathtaking is the word to use when trying to describe the landscapes.
Oh yes, I had another flat tire just 6 km away from Bucharest. The joy of life always happens at 1 am.