Christine from Canada completed the Transylvania Castles & Mountains trip in May 2018 with one of her favourite hiking buddies, her daughter Esther. She answered some questions for us about this misunderstood country, how she trained for the holiday, trip highlights, her biggest challenges and, perhaps the most important element of any holiday: food and drink. Romania in 2019, anyone?
Why did you choose to go hiking in Romania?
I chose to walk in Transylvania because I always wanted to see Dracula’s castle. Since my daughter was accompanying me on this trip, and her budget is tighter than mine, we also needed to find a destination in Europe that was less expensive than France or Italy, for example. Romania was the perfect choice. Not only does it have beautiful mountain hiking trails, but you also get to walk in charming medieval cities… and it’s affordable.
How did you prepare for this hike?
I usually go to the gym three or four times a week, whether for yoga, Zumba or cardio training, and I regularly jog and hike. Esther does cross-fit and cardio-box and swims and hikes. In fact, we are always ready, willing and eager for the next hiking trip!
What was your favourite destination in Romania?
The Piatra Craiului Mountains are stupendous as well as the Bucegi Mountains. The Bucegi’s ridge is majestic. It’s not easy to climb up there but the rewards are tenfold.
What is the best food and drink you had in Romania?
The Romanian cabbage rolls or sarmale prepared by Daniela, our host in Moeciu de Sus. This is a little village in the valley of the Bucegi Mountains. In fact, Daniela has won several awards for her cabbage rolls. She is a wonderful cook and a first-class Romanian ambassador. We also loved the traditional Romanian fried doughnuts or papanasi served by Maria in Ciocanu. They are topped with jam and sour cream. No one can resist. However, if you want to be in shape for your next day of hiking, be careful with the fruit brandy called palinka. Romanians have small shots of this strong liquor during their meals. Beware, ‘strong’ is the key word here!
Biggest surprise about Romania?
After the hike, we rented a car to travel around Transylvania and visit famous medieval cities like Sibiu and Sighisoara. Nothing seems to have changed over the centuries in these cities, which is simply amazing. However, do not be afraid, they did improve the roads and it is very easy to drive from one of those cities to the other. We rented a small hybrid car, with GPS – sheer joy!
What aspect of the hike did you find most challenging?
Romania is not a popular travel destination for Canadians, so we did not know what to expect. People back home frowned at us when we told them about our plan to go walking in Transylvania. “What about the bears, the dogs, the pickpockets, the weather…” they would ask. Add in Dracula folklore, I would add, and there potentially is so much to fear in that country.
Although we remained prudent during our trip, we had no reason to fear anything. We followed the notes, which were clear, and completed the hike at our own pace. It was very enjoyable.
Do you have any other advice for travelers thinking about booking this trip?
Step out of the usual and go walking in Romania, and do not hesitate to extend this trip. There is much more than Transylvania to see in Romania.
Browse all of our walking and cycling holidays in Romania.
Want to learn more about Romanian food? Read this article about eating like a local.