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> Transylvania Starter Kit, Truths and Myths about traveling in Transylvania
tiberiu_ghita
post Mar 8 2010, 02:49 PM
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Welcome
Transylvania is a part of Romania.
Known mostly from bloody legends, Transylvania offers various attractions: medieval atmosphere, ancient crafts, untouched landscapes, traditional cuisine and unknown wines, rural festivals and much more.

Passports and Visas
EU citizens do not need a visa to enter Romania as tourists. USA citizens will need a full passport with at least six months’ validity left on it, but no longer need a visa as tourists. Holders of other passports have to check with their nearest Romanian embassy.

Languages
Official language is Romanian.
Many of Romanians speak foreign languages. In most towns people involved in tourism activities speak predominantly English. German is spoken by many in, Sibiu, Medias or even Sighisoara, as well as other towns.. French is also common.
In the countryside, some people might speak German.
In the villages of Harghita & Covasna countys locals often speak only Hungarian.

Climate
Transylvania (as most of Romania) has a temperate climate, with 4 defined seasons.
Traditionally, the hottest months are July and August.
Depending on the year May and June can also be very hot. However, many evenings are cool, even cold. It is highly recommended to pack a jacket and sweater for such occasions.
The winters are cold. From December through the middle of February, temperatures under 0ºC (32ºF) are very common. There are some regions where frosty days and nights are much more common. These are the mountain regions, especially the hills and mountains of Eastern Transylvania.

Best time to visit
Transylvania offers attractions during all seasons.
Some areas are very busy on weekends or on special holidays. This is the case of Poiana Brasov - Bran in most winter weekends and in the period between Christmas and 2nd of January.
Otherwise Bran village is very busy every weekend, and I recommend avoiding driving the road between Brasov and Bucharest on the weekend.
Easter is a very special period. It is the the biggest orthodox celebration and many attractions and public places are closed during that time. Usually Romanians spend these days with their families, but you can find places in the countryside which offer a very warm atmosphere.

Getting there and around
Airports
You can land directly in the heart of Transylvania via the airports of Sibiu, Cluj-Napoca or Targu-Mures. Many tourists fly into Bucuresti Otopeni International Airport, as this is the main Romanian airport and it is serviced by all major carriers. From there you can rent a car to drive through the main entry in Transylvania (Brasov) or you can travel by train.
Car-renting companies are active in all major towns. I highly recommend making a reservation in advance.
By train
The main routes to take by train:
From Bucharest :
- Brasov – Sighisoara - Cluj-Napoca – Oradea
- Brasov – Sibiu – Deva – Arad
From Vienna (Austria) or Budapest (Hungary)
- Arad – Deva – Sighisoara – Brasov
- Arad – Sibiu - Brasov
- Oradea – Cluj-Napoca – Sighisoara – Brasov
Hint: there is an English version of the train schedule at http://www.mersultrenurilor.ro/ .
By car
There are no highways in Transylvania. The main roads are E68 and E70. Even though these roads can be busy and have, for the most part, only one lane in each direction, they are the recommended roads to drive on for long distances. Be patient, especially when driving in a row of cars, and consider the average speed of 70km/h as good.
If you are driving your own car, note that you will have to pay a tax for using Romanian roads; ask about it at the main gas stations close to the border.
Notes:
-even if you use a new map or GPS navigators, you should ask locals prior to considering tertiary roads. Some of these roads (though not many) could be out of service for a regular car.
- Romanian has a Zero Alcohol-Tolerance Law for driving.

Public transportation
In all the major towns there are good networks of buses or/and trams, usually with modern vehicles. Like in many places in the world, beware of pickpockets. Taxis can be found everywhere, usually at reasonable prices.
There are buses linking towns and crossing villages, at cheap price. Although you can get off the bus anywhere you want along the way, you can only get on these buses in the main towns.
Bus timetable: www.autogari.ro. There is only a Romanian version, but “Plecari” means Departures and “Sosiri” means Arrivals.

Electricity
Romania uses the European 220 volt, 2-pin (round pin) system. Bring adapters with you.

Communication/ Cell Phones
In Romania there are both GSM and CDMA services. CDMA (410Mz and 450Mz) cover all cities, the main roads and many villages, but GSM has a better coverage.
GSM operates on 900/1800 MHz. 1800 MHz covers mainly the big towns, where you will have 3G access. EDGE is available on many areas.

Money/ Currency
Official currency is Leu / (plural Lei), abbreviated as RON. The banknotes are made of plastic.
Credit cards are accepted in many places in towns. You MUST have your PIN number for all cards.
Most gas stations will accept major credit cards. Ask the operators prior to filling the tank.
In the countryside credit cards are useless.
For all the payments in these villages, you will need cash, in Romanian currency LEI.
Travellers’ cheques are generally NOT accepted in Romania except in some banks.
Exchanging money:
You can bring Euro (the best currency to bring), GB Sterling, or US Dollars, but not only. Old, worn, damaged, and written-on notes are often refused. Your passport will be needed when exchanging money and you must keep the receipt.
Using the airports facilities/ exchange offices to obtain large amounts of cash is, most often, expensive. I recommend using regular bank offices located in towns or ATMs at bank locations.

What to do - what to see

The countryside
Transylvania is sprinkled with wonderful medieval fortified churches.
While visiting the old Saxon villages of Transylvania you will be astonished by the medieval atmosphere. Old houses painted in lime stay strung-out to stone paved streets where hens, gooses and turkey hens walk at will. In the evening, the cows flood the streets coming back home from the pasture. Amazingly, these villages look like the villages painted by Pieter Bruegel in XVI century.
These villages are surrounded by wonderful meadows and forests. Depending on the season you may enjoy the fragrance of flowery meadows, the wild taste of the forest fruits or the adventure of truffle hunting.
Hints:
-Many old churches can be closed. Do not be discouraged. Ask for the key at the houses around the church. Soon you will find the person holding the key.
-Some tour operators of the villages or small towns provide very specific activities: visits to the local shepherds, bees keepers, local artifact makers, guided tours of churches, carriages rides, animal and bird watches. Just ask.

The main towns: Brasov, Sibiu, Sighisoara

Brasov is one of the most visited towns in Romania. The historical center is very attractive all year long. .
Do not hesitate to climb to the Black Tower and White Tower, located on the West side of the Piata Sfatului. The view over the town is wonderful.
Surroundings:
- Around the Bran castle. You can take a one-hour bus ride and visit the famous castle of Bran. Traveling there, through South-East you will notice an other medieval citadel on a hill, at Rasnov. This is one of the best conserved medieval fortresses of Transylvania. The access to the citadel could take up to an hour.
- Poiana Brasov is the main ski village of Romania and as such, it has many hotels available all year round. However, the most attractive season is winter.
- The National Park of the Mountains of Piatra Craiului. For lovers of hiking or climbing, Piatra Craiului is a heaven. Not many know that wild animal watch can be very interesting here. But beware! Do this only in the presence of a specialized ranger.
Hint: If you are in Brasov and you can spend a day visiting the area, do not miss The Castle Peles of Sinaia. Located 60km South of Brasov, the castle is, in my opinion, one of the loveliest palaces of Europe.

Sibiu
The old town was wonderfully restored during the past years. It is a good destination town, due to its international airport. The Brukenthal museum is a must, as the first museum of the East and Central Europe. (1817). See http://www.brukenthalmuseum.ro/index_en.htm .
Another place to visit in Sibiu is Muzeul Satului (the Village Museum). Developed on a huge park, the museum includes typical houses and farms buildings from the main regions of Romania.

Sighisoara
The little citadel of Sighisoara has conserved very well the old look of a medieval town. That is why it is part of the UNESCO heritage.

Other interesting areas
Tara Hategului si Parcul National Muntii Retezat (The county of Hateg and the National Park of Retezat Mountains). Because the motorised roads end at the foot of the mountains, Retezat Mountains are very well preserved. The way to the top is steep and requires some effort. But once at the top, you will be astonished by the beautiful landscapes, with glacier lakes and sharp edges and a wonderful nature
Do not miss: -the old stone church of Densus, one of the oldest churches in Romania.
Muntii Apuseni ( the Apuseni Mountains) – The visitors here will enjoy the vast landscapes, the quiet villages lost in the valleys and the nature. It is a perfect destination for people enjoying easy hikes. It is also a destination for professional speleologists and cave tours.
Maramures is famous for its wood churches and the wonderful landscapes. Many visitors are impressed by Memorialul Durerii (The Memorial of Victims of Communism and of the Resistance) at Sighetu Marmatiei or The Merry Cemetery at Sapanta.

What to eat
These are some traditional foods:
- “Sarmale” with polenta and cream, a kind of stuffed cabbage leaves (or grape leaves) with ground meat.
- “Bulz” - polenta with fresh sheep cheese.
- The local soups are amazing. Try the potato soup with tarragon.
- Local flavors: tarragon, lovage (similar to celery), parsley, garlic
Transylvania is the region of wild berries and mushrooms. If you will stay in the countryside, try homemade jams of wild strawberries, blackberries or raspberries.

The wines
These are some very good Romanian wines.
- Feteasca Neagra is a red wine and one of the oldest Romanian grapes.
- Cadarca is a red wine produced in the western part of Transylvania.
- Traminer is a rose wine, typical for Transylvania.
- For the lovers of white wines, ask Feteasca and its variety – Feteasca Regala.

Tipping
It is usual ito give a tip (around 10%) for meals and drinks at restaurants and bars, for taxis or drivers.

Photography
Camera batteries can be found only in the major towns and I reccomment to bring with you what you need.
Digital memory cards are available in the major cities. Print film can be found in most towns.

Links
http://www.discovertarnavamare.org/index.asp
http://www.eco-romania.ro/en/index.php
http://www.casa-cu-zorele.ro for rural tours, accommodation and culinary experience
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starlagurl
post Mar 8 2010, 04:05 PM
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Very cool, I've always been curious about this part of Europe, because of the vampires of course.

What's the most touristy vampire thing to do?


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tiberiu_ghita
post Mar 8 2010, 04:43 PM
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Drinking human blood is already illegal. devil.png So I strongly recommend plunging into medieval atmosphere of the ancient villages. I saw visitors enjoying like children when stepping on the rudimentary wood ladders of the old churches towers. In the evening try a homemade dinner somewhere in a village. You will love these. flowers.png
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