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Wendy’s Romania Trip Photos and Experiences

by Wendy Perrin | March 11, 2023

As availability dwindles and prices soar for travel to the tourist magnets of Europe, consider turning your attention to off-the-beaten-path European locales that have the beauty and charm without the crowds.  Romania, for instance.  That’s where I chose for my family’s vacation last summer, and we would go back in a heartbeat.

Why Romania?  I was driven by a desire to avoid the post-pandemic hordes in Europe’s more obvious spots, to experience a place that I’ve read awesome traveler reviews about, and to support a country that was helping refugees from Ukraine—and to see if we could help too.

We started with three days in Romania’s capital, Bucharest; then we traveled through the countryside, focusing on the UNESCO World Heritage Sites of Transylvania for a week; and then we ended our trip in the fun university city of Cluj.  (We flew to Bucharest on Swissair via Zurich and home from Cluj on Lufthansa via Munich—-two good airports for connections.)

A cafe and people walking in the boulevard in Bucharest, Romania.

A boulevard in Bucharest, Romania. Photo: Timothy Baker

Romania sure surprised us. We thought Bucharest would be gritty, with mainly Soviet-style architecture, but it’s much cleaner, safer, and leafier than you might imagine, with a charming Old Town and boulevards lined with Art Nouveau buildings and outdoor cafes. It feels like cities I’ve been to in central Europe (think Austria, Slovenia, Slovakia). We spent our days seeing the sights and our evenings strolling through the Old Town, and, thanks to our WOW List local fixer in Romania, were able to spend time with Ukrainian mothers and children who had fled the war and learn about the organizations in Bucharest that are supporting them.  My sons, Charlie and Doug, even befriended a group of Ukrainian teens whom they are still in touch with on social media.

View from a medieval fortified church in Transylvania.

View from a medieval fortified church in Transylvania. Photo: Timothy Baker

Our preconceptions about Transylvania were wrong too.  Just because it served as the setting for Bram Stoker’s 1897 novel Dracula does not make it dark or ominous. Transylvania is a pastoral region of rolling farmland dotted with hilltop castles, Saxon villages with medieval fortified churches, and shepherds tending to their sheep. It looks like Slovenia meets Bavaria meets Tuscany. It feels like a trip back in time. Farmers, artisans, craftspeople, blacksmiths, cheese makers, bread bakers, and other shopkeepers ply their trade the same way they have for centuries. King Charles III of England owns homes in Transylvania, including a guest house that travelers can sleep in.

The main street in Viscri, Transylvania.

The main street in Viscri, Transylvania. Photo: Timothy Baker

If you require 5-star luxury throughout a trip, Romania is not for you. It is not yet at that highly developed stage of tourism. Which is why I loved it. If you’ve already seen the iconic sights of Europe and are looking for landscapes that look like an 18th-century painting, small country inns, and an authentic experience of historic Europe far from the tour buses, consider it. While accommodations are at the 4-star (or 3-star, if you prefer) level, you can get a 5-star-caliber  travel experience if you use the right Romania specialist. For instance, my family got to be alone inside Bran Castle (a.k.a. “Dracula’s Castle”) because our Romania specialist got us special access to the castle after it had closed to the general public for the day.

Swipe through the slide shows below, which I posted on Instagram during our trip, to learn about what we did, saw, and ate, and the many friends we made. Check out the photos of the rolling green landscapes, the medieval walled towns, the fairytale castles, the occasional sheep traffic jam, the Ukrainian teens, King Charles’ house in Viscri, and everything else described above.

Chef Marcela Cosnean in her kitchen in Harman, Transylvania

Chef Marcela Cosnean in her kitchen in Harman, Transylvania. Photo: Timothy Baker

Check out what we cooked too, thanks to the day we spent with a chef who is basically the Martha Stewart of Transylvania:  She took us to a goat farm in her village where we bought goat cheese (made at 1:00 a.m. that day!), then to a farmers’ market for gorgeous produce and a bakery for fresh-out-of-the-oven bread, then back to her kitchen where we learned how to cook one of the most memorable meals of our lives.

If you’ve got questions about Romania or want to know the best itinerary or trip-planning specialist for your specific needs and goals, just click on the button below.  We loved it!  And we can’t wait to go back, before the rest of the world discovers it.

ASK WENDY ABOUT A TRIP TO ROMANIA

 

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