Well hello there dear readers, welcome back. Nice to see you! Have you come to hear more about the wonderful things that can be found in Romania? Well of course you have… why wouldn’t you?! It’s an A.M.A.Z.I.N.G country and well worthy of being on anyone’s top ten in the world!!!
Romania is a fascinating country for many reasons – not only is Romania richly diverse in terms of landscape, culture and socioeconomic backgrounds, but the nation offers an interesting look at Eastern European history as a whole, and how the country known to host Europe’s oldest recorded homo-sapiens, came to thrive under many different leaders and dynasties.
Gone are the days where Hungarian Kings ruled supreme throughout Transylvania. Now you’ll find metropolitan cities, excellent nightlife, gorgeous rolling countryside and of course, an abundance of medieval towns and citadels to keep your intrigue levels high throughout your stay.
Whether it’s supping Palincă as you wait for dinner on hot summer nights, or trying to spot bears (please don’t try and wrestle with any of them) as you drive on some of the coolest roads in the world (thanks Top Gear!) – Romania has something to offer for anyone, especially if you’re a fan of Saxon-infused architecture.
For my particular visit to Romania, all aspects of the trip were expertly taken care of by the good folks at Sano Touring – an accessible travel organisation operating extensively within Romania and offering custom made individual tours for anyone wishing to see all that Romania has to offer but whom have specific accessibility needs. SERIOUSLY, go check those guys out – they’re amazing, knowledgeable and above all… very, very, very helpful. (Yes that extra very was necessary, don’t judge).
In my last blog post, we finished off by me telling you all about the Open Air Museum in Sibiu – where we’d received an in-depth tour of the museums grounds, with expert explanations of what each of the buildings and pieces of equipment represented.
From Sibiu we then headed deep into the Carpathian mountains, climbing to an elevation of over 1,000ft, driving on roads that reminded me greatly of Switzerland. Our next stop was the adventurous town of Brasov, which is a fantastic tourist spot for all those in search of Mountaineering and/or winter based sports.
The hotel at which we stayed that night was called the Alpin Hotel and was just a few miles outside of Brasov. This required driving even higher into the mountain range to reach our final rest for the night. The Alpin Hotel is widely considered as being the best Spa Hotel in Romania, with amazing facilities for those that love to swim and relax.
Unfortunately for me, accessibility was a little under-par, and despite being booked into a ‘disabled friendly’ room, the ramp leading to my room was unimaginably steep and had to be replaced fairly quickly by another, not so steep (but still too steep) ramp. Also, sadly, all of the great spa facilities that I was so looking forward to – and for which the hotel is famous for – were unreachable by wheelchair, and with many excited children around, I didn’t fancy shuffling down the stairs on my hands and knees. (Disclaimer: I didn’t check the access to the spa area myself, but my friend did scout out the area and reported back saying that it wasn’t accessible for wheelchair users as it was downstairs and there was no elevator).
The city of Brasov itself is very picturesque, although also seemed to have the feel of being quite a sleepy town – something that I personally appreciate from time to time as it definitely allows you to collect your thoughts for a while. The pace of life within the city seemed chilled to say the least, and the architecture on show when strolling town one of the many cobbled streets was rather stimulating.
I’m a huge fan of any form of cafe culture, so finding that Brasov had plenty to offer in terms of ‘taking-it-easy’, à la coffee in hand, was a very welcome discovery for me. There are several vantage points around the outskirts of the city where you can find incredible views of Brasov below you and the hills that encroach upon it. Brasov is definitely worth a visit on any self-respecting tour of Romania, despite it being a regular tourist haunt.
Our next destination after Brasov was the intriguing citadel of Rasnov – which is conveniently positioned en route between Transylvania and Wallachia; the latter being where Bucharest is. Rasnov is one of Romania’s many fortified citadel‘s, but the main difference between Rasnov and any of the other churches in Romania, is that Rasnov was often used as a place of refuge for the citizens of the surrounding areas throughout the ages.
Rasnov Fortified Church can be reached by climbing the many stairs, or by riding the funicular that is perfectly wheelchair accessible and leads to jaw-dropping views of the township below and the mountains off to the distance. Side-note: I often wondered if funicular’s are called that simply because they’re fun?!
From Rasnov, it’s only a short drive to Bran – home of Dracula’s Castle (Although contrary to popular belief he may never have actually stepped foot inside it… blame the Germans!). When we arrived in Bran the tourism levels were insanely high, and we were restricted to a slow crawl in the car, around the castle. Given that it was a Romanian holiday and everyone had flocked to areas such as Brasov and Bran in search of a good time (cos they know what’s what…), it was nigh impossible to get anywhere closer to what everyone had came to see. The sheer volume of traffic and people meant that we never actually got to stop in Bran , but instead had to settle for a drive-by shot (see below) of the awesome and imposing castle. Despite the legend, Vlad the Impaler may have never st…. oh wait, I already told you that bit.
It’s worth mentioning once again just what an awe-inspiring country Romania is to drive in. Everywhere you go seems to be a perfect spot to pull over and soak in the scenery and capture that perfect shot. Every twist, every turn, every bend in the road leads to another spectacular view. Driving in Romania is definitely one of the best ways to travel – and I’m happy to report that accessible adapted vehicles can be hired within the country.
Moving on from Bran, we then headed to one of the main draws in Romania – the impressive Peles Castle, nestled in the Carpathian Mountains and situated closest to Sinaia. Peles Castle can also be found by opting for the medieval route linking Transylvania and Wallachia. In fact, Brasov, Bran, Rasnov and Sinaia are all perfect stop-off points when heading from the heart of Transylvania, down towards the capital, Bucharest.
Along with Peles Castle, there is also the Pelisor Castle and Foisor Hunting Lodge are also on the same estate. The properties were built under the reign of King Carol I of Romania who fell in love with the region upon visiting the site in 1866. Peles Castle in particular looks like an infusion of Swiss, Austrian architecture with a Renaissance twist, and really does leave you a little dumbfounded (in a good way!) when taking a look around.
I felt really lucky to be allowed to park round the back of Peles Castle (cos I’m gangsta AND VIP af…), on private property, which was really handy as otherwise I’d have had to stroll in my wheelchair for close to a mile to reach the castle. After parking up like a boss-man, I was then escorted to a back of the castle where staff members helped me up a couple of stairs via a ramp, From there I was swiftly taken in the rear entrance (please don’t take that out of context) where I could access a great deal of the ground floor – which was amazing and allowed me to soak up as much of what the castle had to offer as most other visitors.
Our tour for the day ended at Peles Castle and from there we slowly drove to Bucharest where we were scheduled to spend our final couple of nights seeing what the capital had to offer. In my third and final blog post, I’ll share all that we got up to in Bucharest as well as share more amazing photographs. Don’t forget to check out Sano Touring if you too would like to visit Romania and have accessibility needs.