Summer in Romania – Part One

From the buzz of city life in Bucharest, off-road mini bus rides to an epic salt mine and peaceful strolls in the parks, to the striking seaside sunsets and breathtaking mountain views – our summer in Romania was a time for adventure.

Landing at Otopeni Airport has to be one of my favourite moments when travelling to Romania. Feeling the hot air sink into my skin and hearing the buzz of Bucharest never fails to make me smile.

We arrived on a Saturday afternoon after a pretty spontaneous plan. Up until a week or so prior, the thoughts of a holiday only existed in our mind – but there we were, lumbered with our two suitcases, hand luggage and our GoPro ready to make our holiday dreams come to life. Now unfortunately, my camera photos seem to have gone missing. So hopefully this little gem of a video can show the magic of our summer…

After a quick play on a new taxi ordering system, we hopped in the car and made our way to the Sarrogolia Hotel. In the past, when I’ve travelled to Romania there has been some issue in getting a taxi from the airport. Some taxi drivers have taken advantage of the tourists and charged them a fortune for what should be a fairly average priced journey. The new system provided an organised and safe way of getting a taxi – something which I think is a truly welcomed idea by tourists and taxi drivers alike. We whizzed through the city with our extremely chatty taxi driver and pulled up to our hotel.

The Sarrogolia Hotel is one of my all time favourite hotels. Not only does it offer comforting surroundings, the staff are all so helpful and friendly – no question is too big and it seems they really care about your stay at their hotel. The decor is contemporary but maintains a classic twist with simple, yet striking decorations. One thing which really pulls this hotel away from others in the city is the amazing roof terrace. Complete with sunbeds and a hot tub, it’s the perfect way to kick back with a cocktail and enjoy the sunshine along with a beautiful view of downtown Bucharest.

Time in the city

Walking throughout Bucharest, you can’t help but feel stunned by the beautiful architecture of old buildings. They really do fill the streets with such an unusual and inspiring charm which oozes the years of history the city has endured. I can imagine the decadent architecture whispers the city’s turbulent life stories throughout the streets.

Situated in the centre of the city, the imposing the Palace of the Parliament can be found. The People’s Palace really does make you stop and stare. With over 1,000 rooms the building is of an enormous size. We headed towards the palace after a short and enjoyable ride on the metro which kick-started one of our days of sightseeing.

Although the sun hid behind pockets of clouds, this didn’t cast a shadow over our mood to explore. At the heart of Bucharest, there are so many fabulous buildings and wonderful things to see. We walked through the city centre – passing nearby the ‘old town’ where we found a place which simply celebrates the amazing, artistic talent Romania has.

Feeling mesmorised in the Romanian Athenaeum

The Romanian Athenaeum really struck a cord with me. Standing outside this magnificent place, you can’t help but feel impressed by the stunning architecture. The classic columns and beautifully landscaped garden makes it look and feel like something from a postcard. Feeling intrigued at what lies inside, we made our way to the side-entrance and were greeted by the security guards. They walked us through and gave a brief history of the building. We were then free to explore the hallway and concert hall.

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As soon as you walk through the entrance doors, you can immediately notice the attention to detail. With marble coating the rooms from floor to walls, it’s a place which oozes a rich sense of history. As we entered the concert hall, I simply stopped and stared. Standing on the step, it was an incredible sight to see . With ripples of red, velvet chairs facing the grand stage, to a timeline of inspirational paintings telling thousands of years worth of history stretching across the artistic walls, I can describe it as being a truly magnificent gem. If you visit Bucharest, I would highly recommend a visit here.

Visiting the magical bookstore – Cărtureşti Carusel

All the great cities in the world, have their own artistic stances – and Bucharest is certainly no exception. On a day when we were blissfully exploring the city, we stopped by a place which I was so excited to visit – Cărtureşti Carusel. Having spotted it online earlier this year as being a “magical bookstore”, I just knew we had to visit. And for sure, this is a place worth visiting. Described as a bookstore, to me it offered so much more than that. Indeed there were shelves stocked full of old and new literature, DVDs, cds and notebooks – the way in which it looked just spoke volumes. Having recently been renovated the historical edifice has transformed into a true architectural jewel. The winding staircases and beautifully decorated columns certainly showcased its magic and made it a place where I could spend hours upon end with a good book or several!

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Drinking and dining at Beraria H, Bucharest

For one of our last night’s in the city, we were treated to a pretty awesome surprise – drinks and dinner at Beraria H. Located next to Lacul Herăstrău, this former exhibition hall is well worth a visit. From the moment you walk in, you can’t help but feel impressed by the sheer size of it. With plenty of seating, cold beer on tap and food platters fit for a king – it’s the perfect place to spend an evening with friends and family.

We ordered a platter of Romanian sausages, pork chops, curly fries, mashed potatoes and mustard – along with a traditional cabbage salad and tomato & cucumber salad. I have to say it was certainly one of my favourite meals I’ve ever enjoyed in Romania; it was just too tasty! We washed down our giant food platter with one too many cold beers and although I’m not much of a beer drinker, I was pleasantly surprised!

Soon after we finished our feast, the lights dimmed and music started playing. Up on the stage a group of musicians were settling in to perform some of their favourite songs. The music was electrifying and there was such a buzz in the room with everyone singing and dancing along. We were no exception and with happy bellies we soaked up the atmosphere and smiled from cheek to cheek for the rest of the evening!

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Strolling through the parks of Bucharest

If there’s one thing I love the most about Bucharest, it has to be the parks. I have never seen so many beautiful parks in one city. Some days were spent strolling through the parks where we watched the world go by. There is something for everyone to do. You can grab your rollerskates or hop on a bike and go for a ride, have a drink or lunch in a cafe, cool yourself down with an ice cream, play cards or backgammon, admire the scenery and even make friends with the locals (humans and animals!).

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On one of our trips to the park, we noticed how there was certainly an autumnal breeze drifting through the sky as crisp, golden leaves were dropping from the trees. The parks make me feel so relaxed and happy which always make them worth a visit – even on the cloudiest of days.

BBQ at Baraj Paltinu

During our time in Bucharest, I had my fair share of surprises. One of them included a road trip with Bogdan’s parents to a truly awesome place outside of the city – Baraj Paltinu. Sitting in the car which was packed full of homemade, tasty food, I have to admit I was pretty curious about where we would be heading. The winding roads which led to the tops of mountains and pebbled lakeside pit-stops, made me feel so excited.

In the midday heat, we arrived at our destination and I have to say it was breathtaking. Although I’ve never been to distant lands such as Thailand or Fiji, the lakeside and leafy scenery was like paradise.

We set up our BBQ and picnic blankets in the shade and lit the fire – ready to get our sausages sizzling and chicken crisp. However, the nearby wasp nest had other ideas and began to storm our make-shift BBQ area. Luckily the crisis was adverted and we enjoyed a whole lot of mici (sausages), grilled mushrooms, fresh bread and a delicious salad under the lakeside sun.

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Mini-bus off-roading at Mina Slanic Prahova (Salt Mine)

We woke one morning and I was told to wrap up warm. In all honesty, this confused me to some extent as we were in the middle of a heatwave. Regardless, I packed a pair of jeans and jacket in my bag and we hopped in the car.

I was full of questions such as “where we were going?” and “what we would be doing?” but of course, it was a surprise! The road trip led us out of Bucharest, along the busy highway, down winding, country lanes and through small villages with breathtaking views of the mountains. Just before approaching our destination, we drove through this quaint village with gigantic trees shadowing the traditional villas.

We arrived and I was pretty clueless as to where we were. There were large groups of people and even more cars battling for a space to park. Amongst the crowds and cars were little wooden huts serving a range of traditional bread, cheeses and salami. Long queues of friends and families were gathering under a porch waiting to board a mini bus. Elevated over the area was a rickety, wooden tower decorated with the Romanian flag. I thought maybe it was an adventure park and the mini buses would take us up into the mountains – but oh, boy was I wrong.

Instead of taking us up high, we went far below ground – to a depth of 208 m in fact. After queuing we jumped into the mini bus – feeling excited and a bit apprehensive as to where we would be going. Once the mini bus started, it was a bit touch-and-go. It literally rattled as it flew down the lane into the depth of the mountain.

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From the hot, sunny atmosphere we entered a frightfully cold temperature which hit our skin as soon as we stepped off the mini bus. We followed the crowd and walked into a room, before stopping and staring at all that surrounded us. It was magnificent and it was huge. The salt mine walls towered so high above us and the area was so vast and wide. Little spots of light shone onto the walls and reflected throughout the cave. There was so much detail to see with every turn and I felt so lucky and impressed to see such a site. We walked around the salt mine and swung on the swing, before I was dared to lick the wall – why I did so, I have no idea! Even after all these months since we visited, I can still remember the heavy scent of sulphur cloud the air around us.

So that’s it for our time in Bucharest. I absolutely love the city and find it so charming, yet very different. We had such a blast wandering through the streets, exploring the tourist attractions and even hopping on the metro! Join me next Sunday for Summer in Romania – Part Two, where we head to the seaside in a storm and explore the countryside.

24th January 2016
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