On our way through the Transylvania mountains we head to a national park thats abit off road, gravel road and pot hole galore this was testing times for the Green machine. An hour in and we make our destination with the back drop of these towering mountains with sheer cliff faces, it was a sight worth taking in for a moment. This national park is called Piatra Craiului and we would make this the spot to freedom camp for the night. We take an afternoon stroll up the hill to check out the scenery and nothing but us and nature there is not a single hiker or tourist around it was nice to get back into the wilderness. Now if you’re not already aware, this country is bear country and that is in the back of your mind when you’re out here. Two tourist hikers a year supposedly get mauled to death, simply just not being to aware it seems. Anyway no bears encounted and was a nice walk in some snow and hot sunshine fauna flowering the higher you get into the mountains. Heading back there’s a hotel with the outstanding veiw it would be silly not to have a drink and toast to this awesome scenery. Following day would see us head to a bear sanctuary.
In an area called Zănesti there is a bear sanctuary, Libearty. A little apprehensive I wasn’t sure if this would just be another zoo with a cruel environment to keep such animals from being what should be a normal habitat. However these bears are in a radius of 70 hectares of woodland oak and hazel forest, ponds and open grassland space. Seperated into 3 enclosures one is for males the other female and third for when they are introduced.
The reason this enclosure came about was for the abused and mistreated bears that were captured as cubs, were housed in cages for peoples enjoyment at restaurants, tricks, or just pure selfish amusement, the bears here are the result of what was rescued. Alot of the bears never seen a patch of grass or an area larger than 3 m2 and hence would loose that natural ability to live in the wild, here they are introduced and given time to take in the surroundings at their own pace and subsequently moved onto the gender enclosure. They do not breed bears here as alot of them would not know how to raise their cubs. There is a bear called Nina who is in her own enclosure because she is scared of other bears. She has never seen another bear in her life, she spent 5 years in a cage. There are 80 bears in total with amazing area for them to roam, climb trees and bath in a pond or lake, it’s a pleasure knowing the lives they had to what they get now is something close to being in nature.
Now this sanctuary started because of one bear called Maya, she was subject to living in a cage she hated it so much she died from eating her own paw. In 1998 a Romanian woman, Cristina Lapis saw these bears in captivity and hence had the dream to open an enclosure. It was illegal to hold captive bears but had nothing at the time to home them and in 2007 when Romania joined the European Union, strict zoo guidelines came into play and closed alot of the zoo’s. Bears are no longer held in cages or mistreated here in Romainia with the help from Cristina Lapis talking and agreeing with authority had come to get land and put a stop to bear cruelty.
Now this was a pretty awesome experiance, there’s one bear that’s sitting high up in a tree, and we were told she can decide to just sit up there for a few days. That’s her spot! Watching other bears swim and splash about in the pond to two females on heat having a brawl on their hind legs all because they want the male! It was really cool to see the interaction between the bears and they just seamingly fit back into what is natural. They look so at peace.
From here we make our way south to an area called Bran, this is the spot where Bran castle resides. This is the adopted place for Dracula and the stories behind it. Up north in Romania is the supposed spot where it all came about but that has been turned into a hotel. This castle came about in the 13th century this was known as the Bran pass and had been since known in Roman times. The teutonic Knights built a citadel here, the citadel was destroyed in sub sequent battles. This being uncertain times of war with the menacing Turks and with insecure relations with the Wallachia (Tara Românească) they began to build citadels at the border of the Hungarian kingdom, in order to secure the defense of Transylvania. We take a look inside and as every castle has a forecourt in the middle, this was a quaint looking forecourt with a well surrounding the onlookers of what would be the inhabitants of the castle as you will see in the photo’s. Strategically on the pass you can see how important this spot was. The town surrounding this castle is heaving with tourists and quite typical of stalls selling crafts and touristy gimmicks, it’s clear this is a well known spot. After visiting Bran we decided to make our way south towards Bucharest the capital of Romania. We stop enroute in a buzzing town next to the sheer back drop of mountains called Buşteni, pork steaks searing on the bbq these are by far the best I’ve cooked on this charcoal bbq. Stay the night and we will be in Bucharest the following day.
Arrive at the campsite a couple kilometers away from the centre of Bucharest we set up camp and taxi in to the city centre. The general feeling when you come to this city is the run downess of the place, graffitied walls and run down buildings. And a very strong soviet architecture of the square block buildings, amongst all this you would have old style buildings that have been done up and with the pictures they do look stunning. We are on the look out for food and stop at the much talked about beer house Caru’ cu Bere, drinks ordered we eat cold meats selection platter with cheeses. Strong acquired taste it was an interesting meal. From here we made our way down to the Presidental palace that was built by the man I talked about in previous blog who got executed, Nicolae Ceauşescu. His unpopularity knocked down an entire suburb of historic buildings to create the B-dul Unirii.
This building is the worlds second largest administrative building after the US Pentagon. This was built in 1984 and still remains unfinished. A little more walking around and we call time on this city, coming away on a place that seems dirty and an area with a big strip club zone this place is popular for night life. It is a city that has gone through so much in terms of history and changes to its political make up, it will get there but for now is not a place we would head back to in a hurry.
Heading off and we call time on Romania, we head on what is supposed to be the “M25” around Bucharest is somewhat a challenge. The road is poked and in dire need of a revamp, railway crossing over the roads are atrocious, your going along on average tarmac to dipping into crevasses where the road just crumbles around the tracks. Alot of them without warning and you would seriously damage your car. Take extreme care when you see railway crossings becuase it can be like that for the most part of the country.
But to end this on a high note, Romania has served up a real feast of something we did not know what to expect. A country that has gone through so much has such vibrant culture and laid back style, the country and national parks being second to none, you could almost think you’re in the Austrian alps when in Transylvania. We are so glad to have visited Romania and if ever you get the chance come and explore because it really is an amazing country.