Fri/Sat 13th/14th May
All the trains behaved well. Sowerby Bridge to Leeds to King’s Cross to Hatton Cross tube about 4.5 hours. A woman on train talked to me whilst she sewed crocheted flowers onto a large white bra! Walked 6 mins to Hilton Garden hotel. It has very little garden. My room was surprisingly spacious but no free slippers!
I had some M&S salad, drank some beer and some wine. You can buy food and drink in the little shop at regular prices and put them in the ex-minibar fridge. Slept ok but the room only had air con and no opening windows so I was either too hot or too cold.
Despite my booking saying no breakfast I got a free one including real coffee. Walked back to the tube and got on a free bus to Terminal 4. Had a free coffee and then rather a lot of waiting. My trip through Security was extensive as usual. I did the walk through then a 360 degree all over body scanner then a full body pat down and lastly a footwear scan and bio sample, at least I think it was. You’ll be glad to know I was then in the clear.
Pootled about the shops and had a good goat’s cheese and beetroot salad in Carluccio’s as had spent no money up to that point!
At last I got on the Tarom plane, sitting with other Exodus passengers, Camilla and Julie and a Romanian woman, Adriana who works for the British Embassy. Talked with them all, didn’t even read my book. Smooth flight. I had the “special” meal which was a surprise as I’d forgotten I’d ordered veggie food. It was pasta in a white sauce and fruit washed down with Romanian bear beer.
Reached Bucharest at 6pm UK time. They are 2 hours ahead so we reached Villa Hermani in Magura at nearly midnight. Thomas the Exodus guide is ex German army. We got into a big minibus and drove for 3 hours. Felt terribly tired on arrival. but Herman gave us all a shot of fiery plum schnapps.
C and J and I have rooms in the annexe. There was an initial mix up with keys. They are now in the room with 2 beds and I am in one with one bed, I also have a balcony. At night there is a lot of dog barking because in the mountains every one keeps a dog and they all live outdoors. I will find out if they have kennels as it’s quite cold here. Lovely clean air.
Sun 15th May
Woke early when the sun came up. Read a bit then a lovely hot shower. The dogs live in kennels, unfortunately right outside my window! Villa Hermani has 4 dogs, I think.
Breakfast. Some slightly fizzy pale juice. Lots of coffee. Cinnamonny lemony dense porridge with fruit and yoghurt. Rye bread with very good butter straight from the churn. Lots of cheeses, cured meats and sweet things. Also houmous, fishy spread and salmon.
Made up sandwiches for lunch. Houmous and cheese on rye, separate.
Katherina did intros. She is German and Herman is Romanian. She is also an expert on large carnivores and previously did lots of research into them.
The group is:
Camilla and Julie who are in the annexe with me
Anne and George from Macclesfield
Marion from HK
Karin from Vancouver
Julia from London
Katy from Oz
Jackie from Dartford
Sue from E. Yorkshire
John from Glasgow
We set off. It was chilly in the wind and hot in the sun so quite a bit of on and off. Walked to Pestera along rutted roads and across meadows with Alpine flowers.
Stopped for lunch at the pub in Pestera. This was a large empty room with only one customer, very basic, more like a village hall. We ate outside. Some brave souls used the loo at the rear. Thomas warned us to be careful around wild dogs i.e. Those that work with shepherds.
We then went to the bat cave. This was a foul place because of the human detritus and we didn’t see any bats!
Bimbled our way back to the Villa Hermani. Passed a house from which some frantic folk music was coming out. Boot cleaning under the outdoor tap.
Having a little lie down. Can just hear the music of the cow bells.
Dinner of parsnip soup, celeriac fritter, braised carrots and rice. Had taste of chicken sauce but strong and heavy. I’m glad I opted veggie as simply not in the mood to eat meat every day. Pudding of stewed apple and set cold custard.
Palinca shot (strong plum schnapps).
Mon 16th May
Wet wet wet.
In the minibuses to the National Park info centre which was shut, as was the cafe opposite. I’d worked it up as an espresso possibility. Addiction denied.
We walked up to the orthodox monastery of Coitul Chilulor at 1134m. We were accompanied by a large shaggy brown dog for most of the walk. At the monastery we had herbal tea and marble cake. We continued up to a small shrine set in the rock. Back down to the monastery for our sandwich lunch. On the walk back down there were wild dogs roaming so we stayed together. Thomas spoke to them and they stayed away. Our shaggy friend helped to protect us.
Back to the road to be picked up by Katherina and Herman.
My room still had no heat despite the fact that everyone else was warm but finally it got sorted and I was able to warm up and dry off.
Early dinner at 3.30! Celeriac soup. Beef tomatoes stuffed with polenta. Apple cake.
4.30 into buses for drive to bear hide. Seems longer than an hour. A robust discussion about Rob and Helen in The Archers. Eventually stop and walk across the teeming, spouting stream to the hide.
Immediately we see a bear and over the course of 2 hours another 7 or so, possibly some repeats. Several young ones and some large. We are quite good at keeping quiet. The bears linger over the lure (biscuits and corn) for quite some time. Two cubs came along and one was a delight trying to get up onto a rock and falling back down like a toddler.
Very cold, damp and uncomfortable in the hide. Glad to be back in the warmth of the bus.
Neustadt beer and a shot of plum schnapps. The dogs are noisy tonight.
Tues 17th May
Fabulous day of Karst scenery on circular route. A bit over 14km. First part in buses then walked through the gorge passing where a scene from Cold Mountain was shot then up onto a plateau. Snow on the big tops. Lunch at La Table. Through mountain meadows. A bit damp at first and cold with a few snow flakes. Then warm in the sun on the way back to Magura. Lovely day on good paths. Height about 1450m.
Typical Romanian dinner of nettle soup, stuffed cabbage leaves with polenta and sliced tomatoes and sour cream, cake made with courgette and a little choc, very good.
Katherina showed us a 2001 BBC documentary about Transylvania and Living with Predators. She then talked about her work on the large carnivores research project and how things have changed since the film was made. She is responsible for the introduction of bear hides as responsible tourism and improving the welfare of the bears and the people of Brasov. All most impressive.
A couple of beers. Neumarkt and Bucegi.
Weds 18th May
Too much snow for the very high mountain. In buses to Poaina Brasov ski resort. Cable car to Postavanu at 1799m. Snowy and v cold. Down the path to Cabana Postavanu for fab choc and rum cake and an espresso at last! Nice old Alpine pub. Down a bit more to a flattish bit at Sub Teleferic for lunch (very short intervals between feeds!)
Down the red ski slope a bit more (this is a medium rating for skiers and steep enough for feet on grass) to another pub, the Rossignol. Home made lemonade very delicious. Back to the buses and home.
Cauli in batter with garlic sauce
Shortbread cake with plum purée therein.
Thurs 19th May
No sleep because of bloody dogs barking all night. The bugger had the cheek to be asleep when I got up. And then a very long day.
Left at 9.30 in the buses to Brasov. Thomas gave us a very informative tour of the town. Black church, Orthodox Church, synagogue, bullet holes from 1989 revolution.
Coffee with Thomas and Nick and Marion.
Got money with my prepaid card. Ate my lunch on a bench in the square. To market which was just a supermarket. Back to synagogue which was shut but not supposed to be.
To Art Nouveau cafe for a drink. George and Anne turned up. Had lovely lemonade. Thomas arrived.
Got more money.
Then it was 5.15 so we went to the buses, met Udo. Off to man made lakes to look at birds with Dan from Transylvania University. He is expert in ornithology amongst other things. Saw a marsh harrier and several types of heron.
Back to Brasov to Roata Norocului (Wheel of Fortune) restaurant. Too noisy the minute we walked in. Loud and modern. The live music was dire.
Karin had an amusing time in the loos. No need for signs on the doors here! Couple that with a wayward cleaner confusing the protocols!
Small creamed veg soup and bread.
Pork schnitzel with ham, cheese and mushroom. Cabbage salad. Chips. Ciuc beer. Light Silva beer. All for less than £9.
Too full and headachey from the awful racket. Bloody dogs better be quiet.
Some lovely singing on the way back with Udo from Julie and the girls!
Fri 20th May
Up early. In buses to Libearty the bear sanctuary. A rather short whiz round with guide. Terrible stories of cruelty.
Nice walk through the meadows to Vulcan where the priest gave us tea, coffee, schnapps and a sort of pancake made by putting the cake mix round a piece of wood and turning it slowly so it didn’t burn.
As we got back in the bus I slammed the door shut on Gary’s finger. A bit of blood but seemingly no bones broken or lasting damage. I couldn’t possibly have seen from where I was that there was a digit in the door.
Drive to Bran and went round castle. Nice castle but full of tourists and masses of tourist tat. Not very relaxing.
Into the horse drawn carriages to ride for just over an hour to the bottom of the long hill. It rained towards the end. Pleasant way to travel, even over the bumps.
In the buses to get up the hill.
Dinner of barbecued meats and salads. Asparagus for veggies. Ice cream. Thomas shocked to see me eating meat. He wore his full traditional gear, hand made by his grandmother. Very smart.
Settle up bills. I didn’t have enough money and got subs from Jackie and Sue.
Sat 21st May
Woke at 5.30, bugger, too early.
On the minibus seeing further half finished but occupied buildings. Communist buildings, even a power plant returning to nature, not demolished.
We got to the airport and then had to get on with check in. Farewells to Karin, Anne and George and John who are all doing slightly different things.
No problems with security this time.
Not much time left to do any shopping after passport control so onto the plane, smooth flight but a somewhat bumpy landing.
Got straight onto the tube, remembered just at the right time that I had to go via Manchester on my ticket. Empty train from Euston but a bit chilly. Crossed Manc on the tram and home from Victoria. Carol had ordered me a taxi from Elland Cabs but stupid driver took me a really long and expensive way home so I won’t be using them again.
Nice to be home.
Link to Julia’s photos on Flickr:
Top 3 Tips for hiking
1 Footwear is as important as the tyres on a car, keep your boots clean and proofed and carry a spare pair of laces.
2 Water is more vital than food, think clean maybe use a filter bottle like Water2Go or a bladder. Keep bladder clean between trips by sterilising using e.g. Steradent tablets or Milton solution, rinse out thoroughly and keep in the freezer.
3 If it moves, tie it down. I’ve lost maps and poles by not having them properly attached. Fix your compass and map to your body/clothing using whatever works best for you, mini carabiner clips and bootlaces are good.
Please visit Map and Compass and learn how to interpret a map and use a compass with me and my navigation partner, Cath.