Milchtoast

Chronicles of a writer abroad

Romania recap 2: Sinaia and the Carpathians

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Wow…what a crazy few weeks we’ve had, travelling and hosting relatives more or less constantly. I’ve taken a number of trips and hikes in recent days, and I will be blogging about these eventually, but I wanted to first finish telling you about our trip to Romania.

After spending the first part of our trip with Stelian’s relatives in Targoviste, Stelian, Alex and I ventured into another part of Romania. We boarded an immaculately clean (albeit airless and overscented by myriad car air-fresheners dangling from the ceiling) coach, and in two hours we had wended our way through Romania’s lush green forests to Sinaia.

This is a mountain resort town; I imagine that it is bustling with skiers in winter. In mid-May, it was quiet, though the weather was beautiful, and the beautiful emerald green mountains were beckoning us outdoorsy types to hike.

On our first day there, we checked into a nice hotel, which was an absolute bargain (especially to those of us who have now partially adjusted to Swiss prices), and almost immediately headed out again to see the Peles castle.

This particular castle was the summer residence of King Carol I — the first King of Romania. Building began in 1873, after the King approved a plan for a castle whose rooms would showcase different architectural styles; hence, there are rooms in Renaissance style, Moorish style, Oriental style, Rococo style — newer styles like Art Deco were also incorporated into the castle as they came into fashion. The King was also fond of secret staircases, and so several of the rooms served as secret passages to other parts of the castle. My favourite was the library, where, among walls lined with real books, one shelf of fake ones led, Batman-style, to the King’s bedroom.

At the castle entrance, Stelian was excited to see a copy of a statue that we admired in the Vatican several years ago:

At the Peles castle in 2011

At the Vatican in 2008

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

We then went on a guided tour of the castle — it has some 168 rooms, of which we saw a couple dozen. Here are some highlights:

Castle exterior

Atrium with spiral staircase and stained glass ceiling panels

Part of the King's personal theatre

On our second day in Sinaia, we headed into the mountains, taking a gondola to an elevation of 2,000 meters — above the tree line, where only dried grasses were to be found — and starting our hike.

Our aim was to reach the Babele. This word means “old women” in Romanian, but in this case it simply denotes a number of mushroom-shaped rocks.

We had to walk a little more than 6 kilometers, and gain about 200 meters of elevation, to reach the site. The most challenging aspect of the hike was the snow, which had to be traversed very carefully:

Or else this would end up happening…

Since the snow was incredibly deep in some areas (thanks, Alex, for the great shot!).

We kept climbing up…

And eventually reached our destination at the top. It was pretty secluded, except for a dog who barked savagely at us, prompting its owner to emerge from a lone cabin and ask if we would like to purchase some food or a hot drink. It’s not an impractical system, I suppose. We ate our packed lunches instead, and admired the views of the surrounding valleys.

Here is an example of the Babele:

Another key attraction was the Sphinx rock formation. Interestingly, it was quite unconvincing in person, but at the right angle in a photograph, the head comes out rather clearly.

Alex and the Sphinx

Finally, we had to turn around and quickly retrace our steps, since the last trip back down the mountain was not too late in the afternoon. As we hurried back, nobody fell and covered themself in mud and there is really nothing to tell. Except that we had to climb this, which was not the most fun.

Once back in Sinaia, we found a restaurant and ate like Romanian Kings.

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3 thoughts on “Romania recap 2: Sinaia and the Carpathians

  1. I have been looking forward to this, Kristen, and it was so worth the wait! Thank You! The pictures are just wonderful. I love the castle…

  2. Stunning photojournal of this trip!

  3. Pingback: Королевская роскошь замка Пелеш

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