Balkan Road Trip, Part II

We left off here.

Day 4:  Brasov, Romania

After the unexpected cold and rain we experienced in Bucharest, I checked the weather forecast for Brasov and it looked like snow showers.  I thought surely that could not be right, it’s April for Pete’s sake!

And then we started driving.  Straight up snowstorm in the mountains.  It was supposed to be one of our shorter driving days, but it still took us over 3 hours to get to Brasov from Bucharest.  Also, did I mention that we switched out the snow tires for regular tires a week prior to our trip?

When we arrived in Brasov our GPS kept telling us to turn on streets we weren’t able to turn on, so finally we parked the car and JR walked to find Casa Albert.  We didn’t realize our hotel was located directly on the pedestrian street in the old town, which was mostly a great thing except the part where we had to unload and carry all of our luggage/stroller/pack n’ play.   We had lunch at the hotel’s restaurant and then drove about 35 minutes to Bran to see Bran Castle, alleged home of Vlad the Impaler, the inspiration to Dracula.

 

bran 1 bran 2 bran 3

Really, all they know is that Vlad spent some time imprisoned at Bran Castle and they think the castle was described in the book Dracula.  Still it was a beautiful castle to see and the snow made things even prettier (and also very cold).  The decor inside wasn’t that impressive but the courtyard and views were great.

After our castle visit, we went back to our room so Abby could nap.  I sent JR out on a mission to find a place for dinner that was non-smoking and served pizza.   During the recon mission he would send me pictures of the few places he had found while I waited for Abby to wake up.  We wound up at Prato, very close to our hotel and one of the best choices we made our whole trip!  First, it was not crowded, no smoking, and we had great service.  They had a plastic highchair that worked perfectly for Abby (a rare find) and best of all, great food and wine.   A great end to the day.

brasov 1

Abby’s “I’m not impressed” face in Brasov.

Day 5:  Brasov, Romania

We started our day with a great breakast at our hotel, and then made our way to Peles Castle.  Peles is located an hour away, back towards Bucharest, and it would have made more sense to stop and see it while en route to Brasov, but it is closed on Mondays and Tuesdays so that didn’t work.  Although it wasn’t snowing when we arrived, there was plenty of snow and ice on the ground so we took our time making it up to the castle.  The trip was totally worth it because Peles is beautiful inside and out.

peles 1

We made a quick pit stop to feed Abby before visiting the castle.  She made friends with this older gentleman who decided to join us at our table.

peles 1 peles 2 peles 3

It was very crowded and took forever to buy tickets.  They offered a general exhibit ticket for 20 Ron (about $5) that allowed you to walk around by yourself on the ground floor only, or you could buy a 50 ron ticket ($12) and take a 75 minute guided tour of two floors.   We didn’t want to do the tour because it had already taken us a while to get there and buy our tickets, and we thought Abby might not have the patience for that.  We chose the general exhibit ticket and then spent an absurdly long time trying to find the entrance.  All the signs said “Enter here for English language tour” – which was not the ticket we purchased.  Finally, thanks to a very kind woman who spoke Romanian, we were informed that because it was so crowded that day, they weren’t allowing anyone to walk around on their own, and we would just be added to an English language tour.   A nice bonus for us considering we didn’t pay for that tour, but kind of unfair to all the other people who did pay full price.  The tour was informative, but long, and we still wound up leaving the castle before they moved on to the second floor.

peles 4 peles 5 peles 6

peles 3

Back in Brasov, we walked around the town some more and went inside the Black Church, built during the 14th and 15th centuries.

black church

brasov 2 brasov 3

It was almost dinner time and JR asked what I wanted to do.  I directed him straight back to Prato!  I like what I like, what can I say?

prato 1

Abby was happy to be back at Prato too!

I raved about the wine again, and at the end of our meal JR asked our server for a bottle to take home.  My plan is to save it for a nice summer night once we’re settled in our new house in Tbilisi!

Day 6:  Timisoara, Romania

Timisoara was on our list mainly as a rest stop because the drive to Belgrade was too much for one day.  It was quite a long haul, but at a few points we were on this fancy new highway which was great.  I was driving while we were trying to find our hotel, and I turned right exactly like the GPS instructed me to when I was met almost immediately with flashing lights and a police car pulling me over.   Oops.  I told the nice policeman that it was the GPS’s fault that I was going the wrong way on a one-way and I showed him the proof, but according to him, I’m also expected to read the road signs.  He was really nice though and gave us corrected directions to our hotel without a ticket.

We stayed at the NH Timisoara and although we had booked a standard room since we were only staying one night, when we arrived we asked for a suite and they upgraded us for free!  The suite didn’t have a completely separate room for the baby but it was a good size and we were able to tuck her away in a separate corner/hallway so she could sleep.  As with most of our stops, the minibar is key when you spend your evenings in  your hotel room.  In the U.S. I wouldn’t dream of taking anything from the hotel minibar.  In my mind, a can of coke would be $7, plus a 25% service charge, plus a restocking fee of $3, all while there is a vending machine at the end of the hallway.  Over here the minibars are priced so well it makes me giddy.  Bring on the wine, bottled water, and snacks!

We ventured out again for dinner and thought we were heading to the main city center and square, but it turned out to be something like a ghost town.  We were on our way to a top-rated restaurant on TripAdvisor, La Strada, but everything seemed closed, the streets were completely torn up for a construction project, and we joked that it looked like a scene from The Walking Dead.  To our surprise, the restaurant was open and the food was great.  The menu was much smaller than we were led to expect from the reviews, but we were happy with our meals.

To be continued.

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