One of the first places I want to revisit when I am allowed to travel to Romania again will be the Ciucaș Mountains: a small massif nestled in the Carpathians’ Bend, just southeast of Brașov. Although humble in size, the Ciucaș is generously endowed with natural beauty. Not only do the bujorile de munte – mountain rhododendrons – adorn the green slopes in May and June; the Ciucaș is also known for its vast collection of oddly shaped calcareous rocks, sculpted by wind and rain over time. I visited the Ciucaș mid-May in 2018, when the rhododendrons just started to bloom. And what I’ve seen has convinced me that I need to go back.more “Hiking in the Ciucaș Mountains”
Last winter I was lucky enough to spend some time in Romania in winter – for the first time ever! After celebrating New Year’s Eve in the Buila-Vânturarița with friends and exploring the nearby Cozia Massif with Wilbert, I headed to Brașov to revisit the Piatra Craiului Mountains with some friends, old and new. Since the winds were too strong on the main ridge we restricted ourselves to do the Piatra Mica circuit. But as you will see, it was well worth it! So here it is: the Piatra Mica in winter.more “The Piatra Mica in winter”
Yes, I am aware winter is encroaching on us in the northern hemisphere, but I still have summer stories to tell. Although I spent just over a month in Romania this summer it was crammed with adventures – and I still have many pictures to share. Time to catch up. Here is a photo journal of my hike to the Piatra Mica, the Piatra Craiului‘s smaller but no-less-gorgeous sister. I’ve added ‘in summer’ to the title as I did this hike in winter as well – so a winter version of this post is in the cards. At some point. Eventually.more “The Piatra Mica in summer”
It’s 7:15. My alarm goes off. I snooze only twice, meaning I’m up, and proud, by 7:25. I do yoga, apply the finishing touches to my pack, have breakfast and call a taxi. It drops me off at Braşov station, where other taxi drivers line up to lure me into one of theirs – but alas, I’m getting on a train. To Râşnov, to be precise. After a short ride on the ridiculously cheap Regio Calatori train I briskly direct my steps towards the Bucegi. After about two kilometres I finally begin to wake up properly and realize I am still for an asphalt road, and that there are no signs of it ending anytime soon. I should definitely have taken a taxi for the first stretch to Cabana Mălăieşti. I could probably still call one, but instead I start flapping my hand up and down Romanian-style to find a ride. It doesn’t take long to take one: I end up in a car with a mountain guide, two Italian tourists and their driver. They are headed for Mălăieşti as well – lucky me. The ride probably saves me two hours of dull walking; as it turns out it’s almost 12km until the start of the trail. Sloppy slapdash planning on my part – I had a deadline to make the night before and didn’t mind the details.more “The Bucegi: other angles”
Yesterday has been a very full day – in the best possible way. I wrote a whopping seventeen pages in my (small) notebook – I brought only one because I thought that would suffice for a month in Romania. But by now I only have eight empty pages left. After only two days in the mountains my heart is full and my head is brimming with stories. That’s why I’m taking today off – or rather, have decided today needs to be a processing day. It’s pouring it down outside so that makes it easier for me to reconcile myself with the fact I’m not hiking today. Not that I feel bad about it – not at all this time. These past two days have brought me so much that I really need to sit down and think, write, sift through the stories, the images, the recollections, the conversations. It’s going to be quite a task, and a long read. If you don’t feel like reading, there’s pictures. I won’t blame you.more “Mountain magic in Măgura”
Hello dear people. It’s been a while. This blog is turning into more of a quarterly than, well, a blog. I’ve been wanting to write a post for a long, long time, but finishing the manuscript of my guidebook to the mountains of Romania and handling the feedback has swallowed me whole. It’s not that I didn’t have the time – but I’m feeling so depleted that I spend 12 hours out of every 24 sleeping and am so tired that I can’t handle much in terms of cognitive and creative effort. But I do want to write. I don’t imagine any one of you wakes up in the morning thinking ‘When is that girl finally going to post again’ but I do feel some sort of duty towards you, and myself – mostly myself perhaps. I want and need to write, and share. So here is a little update on how things are going and I’m going to treat you to some more Romanian mountains – the Ceahlau. So scroll down if you don’t want any of the personal dribble or read on if you do. (You’ve been warned.)
Oh dear. It’s March. In fact, it’s spring! This means I’ve been back for over four months and still I haven’t written my reflective 2018-post. Of course it is a bit ridiculous to publish it this late but since I kept a things-I-learned-list I would like to share these insights with you. Also it is a good exercise for me to get back into writing blog posts. It’s not that I don’t write; in fact I do little else. The deadline for my guidebook to the mountains of Romania is end of April and I have no clue how I am going to finish it in time. But I will. Besides that, I’m working on lots of exciting new projects that I can’t quite talk about yet – but what I can say is that I never dreamed the Roamaniac adventure would roll on like this after the guidebook part! In short, I’m juggling a lot of balls at the moment, so here is a little distraction from all these frightful facts for myself, and for you from whatever it is you need distracting from.
One of my favourite ways to start a hike is when I can walk out of a town and straight into the mountains. One perfect base to do this from is the charming town of Vatra Dornei, in the northeast of Romania. I used to be a little scared of the northeast. It is arguably the remotest corner of the country and I’ve had some negative experiences there in the past. Most recently the dog bite, and in the more distant past I thought I wanted to buy a campsite in this area. It didn’t feel right, it wasn’t a good plan and I ran away screaming. Ever since I get a little mental shudder when I think of the northeast. But not any longer: I’ve discovered the northeast is perfectly friendly and perfectly gorgeous.
Just a few days after I had come back from my hike across the main ridge of the Făgăraș, I went back: I wasn’t quite done with these mountains yet. During an earlier hike into the Iezer-Păpușa, I had planned to cross over into the Făgăraș via a connecting spur, but was prevented by the weather. This time round the forecast didn’t look too favourable either; 5-10mm of rain or more was predicted for every afternoon, so I resolved to go on short hikes and pitch my tent before the rain. But I was fortunate: I was much faster than expected (I suppose I’m getting the hang of this hiking thing) and there was less rain than predicted.
Oh Făgăraş. You kept me waiting for so long! But It Is Finished: I hiked across the entire length of the Făgăraş Mountains in less than a week! Five days and a rest day, to be precise. I still find it hard to believe that it went so well. But the pictures, the bruises on my legs and sores on my feet serve as good reminders that this actually happened: the longest hike is down! So, hiking in the Făgăraş: this is how you do it! more “Hiking across the Făgăraş: Romania’s longest ridge”
I intended to write a reflective post after my first month in Romania, but then all of a sudden two months had passed – and then three. This doesn’t mean time flew – it didn’t exactly. Last year’s start was tough – this one was tougher. When I look at my walks list I am not impressed – I only managed one three-day hike in June, for instance. In terms of kilometres it looks a little better – I did about 240km which is almost half of what I did in total last year and the year before – so it looks like I’m getting somewhere. Although that said, I have no idea how many kilometres I have ahead of me. I can only hope that I’m about half way, since in another three months winter will force me out of the country.
After my hike in the Iezer-Păpușa was cut short by the rain I planned to return there, but the rain wouldn’t stop so I started looking around for alternatives – and settled for a hike in the Cozia and Buila-Vânturarița, after lengthy consultations with the 500th liker of my facebook page. So after two and a half months in and around Brașov I set off for Cârța, a lovely little village in between Brașov and Sibiu at the foot of the imposing Făgăraș mountains. Actually my host, Sorin, drove me there – he happened to have an appointment in Aiud that same day and Cârța was pretty much en route. So that saved me a lot of dragging and sweating.
If the Carpathians are wild, the Rodna Mountains (Munţii Rodnei in Romanian) are truly wild. In the mountains around Braşov, the Fagaraş for example, you will meet plenty of people and find many a cabana – but in the Rodna, you will have to be completely self-sufficient. There are no cabanas except for a (temporarily closed) inn at the Setref Pass in the west, Hanul Pintea, and a cabana at the easternmost end of the ridge, Cabana Rotunda. So pack your tent, food and water, and let’s go… more “Hiking in the Rodna Mountains”