Sunday, 16 July 2017

Rural Romania's Ridiculously Unspoilt Carpathian Mountains

After attacking Bran Castle with the mobs of other tourists, Richard, my Mum and I drove just 15 miles into the Piatra Craiului National Park towards the remote villages of Pestera and Magura, and found peace! It wasn't that we didn't enjoy the impressive, historic castle, synonymous with Dracula, but the crowds were heaving in the heat, and that little monster of mine didn't do the best job of holding my hand. She really enjoyed exploring the castle; hiding in the eerie nooks and crannies, but sweaty, thirsty and not even 2 years old, I couldn't help feeling she might appreciate an open space and some fresh air. Also the castle was quite literally groaning under the weight of everyone queuing on the stairs, so after admiring the history and the views, we were relieved to get some space. 

Up in those mountains it was some of the freshest air I had breathed in a long time. Cattle grazed amongst meadows blooming with wildflowers, chickens scratched about in rural smallholdings, and the hand-stacked mounds of hay sat indifferently in the summer sun. 

We parked the car on a wide part of the roadside and meandered uphill on foot. The most impressive mountain vistas opened up as we climbed, it was like the Alps but minus any commercial development whatsoever! Unbelievably unspoiled. 

Walking past a particular wooden house with its washing on the line, I heard paws scratching around behind me and a large dog appeared. Wholesome as this place may be, a strange dog is never to be trusted, so I tried to hide any apprehension and held my precious little girl up, with precaution, telling Richard to distract the dog! Our Richard can always be relied on to make friends with stray dogs!

All was well, and I was happy to find a rural hotel on the roadside a little further up. The friendly staff showed us inside and we sat down on the impressive veranda overlooking a panoramic Carpathian mountain range, to order some drinks.They even had a playroom full of toys for little beastie to play with - bonus! I ordered the best hot chocolate ever poured, and ended up 'sharing' most of it with an over-enthusiastic little mouth, but never mind, she enjoyed it!  

Another of my favourite rural Carpathian experiences was Rasnov fortress. Again, heaving inside the fortress in summer, but the views from the top are breathtaking. Just mountains, hills and trees for miles. I visited in autumn and the entire site was almost empty, just adding to this sense of space and quiet. 

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