Most of us were affected by this international crisis, and some of us went through drastic changes in their day to day life so travelling for most people is not a priority anymore. There are many reasons why more and more people choose to travel locally or not at all, starting from lack of money and the fact that an economic crisis could hit anytime now, to the fact that travelling could be dangerous for yourself and others. (but travelling doesn’t have to be expensive and with the right precautions you can travel safely). Personally I decided to avoid international travel this year and focus on exploring Romania, a hard change for someone that used to travel interationally around 3 months a year. But I was lucky enough to come back from Asia before the situation got worst, and even travel to Cyprus in february before any borders were closed. Also I am lucky because my country, Romania, has everything from mountains to the sea, from big cities to small traditional villages and from modern resorts to historic sites. Now that the situation is getting worst here, travelling even in Europe is harder for us, and most of the time not worth it. Anyhow, no matter what you choose to do you must respect the social distancing rules in order to save lifes and even the tourism industry, as a new lockdown will certainly destory lots of businesses. In this post I decided to recommend some affordable family owned businesses in Romania, as they need our help during this hard time while also presenting travel ideas that can be adapted to any country.
Romania was in lockdown from march to may, so all the hotels, restaurants and bars were closed (as in a lot of other countries), but from june they started to reopen and the „new normal” phase started. Sadly I was busy during june writing my dissertation, so travelling for me was out of the question, but after I graduated my master’s degree I was finally free to roam around. So here is my july travel itineary that will hopefuly give you some ideas for local travelling:
- Guest house with a pool
I am based in Cluj-Napoca, and after a few months of HORRIBLE weather when we finally had some sunny days and we decided to spend some time in nature by the pool, so a guest house in a village near our city was an obvious choice. We did not really visit anything here but just relaxed, drank some cold ones and ate good food. If you are looking for a chill weekend in the Romanian countryside, Oaza Apuseilor is a great choice.
2. History and nature
The next stop for me was another relaxing trip, this time a bit further away in Hunedoara County, more precisely the area called „Țara Hațegului”. I might be subjective about this, as I have a lot of memories in this area and had so much fun here, but for me this is one of the most beautiful places in Romania. It has a rich history and some of the most importat archaeological sites in Romania ( Ulpia Traiana Sarmizegetusa, Sarmizegetusa Regia and the dacian fortresses of the Orăștie Mountains which are UNESCO world heritage sites), beautiful nature (Retezat Muntain) and amazing traditional food. We were based in Sarmizegetusa, as one of my best friends from university lives here, but we did travel around quite a bit. We did not need accomodation as we stayed at her house, but if you want to spend some time in the area I wholeheartedly recommend Pension Zamolxe, a family owned business with a huge outdoors space, where you can either camp or rent a room. Also I want to talk a bit about our intinerary as we had no time to get bored. Ofcourse our first stop was at the archaeological site, as we both worked there as part of our studies. (and we love that place).
My favourite part of this trip was for sure the sausage factory in Sălașul de Jos. In this area they make a special kind of sausage called „Virșli” made of either sheep or goat meat. There is no point in describing the taste, but you HAVE TO try it. The only thing I have to add is that you can also drink a cold beer while you try the sausages and at the factoy we visited they had two lovely Jack Russell Terries, so this might just be the happiest place on earth.
As we arrived a little early for the sausage factory we decided to also visit Mălăiești Fortress, which is a short drive from Sălașul de Jos. The fortress has 3 phases, the oldest one from the 14th century and it was abandoned in the 17th century. It only takes about half an hour to visit it, but if offers an amazing view and when we went there ( july 2020) it also had an outdoor art exhibition.
Also another activity we did was mushroom picking in the forest near Sarmizegetusa. We had an amazing time (and ate some tasty meals after) but I would not recommend going without somone that really knows which mushrooms are edible as otheriwise is a really dangerous endeavour.
As this was quite a busy trip we also went to Densuș, another beautiful village in the area. This time we did not visit the famous Saint Nicolas Church as we have all been there before, but if it is your first time there make sure you go and check it out as it is one of the oldest churches in Romania and it is made using materials from the roman capital of Dacia, all in all it is an amazing sight. Anyway, as I said we did not go there for the church but for a tasty cauldron meal made with beef and the mushrooms we picked earlier.
With this ended my trip to Țara Hațegului and it was time to visit my parents in Pitești. I was lucky enough that most of my friends from back home were also visting their parents so in no time we started planning our next adventures.
3. Going to the mountains
I think one of the safest places to travel right now is in nature and we are lucky enough to live just one and a half hours away from Iezer-Păpușa Mountains. Here you can either camp for free, or go to one of the cottages in the area. We choose the second option and went to Cuca Cottage. We hand an amazing time there, made campfires every night, cooked delicious food, listened to people playing live music and explored the area. As I was not prepared for this trip (left my boots back home) we did not attempt hiking to Păpușa peak (2391 m), but if you have appropriate gear you should defently try this 4 hour hike. Also if you come here in july you should look around for wild strawberries .
4. Camping with friends
I know camping is not for everyone, but I have to say that I love a good camping trip. Normally I go camping every summer at the sea side, but this year I decided not to go, as it is really busy and risky. Also becuase of the lockdown and the new rules we did not go to any parties in months, so we decided to also bring some speakers and dance a little. What is more fun than a few good friends camping and enjoying music in nature ? For this we choose a spot in Argeș County, just a short drive from our home town, in an area I presented before in my „Off the beaten path” series.
Right now we are all going through some tough times, and we need to take care of ourselfs and people around us while still enjoying life. So be safe, travel resposibly and if you can help small businesses in your area.