June 5, 2015
Breakfast was at 8:30 am, after which we did a bit of laundry. Since the clouds were still down over the mountain tops, we postponed hiking in the mountains until tomorrow. Instead we headed out in Neil’s car to Sinaia, to visit Peleș Castle.
It didn’t take very long to get to Sinaia and parking was very easy there as it was along the main road. We paid 10 lei for all-day parking and walked up a long cobbled drive towards the castle, paralleling a stream through the forest. Peleș Castle is in an open meadow setting and looks very grand from the outside. It was built by King Carol I in the late 19th century and so it had modern conveniences like telephones and elevators and central heating.
Upon arrival we purchased our tickets to get in, and then went to join the mob clustered around the door. Group after group entered, and after a while we found out that if you weren’t in a group with your own tour leader, you had to wait until a tour leader was available to take you around. Finally after about 45 minutes an English-speaking guide arrived, so our “group” entered. That was us and some Slovaks in heavy-metal T-shirts and a few others. The tour lasted about 40 minutes and went through about a dozen very elaborately-decorated rooms on the main floor. The castle is not large, and the rooms are for the most panelled with intricately-carved wood. One room had magnificent chandeliers made from Venetian Murano glass. All in all it was worth the wait, because all of us enjoyed seeing the opulence inside. It looked like a castle you could actually live in.
By now it was lunchtime, so we sat on a stone wall and ate some bread and cheese which Neil and Christine had bought, plus some fresh cherries we had purchased. We then wandered among the vendor stalls, not seeing much of interest. Rosemary looked for a blouse for Caroline, but didn’t want to pay the prices they were asking. Probably we were spoiled by the lower prices we’d seen back in Maramureș.
So we all walked back down past the Sinaia Monastery and back to the car, deciding to return to the hotel. After reading for a while the two of us went for a walk through the woods, to find the short way to the cable car station. We found that the last trip down is at 3:45 pm, which we’ll have to pay attention to tomorrow. While over there we bought some lunch fixings and treated ourselves to ice cream. Dinner tonight was at about 6:45 pm; the owner’s wife was serving and she spoke French but very little English, but we did all end up with the dishes we’d ordered.
June 6, 2015
We woke up to blue sky and sunshine, which was perfect because today we were taking the cable car up to the Babele hut to go for a hike. Breakfast was at 8:30 am, and afterwards we walked over to the cable car station. As we were leaving we told the waiter our plans, and he said “Oh, you’re late, there will be a big lineup!” Well, it was Saturday and we had read that there can be two-hour lineups in the summer. But we were lucky to arrive when we did because several large groups of school kids arrived just after we had joined the queue.
It turned out that we didn’t have to wait too long for our turn. The trip took about 11 minutes and gained us 1,500 meters of elevation. Because we didn’t really want to walk back down that amount of elevation we decided to pay to ride the cable car both ways.
Our plan was to follow the yellow-marked trail to the Omu hut. Christine was having breathing problems left over from a terrible lung infection she had contracted in New Zealand, so the two of us headed off on our own. The trail was easy to follow, and as we were on a grassy plateau above tree line the wildflowers were starting to bloom. In particular there was a lovely alpine violet which was very abundant, and there were numerous species which we had at home including moss campion, yellow cinquefoils, and some sedums. There were hardly any birds except Meadow Pipits and a single Horned Lark, and apparently the Bucegi Mountains don’t have ground squirrels or marmots.
The trail climbed for a while and then levelled out as it contoured around a hill, then climbed to the Omu hut which was at 2,507 meters. We bought some tea and sat outside, eating lunch and enjoying the view. From here we could look over to Zărnești and the Piatra Craiului mountains, and we could even see the Curmătura hut where we had been a few days ago. We were just about to leave when Neil and Christine arrived. Her breathing had improved somewhat, so they had taken their time to reach the Omu hut.
Heading back down we decided not to do any side trips but to just return to the cable car. On the way back we met a couple of Canadians from Maple Ridge, one of whom had grown up in Romania. He told us that in 25 years of hiking in this area he’d only seen three or four days with weather this good!
Back at the hotel, dinner was at 7 pm at our usual table. Tonight they had pork tenderloin as their special, so we decided to order that for the four of us. That turned out very well; it was an excellent pork loin and the quantity (and price) were just fine. After dinner we sat on our little balcony with Neil and Christine and finished off the remnants of their bottle of Bailey’s. A great way to finish off our vacation; tonight would be our last night with them and tomorrow we would be heading back to Bucharest to fly home.