Zărnești

June 1, 2015

We had left Sibiu at about 2 pm and followed the main highway towards Bucharest before turning off on the road to Zărnești, where we had agreed to meet our friends Neil and Christine. When we arrived at Pensiunea Mosorel we found that they had just arrived minutes before us!

Pensiunea Mosorel

Pensiunea Mosorel

There seemed to be some confusion, but after a while our hostess became convinced that we did really have reservations there. From outside the pension didn’t look like much; it was in an unpaved street and had a small rusty sign on ratty-looking buildings. But inside it was a very nice guesthouse. We were shown several rooms to choose from, so we picked the one at the back with a good view of the Piatra Craiului Mountains. Once settled in, we sat on the balcony and caught up on what we’d been doing.

Sunset at Zărnești

Sunset at Zărnești

Dinner was part of our guesthouse deal, because of the lack of restaurants in Zărnești. We’ve always had good dinners at guesthouses in Romania and this was no exception. The meatball soup was excellent and the pork cutlets were very good too.

June 2, 2015

Our breakfast was at 8:30 am, with a great choice of meats, cheeses, cereal, bread, as well as our choice of eggs. We had a modest goal today, to walk to Bran and visit Bran Castle, which according to our hostess was about 5 km away along quiet roads.

Hay drying

Hay drying

The day was lovely with blue sky and sunshine as the four of us set off. The route to Bran followed the public road, which started off being paved but soon became a dirt road. Fortunately the road wasn’t especially busy with traffic. After going uphill a bit the road went downhill through the village of Predeluț and into Bran after a couple of hours. The distance turned out to be more like 8 km, but it was a quite nice walk nevertheless.

Transporting hay by cart

Transporting hay by cart

We could see the castle as we approached the town, since it’s on top of a hill where it was built to guard the pass. It took us one wrong turn before we found the entrance to the castle. The admission was relatively expensive, costing the two of us 50 lei to get in, but after all it’s one of the top tourist attractions in the country.

Bran Castle

Bran Castle

Walking through the castle was fun because it was like a maze, with corridors and secret stairways going off in different directions. It’s basically what was left when the last of the Romanian royal family was sent away in the 1940’s. Throughout it there were rooms decorated with furniture from the days when Queen Marie lived there. There were also displays and information panels about why the castle was built on the hill, and of course displays about the Dracula legend. Although Vlad (the Impaler) Dracula was only there for a few days as a prisoner.

Bran Castle furnishings

Bran Castle furnishings

The four of us found a bench in the adjacent park and ate our lunch while sitting on a bench there. Afterwards we went to the souvenir stalls to buy some things for Christmas presents and as we did, the looming thunder-clouds started to dump on us. So we stood under an awning to wait it out, and the rain stopped after only about ten minutes.

Ceramic stove

Ceramic stove

Neil’s foot had been bothering him for a while, so he and Christine decided to take a taxi back to Zărnești. Our walk back seemed quicker than the morning’s walk, and we were back at the guesthouse by 4:30 pm.

Guineafowl in the field

Guineafowl in the field

As usual dinner was good, a potato and sausage soup followed by turkey stew. After dinner we went for a walk around the village. Neil and Christine had already been there in their car (courtesy of the satnav directions) but we hadn’t. There wasn’t much to see, so we were soon back at the guesthouse, where we retired to our room to write our journals.

June 3, 2015

Today was supposed to be a hiking day, so after breakfast and a quick bit of laundry we headed out in Neil’s car towards the Piatra Craiului national park. We had planned to walk up the blue-marked trail to Cabana Curmătura and then back down the yellow-marked trail. It wasn’t far to the Zărnești gorge, where our walk would begin.

Zărnești gorge

Zărnești gorge

You can’t drive up the gorge, which is a good thing, so we parked by the spring near the start of the gorge. It was a lovely walk up the gorge with its sides towering over us. We were looking for Wallcreeper, a little grey bird which lives on cliffs in the mountains of Europe and is very hard to see. And unsurprisingly we didn’t see any. At the far end of the gorge our blue trail turned off and had us climbing steeply up the side of the mountain.

Ragwort (Doronicum austriacum)

Ragwort (Doronicum austriacum)

Christine was climbing slowly, still not having recovered from the terrible lung infection she had caught in New Zealand, so Rosemary went on ahead at her comfortable pace. The steep climb continued for about half an hour, and then it reached a ridge and climbed gently through deciduous forest. Paul caught up to her just as the trail reached an open meadow, from where it was only about 20 minutes up to the hut.

Curmătura hut

Curmătura hut

Hut paraphernalia

Hut paraphernalia

At the hut there were a lot of picnic tables, along with two large St Bernard dogs. We bought some tea and a chocolate bar to augment our lunch and sat at one of the tables waiting for the other two to arrive, which they did just after a large group of Germans had departed. Once the Germans had left we had the place to ourselves, we enjoyed the views in peace and quiet. The distant Bucegi mountains were a bit in the clouds, as they had been all day, and the Piatra Craiului cliffs behind us were very steep and daunting.

St Bernard dogs

St Bernard dogs

Piatra Craiului

Piatra Craiului

We spent quite a while there, finally leaving at about 2:45 pm to follow the yellow trail down. The first part was through a forest and then across open meadows where cows were grazing and the last part went down through deciduous forest to the place where the car was parked. This time Christine beat all of us down to the car.

Drinking trough for cattle

Drinking trough for cattle

Before returning to the guesthouse we went for a drive through the nearby village of Măgura, just to have a look. Unlike all of the other villages we had driven through, this one was actually rural, with houses spread all over the hills instead of being clustered along a street. Dinner tonight was cabbage rolls, stuffed with ham rather than pork, and after dinner we sat on the balcony with Neil and Christine and helped them finish their bottle of Bailey’s.

Next: Transfagarasan Road

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