In case you missed it, I’m currently traveling through Europe, exploring hidden corners and must-see spots in Eastern Europe, the Balkans and the UK. I’ve been posting daily updates from my adventures on Facebook and Twitter, but in case you missed some of those, I’ve also decided to put together a weekly round-up to update anyone who’s interested on what I’ve been up to for the past 7-ish days.
Here we go with Week 2! (With the days being cumulative.)
After a few more morning hours to explore Sighisoara, we hopped in a mini bus and headed once again into the Romanian countryside, bound for the village of Viscri. On the way, we stopped at a local festival where we sampled homemade breads and cheeses. In Viscri, an old Saxon village, we met up with our host/guide and went to visit the town’s famous fortified church. This UNESCO world heritage site was amazing, and the tower offered up stunning views of the countryside. That evening, after a delicious home cooked meal and a visit to the village blacksmith, we watched the cows come home from the fields.
After an early mini bus ride back to Sighisoara, we caught a morning train to Brasov, one of Romania’s most popular tourist towns. We took an afternoon walking tour of the town, checked out the historic collection of Turkish rugs inside the Black Church, and rode a cable car to the top of Mount Tampa for some nice views before a traditional Romanian dinner in the incredibly cute main square.
Today was spent exploring the area around Brasov with our local guide Claudia. Our first stop was Bran Castle, where Claudia enlightened us about Romania’s royal family, Vlad Tepes, communism, and everything in between. After touristy Bran, we caught another bus to Rasnov, where we went “the back way” up a small mountain to Rasnov Fortress. The hike was hot and sweaty, but I think the views were well worth it.
From Brasov, we headed to the Romanian capital city of Bucharest by train. After finding our hotel, we went to the lovely Cismigiu Gardens for lunch and to escape the heat. Then it was a quick stroll to the gaudy Palace of the Parliament before I headed back to my room to recharge. I wandered around the city’s Old Town once it got cooler, and met up with Wandering Earl for dinner.
We were up early for a 3-hour walking tour of Bucharest with a local guide. Hitting up the Old Town, Revolution Square, and a few places in between, Mikhail helped us see beyond Bucharest’s slightly ugly exterior. After our tour, we began a long and miserably hot train ride across the border into Bulgaria. The only consolation was the fields and fields of sunflowers slipping past the window outside.
Day 13 was all about Veliko Tarnovo — at least, as much as we could manage in the scorching heat. This former-medieval-capital is one of the hottest places in Bulgaria in the summer, so we began early and went straight to Tsarevets Fortress. The fortress is HUGE, but almost entirely exposed, meaning that by 11 a.m. we were all sweating profusely. After some more wandering and a large ice cream cone, I retreated indoors for the afternoon, only emerging again once it began to cool off for a $3 pizza (yes, a WHOLE pizza) and some more photos.
We caught a morning bus to Sofia, Bulgaria’s historic and incredibly compact capital. I spent the afternoon exploring Alexander Nevsky Cathedral (and it’s crypt full of old icons), and being blown away at the Archaeological Museum with some of my tour mates. Bulgaria has SO much history, and I never even knew. In the evening, we took a fantastic free walking tour of downtown Sofia, and wound up witnessing the beginnings of a protest before dinner at a very traditional Bulgarian restaurant.
The Week in Numbers
Each week, I’ll try to give you an idea of how I’m traveling, and what things generally cost.
- Number of flights: 0
- Number of trains: 3
- Number of buses: 5
- Number of mini buses: 2
- Number of times it’s rained: 0
- Number of times I’ve nearly passed out from the heat: Too many
- A meal in a really fancy restaurant in Bucharest, Romania: $12 USD
- Entry to Bran Castle with photo license: $7 USD adult/$2.80 student
- Entry to Rasnov Fortress: $3 USD
- A meal in Bulgaria: $3-$8 USD
- Entry to Tsarevets Fortress: $3.85 USD adult/$1.25 USD student
- Giant ice cream cone (2 scoops) in Veliko Tarnovo: $1.90 USD
- Entrance to Sofia’s Archaeological Museum: $6.35 USD adult/$1.30 USD student
*Note: I’m not quoting the price of accommodation, as it’s all been included so far.
So there you have Week 2 of my European adventure! Come back next week for Week 3′s round-up.
If there’s anything more you want to know about my weeks, tell me in the comments!
If you missed previous weeks…
*Another note: Intrepid Travel has graciously provided me with a complimentary 18-day tour through Eastern Europe. But all opinions, as always, are entirely my own.