Are you thinking about booking the ‘Bear Watching and Castle Hopping in Romania’ tour with Much Better Adventures or Truly Romania, but want further detail from someone who has done it? Or are you just curious as to what this trip is all about? Love reading about travel? Then this is the post for you as I will be going through how I found the trip and what you can expect on each day!
This three-day trip was a short-and-sweet introduction to Romania: on the itinerary was a walking tour of Bucharest, two castle visits and two opportunities to try and see some of Romania’s bear population. We stayed one night in Bucharest and another night in Braşov. The trip was led by a company called Truly Romania and I booked it via a company called Much Better Adventures who helped organise airport transfers and pre and post-trip accommodation.
This post is about Day 2 of the trip. To read about Day 1 (all about Bucharest), please check out the link at the bottom of this post and Day 3 will be published on the 22 August.
Following our day getting to know Bucharest and traditional Romanian evening meal at Caru’ cu Bere, we were up early on day 2 for a scenic drive into the Carpathian mountains. We went past small villages and through lots of forest, glimpsing the snowy peaks of the mountains.
The first castle on the itinerary was Peleş Castle, near Sinaia. Built for King Carol I, it is richly decorated and impressively turreted. It’s also home to my new favourite statue depicting a woman with her feet up reading a book (the dream).
I enjoyed exploring the castle and the grounds, although it was very busy and there only seemed to be one toilet (in the café) and so be ready for queues. If you can time it right with a travel buddy, however, one of you can be queuing for the loo while the other is waiting to buy one of the amazing pastries they sell.
After the castle, we were back on the bus to the small town of Braşov, where we would be staying the night. We had lunch (goulash followed by apple strudel), sat in a candle-lit cellar which felt like the sort of establishment Dracula would have been at home in. Then we had a couple of free hours to explore the town.
Braşov is bright and charming; there’s a square with a large church and plenty of cafes and bars, then the smaller streets branch off. We had a lovely walk round, seeing the different colours and exploring the alleyways and shops, before settling down with a beer to people watch. There’s also a cable car which you can take up the side of the mountain that will give you an aerial view of the town.
However, the excitement of the day was yet to come: we were to meet, wearing dark clothes, ready to go into the forest and visit the bear observatory.
We met our guide for the evening who gave us plenty of information about the Romanian wildlife (we even saw a nightjar). Then when we parked up, we were asked not to speak in case we scared away the bears. The guide made it an interesting walk through the forest to the observatory – we crossed over streams and he pointed out bear tracks on the ground. The observatory was more like a treehouse that had been built near a stream and overlooked a clearing – a popular spot for bears to walk past in the evenings. The treehouse was basic with wooden benches, not a super comfortable place to sit, and we had to be very still and quiet so as not to frighten anything away.
And so we waited…. every crack and creak of the forest, every sound of a bird flapping its wings, every gurgle the stream made, appeared amplified as we waited.
We waited for over an hour (sitting very still for fear of scaring anything) before the guide decided that it was getting too dark and we needed to make our way back. We crept quietly out of the observatory, the steps a little slippery now as it had started to rain, each of us wondering as we walked through the trees, if this would be the moment a bear would surprise us.
It was a shame that we didn’t see a wild bear but I did note that the guide went out and dropped food to try and tempt the bears our way. As special as it would have been to see one so close, it still would not have felt like a completely natural moment. But having said that, I thought the guide was great and his mission of building another observatory so that more people can come and learn about, and maybe even see, a bear was very admirable.
On the way back to Braşov it started to rain, like… really rain. Then the rain turned to sleet. Was I prepared for sleet in Romania in April? No, no I was not.
The next post (which will be published on 22 August) will be all about Day 3, including: Snow! Bears! Pizza!
I hope you found this post useful; have you been on this trip or do you have any questions about it? Let me know in the comments!