Brasov, Bears, and Bucharest

Brasov, Bears, and Bucharest

Today was yet another awesome day in Romania! I got up early this morning, packed up my stuff, loaded it into the car, and then caught an Uber down to the center of Brasov. I only had about an hour to see the city before I had to head out, but I wanted to see what I could. My first stop was at the Black Church (Biserica Neagra). This is a big church in the middle of the city, which is not actually black, but there was a massive fire years ago so the inside of it looks black from all the charring. It wasn’t the most beautiful church I’ve seen even in Romania, but I assume that’s because a lot of the paintings and murals were destroyed in the fire. I also wasn’t allowed to take pictures in the church, so that was a bit disappointing, but I don’t really miss out on too much.

I headed to the main square from there which was really nice. It’s just a big open plaza with another church right in the middle, along with a Christmas tree that is being put up. The buildings all around the square were colorful, and there were a lot of people sitting around just enjoying a nice Thursday morning. There was a little food stand selling Kurtos Kolacs. This reminded me of the pastry that I had in Prague called Trdelnik. It is a this layer of bread or pastry that is wrapped around a piece of wood and then baked. It comes off the piece of wood in a cylindrical form, and then they cover it with something. I chose the “traditional” one which was caramel. It cost 15 lei (£3) and it was WAY bigger than I thought it would be. I figured it would be about the size of a soda can, but it was actually the size of a loaf of Wonderbread. Needless to say, I didn’t eat the whole thing, but it was very tasty.

I sat in the square for a while people-watching, pigeon-watching, and just taking in the feeling of being there. At 11am I had to get an Uber back to the Airbnb so I could pick up the car, drop off the keys, and then head over to LiBEARty. This was the coolest thing I’ve done on the trip so far. This is a sanctuary for rescued bears, deer, and wolves from circuses, restaurants, or shows that think it’s a good idea to have wild animals as amusement. A lot of the animals are injured or at least mentally scarred when they get to the sanctuary, but they are given a nice home with food, and no more stress that they had become so used to.

LiBEARty has been in existence since 2005 when a woman saw a mear called Maya kept in a cage and she would regularly go visit her and feed her normal food instead of human food and alcohol that people were giving to the bears. When the people owning the bears decided to get rid of her, they were going to shoot her, so this woman took Maya and started LiBEARty. It has expanded now and they have 105 bears, a dozen deer, and two packs of wolves. It was a really cool tour to go on, and the money to get in (50 Lei = £10) helps go to keeping the place running, although they are supported by the government now too. Having wild animals in shows in Romania is now illegal, but they still take in animals from Armenia, Russia, and other countries without these laws.

I was about to leave LiBEARty when two American guys, Nick and Jason, who were backpacking asked which direction I was going. I wasn’t going where they wanted to go, but I figured that if I was travelling I would hope someone would help me out, so I drove them about a half hour back up the road to Rasnov to the fort that I saw yesterday afternoon. They are a nice couple of guys studying in London and just took a trip to Romania for a few days like I did, so I was happy to help, and they were very thankful, so that was my good deed for the day.

I headed back south and stopped at a castle that was recommended by the car rental guy. I figured he was so right with the restaurant recommendation that I should check this place out too. It was near the same town that Peles Castle is in, it’s called Cantacuzino Castle. I found out when I got there that they only have a few tour times per day, and they’re only in Romanian, so I wasn’t allowed to go in. I was allowed to park though and walk around the grounds, so at least I got to see how cool this place was. Unfortunately just as I got near the castle it started to rain. I was hoping this would be a place I could fly my drone, but nope. The weather just didn’t comply on this trip. The grounds were covered with art installations, and there is some sort of restraurant inside the castle, but it was closed, so I couldn’t see inside that either. It was a nice place to stop halfway between Brasov and Bucharest though, so that was cool.

I got back into the car and finished my drive down to Bucharest to drop the car off. I got to the Payless Car Rental place and the same guy (Daniel) was working so I got to tell him how much I enjoyed his recommendations. I would absolutely recommend Payless to anyone coming to Romania and looking to rent a car. I ordered an Uber from Payless, which is up near the airport, and the first thing the driver said was “you’re not in a hurry are you?” Uh oh. It had taken me 30 minutes to get here from the city yesterday when I picked up the car. Today I hit peak traffic time and it took almost two hours to get into the city. He said it’s like this every day between 4pm and 9pm. No thanks. I couldn’t do that every day. I’d go mental.

I got back to the same Airbnb I stayed at when I was here a couple of days ago, so I knew where I was going and how to check in. I was happy to get out of the car, even though rain was now pouring down. I dropped off my bag and went for a walk into town to a restaurant that Nick and Jason recommended called Caru’ Cu Bere. It is a really old restaurant where beer was first delivered when it came from Germany, so it looks like an old German beer hall inside. Everything is carved out of wood with really high ceilings. It was beautiful.

I grabbed a seat at the bar while I was waiting for a table and happened to be right next to a couple of guys from New England. I chatted with them for a bit. They were both really nice, and also a bit loud, but it was nice to chat with someone after being on my own for most of the day. I ended up getting seated right next to them at dinner but tried to keep to myself most of the time and it was a good time to write this blog entry.

I had a few traditional Romanian things for dinner. I had a bean soup with smoked pork served in a bread bowl as a started, then I had a main dish called Sarmale and mamaliga. This was mixed minced meat rolled in cabbage leaves, served with polenta and soured cream. It wasn’t my favourite, but I’m glad I tried it. Tina had mentioned on the tour that this is typically what they would have for Christmas dinner and on special occasions. For dessert I was recommended the papanasi again, but I had already tried that, so he said to try the apple strudel. It was excellent! And not too big that I felt sick after eating it.

I’ve walked back to the apartment in the rain, and I’m now ready to crash. It was another crazy day, but I really enjoyed it. I will see a bit more of Bucharest tomorrow morning, but overall I’ve really enjoyed my time in Romania and would definitely recommend it to anyone looking for a new country to explore.

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