Hey everyone, happy Tuesday!
As promised, tonight is the night for a recap of my 12-day Romania trip. This was one heck of a trip, from my 18-hour travel day (solo!) to visiting 3 different cities over the course of the trip. But, I wouldn’t change a thing! Without further ado, here’s a breakdown of the trip:
Table of Contents
Getting to Romania
Oh my goodness guys, this was the longest travel day I have ever had by myself! I flew to Paris first, then to Bucharest, and then to the first city that I would be staying in: Iași. As I mentioned above, I ended up traveling for about 18 hours straight between the flights and layovers. I also slightly over-packed (all things considered), so I had a stuffed backpack + a carryon suitcase + a checked bag that I had to lug around when going through customs.
It was all worth it though, especially once I saw the smiling faces of Adrian, his sister, and her husband waiting for me at my final destination.
City 1: Iași
If you hadn’t heard of this Romanian city before now, don’t worry – neither had I! It’s a cute university town, with a nice mix of quaint and modern: for example, their biggest mall was built across from a palace that’s been in the city since 1925. This made for an especially fun shopping experience, as we were able to explore some of the palace grounds before heading inside to check out the stores!
One of my favorite memories from my short time in this city (besides New Year’s Eve, of course) was the day that Adrian, his sister Larisa, and I walked around the town square. The town square not only had the cobblestone streets that I am so fond of, but also had a bunch of Christmas decorations left over from the holiday season! As we wandered further down the square, we found vendors selling everything from mulled wine to kürtőskalács (essentially a handheld pillar of spiraled dough, rolled in the topping of your choice) to homemade clothing and accessories. It reminded me of my previous time in Europe (specifically, Prague) and filled me with such a sense of nostalgia and happiness!
New Year’s Eve
Our last night in Iași happened to be New Year’s Eve, and it was an amazingly fun time! Larisa has a group of friends who traditionally do NYE together, and this year the whole group had bought a table at a club called Time Out. This place not only had a fantastic turnout and delicious food (at our table, at least), but the DJ played a great variety of music! So, needless to say, it was a night of constant dancing – which is my favorite kind of dancing. There was one curveball that was thrown our way at midnight, however: a confetti cannon that exploded right over our table! Soon enough, our drinks, our bodies, and the leftover food were covered in silver confetti. Of course, there was nothing to do but order new drinks and keep on dancing! We didn’t get home until nearly 5am…and even then, I felt like we left a bit too early. That’s how fun it was! I didn’t actually fall asleep until 6am – which I came to regret the next morning, when we got up around 10am the next day to get ready for the trip to Târgu Neamț.
City 2: Târgu Neamț
This city is smaller than Iași, but it definitely has some gems of its own! The first ones, of course, being Adrian’s parents. My time here felt like a second home, and I ate very well (too well!). His mother provided a lovely spread of bread and jams, cheeses, tomatoes, and omelets every morning, and made something different for each dinner. Of course, I had to try everything!
On the first day of being in Târgu Neamț, Adrian took me to see some of the popular sights in the town. These included the historical home of one of Romania’s greatest novelists, Ion Creanga; and a visit to the Neamț Citadel, a medieval fortress located up on a hill near the outskirts of the city. Both attractions seemed to be pretty well-preserved, and they also included replicas of relics that would have been common for each respective time period. It was a very cool look into some of Romania’s history. We also found a lovely Romanian-style tunic at a local shop, and it just so happened to be my size – lucky me!
Mini Road Trip to Bicaz Gorge and Piatra Neamt
The next day was one of my favorites from the entire trip. Adrian and I took a mini-road trip to the Cheile Bicazului-Hășmaș National Park (say that three times fast!) which is located outside of a neighboring town called Piatra Neamț. Our excursion to this National Park involved driving through the Bicaz Gorge until we arrived at Lacul Roșu (the Red Lake) – which just so happened to be frozen over! Now, I can say that I have walked onto a frozen lake (much to my mother’s dismay).
It was a gorgeous drive there and back, and I was so excited to be out near the mountains again! However, there was one small blip in our plans: we had parked the car in a seemingly-secure spot on our way out of the Gorge, so that we could check out a view that was across the road. Suddenly (and luckily), Adrian looked back and saw that the car had started rolling down the hill! He raced across the street and pushed it backward while I ran to pull up the emergency brake. In retrospect, we realized two ways that we had made this harder on ourselves: Adrian pushed the car instead of just hopping into the driver’s seat to pull the brake; and I ran all the way to my open passenger-side door instead of just opening his door to pull the brake. Thankfully, the car hadn’t gone more than a few feet before we stopped it. I don’t think his parents would have appreciated driving 2 hours to pick us up after losing one of their cars!
After this brief adventure, Adrian and I headed back to Piatra Neamț to catch a telegondola as the sun was setting. We traveled to the top of a hill outside of the city, and proceeded to a lookout point which afforded us some gorgeous views of the mountains and lake – backlit by the setting sun. It was spectacular.
Natural Park and Eastern Orthodox Churches
On our last day in Târgu Neamț, Adrian’s mother joined us! We visited the Vânători-Neamț Natural Park where we got to see some bison, deer, peacocks, and more. Afterward, we drove to a beautiful church that had every saint in the Eastern Orthodox faith painted on its exterior: Biserica Sfantul Ioan Iacob Hozevitul (again, say that three times fast!). The sheer detail in these paintings was astounding, and the colors were gorgeous! Our last stop of the day was a local monastery, and it had been around for centuries with minimal renovation. The sheer amount of history that was contained in this (relatively) small town was astounding – I loved it!
After a day of exploring, Adrian and I spent time with his parents over one last delicious dinner. I couldn’t have asked for a better stay with his family.
City 3: Bucharest
The last city to be explored during this trip was Bucharest!
The drive from Târgu Neamț took about 3-4 hours – closer to 3, because Adrian’s brother-in-law drives very…efficiently, to put it euphemistically. Adrian and I had an Airbnb just outside of Bucharest, so we got settled in before heading back out to explore the city with Larisa, her husband, and his brother. We all ended up going to a lounge somewhere in the Old City Center (the name escapes me) and meant to only stay an hour…then, we didn’t get home until 3am. Oops!
Luckily, the next day was to be one of pure relaxation: we were going to Therme! Therme is a “thermal wellness center” complete with thermal baths, saunas, an indoor water park, and more. We got there around 1pm, and stayed until 9pm. Needless to say, we had an amazing time. The entire day consisted of dipping in a thermal pool, swimming to the outside section of that pool (amazing contrast, temperature-wise), getting out to heat up in the various saunas, popping into steam rooms, and then going back to the main thermal pool. This was by far my favorite part of Bucharest, and if you make it to the city then you have to be sure that you don’t miss visiting Therme!
Our Last Day
Our last day in Bucharest was a bit anticlimactic – but, still a nice way to wrap up the trip! Adrian, Larisa, and I walked to a local mall, then to the Old City center where I visited a gift shop to purchase a few postcards (I buy one from each new country I visit). I must say, after seeing Bucharest in the daytime: I prefer it at night! At least, during the holiday season – everything was lit up in the nighttime, and it still felt a little bit like Christmas.
Our day ended with a lovely farewell dinner. Larisa’s friends joined us at the Grivita Pub & Grill, and I had an amazingly tasty grilled salmon, with elderflower lemonade as my beverage – which might sound strange, but was in fact delicious. Overall, the atmosphere at the table was jovial, and we had a fantastic time. Also, fun fact: there is a steady supply of peanuts at the table, and you are encouraged to throw the shells on the floor. I only had a few peanuts, but there were others at the table who definitely took advantage of the free peanuts rule – the floor around our table was covered soon enough!
Leaving Bucharest was an incredibly bittersweet moment. I was a bit homesick, of course, but Adrian’s family had become like a second family to me – and it was strange to not know if/when I’d see them again. Obviously, I can’t imagine what Adrian was feeling, as he usually sees his family just once a year…but hopefully, that timing will become more frequent as the years go on.
Our day of traveling was uneventful, for the most part. Luckily, we had no delays, and arrived home on time. Unluckily, Adrian’s checked bag did not make it home on the first night! Somehow, it got stuck in Amsterdam (our first layover). Thankfully, it was delivered within 2 days. It could have been much worse, so he didn’t mind (too much).
Well, that’s it for the Romania recap! The days went by so quickly while I was there, and I can’t believe that I’ve already been back home for 2 weeks. Romania is definitely a country I would visit again – but, preferably in warm weather! Perhaps a summer trip to Romania will be in the cards someday…
I hope that you’ve enjoyed this recap, and I’ll see you back here soon. Until then, I’d love to know: have you ever traveled to Eastern Europe? If so, which country has been your favorite? If not, which country would you visit first?