AA on the road: Day 12 – Across Romania in a day

Day 12: September 7, 2015
Time: 09:00
Location: Cluj-Napoca, Romania
Destination: Mioveni, Romania

Waking up in Cluj-Napoca¬†in the retirement home has not been a great experience. In line with the pension we stayed in Cebu, the Philippines, a few years back, however cleaner and less creepy. Poor Andreas struggled a bit to fit into the bed that was obviously a tad too small for his height. Well coming from the Viking lands is not always an advantage ūüėÄ

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The bed is definitely not Viking-friendly :)

Rushing through the morning preparations, we found the breakfast ready in the assembly hall with yarn-bombed wooden pillars. From the first sight it looked rather OK, taking a closer look revealed some cold mash of supposedly potato and another bowl with strange looking eggplant. Needless to say we didn’t dare touch any of it, having just recovered from Michelin tummy adventures.

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Our breakfast setting.

Leaving the retirement home, we spent much of the day getting across Romania. After yesterday’s adventures on the roads less travelled, we made a point of sticking to the big, shiny highways all the way, and by doing so ensuring¬†a much smoother ride.

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After yesterday’s non-existing roads, this shiny asphalt is such a welcome sight!

On the way to our destination of the day, Mioveni, Andreas’¬†eagle eyes spotted a UNESCO city, Sighisoara, and we stopped there for lunch.

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On the cobblestoned streets of Sighisoara.

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Hey there, Sighisoara :)

The small town had a potential for being a beautiful place, it was a very old German-built city, with pretty old houses, but it was left to decay and disorder. Very touristy, very expensive. Surprisingly the Chinese were not leading the touristic diversity poll, I do not think the word of this small town has reached to the vast lands of the Middle Kingdom just yet. The word did reach the Spanish Armada though. They were everywhere.

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The old, the colourful, the falling apart.

 

Among the pretty houses we also found Dracula’s modest home, which is now of course a restaurant, and you could go check his room out. Not sure it was the real deal but we paid the entrance fee anyway to satisfy our curiosity. The doorman looked and acted like the Dracula himself, extremely impolite. As it should have been expected it was a very disappointing experience. Two rooms, one of them the fake Dracula lying in a coffin and casually chatting with tourists, in the other room his dining table. And that’s it.

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After an hour of walking around and getting our ears used to the intense flow of Spanish, we left Sighisoara with mixed feelings. The beauty and the beast of travelling. Here is a gem of a town, that would have provided such a charming experience had it not been overcrowded by visitors, and overcommercialized to cater to the same visitors with Dracula memorabilia, tourist trap of restaurants and pushy local business owners.

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Reflections…

Some more kilometers underway on the Romanian roads we reached another stop on our north-south axis. Brasov, a small cute town with surprisingly many clowns and balloons.

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We have arrived in Brasov.

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The city of clowns.

Brasov was pretty, with no trace of Spanish tourists and with a much more local feel to it.¬†Some more kilometers underway and we arrived at Dracula’s castle in Bran to find it closed off and inaccessible even for pictures. The one below is the only glimpse we could get of it. Not a big deal. The hospitality of the security guard didn’t leave a very¬†welcoming impression.

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Beware! Bran, Dracula’s residence.

Leaving Bran, Dracula and the sour guard, we continued our trans-Romanian trip. In the approaching dusk we could still make out the beautiful scenery of Transylvania that we were leaving behind. Our last destination for the day was Mioveni. Here we were greeted by Luminita, the sweet mom of our friend Roxana, and her partner Marius. Within 10 minutes of our arrival, Luminita already set a table bursting with fresh fruits and vegetables. Marius got right on with showing us the good roads to drive on to reach Bucharest and the not to miss highlights. Their sweet hospitality reminded me of being back in my home, Armenia. Not too long now. We are coming, Armenia!

Photos © Andreas Eriksen & Ani Movsisyan

AA on the road: Day 10 – What happens when you eat a 12-course dinner…

Day 10: September 5, 2015
Time: 12:00
Location: Budapest, Hungary

So good morning! Budapest is still our home for another 24 hours. The 12-course Michelin dinner paired with 7 glasses of wine apparently took its toll on poor Andreas and his tummy. The incredible gourmet explosion was too much for the poor tummy to handle, so it seems that someone will have to spend the day in bed and with less sophisticated and a more down-to-earth diet, consisting of yoghurt and banana.

This new development means that I am left alone to walk the streets of Budapest while Andreas is taking his revitalising nap. The streets are like postcards, ready to take your breath away on every corner. After the morning rain, the city looks fresh and smiling.

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The streets are like postcards in Budapest, ready to take your breath away on every corner.

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I find cities that still run these charming old trams so adorable. Fortunately there are still many in Europe who have chosen to preserve this iconic mode of transportation.

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The two eye-pleasers of Budapest greeting in passing.

… walking up and down the Danube promenade, starting of course with my favourite Parliament building…

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The rain brought out such intensity in colours.

…continuing towards the Chain bridge and the sweeping views across the Buda side…

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… and¬†circling back to the Shoes on the Danube, a memorial for the¬†Jews killed during WWII in Budapest.

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Finishing my stroll I head back home to find Andreas just waking up from his sleep feeling more fresh and ready to savour¬†some real food. After some heavy negotiations, we reach a compromise, so he gets a plain pizza, which is a rather humble dinner compared to yesterday’s gourmet feast.

Before the dinner party though we simply needed to experience a ride¬†on the world’s second oldest electric underground¬†line and mainland Europe’s oldest line – Budapest’s very own Metro Line 1! The metro line is also included in the UNESCO World Heritage list.

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All the metro stations of Line 1 are designed in the same exact fashion, with these cute wooden guard houses and the green beams. A very historic experience indeed and a UNESCO World Heritage Site!

That’s all folks! Tomorrow we will say good-bye to lovely Budapest and continue our journey eastward and southward. Bye until then :)

Photos © Andreas Eriksen & Ani Movsisyan

Stevns Klint – Denmark’s UNESCO, a collapsing church and dramatic nature

Sense of beauty leads to castles, quest of adventure brings to impressive elements of nature. Of course you should neither expect a breathtaking sight as of the Bavarian pride Neuschwanstein, nor will you find a piece of Grand Canyon in Denmark. Here the beauty shines through modesty, both in castles that dot the country, as well as the natural landmarks, of which this little country has plenty. After all it is home to 5 UNESCO sites!

Margueritruten here we come again…

Where the sun shines...

Where the sun shines…

The most recent addition to UNESCO in Denmark is Stevns Klint, a 65 million year old cliff made of chalk and limestone. It is around 20 km long and there is a hiking route, which is probably very nice in the summer months. On that winter day, despite the shining sun, the winds of the sea made sure that any dreamy intentions of a nice walk along the cliffs were limited to the absolute minimum.

Stevns Klint was added to the UNESCO World Heritage list in 2014

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Before you reach the cliff, pay attention to this beautiful church, set off a few feet away from another more ancient looking church. Yes, this little area has two churches, standing across the “street” from each other, and of course there is a reason for that. The reason is not that the other church wasn’t enough to fit all the residents of the area, nor because they belong to different religions, not even because some rich philanthropist wanted to leave his name forever engraved in the history. Nope… The real reason is rather dramatic.

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A collapsing church! It looks rather breathtaking. You would never imagine that the highly flat land suddenly takes a dramatic 40 meter descend to form the Stevns Klint. Once it was probably a good idea to put the church on this pretty cliff. Not anymore… Surely the people who built the church in 1200 could have never imagined that the land will slide one day, and one part of the church will collapse with it. The newer church was built in 1913 as erosion kept eating away the land from under the older church.

Dramatic cliffs took claim to the centuries-old religious landmark in 1928

√ėresund – a beautiful scene opens up from atop the cliffs

There is a rather steep staircase by the collapsing church leading down to the cliffs. It is probably a good idea to keep a grip on the handrail, the level of grip firmness is something that you will find out once you make a step down. It was not an utterly leg-shaking, but also not light-as-a-butterfly descend.

Andreas making his way to the shore

Let your gaze wander up and up. You will discover many different layers of chalk and limestone.

In the cliff you will also find flint pieces - the stone of ancient weapons

In the cliff you will also find flint pieces – the stone of ancient weapons

The sea was rather tamed

Beautiful nature – a perfectly shaped rock has grown trapped inside an old branch

In sync

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Love is in the nature

Photos © Andreas Eriksen & Ani Movsisyan