Friday, 3 October 2014

Sinaia and Bucegi Natuarl Park (by Polka) - September

We finally got the car back with the new wheel bearing fitted late in the day, around 6pm.  By the time we stopped to do some shopping and have dinner it was late when we left Brasov to head for Sinaia. It was after 11pm when we reached Sinaia.  We stopped at the cheap hotel shown in the hotel below.  We were thinking of having two nights in Sinaia, spending a lazy day wandering around this mountainous resort, however; the hotel room wasn't particularly nice so we packed up and got back on our route, which took us high up into the Bucegi Natural Park. Romania has two types of parks: natural and national. I don't really know the difference between them, but they are all beautiful. From the signs it looked like you were not allowed to have camp fires in Bucegi Natural Park, restriction that no one seems to care about as we saw lots of signs of camp fires basically everywhere that one could set up a tent.

                            The hotel in Sinaia

On the way to Bucegi Natural Park. The first part of our route was on a sealed road through some villages. Below are pictures of a village that we found quite fascinating. When looking at some of the houses one could wonder how can anyone live in them. Although being quite small, these are not the poorest we saw whilst travelling through Romania.

Unsealed part of the route. This was an easy track that a car could do.  Despite the remoteness there were lots of people along this way selling mushrooms.

This is a typical sight in Romania: an abandoned, unfinished building. 
This one doesn't even look old and there was no sign 'For sale'.
One of many cabanas (huts/chalets/refuge type of places) in the Carpathians. They are basically everywhere and they can be very cheap, about what you'd expect to pay for a campsite. This one is located by a lake. All the lakes we stayed at or drove past had big, thick dams stopping the water.

Wild camping is permitted anywhere here.  So many beautiful free camping spots to choose from.

We saw quite a few of these signs around Bucegi Natural Park, but fortunately we didn't actually see any bears. Beany seemed to be concerned about the possibility of meeting a bear and was asking lots of questions to ensure we were safe.  All the rubbish bins in the area were contained behind strong metal cages to prevent bears getting in.  We saw one of these metal cages torn open and wondered if it was possible a bear could have done that.

We couldn't resist staying a couple of nights in Bucegi Natural Park and there was no better place than the hotel Pestera. Absolutely amazing surroundings! The spa was a bonus and Beany enjoyed it every night, although he was complaining about the bubbles in a jacuzzi. They made his diving into the pool a bit more difficult.

                   Beany ready for spa      

The view from the window of our hotel room!

Very close to the hotel there was a monastery where an old church has been built inside a cave.  The cave was huge and extended into the rock for about 480m. We started our walk up the cave but didn't get all the way. Aaron took Anastazja back as it was cold in the cave.  Then Beany decided it was too cold for him and he didn't want to go any further.

 Entrance to the cave.

         Iolomita Monastery

Another typical for Romania sight: bright, colourful place of worship.
They were all well maintained despite their often remote locations.

Part of this particular route we were following included a dirt track to some very interesting rock formation in the Bucegi Natural Park situated above 2,000 metres. There was a walk from our hotel to the rock formation, or it was possible to get there using a cable car that went right over the mountain and down to a village near Sinaia.  Aaron's preferred means of travel is taking the car off road anyway. However, what was a dirt track at the time when the book we're following was published was now a sealed road as you can see in the pictures below.

However, the road wasn't sealed all the way and eventually it turned into a rough dirt track going up to the rock formations.  However, we did not expect to find a gate blocking the entrance to the track along with a sign threatening to fine 4x4 drivers. And yet no one seemed to be bothered about the restriction, as either side of the gate were well worn 4wd tracks going around it.  There were also informal 4wd taxis waiting their to take tourists up - we initially assumed they must have a special permit, but apparently not the case, they just operate illegally and in Romania no one cares.  We had come so far intending to do this route and so we drove up the track one evening too.  It was not an easy track and it looked daunting in places, with big ruts, rocks and steep dirt climbs.  Definitely not for a car and we needed to use low range, but the Mitsubishi did it fairly easily and without fuss.  No photos of the difficult sections of the track, as you can't easily take photos when clinging on.

Cabana at the end of our track, by the rock formation. The walking path obviously carried on much beyond in several directions.

Mushroom rocks - one of many peculiar rock formations.

Sphinxul - it did look like Sphinx. Shame the picture doesn't really show it.  A picture more from the side shows a profile that looks much more like a head.

Since it was getting late and we didn't want to leave the car unattended in the place where it wasn't supposed to be, Aaron and me took turns to walk up to the walks. Micky, in the meantime, was playing with rocks by the car. She seems to be fascination by stones and rocks at the moment.

A pension where we had our lunch earlier that day.  Meals cost around £3!

Sinaia is a mountain resort which was our entry point to Bucegi Natural Park. We had a short break there  as we were heading out of the park mainly to see a highly recommended castle, Peles Castle, which  is said by some to be as beautiful as Ludwig II's Bavarian castle. Regretfully, we could only view it from the outside, as it was already closed for visitors when we arrived there.  But it certainly was visually impressive.

Peles castle

Slightly smaller and built later Pelisor Castle, on the same grounds as Peles Castle.

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