A Travellerspoint blog

August 2022

100th Blog Post and Last One of This Trip!

Pilsen, Regensburg, and Bogel for the finish

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Day 34 Continued - Pilsner Urquell Brewery

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After leaving Prague, we drove for about an hour to the town of Pilsen (Plzen). This town has one really big claim to fame. It's the birthplace of Pilsner Urquell and the only location in which it is brewed in the world. This is DH's favorite beer so this was a bit of a pilgrimage.
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This is the famous gate leading to where all the magic happens.
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We ate lunch in the brewery's restaurant before walking into the old town of Pilsen for a few pictures and to leave the kids while we took the nearly two hour tour.
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The kids took their own pictures of the town and had dessert while we were on the tour.
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Our tour guide was great at presenting the most interesting facts and telling stories about the brewery. We got to see the old brewing equipment as well as the new state of the art equipment. The scale of this operation is incredible. It's especially impressive that all the Pilsner Urquell in the world is made in this one massive building.
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We toured some of the 9 kilometers of caves underneath the brewery and learned how this was the only way to keep the lager cool before modern refrigeration. Of course we got to taste the beer right out of the barrel. So cool!
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The bottling and canning operation was an add-on from the tour that we also couldn't miss. We were surprised that they let us take as many pictures as we wanted. DH was really geeking out and enjoying every minute of this experience. I found it pretty impressive as well.
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I did the driving after the tour so DH could enjoy his favorite beer. I was proud of my sometimes 100+ MPH driving on the autobahn! It makes driving at home feel like slow motion.

We found Prosslbrau Adlersberg without any problems. We stayed at this brewery/hotel back in 2011 on our first family trip to Europe. There had been a few improvements but the hotel and beer garden seemed stuck in time and exactly as we remembered. Except the beer vending machine was now two Euros instead of one. Check out DH getting his vending machine beer both in 2011 and 2022!
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We had a nice dinner in the beer garden with lots of German classics. So meaty! I am eagerly anticipating all the produce I will be buying when we return home.
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Day 35 - Exploring Regensburg

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After our simple included breakfast, we took the bus from Adlersberg into the pretty town of Regensburg. We enjoyed one last city center with wonderful pedestrian streets, charming architecture, huge churches, and European shopping. The main church had beautiful stained glass.
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Kids even found Dunkin Donuts. Oh brother.
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After lots of wandering and a little shopping, we crossed the famous stone bridge (made in the 12th century) and found a great beer garden on the other side. We shared a couple kinds of sausages and enjoyed being right along the Danube River again. The Danube twists and winds all over Europe so it's not so surprising that we kept crossing it in one way or another.
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It was mid-afternoon and a thunderstorm was approaching. DD#2 and I decided to check out the city's largest indoor pool. We didn't take any pictures but enjoyed around 90 minutes swimming in a wave pool, a heated pool, and checking out the diving boards and slide. It wasn't a remarkable pool but got us moving for a bit.

We found yet another beer garden for dinner. This would be our last spaetzle, currywurst, and roasted pork of the trip. It started raining pretty hard so we had to move indoors.
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After a little more wandering over more bridges, we caught the bus back to the brewery hotel and called it an evening. We were all feeling a little tired as our trip was coming to an end.

Day 36 - Long drive to Bogel

We had hotel breakfast again, packed our bags, and hit the road for our last drive of the trip. I was feeling emotional with everything being our last. I love my home but could honestly spend months in Europe.

On our 4+ hour drive to Bogel, we stopped mid-way at our last grocery store and DM (toiletries store). I bought enough German face cream for a year along with a few other goodies. At the store, we stocked up on German chocolate, mustard, and Kinder goodies. It was one heavy bag!
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We had Doner Kebab for the last time. So delicious! Four giant sandwiches was just over $20. I feel like a Doner Kebab shop would do so well in my hometown. They have doner and we have burritos.
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After hitting lots of construction traffic, we finally made it to Bogel to see family. It was so nice to see where my step-mom lives. It's a beautiful 100 year old home that has been completely renovated. I wish I had taken pictures of the interior. I was so impressed with how much work and care has gone into restoring this beautiful home. We were lucky enough to stay in the two bedroom flat on the ground floor. The girls loved getting to know the cats, Georgie and Tessa.
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We attended the village summer BBQ that evening and met several locals. It was just relaxing to end our trip among familiar faces.

Day 37 - Last full day

I awoke with so many mixed emotions. It was hard knowing the trip which had been planned for two years was about to end. There were so many recent memories to process and enjoy. I got up for my last European run around the village and surrounding farmland.

We drove a short distance to the Rhine River near the Lorelei statue and legend. We took pictures of the river, which is at one of its lowest points ever. Germany is suffering a severe drought.
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We also managed to sneak in one last luge! We each took multiple runs down the luge and remarked on how different all seven luge experiences were. This one was fast and well organized without lines. It was on the shorter side but totally worth it!
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We drove along the Rhine and had lunch at a pizza restaurant near Marksburg Castle. Again, pizza is so affordable in Europe. Delicious!
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The castle was beautifully situated on top of a hill and dominated the skyline around that section of river. This castle had never been destroyed and was in great condition. Although we didn't tour the inside, we drove up to the top intending to get great pictures. Sadly, the better pictures were from below. Someday I hope to return and tour the castle.
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We drove back to my stepmom's house for my favorite part of the day - a family BBQ! We felt so special to have all three of her kids and friends come together for delicious food. We caught up and sat outside visiting for hours. It was bittersweet not knowing how long it will be until we see them all again. I really hope we have more video calls in the future.
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Day 38 - The LONG LONG LONG journey home

This is the day we all dreaded but also felt ready for at some level. We had a nice breakfast in Bogel before saying our goodbyes and hitting the road back to the Frankfurt Airport. We returned our trusty leased car with over 3,000 miles. After arriving at the airport three hours early, we waited in nearly 2.5 hours of various lines. Lines were long but nothing felt panicky. We just trusted that it would all work out, and it did. One last German airport pretzel.
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We flew to Iceland for a very short layover and passport control. Next was the long flight to Seattle. We all tried to sleep with varying degrees of success. Once we arrived in Seattle, we waited more for luggage and clearing customs. Finally, we rented a car and drove several hours back to Oregon. We arrived home around 1am local time. We were so very tired but falling asleep in our own beds was worth all the trouble.
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Now that I have been home for two days, I still wake up wondering where I am. It will take a couple more days to get over the jet lag and truly feel at home. I have already suffered sticker shock at the grocery store (most groceries are cheaper in Europe) but a little relief at the gas station (prices have dropped since we left). I love being home and seeing the deer in our yard, the space in my home to spread out, and the ease and predictability of knowing how everything works in my town. It seems little has changed since we left. I am left feeling so grateful to make these opportunities for my family. I can hardly wait to start planning the next one!

Posted by familyineurope 00:29 Archived in Germany Tagged pilsen pilsner regensburg urquell plzen adlersberg bogel Comments (1)

Bratislava, Brno, and Prague

College visits, bustling metropolitan cities, great public transit, another luge, and beautiful architecture

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Day 29 Continued. Arrival in Bratislava

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We had an easy drive from Eger and found our apartment in Bratislava, Slovakia. Another country! The apartment was so stylish with unique art and finishings. We were a bit away from the city center and paid around $100 for this two-bedroom unit.
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We took the bus into the old town and wandered around for a couple of hours. DH and I found a craft brewery and had fun watching how many people admired and took pictures of a parked Lamborghini. I wish we had taken pictures too!

We met the kids for dinner at a local outdoor place and called it a night. Zzzzzzz.
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Day 30 - A full day in Bratislava

We took the bus to the old town once again to a special breakfast place, Five Points Bistro. Not only did we have great food and coffee drinks, but I had my first selfuccino! No kidding. I sent a picture of myself and they used some crazy printer contraption to make my one of a kind coffee drink! I laughed so hard and thoroughly enjoyed starting the day there.
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We took several pictures around the old town and loved being in a more metropolitan city. The vibe was energetic and young and boy is Bratislava ever growing! There were cranes everywhere and modern high-rises being built just outside of the old town. Such an inspiring clash of old and new.
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The girls enjoyed finding not one, but three different malls to explore. They found a few back to school clothes. Somehow DD#2 has managed to purchase four pairs of jeans while in Europe. It will be interesting getting all the new swag home. DD#2 is having a blast. Zara is her favorite!
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We found an original Pilsner Urquell restaurant for lunch. This is DH's favorite beer in the world so he was quite happy to have his first full liter of the stuff! The restaurant was located along the Danube River in a new upscale part of town. I loved people watching and relaxing on a perfect weather day. The cheese plate was phenomenal.
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We all did a little shopping and DD#2 and found a funny shirt. It was a Portland, Oregon t-shirt in the middle of Bratislava. Since it was only $4, she bought it.
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We took a few pictures along the Danube and continued our wandering. We were very impressed with Bratislava and how much it had grown and changed since we were there in 2003. This guy seems to have lost his ear. Funny art in this country.
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We took the bus back to our apartment and called it a day.

Day 31 - Brno and Prague

We checked out of our cute apartment wishing we had another night. In one short hour of driving, we were in the center of Brno to visit Masaryk University. DD#1 had an appointment with the arts department to learn more about a bachelor's degree in Culture, Media, and Performing Arts. The university is large and the city is vibrant and bustling. However, that particular degree is new and has a small co-hort. She may still apply.
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Our lunch in Brno was a highlight. Vietnamese food and some sushi. Such a nice change of pace.
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We took some pictures around the main square. I wonder if I will ever get tired of discovering yet another impressive European city?
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We drove another couple of hours to Prague. Our apartment was on the outskirts of town in the Jinonice neighborhood. DH skillfully parked the car into a spot with mere inches to spare. This was a small apartment but had everything we needed for around $65 per night. It was an 8 minute walk from the metro station which had us in the center of town in less than 20 minutes.
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We rode the metro into town for dinner at a brewery we enjoyed during our last visit in 2014. Delicious! We walked around a bit before returning to our apartment on the subway. The subway is still such a novelty for us and a fun way to get around.
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Day 32 - Anglo-American University and touristy Prague

We had an early appointment at a small private university near Prague's Vltava river. DD#1 was impressed with the campus and the Humanities degree. Anglo American University (AAU) might be a real possibility.
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We took some pictures in pretty Wallenstein Park and made our way to Charles Bridge. Tourists were out in force but we were all in a good mood and enjoyed the views and energy.
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When we approached the Old Town Hall and famous Astronomical Clock, I knew I had to climb it. I ditched the family and climbed to the top myself. The views were amazing with the awkward selfie and all.
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The old town square was busy but so beautiful. The weather was in the low-80s making for a really lovely day.
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Prague knows what is up. It is nice to be in a progressive city. Pride week also started the day we arrived.
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We took a tram ride to a different neighborhood in Prague to see the building where DD#1 might potentially live if she attended AAU. It was a great way to escape the tourists for a bit.
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We took a bus to Letna Park and found a beer garden with great views over the city.
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After that, we wandered downhill to the river where we found a boat that had been converted into a brewery. So cool!
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Finally, we settled on a popular Italian place for pizza and pasta. We were very hungry by this point!
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After a little gelato and a few more pictures, we finally took the metro back to our apartment. We managed to spend the entire day enjoying Prague. It was easy to do!
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The long escalator from the metro to street level. Fastest and longest escalators I have ever seen.
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Day 33 - Last full day in Prague

DD#1 had another college appointment, this time at Charles University. CU is the biggest university in the Czech Republic and we met someone at their very helpful student center. She answered loads of questions about logistics and how things work as an international student in Europe.
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We returned to a special cafe for a late breakfast. In 2014, we enjoyed cakes and coffees at this very same place and tried to recreate the moment. Grand Cafe Orient is still a beautiful spot for a special occasion.
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Here's the picture of the same place in 2014. They have grown just a bit!
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Next, we walked around 20 minutes to the start of scenic tram 23. We had purchased all day passes on Prague's impressive public transport and wanted to take advantage. We rode the tram all the way across the river to Strahov Monastery where we enjoyed lunch and their homemade beer.
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We walked down loads of stairs near the castle and saw the US Embassy before stopping in Kampa Island to see the giant babies. Yes, I said giant babies. Prague is known for its unique and funny public art.
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Check out the funny "horse-power" art near our apartment.
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After one final walk over the famous Charles Bridge, we left the city center.
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Time for one last luge. First we took the metro, and then a bus to a luge on the outskirts of town. Yes, there is a luge in Prague! This was our 6th luge of the trip. It wasn't long or fancy but it was fast and friendly! It was a scenic contrast to the busy city center. And we were getting our moneys worth from those public transport passes!
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We bused and metro'd back into town and found a nice local place for dinner close to the river. We had really made the most of our two full days in Prague. It felt like we revisited some of our favorite places and mixed in a few new ones.
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Day 34 - Last college appointment

DD#1 and I took the metro to her last college appointment. This one was extra special because she was meeting with the Dean of Music Education and Choral Conducting at Charles University. We learned a lot about the program and she even played piano and sang for him. The professor also tested her musical skills on the spot which must have been terrifying! I was so proud of DD#1 and of how she conducted herself. She will be applying to this program which is exciting and also very scary!
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After the appointment, we got in the car to head to Plzen, Czechia for a very different appointment. Next up was a tour of DH's favorite brewery in the world: Pilsner Urquell! To be continued....

Posted by familyineurope 06:08 Archived in Czech Republic Tagged bratislava prague brno Comments (0)

Eger, Hungary

Another beautiful town with great food, a waterpark, Turkish bath, Astronomical Museum, parks, wine, and more.

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Day 26 Continued

After our fun waterpark experience in Romania, we drove a relatively quick 2 hours to Eger, Hungary. We met our apartment owner and she helped us park our car for free and showed us our home for the next three nights. For less that $75 per night, we were stunned! A beautiful, thoughtful apartment with high domed ceilings and right off the main square. Perfect!
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There was even the resident rabbit.
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We walked around taking pictures and getting our bearings in yet another new pretty town.
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We ate dinner at a casual pizza place and were shocked at the the $26 price tag. Two pizzas, a salad, and drinks for that? So affordable!
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We had fun wandering around and taking more pictures of this very pleasant and walkable town. I was so happy to be here for three nights!
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Day 27 - All about Eger

I started the day with a run along the city's small river and along a great running trail in the local park. I found a wonderful coffee shop with delicious coffee. Kappu Specialty Coffee was so good!
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We wandered and walked and decided to explore the city's university lyceum with its astronomical museum, view terrace, and camera obscura. We spent around 90 minutes exploring the giant building's many rooms with science displays, old cameras, microscopes, and finally the view terrace. I was studying the town below from a telescope and spotted DD#1 in the main town square below! We had fun texting her and freaking her out a little with our spying from above.
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DH and I enjoyed the old camera obscura and had a little demo in a dark room of the city below. Such interesting old technology and remarkable how far we've come!

DH and I split off from the girls and had a slow lovely lunch at HBH Sorhaz right on the main square. We had drinks and nice entrees for $17. It was great people watching and delicious!

We met up with the girls and decided to explore the Turkish and thermal baths. It was a short 10 minute walk. The Turkish baths were beautiful with the separate pools set at various temperatures. Our skin and bodies thanked us for the relaxing afternoon.
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We ended our day with more food. Somehow, we were still hungry! We had crepes just off the main square. Delicious and affordable.
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Day 28 - One more waterpark and a valley filled with wineries

DD#2 and I started the day at a spectacular waterpark just outside of Eger. Demjen waterpark was the most unique water experience I've ever had. We started off soaking and walking through these thermally-heated man-made caves. The caves split off and went in many directions. There was even a bar within the caves and of course we had to share a lemonade!
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We moved on to an indoor section with adventure slides. These were seriously fast slides that really got our adrenaline pumping! The lines were short and we ended up spending most of our time here. It was so fun playing and shooting down the slides.
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We explored the outside part of the facility and went on a few slides there before finishing our 3 hour time. We were so tired but it was totally worth it!

DH was kind enough to drive us the 20 minutes to and from the waterpark. Upon our return, we left the girls and walked 30 minutes (in 95 degree heat) to the Valley of the Beautiful Women. Such an interesting name for a winery area. About 25 wineries had outposts in a circular area around a shaded park. We settled on one winery where I compared three kinds of the famous Hungarian Bulls Blood wine. It wasn't my favorite wine in the world, but then again we only paid around $4 for the tasting.
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We came back to our apartment to cool off before heading out to our fanciest meal of the trip at Macok Bistro. What a special treat! The kids felt like this was the fanciest meal they had ever experienced. DH had beef cheeks, DD#1 had pork cheeks, and DD#2 and I had tenderloin in different forms. It felt extravagant and delicious and cost around $75. It was our last night in Hungary and we knew prices would be increasing as we headed to Slovakia and Czechia. It was a perfect way to end our last night in Eger.
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Day 29 - last morning in Eger

DH and I went for another short run on the running path around the park. I decided to climb the town's only minaret while everyone else finished packing. The views were pretty but it was the most claustrophobic climb I have ever experienced! It was so narrow and a little unnerving! IMG_9770.jpgIMG_9766.jpg

We had our coffee once more at Kappu, grabbed a couple traditional chimney cakes for the road and left Hungary for Slovakia. To be continued...
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Posted by familyineurope 20:52 Archived in Hungary Tagged turkish bath thermal eger demjen lyceum Comments (0)

Brasov, Sighisoara, & Oradea, Romania

An adventure park, two waterparks, another gondola, a fortress, a fortified church, an underground amusement park in a salt mine, and more cute old towns. Wow, Romania!

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Day 22 - Adventure Park Brasov and Mount Tampa

I finally started the day with a run. My first run after my Venice fall. It felt great to see the city wake up and sweat a bit. Finally! I ran around a castle on a hill, along the old city walls, and through some beautiful parks. I stopped a few time for pictures on DD#2's borrowed phone. It is always wonderful to see a city as it awakes.
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And yes, Starbucks has made it to Romania.
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We had a quick breakfast in our room before hiring an uber to take us to an adventure park on the outskirts of Brasov. This park was massive with more challenge routes in the trees than I've ever seen. DH and I stayed firmly on the ground while the kids challenged themselves on some tough courses. The long zip line that went over a lake was the favorite. The kids were sweaty after three hours adventuring. DH and I walked around the forest watching them and took a lap around the lake. Lots of local families were BBQing and we found a quick place for a snack.
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Ubers were scarce to get back into the city so we tried the city bus instead. We didn't understand how to buy a ticket and the poor driver had to stop the bus, get out, and show us what to do. Sometimes it is so hard not understanding the language!

We took a little break in our apartment and then headed up a gondola to the top of Mount Tampa which overlooks the whole town. This was one old gondola! We took a short hike at the top behind the "Brasov" Hollywood-like sign for a view of the city. We had to wait in a long line for the gondola and the whole experience could use renovation. Romania should hire me to help upgrade some of their tourist sites and market some better souvenirs! It was a fun and local experience. We have encountered nearly zero native English speakers while in Romania.
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DH and DD#2 were feeling worn out so DD#1 and I headed outside of the city center for a more local Italian dinner. The food was delicious at Pizzeria Della Nonna! The seafood pasta was one of my favorite meals so far. We brought back a pizza for the rest of the gang.
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An intense storm rolled in and the rain, thunder, and lightning were fierce. It made for a tough night of sleep. The rain was especially loud on the metal roof. More rainy Brasov tomorrow.

Day 23 - Rainy Brasov

We slept in a bit after a restless night. The rain was unrelenting. The kids and I decided to have a quick breakfast before heading to an indoor waterpark on the outskirts of town. We took an uber once again which is a little adventure in itself! The waterpark was quite big and well-organized. We loved the giant lap pool with a diving platform and the orange waterslide. It was an easy and active way to start this rainy day.
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We ubered back and DH and I decided to have a leisurely lunch. We really enjoyed our meal at Beraria Pofta bau Foame. We shared a yummy board of dips and spreads. Unique! The highlight was having papanasi for dessert. This is the most traditional Romanian dessert. My only disappointment is that I waited until our 4th night in Romania to try it! It's basically a donut that is covered in cream and fruit sauce. It was better than I expected!
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Kids found a cute place for bubble tea and we took a few pictures in the rain.
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The rain still hadn't let up so we put on our raincoats and walked around the mostly deserted old town. The day was passing quickly even though we hadn't accomplished much. We had a light low-key dinner, walked around the old town again (rain finally stopped), got dessert we didn't really need, and took a few last pictures. We are heading a short distance to Sighisoara tomorrow.
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Day 24 - Sighisoara

I started the day with a final short run around Brasov. The weather was improving yet it was still a cool morning. We had a classy French breakfast at La Birou Bistro.
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After packing our things (we have become experts), we hit the road for the short drive to Sighisoara. I was excited because we had a couple of fun stops planned along the route.

The first was Rupea Fortress. Wow! Driving up to the fortress so very impressive. We didn't know much about the site ahead of time so it was a happy surprise. The entrance fee was small as were the crowds. We were able to climb around all three levels of the fortress. Amazing to imagine what it must have been like to live in such a place. We even found a few souvenirs on the way out. We all agreed that this fortress was more enjoyable than the busy and over-hyped Bran Castle.
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We moved on to a fortified Church in the tiny town of Viscri. The cobblestones leading up to the town were enormous making for a very bumpy drive. We found parking and once again, didn't really know what to expect. It turns out that a fortified church is pretty amazing! A large wall was built around the church to protect it and the people living there. The steps were wooden and rickety as we explored the towers, hidden rooms, and artifacts. There were also beautiful flowers and few people to contend with. The kids enjoyed the resident cat.
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Another hour or so down the road lead us to Sighisoara, our home for the night. Sighisoara is supposedly the gem of Romania with its lovely buildings, cobbled lanes, and old towers. It was pretty but we have been spoiled by Romania's other beautiful towns. Still, we took many pictures and felt as though we'd stepped back in time a bit.
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They even had tacky Dracula souvenirs!
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We walked up a long covered stairway that helped the local kids stay dry on their way up the hill to school.
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We had dinner at a restaurant right across the street from our apartment. Simple things like soup, schnitzel, and pizza.

We wished we had more than one night in this wonderful apartment! It cost just around $55 per night. It will be hard to go back to the US and pay well over $100 for a modest hotel room.
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We have stayed at two places that have these nifty dish drying racks built in above the sink. Great idea!
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Here are a few final pictures from Sighisoara.
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Day 25 - Turda Salt Mine and Oradea

We started our morning in Sighisoara with a simple breakfast of croissants and coffee before climbing the city's clock tower.
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Today's drive was a long one. We drove around two hours to the town of Turda. (Haha. Yes, we got plenty of laughs over the name.) The drive was interesting because we caught a glimpse of Romania's developing infrastructure. DH would drive around 80mph on a wonderful highway that would abruptly end for many kilometers. The now two-lane slow curvy road might go on for 45 minutes or so before the new highway would reappear again for a while. It would be interesting to return to Romania in a decade or so to see how the roads have improved.

Turda Salina (salt mine) was unlike anything we had seen before. This old salt mine was turned into an amusement park of sorts. We walked down many stairs and corridors before finding this unbelievable scene deep underground.
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Salt icicles were forming on the ceiling above.
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There was a salt lake far below with people renting boats and rowing around. Unfortunately, the line was just too long. We opted to ride the underground ferris wheel instead. What a trip!
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We continued on for another couple of hours to the town of Oradea along the Hungarian border. What a beautiful town! The buildings are remnants from the Austro-Hungarian Empire.
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We had a nice Hungarian style dinner with chicken paprikash, cheesy chicken and salad.
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DH took some beautiful pictures of the town all lit up at night. The girls also did some posing around town.
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I forgot to take pictures when we first arrived to our apartment. This one cost less than $50. It wasn't remarkable but it was in the city center and was actually pretty comfortable. The kids put up with an interesting sofa bed arrangement for one night. Here are the rough pics after we took the place over with our stuff.
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We went to bed wishing we'd scheduled another night in Oradea. Such a pretty and laid-back town.

Day 26 - Waterpark!

I got up early and went for a walk around town before found a yummy place for bagels and coffee. Snoozz was a hit!
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The plan for today was to play at Nymphaea Waterpark. DH wasn't in the mood and enjoyed a long walk and some quiet time. Ours was quite the opposite. We jetted down numerous slides both indoors and outdoors. This was the biggest waterpark we had been to on this trip and our favorite. It was easy to spend several hours playing.
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We continued our day with a two hour drive back to Hungary to the smallish town of Eger. I will end the Romania portion of the blog here and continue back in Hungary next time. I'm so grateful that we were able to visit Romania for eight nights. An unforgettable country!

Posted by familyineurope 19:32 Archived in Romania Tagged church fortress waterpark brasov sighişoara fortified salina oradea turda viscri rupea nymphaea Comments (0)

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