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Sibiu and the Transfagarasan Highway, Romania

From a colorful city center to old world Romania

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Before I start recounting our last few days, I have to describe where I am as I write this. We are staying at a little pension in a tiny village along the southern part of the Transfagarasan Highway. A carriage pulled by a horse and a foal just drove by. There are chickens and roosters by the bus stop. Free range dogs cross the street. The tiny mini market across the street is the social hub of the town. Locals are visiting outside while tourists like me and others pass through. Tractors pass by with multiple passengers and equipment. I am 100% fascinated sitting outside on my little patio table watching the action. And here I thought this would be the most boring night of the trip!
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Day 19 - Corvins' Castle & Sibiu, Romania

We left Timisoara as late as possible taking advantage of the 11am check out time. We all wished we had one more night in this very real Romanian city. We have several one night stays during our time in Romania. I never enjoy just one night but it seemed the best way to experience as much as Romania as possible given we have to come home eventually. Romania is pretty far out of the way and realistically, we might not make it here again.

Our first stop today was Corvins' Castle located in a small town between Timisoara and Sibiu. The castle had a long bridge over the old moat to its grand entrance. The exterior was what many people would call the perfect castle. We enjoyed the many staircases, rooms, and passages to other parts of the castle. We were allowed to explore most parts of the castle. There were so many stairs up and down to the various levels. What a great stop!
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We traveled another hour or so to the cute town of Sibiu. This town is known for its many building with "eyes". The eye windows provided ventilation back in the day. I had fun taking pictures of the many "eyes" around town.
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This time, our apartment was two bedrooms with a giant kitchen and living room. Here is what just over $60 gets you in Sibiu. Good air conditioning too!
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We wandered the town, took loads of pictures, had some gelato, and climbed a couple of old watch towers along a portion of a remaining city wall.
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Dinner was at a cute place right outside of our apartment. We enjoyed drinks, a couple pasta dishes and a curry dish. Very yummy!
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I went for another walk around the town as the sun set and admired the architecture and the busy crowds who always seem to come out to wander during the cool nights.
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Day 20 - Sibiu, Balea Lake, and the Transfagarasan Highway

We had a fancy breakfast in the main part of Sibiu. Yummy poached eggs on toast with various toppings. We are really enjoying how affordable the restaurants are in eastern Europe.
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I climbed the Council Tower and had our last looks at this cute town.
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We hit the road and made it to the famous Transfagarasan Highway. This road is known for being one of the top driving roads in the world and was a big bucket list destination for DH. The curves were incredible as we made our way to Balea Lake at the top.
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Balea Lake was beautiful in a very unique way. We spent about an hour hiking around and taking pictures.
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Local cheese and meats being sold all along the highway.
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The fog cleared on the other side of the mountain and we were still pleased with the 70 degree temperatures. Felt so good to be relatively cool! The drive became more rough and bumpy and we traveled down the mountain. The landscape looked an awful lot like Oregon! We stopped again at an impressive dam.
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The kids still manage to sleep even in the most curvy and rough road conditions.
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Our last stop was our pension near the end of the highway. This was a nicely appointed family room for just over $60.
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We drove a couple of minutes to a nice restaurant where we shared a Bulgarian salad, some spicy pork, bean and smoked ham soup, and fried cheese. Serious stick-to-your-ribs kind of food!
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My favorite part of the day was sitting at the table outside of the pension and watching the action on the Transfagarasan Highway in our small village. I was completely entertained watching horse-drawn trailers hauling hay, tractors, cows crossing the highway lead by locals with sticks, and folks chatting across the highway at the convenience store. Romania is such a mix of old and new. I watched a teenage girl helping move her cows home. She had a stick to guide them in one hand and was staring at her smart phone in the other hand. Amazing!
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Day 21 - Curtea de Argos, Bran Castle, and Brasov

A few observations about Romania. The difference between the cute, touristy city centers and the rural villages is vast. In the countryside there are tons of old disused factories (such as old nuclear plants), old abandoned cars, exposed water pipes and electrical wiring, wandering dogs and livestock, and people farming without modern equipment. This is in stark contrast to the trendy city center restaurants, boutique stores, bakeries, and bars. Folks in the country don't seem to have much. Road conditions are poor and people are working hard. The outskirts of the cities are a bit rough too. Buildings are often concrete apartment blocks from communist times and everything seems to need a coat of paint. I haven't been bored for a minute as I try to wrap my mind around all that I am seeing.
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We checked out of our pension and drove about 25 minutes to the town of Curtea de Argos. We found a fancy-ish place for breakfast where we had six drinks (DH and I had two coffees each) and 4 omelettes. It was around $20. We were fueled for the day.
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We stopped at the beautiful monastery in the town. The Romanian people seem deeply religious. Many were lighting candles, praying, and kissing the famous relic in the church.
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The drive ahead was long, curvy, and rough. We bumped along and saw more horse-drawn farm equipment and sheep and cows in the road. The scenery was gorgeous! We traveled up and down significant mountains and everything was so green and dramatic. A beautiful drive!
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We stopped at the very touristy Bran Castle made famous by the Dracula legend. The castle was stunning set up on a rocky hilltop but mobbed with tourists. It was most claustrophobic and touristy thing we have done so far. A bit overrated, in my opinion. I'm sure it would have been a different experience outside of the busy summer months.
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After a grocery store stop, we found our home in Brasov for the next three nights. This two bedroom apartment costs just over $50 per night.
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We found a Transylvanian place for dinner, wandered the old town, and looked forward to three nights in Brasov, Romania.
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More from Brasov next time!

Posted by familyineurope 15:21 Archived in Romania Tagged castle de sibiu bran transfăgărăşan curtea arges Comments (0)

Barcelona!

Lots of Gaudi, mountains, shopping, and wandering around this vibrant city.

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Drive from Teruel to Barcelona

We left Teruel after another round of pastries from Granier Bakery. This turned out to be our favorite chain in Spain. (Hey, that rhymes!) We drove a couple of hours to a beach town called Peniscola. Yes, I had fun pronouncing the town in a variety of ways. Unfortunately, everyone in Spain seems to enjoy Peniscola so our casual stop ending up being a big hot headache. It was difficult to park and wade through hordes of people. Despite that, I took a few nice pictures of the Mediterranean and some amazing sand castles.

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We gladly hit the road again and made it to Barcelona during rush hour. I don't mention enough how great my DH is at driving! We navigated to our pre-paid parking garage and left the car for four nights. There is no need to drive in Barcelona! We found our small apartment in the Sant Antoni neighborhood. There were lots of restaurants and shops nearby as well as Metro access. Check out the cute little door.

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We were hungry and made a stop at Rekon - a great empanada joint. Empanadas are all over Barcelona. They are cheap, yummy, and filling.

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Next, we decided to find a highly-rated beer place. It reminded us of our favorite spot from home! We splurged and hung out for a while eating dinner and enjoying a diverse selection of beer.

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Everyone was beat except for my mom and I. The two of us decided to check out the magic fountain. Gorgeous! We walked through some fun neighborhoods on our way back. It's incredible how late everyone stays out eating, drinking, and socializing! I had read about this but it is different actually experiencing Spanish culture. We saw lots of happy people enjoying their city. (Too bad they have this smelly sewage problem that can be common in large hot urban cities.)

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Gaudi - Park Guell, Sagrada Familia, and Flamenco Danging at Palau de la Musica

Today was the last day with my mom. She was flying out in the morning. So we decided to pack it in and see the best of Barcelona in a day. I booked tickets for Park Guell, Sagrada Familia and Palau de la Musica in advance. Our morning began with a bus ride to Park Guell.

I have seen many pictures of Gaudi sites online but it is more grand and out of this world in person. There just isn't anything like it. Park Guell was crowded but had so many photo-worthy spots.

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We moved on to Sant Pau Modernista Hospital. It's beautiful and one of the largest sites of modernist architecture anywhere. Unfortunately, we didn't have time to go inside because of our entrance time at Sagrada Familia. Next trip.

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Sagrada Familia is the most unique and stunning cathedrals I've ever seen. It truly took my breath away - both the exterior and interior. The lighting inside was especially mesmorizing. I've never toured an unfinished cathedral. There is an immense amount of work being done now as they try to finish it by 2026, the 100th anniversary of Gaudi's death. Most churches we have visited are old beyond comprehension. It was different viewing a modern basilica in progress with Gaudi's unique vision. There's nothing else like it.

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One side of the church lets in cool colors like blues and greens while the other side lets in warm oranges and yellows.

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You can see a construction guy working perilously high on this newer tower.

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We were hungry by this point and tired of tourists. We headed back to our non-touristy neighborhood and stumbled upon a really nice restaurant for lunch. Mom had a burger, DH had a spicy roast beef sandwich, I had tandoori chicken skewers and the girls shared a schnitzel with tomato sauce and cheese. Yum! We were stuffed and called it linner (lunch and dinner combined).

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After a wardrobe change and break, mom and I headed out to explore the Gothic Quarter and to do some shopping. We found ourselves on the busy Ramblas and couldn't believe how many people were in the old part of the city. We went to the famous La Boqueria Market for fresh juice smoothies.

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We eventually found a quiet cafe to share a bottle of wine before our big night at Palau de la Musica. The building was gorgeous and the dancing was incredible! I knew little about Flamenco dancing and was surprised at the intensity, singing, drama, and physicality. They moved their feet so quickly and used their arms and hands very expressively. The dance was so moody and beautiful. It didn't hurt that we had great seats in a gorgeous concert hall. What a treat!

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Goodbye to Mom, Tibidabo Mountain, tapas and more empanadas

I woke up early to take the Aerobus with my mom to Barcelona's main airport. It was wonderful having my mom along for the majority of our trip. She is always up for anything, is in a consistent good mood, and ready for any adventure. I'm so lucky that she likes spending time with us! We can be a challenge at times all in our different ways. I was sad to say goodbye but am thankful that we live so close in Oregon. We will see you soon, mom!

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The Aerobus was a breeze and I made it back around 10:30am. We decided to ride the Tibibus up the distant mountain called Tibidabo. (I just like saying Tibidabo.) The bus ride was long, windy, and steep. What great views over the vast city of Barcelona! We climbed up a tower on main church for a real bird's eye view over the city. There is an amusement park at the top with several rides. It was expensive so DD#2 and I just rode the iconic ferris wheel.

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We rode the bus down and DH found a bar to watch the Tour de France. The rest of us took a leisurely walk through some shopping neighborhoods.

We met up once again and decided to check out the hip Blai Street for dinner. Our apartment manager suggested this street for lively tapas. It was hard finding an available outdoor table. Once we found one, we selected a few pintxos and ordered an average paella. I was hoping to find a more authentic paella on this trip but it wasn't in the cards. Oh well. We were still a bit hungry so we stopped in for empanadas again.

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Montjuic, Barceloneta, more shopping, & jazz at La Pedrera

We had a slow start at another cafe for more pastries and coffee. The morning pastry diet is about to come to an abrupt end!

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We started our day at the Las Arenas mall. It's a disused bull-fighting arena that has been changed into a modern shopping mall. DD#1 scored a cute shirt at a store called "Teenager". The 12 year-old was thrilled. There were some great views from the roof of the Las Arenas including Tibidabo from yesterday.

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We took a subway and a funicular to Mount Montjuic to find some green space and yet another view. The castle looked nice but we didn't go inside. There were some nice views of the cruise ships and port of Barcelona.

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We took the funicular and bus to the Barceloneta neighborhood for a seafood lunch. Unfortunately, the rest of Barcelona wanted a seafood lunch on this sunny Saturday. We tried three different recommended places (all busy) before settling on a more pricey place. It was just nice to rest our sore legs by this point. I liked the narrow and livable streets with laundry set out to dry.

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DD#1 and DH went back to the apartment to watch some Tour de France while the rest of us did our last bit of Barcelona shopping.

We had a quick pizza dinner at a restaurant across the street from our apartment. They sold the pizza by weight kind of like frozen yogurt back at home. Interesting!

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I was spoiled tonight and had pre-purchased a ticket to see a jazz quartet on the rooftop of La Pedrera (Casa Mila). It's another one of Gaudi's buildings. The rooftop was stunning and it was difficult to focus on the music. The sun set and the scenery kept changing by the minute. What a memorable night! I only wish DH could have been there with me. Next time. And believe me, there will be a next time in Barcelona.

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Posted by familyineurope 22:59 Archived in Spain Tagged fountains barcelona mount park las la de montjuic sagrada familia magic guell musica empanada pedrera arenas palau tibidabo Comments (0)

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