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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!


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.

And yes, Starbucks has made it to Romania.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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!

Kids found a cute place for bubble tea and we took a few pictures in the rain.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

They even had tacky Dracula souvenirs!

We walked up a long covered stairway that helped the local kids stay dry on their way up the hill to school.

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.

We have stayed at two places that have these nifty dish drying racks built in above the sink. Great idea!

Here are a few final pictures from Sighisoara.

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.

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.

Salt icicles were forming on the ceiling above.

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!

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.

We had a nice Hungarian style dinner with chicken paprikash, cheesy chicken and salad.

DH took some beautiful pictures of the town all lit up at night. The girls also did some posing around town.

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.

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!

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.

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)

Three Nights in Mostar, Bosnia

Unlike anyplace we've ever been.

Day 11 - Drive from Montenegro to Bosnia


We enjoyed one last breakfast in Kotor before driving our way up and out of the Bay of Kotor. It was a curvy but beautiful drive up and over the mountains in Montenegro. There were even roaming cattle along the sides of the road in some places. We finally hit the border into Bosnia and waited in what appeared to be a short line of cars. Little did we know that the wait would be at least an hour to have our passports scanned and stamped. The border officials seemed friendly but were not in any hurry!

We found our apartment in Mostar without any mishaps. Villa Fortuna was in the perfect location just steps from the old town. We were surprised to get an apartment with a small kitchen. I thought it would be a simple hotel-style room. Score! (Around $85 per night)

We didn't take long to wander to the old town and take our first pictures of the Turkish-like vendors, tall minarets, and the famous old bridge that connects the two sides of the city.

The cobbled streets were seriously bumpy and a little slick! You really had to watch your step.

We were happy to find Craft Beer Garden which had a great list of local beers. We may have returned to this place a couple of times!

The highlight of our first day in Mostar was the food. Oh my goodness! We found the most amazing Bosnian grill/BBQ at Tima-Irma. The meats were grilled and seasoned to perfection along with roasted vegetables, cheeses, and sauces. The roasted red pepper sauce, ajvar, is found with everything. Irma works the hot grill in the back and adds hot coals as needed. Not an easy job. We never spent more than around $25 for a full dinner for four in Mostar.

We took a few more pictures as we took in the scene as the sun set and the light changed the scenery.

DH and I went out one more time in the evening for a night-cap and to see the young folks partying it up below the old bridge.

Day 12 - Exploring Mostar and learning about Bosnian culture and history

We began our day with an easy breakfast. I found a nearby pekara (bakery) and brought back pite and a few other traditional baked goodies. We were most looking forward to trying Bosnian coffee at Cafe de Alma. We all learned how to prepare the coffee, try it with a little sugar, and end with a little piece of Turkish delight. The coffee was strong but tasty. What a neat experience!

Next we began my favorite mission of climbing to top of anything and everything! We began with the Franciscan Church of Sts. Peter and Paul. It was built in 1997 (when the war finally ended) and has the tallest spire in the city. We had to buy tickets to get to the top from the nearby cafe. We rode an elevator about halfway up before climbing 150 stairs or so. The bells were enormous and were from the original church that had been destroyed. The best part of this experience was being the ONLY ones in the tower. So cool!

We crossed over the Stari Most (old bridge) and learned a bit about its recent history. The bridge is the symbol of Mostar and was destroyed in 1993 during the war. The original bridge was built in the 1500s and was the first of its kind. When the bridge was finally rebuilt, it took longer and cost more money. Great efforts went into building the bridge to closely resemble the historic original. Old techniques and materials were used and the bridge was finally finished in 2004. It was amazing to watch skilled jumpers hurl themselves off the bridge once they raised about 25 Euros from tourists. Quite a sight!

The slippery steps leading up the bridge.

We enjoyed the bridge museum and climbed the tower on one side of the river. More great views of the bridge below!

The next tower was my favorite - a minaret at one of Mostar's many mosques. DD#2 and I had to borrow items to properly cover our bodies and head. The skinny spiral staircase to the top seemed never ending! We enjoyed amazing views from the top.

After a little more exploring, we stopped for gelato and recharged in our apartment. There was a wonderful gelato store next door to our place. So convenient!

I left the family to relax and opted to take a long walk around the city. I was enthralled with a Bosnian cemetery filled with those who lost their lives in the early '90s. Most of the dead were born in the late '60s and '70s. It was heartbreaking. We saw too many cemeteries throughout Bosnia. Devastating.

I have never wandered a town that had survived such a recent war. The buildings still stood tall with their battle scars. Many were abandoned and still waiting to be demolished or restored. It was fascinating and a bit sickening to see a town still recovering from such a terrible war.

I found a nice cafe and summoned the family to come meet me for a snack. We enjoyed tasty sandwiches along a river and decided to trek to a mall. We are travelling with teenage girls after all. I was shocked that people are still allowed to smoke inside the mall in Bosnia. Gross! It felt like I went back in time or something. The girls scored a few cute clothing items.

Everyone was worn out by this point so I grabbed some take-out and called it a day.

Day 13 - Bosnian side-trips including the Goat Fortress!

We stopped by a nearby cafe for breakfast. So nice to have eggs, waffles, and cappuccino.

DH skillfully drove the car out of town and up a windy, narrow road to a cool observation deck high above town. The glass-bottomed desk was frightening especially the way it jutted out over a sheer drop!

Next, we drove to a small town called Blagaj known mostly for its monastery built near a huge rock and cave. However, our favorite attraction was the ruined fortress high above the city. We hiked about 30 minutes up to the fortress and then realized it was being guarded - by a gang of goats! There were around 80 goats climbing and nibbling at the entrance. The goats all had ear-tags and one wore a bell. They were owned by someone I suppose. We finally realized that the goats were friendly and got through the entrance. I have never laughed so hard! This will probably be our most memorable fortress experience ever!

We drove to the main attraction in Blagaj and saw the monastery. There were hordes of people doing the same thing. We snapped a few pictures and got out of the touristy part of this little town.

I went out on my own and did a little souvenir shopping. Some really good finds in Mostar!

We came back to our apartment, returned to the Craft Beer Garden for happy hour and found ourselves back at the restaurant we had been to before. It was that good!

Day 14 - Kravice Falls on the way to Split

We decided to start the day with our last Bosnian coffee.

We left the packed and narrow streets of Mostar and found Kravice Falls Park. The waterfalls were lovely and it was fun to wade beneath them. It seemed a little less formal than the national parks we are used to.large_IMG_0684.JPGIMG_0676.JPGIMG_0678.JPG42AA6BB9-C06E-4ABE-8D82-5D4E7B9ABD46.jpeg012A143C-3A28-4D2A-A745-00CB04D3D475.jpegC2590080-21E4-44C1-9C52-22FB97C64364.jpeg

We continued another couple hours to the large city of Split, Croatia. This time, the border crossing was no trouble. Bosnia was a great place to visit and so different from its neighboring countries. Day 14 will be continued in the next entry all about Split. It's hard to believe that we have been travelling for two weeks. We have accomplished a lot and there are two more weeks to go. More to come!

Posted by familyineurope 20:30 Tagged mosque fortress bosnia mostar goats blagaj kravice_falls Comments (0)

Unexpected and Underrated Kotor, Montenegro

We relaxed, recharged, and got some serious exercise in Montenegro

Day 8 - Drive to Montenegro

We reluctantly left our apartment in Dubrovnik after another morning swim. DD#2 and I did the most swimming so far. We said our goodbyes to our kind hosts, somehow packed a very full car, and headed south. We picked Sokol Grad for a nice stop along the way. The old fortified castle was off the beaten path and we nearly had it to ourselves. We stretched our legs, read about its history, and took more pictures, of course.

These skinny tall trees are so interesting.

We continued on to the border crossing to Montenegro. We had to show our passports two times in the hour wait.

We were getting pretty hungry so I used tripadvisor to lead us to a restaurant in the town of Igalo, the first town we reached in the Bay of Kotor. We lucked out with a huge and tasty meal. Pastas, more cevapi, salads, and a burger. Yum! It was a late lunch so we knew a light dinner would be in order.

Communist-style high rises in Igalo

DH skillfully drove the twisty and narrow road to Kotor. Cars were parked randomly along the road making the narrow road even skinnier. Everything felt so busy! It turns out that we hit a Montenegrian national holiday that would last two days. Families hit the beaches in droves and parked wherever something slightly resembled a spot or a wide section in the road. After a little angst, we found Hotel Alkima, our home for the next three nights.

The room was small but had a separate bedroom for the kids. The AC worked remarkably well and the room felt brand new. We had a nice view of the mountains and the small seaside was very close. The kids were happy to have a pool - our only one of the trip. The view from our windows.

DH and I went for a walk in search of happy hour, of course. We found a beachside bar with way too many people smoking. It was hot once again but a cold beer helped.

DD#2 and I borrowed bikes from the hotel and set out to explore. We rode to the old town and watched the many families picnicking and enjoying themselves on this holiday. We found a Turkish restaurant very close to our hotel, shared a Turkish pizza and called it a day.

Day Nine - Exploring Old Town Kotor

I started the day with a run along the water. After hilly Dubrovnik, it was nice to have a flat place to run. Our hotel included breakfast so we filled up for the day. The automatic coffee machine was a big hit.

We took a taxi to the old town for just a few Euros. I forgot the mention that even though Montenegro is not part of the EU, they use the Euros for their currency. We wandered the old lanes, took way too many pictures, petted so many cats (Kotor is known for its friendly cats), and started sweating. We found a shady place for a cold drink and relaxed and watched people. Kids found 2 Euro pizza slices at Pizzeria Pronto. Delicious!

We finally took a taxi back the hotel (about 2 km away from old town) to recharge. The kids went swimming and we enjoyed the AC in the room.

After a break, we took a taxi back to old town for dinner. We knew we wanted to try Tanjga BBQ. We had watched vlogs and read reviews about the amazing food. We were not disappointed. We order a mixed meat plate to share and were blown away by the delicious food. The sauces and side salads were incredible too. The place was incredibly casual and cheap. If you find yourself in Kotor, eat here.

Before and after we polished off the mixed meat platter.

After dinner, we wandered the old town once again. It was another very hot day so we were enjoying the evening shade. We found ice cream and enjoyed the relaxed vibe in old town. The twisty lanes were a contrast to Dubrovnik's grid-like street plan.

Day 10 - Hiking to the fortress and side-trip to Budva

We began our day early in hopes of beating the heat before climbing 1,350 stairs up to the fortress overlooking the town. We had heard that if you arrive before 8am, you don't have to pay the admittance fee. We were wrong. They moved the hours to begin collecting fees to 7am. Oh well. We paid the fee and starting sweating our way up the stairs to the top. I loved it but may have heard some grumbling from other families members. No one could deny the great views and one-of-a-kind experience. I am so happy we did this early in the day.

After all that, DD#2 was ready for some shade!

We made it back to our hotel for breakfast and decided to make the most of our day by checking out nearby Budva. Budva is a resort town that is on the coast. From a distance, it looked a little like Honolulu with its many modern high-rises. The kids and I were on a mission to check out Aqua Park Budva. DH was kind enough to drop us off while he explored Budva. We raced down a ton of fast and slightly dangerous slides. We had a great time but I'm not sure I'd recommend this water park to others. The slides were a bit dangerous, the decor/ambiance almost non-existent, and the stones on the ground were so hot to walk on. We made the most of it though. Some of the slides felt like roller coasters on water! I figure that I only have so many waterpark experiences left before the kids will be grown so why not?

No guns allowed in the park.

Nice view of Budva from the park.

We hit a very busy hyper-supermarket on the way back to Kotor to refuel with cold drinks and snacks. I still can't get over how much fun it is to wander stores in other countries. So many different snacks and foods. The bulk baklava counter was the winner this time. Yum!

We headed back to the apartment to relax and recharge. It had been quite a day so far!

Finally we cooled off and headed back into old town Kotor for the last time. Taking the taxi into town cost between 2.5 - 5 Euros. Seemed like a bargain considering the headache parking would have been. We opted for an easy pizza dinner for our last evening in Montenegro. We couldn't help but snap a few last pictures.

The little stores were so beautiful.

Goodbye Bay of Kotor, Montenegro.

Posted by familyineurope 20:49 Tagged cats fortress montenegro kotor budva Comments (0)

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