A Postcard from Romania

At the end of January I went on a short city break with my friend – my very first holiday of the year in the very first month of 2018 – to Romania. Unlike all my previous holidays this was a tour, and instead of staying in one city for the five days we was in Romania we travelled from the capital city of Bucharest, to Peles Castle in Sinaja, to Brasov, to Bâlea Lake, and finally to Bran Castle in Bran.

Was it a lot to pack into five days? Yes, but was it an amazing holiday? Also yes.

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Bucharest is like plenty of capital cities I’ve seen before, but that doesn’t mean it didn’t have something unique to offer. Most of our time there was spent wandering around the winding streets of the Old Town and seeing what hidden gems we could find. We saw the Stavropoleos Church and the Old Court where Vlad the Impaler used to reside. After Bucharest we headed off to Peles Castle, which is probably one of the most gorgeous buildings I’ve ever seen in my entire life.

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Given we went to Romania in the middle of January the further into the country we travelled the more snow there was, and the colder it got as well, but it really added to the fairytale atmosphere the city of Brasov had, which was our next stop. If I had to pick between Bucharest and Brasov for my favourite city Brasov would win.

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The highlight of the trip for me had to be the time I spent at Bâlea Lake. We took a cable car up the mountain and most of the day was filled with the various snow activities the lodge hosted; I went tubing, snow mobile-ing, rode a raft and banana boat around on a frozen lake until the hood of my coat was covered in ice. That evening dinner was served in the ice restaurant amazing, food but really cold considering I was sitting on a block of ice, and at night I slept in the ice hotel.

If you have a chance definitely definitely try to go to the ice hotel in Romania. While absolutely freezing (and honestly I can’t emphasise that enough; even wearing a pair of thermal socks and a pair of slipper socks under my boots I still lost all feeling in my toes) it’s the experience of a lifetime, and the views at the top of the mountain simply cannot be missed.

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Our last stop was Bran Castle, the famous home of Vlad the Impaler (or Dracula). More of a fortress than a castle I can’t say Bran was as gorgeous as Peles Castle was, but it was still a great part of the trip. After all when you think of Romania Vlad the Impaler, or Dracula, is normally one of the first things that comes to mind.

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Advice (a.k.a. learn from my mistakes)

  • If you are going in the winter, take sunglasses…When I saw this advice in the brochure I laughed; travelling somewhere in the middle of January, when there is going to be snow on the ground and below freezing temperatures, sunglasses are the last thing you’d think to pack. However in all seriousness you will need them, and possibly sun cream too, if you’re going up into the mountains and it’s a clear day.
  • Make sure to try the local food, especially the desserts…Papanași is a traditional fried Romanian dumpling/doughnut and it is beyond yummy, I’m tempted to travel to Romania again just to get another one, also the kürtoskalács (chimney cakes) cannot be missed. I’ve had them in Prague and Budapest now and they’re probably my favourite food ever.
  • Make sure you have good shoes, and wrap up well if you’re going in the winter…Take thermals, take multiple pairs of socks, take plenty of woolly jumpers. The temperatures get really cold, and while inside any building the heating is cranked up high outside it doesn’t take long before the freezing cold starts to affect you.

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Like Krakow and Budapest Romania is a good place to go if you’re on a tight budget. Everything there was quite cheap and you get a lot for the money you’re paying as well.

The tour me and my friend went on, if you’re interested, is called The Ice Hotel Experience and it was all arranged through Untraveled Paths. I would highly recommend this company; they did an amazing tour and it wasn’t expensive to book either. We got to see so much more of Romania with them than we would have if we’d gone and arranged everything ourselves.

Reading Around the World: Edinburgh

Reading Around the World is a feature that combines my love of travelling with my love of reading. Each month I plan to spotlight either a city I have visited, or a city I plan to visit in the near future, and recommend some of my favourite books set there. After all even if you can’t visit these cities yourself the next best thing has to be reading about them and living the experience through the eyes of the characters.

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Reading Around the World: Venice

Reading Around the World is a feature that combines my love of travelling with my love of reading. Each month I plan to spotlight either a city I have visited, or a city I plan to visit in the near future, and recommend some of my favourite books set there. After all even if you can’t visit these cities yourself the next best thing has to be reading about them and living the experience through the eyes of the characters.

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Reading Around the World: San Francisco

Reading Around the World is a feature that combines my love of travelling with my love of reading. Each month I plan to spotlight either a city I have visited, or a city I plan to visit in the near future, and recommend some of my favourite books set there. After all even if you can’t visit these cities yourself the next best thing has to be reading about them and living the experience through the eyes of the characters.

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Reading Around the World: Prague

Reading Around the World is a feature that combines my love of travelling with my love of reading. Each month I plan to spotlight either a city I have visited, or a city I plan to visit in the near future, and recommend some of my favourite books set there. After all even if you can’t visit these cities yourself the next best thing has to be reading about them and living the experience through the eyes of the characters.

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A Postcard from Vienna

After two nights in Budapest my sister and I hopped on a train and travelled to Vienna for a further three nights. As much as I was excited for this holiday I didn’t have any expectations for Vienna; Budapest was the city I had always wanted to go to, the city I was the most looking forwards to exploring, Vienna was just another holiday destination but it turns out I actually ended up preferring Vienna to Budapest. Of the two cities I will more likely be going back to Vienna than Budapest.

Maybe holidays work better for me when I have no hopes pinned on them. Vienna joins cities like Krakow and Amsterdam, cities I had no expectations of before going but cities that are favourites of the ones I’ve travelled to so far.

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If Budapest was full of history then Vienna was full of culture; art and music. There are plenty of incredible museums you can visit if that’s something you enjoy doing on holiday; the Sisi Museum inside of Hofburg Palace or the Kunsthistorisches Museum, which is as impressive outside as it is inside, are only two of many. There’s even the Vienna Opera House for the music lovers.

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Even if museums aren’t really your thing the one I would highly recommend visiting is Kunst Haus Wien. It more of an art installation than a traditional museum, focusing on the works of Austrian artist Friedensreich Hundertwasser. I don’t really have the words to describe Kunst Haus Wien, but it was incredible, unforgettable, and well worth a visit.

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One of the first things my sister and I did in Vienna was travel to Schönbrunn Palace which, even knowing very little about Vienna before travelling there, was a place I was aware of in the back of my mind. While the palace itself was impressive the main attraction were the gardens. I was lucky in that we had incredible weather while we were in Vienna, which just made the gardens all the more beautiful. We spent probably an hour walking through the gardens, and I know we didn’t discover everything they had to offer.

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Another attraction heavily associated with Vienna is the Wiener Riesenrad, the giant Ferris wheel, so that’s something my sister and I did our second and final full day in Vienna. We made it there just as the park was opening so there was very little queuing time, and the views we saw when we reached the top were not to be missed.

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Advice (a.k.a. learn from my mistakes)

  • Take a horse and carriage ride through the city…You’ll see them everywhere, and the drivers give you an unofficial tour of the city as you travel around a small part of it. There were plenty of things me and my sister learnt we wouldn’t have been aware of otherwise.
  • You don’t have to pay to enter the Schönbrunn Palace gardens…There are two entrances to the gardens around either side of the Palace. If you go left you reach the Priory Gardens, which you have to pay to enter, but if you go around the right you can see the bulk of the gardens for free.
  • Again be aware that tickets in Vienna need validating the same as they do in Budapest…While you can walk to most sights in Vienna some, like the Schönbrunn Palace and the Wiener Riesenrad, are a little further out and it would be very easy to get caught out by this.

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Vienna was a lot more expensive than Budapest was, so it’s not the best place to go if you’re looking for a budget holiday, but if you’re an art or music love then I cannot recommend travelling to Vienna enough.

I fell in love with the city immediately, and really want to go back one day to experience it all over again. There’s plenty to see and do and while going in the summer (or when it’s warm and sunny) was nice I imagine seeing the Christmas Markets during the winter would be even more incredible.

A Postcard from Budapest

Budapest is one of those places I’ve always wanted to visit. Everyone who’d travelled there before me had nothing but good things to say, and after hearing so many of their stories I wanted to experience the city for myself.

This was my summer holiday for the year, despite travelling in mid-October, and luckily the weather was gorgeous. My sister and I flew to Budapest, staying in the city for two nights before taking the train to Vienna for a further three nights there. This is the first half of my ‘A Postcard from’ series, the second half will be posted next week.

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The first day in Budapest me and my sister wandered up to the Liberty Statue – which is quite a walk up hill but the views of the city at the top are more than worth it and in my opinion cannot be beat – joined a tour that took us all around Castle Hill, and found our way to Heroes Square where the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier rests.

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Like most European cities I’ve been to so far Budapest is full of history, but despite that the one thing people recommended to me above all else were the thermal baths that Budapest is famous for. There are plenty to choose from, and I feel like no matter what one you go to you’ve made a good choice, but I ended up at the biggest and most popular one; Szechenyi Bath.

After half a day of walking all over the city, a city that has a good few steep hills, stepping into that first thermal pool was like stepping into a warm bath, and there was nothing more relaxing for my abused feet than that.

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The other highlight of my time in Budapest was the Danube Legend river cruise. This was something else that was recommended to me, and I had to choose the best part of my holiday it would be this. The Danube runs through the centre of Budapest, and the hour-long river cruise showed us all the sights lit up after dark. On one side we saw the Castle District, where Buda Castle and the Fishermen’s Bastions sit, and on the other we saw the Parliament building, which is even more impressive lit up at night than it was to see during the day.

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Advice (a.k.a. learn from my mistakes)

  • Check the weather before you go…I have a really bad habit of underestimating how hot it will be. While packing for Budapest I assumed it would be a few degrees colder than England, so jeans and t-shirt weather paired with a light jacket, but in reality I could have wandered around wearing shorts and sandals.
  • Book excursions at your hotel…Chances are whatever hotel you’re staying at will be able to sell you a ticket to one of the thermal baths in Budapest, and maybe even the river cruise if you’re interested. It saves you queuing on the day and the prices are the same so really there’s no reason not to.
  • If you decide to use public transport make sure you validate your ticket…This is something me and my sister could have easily got caught out on because when you buy your tickets you need to valid them at a separate machine before boarding the train, if not you will get fined.

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If you’re looking for a budget holiday Budapest is a place I’d highly recommend (another is Krakow where I went earlier this year). There’s plenty to see and do, and it’s possibly one of the most gorgeous cities I’ve travelled to; full of cobblestone streets, old buildings and castles with plenty of stories to tell, and incredible views.

Reading Around the World: Rome

Reading Around the World is a new feature that combines my love of travelling with my love of reading. Each month I plan to spotlight either a city I have visited, or a city I plan to visit in the near future, and recommend some of my favourite books set there. After all even if you can’t visit these cities yourself the next best thing has to be reading about them and living the experience through the eyes of the characters.

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Reading Around the World: New York

Reading Around the World is a new feature that combines my love of travelling with my love of reading. Each month I plan to spotlight either a city I have visited, or a city I plan to visit in the near future, and recommend some of my favourite books set there. After all even if you can’t visit these cities yourself the next best thing has to be reading about them and living the experience through the eyes of the characters.

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Reading Around the World: London

Reading Around the World is a new feature that combines my love of travelling with my love of reading. Each month I plan to spotlight either a city I have visited, or a city I plan to visit in the near future, and recommend some of my favourite books set there. After all even if you can’t visit these cities yourself the next best thing has to be reading about them and living the experience through the eyes of the characters.

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Continue reading “Reading Around the World: London”