The Essence of Romania

The Essence of Romania

Authentic, rich in natural values and cultural heritage are the words that best capture the essence of Romania, a dynamic country, ethnically, linguistically, culturally and religiously diverse. Romania links its past with the Dacians and the Romans and as the locals like to say the the inhabitants are a mix of both. Take a step back in time as you visit one of the world’s famous painted monasteries in Bucovina, the ancient, hilltop citadel in medieval Sighișoara or let yourself be surprised by centuries-old villages in Maramureș, a land of mythological richness and impressive virgin landscapes.

 

Be a local in Romania:

  1. Have a cup of coffee at Café Viena, in the BruckenthalCollege inner courtyard, nestled between the old city walls.
  2. Have lunch with the nuns, at one of Bucovina’s painted monasteries.
  3. Make your own dish in a potter’s shop in Marginea, Suceava.

Day 1: București

Arrival in Bucharest. Transfer to the hotel.

Dinner and accommodation in Bucharest.

 

Day 2: București – Curtea de Argeș – Sibiu (390 km)

 

Departure in the morning on the route: Bucharest – Pitești – Curtea de Argeș – Horezu – Sibiu.

 

Curtea de Argeș is one of the most important pilgrimage and prayer places in Romania. The most important touristic spots include Curtea de Arges Monastery and the Princely Church, which, together with the Royal Court formed the biggest medieval building in Romania 650 years ago. It is also the oldest standing metropolitan cathedral in Romania.The visitor`s attention is captured by the mural paintings in oil and by the remains of the Kings Ferdinand and Carol I, as well as Queens Elisabeth and Maria, which rest here.

Lunch on your own at a local restaurant.

Just 80 km away from Curtea de Argeș lies Horezu – acknowledged as a special pottery site. Romania features on the UNESCO List of Intangible Cultural Heritage thanks to the Călușari Ritual (ritual dances with popular connotations), the Doina (a traditional musical tune) and Horezu ceramics. Horezu pottery has its roots in the dawns of time and is shaped using the traditional kick-wheel. The pottery paintings are dominated by the symbolic rooster more frequently, but there are also representations of stars, snakes, trees, people, flowers, fish, double spirals, straight lines, flowing lines, leaves, traditional belts, solar motifs, wheat ears, the tree of life and peacock tails.

 

Afternoon departure to Sibiu (150 km) – the 2007 European Cultural Capital. The fortress of Sibiu or Hermannstadt, as it is remembered in European culture, was the largest and the whealthiest of the seven walled citadels built by the Transylvanian Saxons in the 12th century. The city prides itself with a series of intelectuals - Conrad Haas – one of the greatest physicists of the 16th century, who first described in writing a multistage rocket  - was born here, as well as important European cultural figures, such as Nicolaus Olahus or Emil Cioran. Furthermore, the chemical element tellurium was discovered here, while S. Hahnemann – the founding father of homepathy temporarily worked in the area. Many writers, philosophers, politicians or artists lived, studied or worked in Sibiu.  Thus it is no wonder that the city witnessed several Romanian premieres: the first pharmacy (1494), the first library (1300), the first hospital (1292), the first bookshop (1778), the first drapery (1788), the first neuropsychiatry hospital, the first arrester, the first newspaper (1852), the first electrical tram (1904), the first open-air museum (The Museum of Traditional Folk Civilization – ASTRA) in South-East Europe.

Our pedestrian tour passes by the urban highlights of Sibiu: Piața Mare (Great Square), Bruckenthal National Museum, the History Museum, the Huet Plaza with the Evangelical Cathedral, the Stairs Tower – the oldest standing building in Sibiu, the Staircase Passage, the Small Square – the enclave of buildings with arcades that host museums and galleries; Sfatului Tower, the Pharmaceutical History Museum, the House of Arts, the Bridge of Lies, the Goldsmyths’ Square and many other impressive buildings which complete the charming medieval portrait of the city.

Dinner and accommodation in Sibiu.

Day 3: Sibiu – Alba Iulia – Turda – Cluj (180 km)

Departure in the morning to Alba Iulia, one of the oldest settlements in Romania, serving as the largest military and economic centre during the Roman occupation.

We stroll along the landmarks of the city and discover architectural and cultural masterpieces like the Citadel, which was designed by an Italian architect. It is outstanding throughout its architectural elements (six gates) and uniqueness, being the largest of its kind in Southeastern Europe.

We can also visit here the Roman Catholic Cathedral, the Orthodox Unification Cathedral, the Bishop`s Palace, Alba Iulia Unification Museum and many other beautiful buildings.

Lunch on your own at a local restaurant.

Our next destination is Turda and the Turda salt mine, the largest and most modern in Romania. The Turda salt mine represents today a genuine salt mining history museum. The mine dates back from the 17th century and hosts 13 million years old salt deposits, averaging 250 m in thickness (in some spots, reaching even 1200 m) and weighing over 38 billion tons. The Franz Josef gallery, the Rudolf mine (80 m long, 50 m wide, 40 m high), the Terezia mine (112 m high),  the Anton well, the Ghizela chamber, the Altar room, all represent mysteries of the salt mine!

Arrival in the afternoon in Cluj Napoca. Our pedestrain tour takes us to Unirii Square, the Continental Hotel – Hungarian nobles preferred it as a meeting place between the two world wars; Lucian Blaga National Theatre, in Avram Iancu Square. The building erected in 1907 following designs by Austrian architects Helmer and Fellner, is also home to the Romanian National Opera, the oldest drama and lyrics institutions in Romania, the first of its kind. Another historical highlight is Banffy Palace, hosting the National Museum of Arts which exhibits important art collections. Our tour ends on Cetățuia hill, on which the ruins of the fortress dating back from the Habsburg period, overlook the city and offer a spectacular vantage point.

Dinner and accommodation in Cluj.

Day 4: Cluj – Baia Mare – The Merry Cemetery in Săpânța – Sighetul Marmaţiei - Breb (260 km)

Today we are heading to Baia Mare, the gate to Maramureș, a region that has preserved its traditional character and simple lifestyle: old traditions, ancient customs, wooden churches and gates, breathtaking landscapes, all blend in to turn this part of the country into a fairy tale land.

We start our day by exploring two reknown cities in Maramureș: Săpânța and Sighetu Marmaţiei.

The Merry Cemetery, an important touristic attraction, has made Săpânța famous. Legends say that the Dacians would receive death cheerily, as they believed in eternal life and saw their passing away only as a passage to another world. The cemetery dates back from the mid 1930s and was created by Stan Ion Pătraș, a popular sculptor, painter and poet. His creativity brought to light this monumental, well-known work of art. For more than 50 years, the artist has created hundreds of wooden crosses bearing humorous inscriptions.

Visit also, the sober and imposing Săpânța-Peri Monastery, rising at 78 m above the ground! It`s currently the highest wooden church in the world, being included in the Guinness World Records.

Our next destination is Sighetu Marmaţiei. Lunch on your own at a local restaurant.

In Sighetu Marmației we visit the Maramureș open-air Village Museum and the Maramureș Etnographic Museum. You`ll receive an impression of the rural architectural style of the area, as it recreates a typical village, with households grouped according to the main historical areas in Maramureș. Become aquainted at the Maramureș Etnographic Museum with the objects used throughout history in basic activities around Maramureș.

20 km away from Sighetu Marmației lies Breb village, a village stashed in a valley, surrounded by rolling hills, a village which has the most ancient wooden tower in Romania. We spend here a wonderful afternoon with one of the local craftsmen. In Maramureș, wood is an important raw material and a source of inspiration for a great variety of artwork. The old artisan makes wonders out of wood, sculpting “pecetare” (seal engravers used by women for breads involved in various rituals), “fuse cu zurgalai” (spinning wheels) or small objects for domestic use, richly decorated with traditional local motifs, such as crosses, wolves’ teeth or solar symbols. While giving a help in hand, don’t forget to take in the beautiful panorama.

 Dinner and accommodation at a guesthouse in Breb or Vadu Izei.

Day 5: Breb – Bârsana – Vatra Dornei (170 km)

Today we discover the UNESCO World Heritage wooden churches.

We start in Josani-Budești, where we visit the wooden church and socialize with the locals in their traditional houses. The iconic architectural elements to focus here on are the famous wood-sculptured gates typical for Maramureș. The wooden church of Budești-Josani (a UNESCO world heritage site since December 1999) is a place of worship displaying “cheotori” (wooden clasps) from 1643, considered a “magnificent” construction for its age and long time afterwards. The building, the biggest wooden church in historical Maramures, is impressive in size and artistic value, adorned with popular murals from 1762.

We continue to Sârbi village, which displays a great array of finely sculpted wooden gates. It is worth stopping to take a look at the traditional, water-actioned mechanical systems: the mill, batoza (the water-powered thresher), piua (a thumping device in which heavy wooden beams pummel hot, wet sheep wool into felt for coats, waistcoats and blankets), vâltoarea (a washing machine which tumbles clothes in a churning pool), the palinca-making devices – examples of peasants’ ingenuity, still used today for cereal processing and washing woolen fabrics.

Bârsana is a little town with a wooden church and monastery, famous around the country and beyond. According to the legend, the church has been moved so that the souls of those killed by plague could rest peacefully in the shadows of the worship place. Near the southern exit from the village stands Bârsana Monastery, probably one of the most visited places in Maramureș.

Go in and enjoy a unique feeling emanating from the surroundings.

From Bârsana, following the Iza Valley,  we cross scenic mountain villages such as Rozavlea, Sieu, Bogdan Vodă. Brief stop in Săcel to visit the workshop of one of the most famous ceramics artisans in Maramureș. Săcel ceramics is one of the oldest and most important type of traditional pottery in Romania.

Lunch at a local restaurant.

 Drive through the Carpathians towards Bucovina. Arrival in Vatra Dornei in the evening.

Dinner and accommodation in Vatra Dornei.

Day 6: Vatra Dornei – Voroneţ – Sucevița – Piatra Neamț (335 km)

Today we explore some of the most beautiful Moldavian monasteries. Between the 15th and 17th centuries AD, the number of religious worship places in Moldovia increased so rapidly that the region became known as „Mount Athos Two”. The exquisite, beautiful painted monasteries are all UNESCO World Heritage sites - Arbore, Humor, Moldovița, Suceava, Patrăuți, Probota, Voroneț.

Probably the most famous one is Voroneț monastery, known as the Sistine Chapel of the East, a medieval religious complex, one of the most important created by Stephen the Great.

Our next stop is Sucevița Monastery – the last of Moldavia’s 22 painted churches, dating back to the late 16th century. The site is a center of Orthodox faith that preserves an ancient charm and sacred atmosphere – both through its architecture, resembling a royal court or fortress, and its position. An intense aquamarine green is the dominating color.

Lunch at a local restaurant in Suceviţa area.

On our way to Suceava, quick stop at the Marginea ceramics center. The site includes an etnographic museum hosted in a century old house – an excellent stop for resting. Here you can admire and buy ceramics, typical folk costumes for Bucovina, cloths, knitted items, wicker baskets, bead necklaces, painted  and beaded eggs. The typical architecture is enriched by handmade woolen rugs, born out of the hands of local women.

Dinner and accommodation in Piatra Neamţ – one of the oldest Moldavian cities, a former Geto-Dacian settlement.

Day 7: Piatra Neamț – Cheile Bicazului – Lacul Roșu – Brașov (260 km)

Departure to Brașov, along Bicazului Gorge, which connects Transylvania and Moldavia, one of the most beautiful touristic areas in the country. The canyon stretches on about 8 km, between Bicazul Ardelean village and Lacul Roșu/Red Lake resort and is a part of Cheile Bicazului-Hășmaș National Park. All the routes in the canyon are winding and spectacular, while amazing caves can be found beneath the limestone walls of the canyon.

Short stop at Lacul Roșu (the Red Lake got its name from a 19th century landslide that enriched the waters with a pinkish hue) for a break in nature. We then visit the fortified church of Prejmer, the best preserved and most solid fortified church in Eastern Europe, also an UNESCO site. Shaped as a circle, the fortress had 3-4 meters thick and 12 meters high walls, bastions, iron gates and mobile bridges.

Lunch on your own at a local restaurant.

Time at leisure in Brașov.

Dinner and accommodation in Brașov.

Day 8: Brașov – Viscri – Sighișoara – Brașov (280 km)

 After breakfast city tour of Brașov. Situated in the heart of Romania, the city benefits from a rich history going back to the Bronze Age. The city has grown economically and culturally fast, becoming one of the most important centres in Transylvania and Romania. Our tour passes by the landmarks of the city: the Black Church with its largest organ in South-East Europe, the Old City Hall and the Council Square, Ecaterina`s Gate, which is one of the oldest original entrance gates in Brașov, the Street of Cord (Strada Sforii), considered the narrowest street in Europe, the First Romanian School going back to the 15th century, Republicii Street, a pedestrian area with bakeries and restaurants opened in superb 18th – 19th century old edifices.

On our way to Sighișoara, we stop in Viscri, a small village with no more than 500 inhabitans. People say that it hides the most pitoresque Saxon fortfied church in Transylvania. The village is also known due to the great job in restoring the Saxon houses, owned by Mihai Eminescu Trust and patroned by the Prince of Wales.

Lunch on your own at a local restaurant.

Our next stop is Sighișoara, a perfectly intact 16th century city with nine towers (only 3 remain today), cobbled streets and ornate churches that give you the feeling that you stroll in a medieval city, which time forgot. There are many attractions in Sighișoara – the Clock Tower which is the landmark of the city, built in order to protect the main gate of the city. The tower houses nowadays the town`s History Museum, which consists of the clock tower, the torture chamber and the medieval arms exhibition.

Also the Church on the Hill, which is a Gothic church dominating the southern part of the citadel is an impressive attraction. It can be reached only by climbing the 175 steps of the covered wooden Schoolboys` Stairs, which were built in 1662 for the German students of the school on the hill.

Another highlight of the city is the Vlad Dracul House. It is said that Sighișoara is the birthplace of Vlad Ţepeș and his house is located in the Citadel Square.

Dinner and accommodation in Brașov.

Day 9: Brașov – Bran Castle – Peleș Castle – Bucharest (235 km)

The last day of our tour includes visits to two famous locations on Prahova Valley: Bran and Sinaia.

Bran Castle is located at the border between Transylvania and Wallachia and is considered to be a landmark and a national monument. The castle was marketed as the home of the fictive character Dracula and it became famous mostly after the Irish writer, Bram Stoker, called it Dracula’s Castle.

But the castle owes its fame also to the its imposing towers and turrets, not only to Dracula`s myth. At the beginning of the 20th century the castle served as a royal residence, a gift of the people of Brașov to Queen Marie of Romania and nowadays it is a museum displaying art and furniture collected by Queen Marie.

Sinaia is one of the oldest and most famous mountain resorts in Romania and it is known as the „Carpathian Pearl”, also the summer residence of the Romanian Royal family. The resort has a long history and it was documented for the first time around the year 1200, but it actually became famous after King Charles built his summer residence here. Peleș Castel is one of the best-preserved royal palaces in Europe, a real jewel of Bavarian inspiration and also, the first palace completely electrified in Europe. The palace is beautifully decorated with carvings and paitings of scenes from Wagner operas. Today, Peleș Castle is a museum and 35% of its total surface of 3200 sq meters, 170 rooms and 30 bathrooms are open to visitors.

Lunch on your own at a local restaurant.

Pelișor Castle (optional visit) is a small palace built in the garden of Peleș castle, ordered by Charles the First, serving as residence for his heirs – Ferdinand and Mary. The pavilion was built as a hunting house with 43 rooms, and all Romanian kings grew fond of the place.

Return to Bucharest and panoramic sightseeing tour. We stroll on the major boulevards, starting with the huge Civic Center, where we make a stop for a visit of the impressive Parliament Palace; then proceed to Cotroceni Palace, Victoria Avenue, University Square. Out tour ends in the Old City Centre or Lipscani District. This used to be the place where the merchants – Romanian, Jewish, Greek, Austian, German – established their shops in the city. This section was afterwards a residential area and nowadays it is an upscale neighbourhood with a mishmash of architectural styles, which hosts coffeehouses, art galleries, pubs, clubs, making it the center of entertainment in Bucharest.

Dinner and accommodation in Bucharest.

Day 10: Departure from Bucharest

Breakfast and transfer from hotel to airport Bucharest.

 

PRICES

Group size Tarif per person based on double occupancy Single room supplement Observation
30 - 35 persons 699  EUR 145 EUR Transport by 40seater minibus
19 - 29 persons 785  EUR 145 EUR Transport by 40seater minibus
15-18 persons 835  EUR 145 EUR Transport by 19seater minivan

Price / person is based on double occupancy. The prices are calculated per person and in Euros. The given rates may vary slightly in 2015.

INCLUDED SERVICES:

  • 9 overnights based on double occupancy at hotels 3* or 4* hotels
  • 9 breakfasts
  • 9 dinners - set menu (3 course dinner including including jugs of tap water)
  • 1 lunch on day 5, at a local restaurant in Borșa area (3 course meal, including jugs of tap water)
  • 1 lunch on day 6, at a local restaurant in Sucevița area (3 course meal, including jugs of tap water)
  • English speaking local guide from day 1 to day 9
  • Private transport by bus or minivan from day 1 to day 10, according with the above program
  • Entrance fee for the churches in Breb, Budești, Săpânţa-Peri, Bârsana and the Merry Cemetery in Săpânţa
  • Entrance fee for the monasteries in Voroneț and Sucevița
  • Visit to water-actioned mechanical systems in Sârbi
  • Visit to a local wood carver
  • Entrance fee at Maramureș Village Museum in Sighetu Marmaţiei
  • Black Church and The First Romanian School in Brașov, Bran Castle and Peleș Castle (standard tour)
  • Brief Romania travel guide with useful information

Not included :

  • Air travel to and from Bucharest
  • Entrance fees  - other than those mentioned at „Included”
  • Medical insurance

 Note:

  1. Optional activities will be charged additionally. The guide will assist you with all necessary information.
  2. Depending on when you’re visiting Romania, you can take part in other local social and cultural events: weddings, traditional dancing and singing festivals, church celebrations, artisan reunions, etc.
  3. The daily schedule can change according to the weather, to local social and cultural events, without any fundamental change to the program’s structure.

 

 

 

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