Transylvania, the land of bears

Hi All,

After a long time and some travels I brought a new story. This time about Transylvania.

I went to Transylvania. It was amazing! It’s a place I always wanted to go.

Why? It’s beauty, the history, the bears.

However, there is a catch in the story. I travelled with my family. To be exact; with my older sister and her partner and my younger sister and her family, her husband and a 15 month year old baby.

Have you ever travelled with a baby? I’m sure loads of you have. Well… I haven’t. As you know, I did a fair share of travels in my life. But this was a new experience.

How do you deal with getting your sister to leave on time, to finish in time and generally be on time? She, of course, blamed her son. ‘He pooped so we need to change his nappy’, ‘He needs to eat before we go’, ‘He needs to sleep’, ‘He peed himself’ and I can go on. Don’t get me wrong, I love and adore him and it’s not his fault he can’t hold his bowels just yet.

When you travel with a baby, you really need to think of the programs. I had planned rock climbing, bear watching, walking in the woods and all sorts. But a baby can’t climb, it’s not that easy to walk him the woods and bear watching is definitely a no no with a child.

But then what you do? I don’t know about you but we educated ourselves and jumped into the BIG cultural Transylvania.

We learned about the real Dracula story. He never existed. Sorry to burst your bubble… also, the Easter bunny and Santa… they don’t exist either. I know… it’s harsh.

Here is a link if you would like to know his real story.

He apparently has never even been in the castle that they claim is his. In fact, someone told me -a Transylvanian- that every castle there is called ‘Dracula castle’ no matter if it’s as huge as the one in Brasov or as small as a sand castle.

We tasted an extreme amount of Transylvanian food. And it’s amazing! If the baby wasn’t crying or hating the fact he couldn’t have his afternoon nap, we would have spent more time tasting all those goodies. We ate literally every half an hour. Gross… but very yummy

We also went to Parád or Praid where we visited its famous salt mine. Electric buses take you down which leaves every half an hour. Imagine a sci-fi type world underground. Wow! It has its own playground, sport facilities, even a church. UNDERGROUND!! It’s bloody cold down there so if you ever plan to visit this magical world, take a jumper, even if it’s 40 degrees outside. The difference in temperatures can be overwhelming.

We even played table tennis. How cool is that?

But it’s not an entertainment centre. It’s for people who have breathing issues. The doctor normally suggests them to have sessions. And instead of spending it in a boring and scary ‘salt whole’, they send them to a fairytale. And then they can spend hours there playing table tennis, climb on Go Apes like things and use the swing, play different types of games OR visit the church. And eat… don’t forget the food. Anyone can visit it for a small fee of 30 lei.

Before I continue, let’s quickly talk about their money so it’s a bit easier for you imagine when I mention prices. They use Romanian lei and 1£ is 5.12 lei.

The salt mine cost 30 lei which is roughly £5.85

If we wanted a beer, it cost around 4 lei and food started from around 10-25 lei (£1.95-4.88). I’ll keep letting you know about all other prices. But it’s cheap… very cheap.

Oh, and the good stuff is, if you do like G&T, rum & coke, vodka & tonic, any spirit, their single measure is 50ml… whaaaaat?? Yepp.

Funny story; We sat in a nice bar with the baby -why not? (He needs to learn at some point that his family loves booze), outside waiting for the waitress. When she arrived I asked for a G&T. She asked single or double. Pfffff…. what do you think? I said double. Guess what? When it arrived, the glass was almost full. And that was only the gin…. the tonic arrived separately in a small bottle. I was like WTF and she said, I asked for double which is 100ml… 100ml!!!! Wowzer!!! I had to ask a separate glass and I poured it into 2. Otherwise little baby would have seen his real aunts dancing on the table after a glass.

I thought maybe it’s just this place but no.. it was everywhere. And a double G&T cost about 7 lei. Nice, ehh?

People are generally nice there, very friendly and helpful. We stayed in a small village as my brother in law’s grandma lives there. I don’t think I have seen this many horse ‘usage’. People there still use more horses than cars. It was actually very nice and definitely unique, especially for me. I’m a proper ‘haven’t ever seen a real cow, chicken, pig or sheep’ kind of city girl…

The language is Romanian AND Hungarian. In fact, most places around there isn’t Romanian, it’s mainly Hungarian, especially with the older generations.

Why is that? It is because Transylvania was once part of Hungary. If you are interested in this part of history, here is a link for you to learn.

This is the reason why most people still speak Hungarian. I felt like I was home. It was slightly surreal.

We, of course did visit towns where they didn’t understand my strange langue. It happens… a lot… pretty much everywhere in the world.

The baby loved the fresh air, the nature. He was very well behaved. We even took him to the zoo. Yeah… I’m crazy about zoos. I went in every single country -at least 95%- to a zoo. This one… wasn’t my favourite. I loved the bear part of it. Since Transylvania is full of with brown bears, they made a huge place for them here. And since baby wouldn’t be able to handle to meet a real bear in the woods -me neither-, I thought we better visit a zoo and have a look in a safe distance. Baby wasn’t interested… well, he lost interest within 3 minutes. I stood there like crazy for a good 20 minutes and just watched this amazing animal. It’s a shame I couldn’t just walk in the woods, casually meet one and have a cuddle. Maybe one day…

The zoo cost 20 lei.

One day baby’s parents decided he will stay home with my nephew as he wasn’t exactly in good shape. He hasn’t been sleeping in the past 3-4 days properly -you know that, 3-4 hours every afternoon- due to dragging him in and out from the car as we arrived to different places. This was the time my older sister, her partner, and myself decided to visit the famous ‘Red Lake’. It’s exact translation from Hungarian to English is ‘Killer Lake’. It has its own story. Actually it has 2.

One of them is as you would think, the myth is “A long time ago there lived a long haired and green-eyed girl. She was a rare beauty. She was called Eszter Fazekas.  One day she went to the fair in Gheorgheni. In the Gyergyo market Eszter saw a handsome lad and she immediately fell in love with him. He was taken to the army as a soldier and the wedding never took place. Eszter waited for her love in vain. Eszter was found by a dirty allan and he liked the girl very much. Suddenly he put her on his horse and took her away. He took her in the caves of the Kis-Cohard mountain. He promised her all the treasure in the world but Eszter was still waiting for her love. The man couldn’t make Eszter love him. In dispare she called the mountains for help. The nature answered with a huge storm, trees were crashing, mountains were moving and the clouds burst out. In that fierce storm the mountains were covering everything that it came into their way. Eszter and the thief were killed too.  Under the rocks remained the girl and the thief. After that the water from the mountains were gathered here forming the lake (Red Lake or The Killer). And that is how the Red Lake was formed. Even now if you look carefully, you can see Eszter’s deep green eyes.” -online textbook of the european interdisciplinary curricula –

But the real story is basically “The Red Lake is the largest barrier lake in the Eastern Carpathian Mountains. It is located in the foothills of the Hășmașul Mare Mountain, near the Bicaz Gorges, and it was formed after the collapse of a slope caused by an earthquake in 1838. The Red Lake got its name from the nearby Red Creek, which is filled with various alluvia of a reddish color, such as iron oxides and hydroxides.”

We walked around the whole lake which was amazing. When you arrive, turn left and start to walk around from the left. Unless you like the busy food stalls, little markets and lots of people. I’m very much to the opposite.

That’s why we decided to walk into the woods and without seeing even 1 person we walked around the lake, took about 2-2.5 hours. You can actually walk all the way around but the end goes deep into the woods and a small road leads you out right next to some houses. You can then walk through a car park back to the lake where you started from. It’s definitely worth a visit. Let’s hope you’ll have as nice weather as we had.

From there you can go and visit straight away the Bicaz Gorge which is like a small canyon and it’s very nice. Lots of small markets selling all sort of ‘typical’ Transylvanian stuff. Walk inside the canyon and you experience something amazing. I loved it. Except that unfortunately from 32 degrees heat suddenly a storm came with dark clouds, strong wind and rain. When we walked into the canyon, it was all hot. By the time we got out, we got rained on. Temperatures dropped at least a good 5-7 degrees. It was then raining all the way back to the house.

On the last day, my brother in law wanted to stay home with his grandma so we decided to go somewhere we can go without the baby.

Anyways, daddy decided to stay home with him so my sister, my partner and I went to visit a lovely waterfall called Vārsag Waterfall. You can drive right up to the waterfall where you have to walk like 2 minutes -if- and you see this amazing and cute waterfall. You can also walk there from the bottom of the woods.

We walked up to it, stood right in front of it as we got slightly sprinkled over and then climbed over it and took a gazillion photos on top of it. It was real nice. Then we walked into the woods, out onto a field. It was hot but we enjoyed it. My sister enjoyed to be out of ‘mum world’ for a little bit and I enjoyed spending time with her.

It was a good day.

Then my partner who was driving asked me if we wanted to go to the longer way or the shorter. It’s a no brainier, we chose the shorter one. Through the woods, on dirt road with a 20 years old Opel (Vauxhall). I haven’t had so much fun for a long time. My sister almost got a heart attack, the car sounded like it wanted to give up at every corner but it survived and we have seen the beauty of driving in the ‘wild’.

If it survived this trip, it will survive an earthquake -there are no earthquakes in the Karpat Medence’

Another place we visited, and it’s worth going to is the ‘Bear Lake’. It’s salt content is so high, you can’t drown. It’s a small, natural lake. You can go and spend a day there. To enter you have to pay but I don’t remember the price. They get everyone out and close the lake from 12pm till 3pm to keep the lake’s natural cycle. I like this idea. You can stay around and just sunbathe or spend money on food and drinks but no one is allowed to go into  the lake. They are very strict on that.

We decided we would go after they re-open it again so we spent some time walking around Sovata, a small town with its cute and typical Transylvanian features.

The lake is nice and hot. Again, it’s natural. It is slightly dirty but not in a ‘people make it dirty’ way but it’s own natural way with a dark greenish colour and some wooden and green bits inside. The deeper you go, the hotter it gets.

Baby absolutely loved it in his cute little swim belt.

If you are around, visit Korond. It’s a quirky little town that’s famous of its artisan market and its blue and red ceramic. They have really nice stuff. I went back twice ️

All in all, we had an amazing time and I enjoyed every minute of it with its ups and even with the downs.

When you travel with a child, you do have to adapt to their needs and check what you can and can’t do but if you plan it well, you can still do amazing things.

Besides, I can always go back for a little climbing, trekking and some bear cuddles.

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