9 countries in 1 year! – My year in travelling

I know, I know, we’re already on day 15 of 2017 and I’m just now coming up with my last year’s travel roundup because, you know, stuff got in the way so I’ll make this quick and mostly visual. ūüôā

  1. Stockholm, Sweden / February 24-28, 2016
    Tour of the city in celebration of my wife’s birthday.

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    Stockholm, Sweden
  2. Copenhagen, Denmark / April 29 – May 1, 2016
    Weekend city trip in celebration of my birthday.

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    Copenhagen, Denmark
  3. Zadar & Plitvice, Croatia / May 5-9, 2016
    Exploring Zadar with a day tour to Plitvice Lakes as extension to my birthday celebration.

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    Plitvice, Croatia
  4. Bratislava, Slovakia / July 26-29, 2016
    Exploring the city as first leg of Donauwelle.

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    Bratislava, Slovakia

  5. Vienna, Austria / July 29 – August 1, 2016
    Exploring the city as second leg of Donauwelle.

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    Vienna, Austria
  6. Budapest, Hungary / August 1-4, 2016
    Exploring the city as third leg of Donauwelle.

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    Budapest, Hungary
  7. Luxembourg, Luxembourg / August 20, 2016
    Family day tour of the city.

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    Luxembourg, Luxembourg
  8. Transylvania, Romania / October 19-25, 2016
    Road trip through Transylvania starting in Timisoara, ending in Bucharest.

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    Hunedoara, Romania
  9. Mallorca, Spain / December 24-27, 2016
    Road trip on the island of Mallorca in celebration of Christmas.

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    Mallorca, Spain

As you can see, it¬†had been a very hedonistic year, one we won’t allow ourselves to have again in a very long time but it was good while it lasted and we will treasure these memories¬†for a lifetime! It was a year that has inspired me to blog, to travel and see the world, and to learn. It has left me curious for more places and sometimes frustrated because there is only so much to see and we can’t always have enough resources to just go, let alone have the time. But I do look forward to our trips we got planned for this year and we’ll just have to make the most out of it. ūüôā

So which one of these places do you guys think I liked best? And which ones appeal to you the most?

Roadtrip: Romania

Be ready for a long post about our most important and eventful trip yet. I don’t even know where or how to begin. Romania has been such a joy to my eyes that if this isn’t the most beautiful place I’ll ever see in my life then I’m afraid of seeing what else is out there – afraid the magic might fade away.

My interest in Transylvania¬†goes back to when I was a teenager, curious by¬†how the folklore came to be. My young vampire heart was excited for an adventure in an old, spooky, castle on top of a mountain. Of course, it wasn’t until more than a decade later, at a time when I already knew that a trip to Transylvania would have little to nothing to do with my vampire fantasies, that my dream has come true. With a few bucks worth of flight tickets, a rental car, and the right companion (as in one who is capable of driving and driving¬†and driving) I managed to see everything I’ve been wanting to see – and more! So much more.

I’ve made a separate post on the castles (with more pictures of them) which you will find here.

The trip began with a 2h flight from Berlin to Timisoara. From there, the goal was to get to Bucharest 5 days later to catch our flight back to Berlin, while stopping by a few cities, castles, and other attractions.

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Looking back, I realise we could have planned it so much differently.

October 19, 2016 – Timisoara at night

Coincidentally, my uncle’s friend was sitting in the same plane to meet her husband in Timisoara. They told us about how they used to live in Bucharest until about 10 years ago and it’s their first time back in the country. We had dinner together in a local restaurant in Piata Victoriei before we finally headed to our hotel.

Ryanair flight from Berlin to Timisoara: 8,15 ‚ā¨ / pax

October 20, 2016 – Timisoara in daylight

Today we went out to see the town in daylight. By now I was having a really bad cold, added to that are a few trips to the bathroom I had to take after our breakfast at the hotel so we really tried to see as much as we can. Luckily, we had really fine weather to sit outside a caf√© in Piata Unirii. And not surprisingly, we saw our last night’s companions again as they walked by our caf√© and we chatted a little¬†and learned that Timisoara¬†was selected Capital of Culture in 2021. Well-deserved!

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Obviously, I can’t get enough of this church

October 21, 2016 – On the road to Sibiu

We left Timisoara today to go on to our next stop: Sibiu. But before we got there, we stopped by Corvin Castle, about halfway to our destination, located in a town called Hunedoara.

Corvin Castle

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Sibiu

We arrived in Sibiu late in the afternoon so after checking in, we went straight to the historic centre. It has a beautiful old town with a church right in the middle, and a town square known as Piata Mare. Here we realised how we just have to get used to seeing a place and making the most of it because we only have limited time until we go on the next one. This is so unlike our usual travels where we get to stay in a city for a few days to actually get to know it and come back the next day to see if we missed something.

October 22, 2016 – On the road to Brasov

It wasn’t until today that our drive became really interesting and maybe a little frightening because from here,¬†we drove up and down mountains. But before we got to the mountainous Brasov, we stopped by Fagaras Fortress, about 70km away.

Brasov

We had lunch in the historical centre of the town before we headed to Rasnov Fortress, which is about 10 minutes away, and eventually to the hotel. And since I was still hung up on the vampire experience, I booked us a suite at House of Dracula Hotel in Poiana Brasov. It basically looks like a small castle with its towers and spiral staircase, and it’s fully¬†decorated ¬†like a medieval castle on the inside as well. It’s what my father¬†would consider¬†kitsch. But for a reasonable price, I got us a ridiculously round-shaped room in one of the towers.

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Suite in House of Dracula Hotel: 60 ‚ā¨ / night

October 23, 2016 – On the road to see more castles

At the time I was planning this, I knew that picking out a route that actually made more sense would mean skipping at least one of our stops, which I refused to and I’m glad about it. My poor wife who drove all by herself was getting a little impatient but I could see that it also surprised her how everything we saw was actually worth the drive.

Peles and Pelisor Castles

Bran Castle

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The least impressive of them all, in my opinion, but no doubt the most popular.

To get closer to our next destination that we will go to the next day, we booked a room in an inn in Cimpulung, a small town about 2h away from Bran Castle. We couldn’t help taking a few breaks to capture some of the breathtaking views along the way.

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October 24, 2016 – On the road through Transfagarasan and, lastly, Bucharest

We got up early to get on the road to experience the hairpin-curves of Transfagarasan as a little segue to our final¬†destination, Bucharest. This drive has gone on longer than I had originally planned, simply because I had no idea where the exact location of the highlight of Transfagarasan road was (the one shown in all the pictures you find on the Internet). Our turning point was supposed to be the dam on Ploiesti lake, not knowing that the place we wanted to see was still an hour’s drive away! It got frustrating at some point, not knowing if we’re actually heading somewhere if we drive further and further.¬†Ah, but what a treat! Next thing we know, we were on top ¬†of an icy mountain and the view was just so breathtakingly beautiful, we were both speechless for a long time.

But to get to Bucharest, we had to drive all the way back, going through the same claustrophobic tunnel, seeing again what was earlier covered with a cloud has now cleared up, and vice-versa. I’ve really never seen anything like this before.

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October 25, 2016 – Bucharest

Our flight back to Berlin wasn’t until tonight so we walked around the historic centre of the city, watched the Parliament building from the outside, and just drove past whatever else the was to see. It was hard to appreciate the city after all we’ve just seen all week so we ended our trip early and headed to the airport.

Ryanair flight from Bucharest to Berlin: 10,19 ‚ā¨ / pax
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And kudos to this monster rental car that has made this all possible.

Rental car: 261,50 ‚ā¨ for 5 days

Roadtrip: Romania – Castles & Fortresses

Driving from Timisoara to Bucharest in the course of 5 days, we were able to view 6 castles and fortresses along the way.

Corvin Castle

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Legend says that Vlad the Impaler was imprisoned in this very castle.

Fagaras Fortress

In recent history, it has been used as a stronghold by the Communist State of Romania and was still used as a prison in as late as the 1950s.

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A bird’s eye view of this citadel would have been great but I don’t have the right equipment for that, sadly

Rasnov Fortress

It’s hard to miss the sight of this fortress when walking around the town of Brasov when its name is written right at the cliff in big letters much like the Hollywood sign. It’s an old ruin with wobbly paths but it’s the first castle/fortress in this trip so far that is located on a cliff, overlooking the city.

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Rasnov Fortress

Peles and Pelisor Castles

Located in Sinaia and in close proximity from each other, both castles were built in the late 1800s as residences for the Royal Family. Peles was open for viewing at the time we were there, while Pelisor wasn’t due to some construction work going on.

Bran Castle

Lastly, to end our castle-hopping trip, we entered what is more commonly known as Dracula’s Castle. It was a very crowded one, too. Somehow, most of Romania’s tourism is being sold with the “Dracula” story. Souvenir shops in all of Romania sell different products with the Dracula¬†brand on them. This castle, I believe, has adapted it at most, so it’s not surprising to see the huge wave of tourists coming in. As a conclusion, though, this one has been the least impressive of all the castles we’ve visited – all of which were less crowded, some even nearly empty.

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Check out the main post about our Romanian Roadtrip experience.