First of all, if you’re confused about why this is part 2, you can read part 1 here. So, I left my last post as I started driving towards the North of Romania to a town called Buzau. To be honest, there was nothing in particular I wanted to see in Buzau, but it was at a comfortable driving distance for me to drive that day and then from there it was fairly close to my next destinations. The one cool thing that happened on the road to Buzau was a quick ferry trip over the Danube in Braila.
In Buzau, I stayed in a hotel right in the centre of town and I just spent the evening walking around a bit and grabbing something to eat. The next day I finally remembered to get a haircut (I’ve been wanting to get one for almost 3 weeks)!
From Buzau, I drove towards the Mud Volcanoes in Vrancea, an interesting place which is basically a huge area over underground gas deposits which push water and clay to the surface forming structures which resemble volcanoes. The mud keeps bubbling all the time so the place is in a constant change.
My next destination and the stop for the night was the city of Piatra Neamt, a cute town right next to the Eastern Carpathian Mountains. Once here, I was truly getting into the North of Romania and in the historical region of Moldavia. I spent the morning walking around the town and visiting a really interesting museum dedicated to a long gone civilization called Cucuteni, which was based in this part of Eastern Europe sometime between 4800 to 3000 BC. It’s a fascinating story and if you want to find out a bit more about this civilization have a look here.
Next to Piatra Neamt is one of the places I wanted to visit for a long time, a beautiful gorge called Bicaz Gorge. The gorge serves as a link between the provinces of Moldavia and Transylvania and the driving is spectacular.
I took quite a while driving the short distance, stopping for photos at the Red Lake, a lake formed in 1837 after a landslide blocked the Bicaz River. I kept driving through the region both offroad and on the road passing beautiful traditional villages and stopping from time to time to photograph some of the local houses.
I made it to Suceava by late afternoon with the plan on visiting some of the famous monasteries in the region the next day along with the Suceava Fortress which for many years was the capital of the region.
Many of the monasteries here are listed in the UNESCO world heritage and as a whole they are called the painted monasteries of Moldavia. The reason for this name is because in addition to being painted on the inside, some of these monasteries are also fully painted on the outside with incredible detail. I had never seen these and I was very happy I made my way here as they are truly spectacular!
From here, I drove towards Maramures, a part of Romania which is quickly becoming a big tourist attraction and for good reasons. As you get closer to Viseu de Sus, which is arguably the centre of this touristic region, the villages get more and more traditional with beautiful valleys which look like they haven’t changed for hundreds of years. I based myself for two nights in a cute little guesthouse in Viseu de Sus, called Casa Chira which I throughly recommend. Ana, who is the host, has some hilarious stories about starting a guesthouse there and is a wealth of information on the many attractions around.
The first day, I took the forestry train, which is an old steam train used for bringing wood down from the mountains. It’s actually one of the last steam trains to be still used for actual work and although the trip is really interesting, it was a bit on the boring side for me as it’s quite long (about 6 hours in total).
After the train ride I went to see a couple of the incredible wooden churches of Maramures which are really tall and striking.
The second day I continued seeing some more of the wooden churches (there’s pretty much at least one in almost every village) and then drove towards Sighetu Marmatiei which was the last town before the border with Ukraine. Before making my way to the border I took a small detour to the village of Sapanta, which is famous for its “merry” cemetery. This cemetery, instead of the usual sombre gravestones, has some beautifully carved wooden crosses at each grave and each of these crosses has a funny rhyme about the life of the deceased.
Before crossing the border Ukraine, I also stopped for a couple of hours at the very moving museum of the victims of communism in Sighetu Marmatiei. If you are ever in this area, this is definitely a must as it does a great job at showing how many people suffered in this region during the 45 years of communism.