I’m writing this post in the shadow of Vlad Dracul’s Castle in the Făgăraş Mountains  It is what I had originally imagined and what I’m sure most do as they think of Romania  but apart from the odd tourist hot-spot like this one, that could not be further from the truth.

I have found Romania to be an exhilarating, untamed and fascinating country, hence I’m still here after ten days and have no intention of moving on soon. Also, somehow even in the most rural of locations, with another house barely in sight, I have still managed to pick up faster internet than I do in my home-town of Carlisle, so technologically, they are still more advanced than “the Borderlands”.

Our first day was unfortunately marred by the intense drive down from Budapest made worse by the hours of traffic jams and the intense heat. Still, about 13 hours after setting off, we managed to find a “campsite”, to relax in for the evening, and were treated to the spectacle of a full swing Romanian wedding going on next door.

The few days after that, we floundered around western Romania, with a thoroughly un-thought through plan and as such ended up spending the majority of our time watching Romanian villages pass by from the car window.

After driving for hours we found a lake by Baia Mare and actually wild camped for the first time in Romania and devised a route to take for the following day.

Lake Camping Romania, Baia Mare

By the morning when we had finally got our act together, we decided to make our first stop a tour of the area called Maramures, described in the guidebook as “Europe’s last thriving peasant community”. Although this may have been true, from what we saw this was indistinguishable from the rest of villages we passed in Romania and we have subsequently found areas in central Romania which you would certainly describe as “more peasanty”.

Farmland in Maramures, Romania

We also visited a “Merry Cemetery” , the picture pretty much sums it up. Colourful carved depictions of peoples lives. Pretty good.

Merry Cemetery, Maramures, Romania

We’d finished our circuit of the Maramures villages by around one o’clock and so decided to push on into the mountains to find another wild camp site for that night, the scenery was stunning and there were enough tracks to keep a 4×4 enthusiast entertained for a life-time. We quickly realised however, that the Romanian gypsies had also cottoned on to this fact and every track that was relatively accessible had been made full use of. We thought the only way to find our own spot was to take the Land Rover to a spot that only it could reach. This didn’t work out so well on my nearly bald all terrains and after reaching a dead end on a long forgotten logging track and having about 4 miles of reversing, found ourselves thoroughly stuck for the best part of two hours.

The day pretty much got worse from here, we tried track after track, and even forded a few precarious rivers, but didn’t manage to find a place where we felt safe. So as it was getting dark and the rainstorms were setting in, we were in the middle of the Romanian mountains in a thunderstorm, with gypsies at every turn and no place to stay. I was knackered having been driving all day and dragging my car out of the mud, so it was pretty frustrating.

Landrover Defender stuck in the mud, Romania Muddy off road in Romanian forest

Eventually we managed to find it back to a decent sized road and finally, just as we were ready to give up and kip in a layby we saw a sign loom out of the darkness like a beacon “Camping De Vuurplats 44km”. We followed the signs and finally found our way to a godsend of a Dutch run perfect campsite. We liked it so much we ended up spending the following 48 hours there and around.

wooden house, Camping de Vuursplats, Romania

Brewing a nice cup of  ‘Cowboy Coffee’ in the morning.

Camping coffee

After a morning looking around a few of the famous UNESCO world heritage painted monasteries, which we both thought were strictly average, we set off with plenty of time to find a spot for the evening near a lake. Another thoroughly unsuccessful idea, the problem with dammed lakes is that the sides are incredibly steep, as such we only found a few places that you could make it down to the water and other “travellers” had got there first.

Yet again, an afternoon that should have been a leisurely one relaxing and doing a spot of fishing, turned into driving in the dark, desperately looking for a place to safely park up. On the way through the small town of Gheorgheni, we spotted a woman advertising that you could camp in her garden, which is exactly what we did. Was really nice. She was very friendly and talked to us, as best as we could understand, through the other sights in the area.

As a brief interlude at this point, I would also like to mention that I love the huge old abandoned factories that litter the eastern european landscapes. No doubt they are throwbacks to the days of Ceausescu and communism, they have been left to rot and now are incredibly photogenic:

p.s. the following were shot in HDR to show the contrasts in the blacks and to bring out the atmosphere and grime of the buildings, so they look manipulated, but beyond merging the three photos, they have barely been touched:

Romanian Communist Factory

Abandoned factory in Romania

HDR Derelict factory