Weary of churches we headed south back through Baia Mare. Our first stop was a VW garage for a mechanic’s opinion on why Trevor’s temperature gauge was always at 0 degrees celsius. After a lot of discussion about waiting a week for testing and repairs we breathed a sigh of relief. Thankfully we got the ok to drive on and keep a close eye on the coolant.
Back on the road for a couple of hours we found ourselves in Transylvania famed for Dracula and his vampire relatives. Our first thoughts were that the villages here were a little more run down than those in Maramures, and we were wondering where the Carpathian mountains had got to. We made it to a lovely little corner of Transylvania around the town of Turda. Turda has a few things to offer visitors including a salt mine with underground amusements, salt lakes and a limestone gorge. Unfortunately the town itself is nothing to write home about and before you realise you are in it you have driven through. We stopped to work out a plan with some cafe wifi especially for a look at the salt mine and weather forecast. To us the salt mine complete with boat ride on an underground lake and ferris wheel looked like an expensive activity for a rainy day but nowhere near as interesting as Wieliczka in Poland. Entrance was 30 RON but none of the amusements were included. Based on this and the dodgy weather forecast we favoured the gorge and drove straight there.
Turda gorge (Cheile Turda) is a limestone gorge with some walking trails and a camping area at either end. On arrival it was very impressive and also full of Hungarians (this part of Romania was once in Hungary). There are a few huts selling chimney cakes, langos and all sorts of tourist tat. After our long drive we fancied a walk so decided to walk towards the entrance of the gorge. The ticket office and maps were non existent on the route but we discovered later that the map is now located at the restaurant at the top of the gorge. From our research a walk along the gorge was supposed to be around one and a half hours, which we assumed was one way. When we discovered the gorge was only 1.2km in length we opted to make hay while the sun shone and walk it that afternoon.
Turda gorge may be short but it is beautiful. The gorge path crisscrosses the river along the length of the gorge allowing walkers wonderful views of the rocky sides and tree lined river. There are lots of places for adventurous rock climbers to clamber to the top of the gorge. We enjoyed the easy walk and saw plenty of wildlife too. Our only disappointment was that the walk was over too soon. Back at our free campsite we met a fellow German camper and spent most of the evening chatting. Early the next morning we set off on a pre breakfast walk. We expected some rain that day but having woken up to blue skies we decided to make the most of it. One thing we really wanted to do was get a view of the gorge from above. There is a 6km long path that goes over the tops of both sides of the gorge but we didn’t think we would have time for this before the rain came. Instead we climbed upon side to get the best view and then back down again. The views from the top were awesome. We saw merlins and a golden eagle flying around the gorge as we looked across the two valleys. We definitely recommend getting above the gorge and doing the walk along the top as well as through the gorge.
From Turda gorge we had a decent drive through Transylvania to the city of Medias. Our journey was pretty grey and rainy so we opted to stop at a campsite before Medias and relax a little. Our campsite in Blajel was run by a Dutch couple and was consequently full of Dutch people too. On arrival we found out about two important events. Firstly the pot luck dinner that was happening that evening, amd secondly a meal at a local farm including a farm tour. We eagerly signed up to both and then had to work out what on earth we were going to cook and if we could find the ingredients in the village shop. Our choice was lentils with sausages and Spätzle followed by a risky tiramisu. We only needed to find sausages and the ingredients for tiramisu. With a little alteration on the traditional recipes we managed to throw something together. Our main included some kabanosi instead of bockwurst amd the tiramisu contained only coffee and wine from the usual list of ingredients. We struggled to find cream or marscapone and instead used creme patisserie (whatever the Romanian version is) and pudding (a German style custard). Despite the alterations the meal was a huge success and we got plenty of compliments about our dishes; hopefully they really do get us around the world.
The next day we went on a day trip to Mediaş. Mediaş is a small compact city with some medieval remnants. The main attraction is a fortified church containing a German school and a collection of Ottoman rugs. We wandered around for about an hour before doing some shopping and then returning to our campsite for an afteroon of sunshine and swimming in the pool. That evening we walked across the road to a small farm for dinner. Interestingly, from the outside it just looked like a house and driveway, but inside there was a yard full of chickens and goats and a gateway to the rest of the farm. As soon as we sat down the Tuica (plum brandy) was poured and all of the family greeted us. Our three course meal was very yummy. We started with bean soup, followed by roast chicken with maize porridge and for dessert we had pancakes with cheese and dill and jam (one pancake with each; not cheese and jam together 😉 ). As we discovered on our tour, almost everything was grown or made on the farm including the wine and plum brandy. The granddaughter of the farmer showed us through the gate and among the thin strip of land to see the fruit and vegetables growing. To our surprise there were cows hidden in a pokey barn and a long orchard too. We really enjoyed getting to know a little more about rural life in Romania and meeting some of the people. Our lovely meal cost just 35 Ron per person and we even bought some of the tuica to take home with us.