After visiting Sibiu we were well and truly on our way back and out of Romania and a sad feeling of going home and our holiday ending overcame us. Nonetheless we still had a few days left to stop and see places. Our first side trip was to the town of Alba Iulia. The main attraction there was the huge fortress protecting the town and its surroundings. It took us one and a half hours longer than planned due to a massive traffic jam all the way from the motorway. Once there we made our way up the ramparts and through the southern gate. Some fellow campers had recommended to be outside the palace by noon to watch the changing of the guards. Thanks to the traffic we didn’t make it and even if we had been there on time we might have missed it. The palace is just not outstanding enough to easily identify it and when we walked past there were no guards to be seen. The buildings inside the fortifications were all restored and pretty looking but there was a very distinct lack of information. The boards told us of Roman ruins but hardly anything about the buildings we were looking at. We went into two churches and were lucky to get into the hall of unification with the adjacent museum for free (saving 35 RON each). Overall we were slightly disappointed by our experience. We felt that there was no life in the fortress unlike Sibiu with its café culture and shops. It turned out that the guards we were supposed to watch were merely volunteers in historic uniforms and there’s nothing to guard.
Our second stop of the day was the small village of Geoagiu-Bâi. It has a strong history of thermal baths. Even the Romans had a big bathing complex here. The ruins looked a lot more impressive on photos during our trip planning and and was not worth driving there to see it especially the only other attraction was a big and crowded swimming pool.
After these rather disappointing experiences we moved on to Hunedoara. This town is home to Corvin’s castle and the remains of a huge iron and steel works. We spent the night in a lay-by of a small road along lake Ciniş 10km south of the town that came with great views both for dinner and breakfast.
In the morning we went to the castle and were impressed by it the second we saw it. The castle sits high on top of a big rock surrounded by a river on two sides. Entrance is 30 RON for an adult plus 5Ron for photos/videos and 8Ron for the audio guide. Built up and almost constantly expanded over the centuries, it had a lot of stories of which we heard quite a few. These made the whole visit a lot more worth it and gave us more info than the multi-lingual boards. Parts of the castles are still being used for art exhibitions or theater plays.
After the castle adventure we drove west again to Timişoara. We read enough nice things about it to put it on the list as a short stop. Sadly the campsite there was overpriced and under maintained so we abandoned that idea. Parking Trevor was an unexpected challenge and was hard on our nerves. The whole city runs on a pay by sms scheme which is strangely priced in euros. The real problem was that we were unable to pay as our UK SIM cards could not message a Romanian text only number. For the first time we had to park somewhat illegally and there was nothing we could do about it which worried us a little.
Right next to where we parked was a big orthodox church which was very beautifully decorated inside. The sun was fiercely burning down and it was very humid so we went into the first nice café and ice cream place we found in the pedestrian zone to cool down after the parking stress. Afterwards we wandered around the pedestrian zone and some adjacent streets which turned out to be much smaller than expected. After less than an hour of walking we went back to the van to head towards the border.
After stocking up on food and spending all our remaining Lei we drove around some small country roads to find a place to spend our last night in the country. As we entered to fourth or fifth village we found an entire field and 200m of roadside full of cars and were very surprised to find a small thermal bath. Unfortunately they didn’t take cards and without cash we couldn’t go. We had gathered that we had half an hour before last entry (even though they didn’t close until 1am) so the race was on. By chance Zoë spotted a cash machine not marked on our map only three villages away. Matthias put in his best romanian-style driving and so we made it just before 7pm only to find out that the last entry time didn’t apply that day. Even at 25-28 degrees to colder of the two pools was lovely and wonderfully refreshing. The water was dark brown with a strong earthy smell to it but we still loved it. After a quiet night in the car park field we were more than happy and ready to drive to the border and wave Romania goodbye.
We had an awesome time in this friendly and still underrated country and we will definitely go back there.