Doug Goodman travelled on our Brown Bear Weekend adventure earlier this year.
"We sat in complete silence for nearly an hour not daring even to move. And then, as we were beginning to fear he’d never show up, someone whispered ‘bear’. The noise of the camera shutters startled the large brown bear feeding outside our hide and we had to wait a while until the somewhat threadbare bear returned. He was moulting I later learned from our armed guide who kept us in a tight group as we walked back to our minibus through the dark forest.
The first major highlight of our Explore trip to Bucharest and Transylvania had been achieved. After meeting our guide Cristian and members of the 15 strong group we had toured Bucharest, seen the balcony from where in 1989 Ceaucescu had been forced to flee during the uprising and visited the People’s Palace, the world’s second largest building with 1000 rooms all decorated in exquisitely bad taste.
A drive north into the Carpathian Mountains gave the photographers some excellent scenic shots over the fields devoid of hedges towards the snow-capped mountains. Sheep and cows were tended by shepherds, and farmers transported their crops in the traditional one or two horse carts.
We stayed in a beautiful B & B in Moeciu in a green valley that could have been straight out of Switzerland.
Transylvania is famous for its castles and we visited the former Royal residences of Peles and Pelsor and the forbidding hill top fortress at Bran. This was built in 1377 to defend the pass between Transylvania and Wallachia and later to collect taxes from goods passing through. It’s also associated with Dracula, as Bram Stoker is believed to have based part of his book on this castle although he never even visited Romania.
Brasov, the regional capital, has very strong German influence in its architecture – it was once the German city of Kronstadt. A tour of the old town with lunch in the sunshine in the pretty town square accompanied by excellent half litres of Cuic beer (less than £1 a bottle) was a very pleasant way to see the sights. Romanian food is wholesome and the local wines are good but best of all you can eat very cheaply.
The four-night tour passed far too quickly. Cristian had provided a vast amount of information on all aspects of Romanian history and culture and the group was unanimous in its wish to see more of a very unspoilt country as we were driven back to Otopeni Airport."
By Doug Goodman
Doug travelled on Brown Bear Weekend.