I don't know what exactly we were expecting from Romania but Bucharest, Brasov and the surrounding towns should go to the top of your to do list. The trip from Istanbul, across Bulgaria and into Bucharest was full of beautiful forests interspersed with crumbling ghost towns straight out of a Stephen King novel. If it weren't for the high proportion of beers and wolves we would have loved heading into the mountains for a few days. Bucharest itself was worth a day exploring and boasts dozens of great bars, restaurants and clubs amongst more beautiful old buildings. We were happily starting an awesome meal in the courtyard at one such establishment when the heavens opened up and a torrential downpour worthy of the west coast fell upon us. Being the practical (read poor) travellers that we are, we stayed to finish our meal as my wine glass filled to overflowing and water streamed down our faces. Thankfully there was a conveniently placed Irish pub around the corner where we warmed up and watched reruns of Piha Rescue - go figure! From Bucharest we took a short train to Brasov in Transylvania and the greatest guesthouse in the world. La Despani is run by an eccentric Romanian couple who live next door with their two young boys and have travelled more extensively than anyone else I've ever met. We passed an interesting evening with them drinking home brewed wine and getting a lot of advice about life. From our base camp in Brasov we took day trips out to Rasnov, Bran and Sinaia to visit a fortress, Dracula's Castle and the Peles Castle respectively. Despite the tour group of obnoxious foreigners we had to join, Peles was pretty incredible and unlike Versailles looks as though the Royal family could be back at any moment. Bran Castle we got to explore by ourselves and although we never found Dracula we also saw very few tourists which was a bonus. I know I sound cynical but I'm talking about people that ignore the Do Not Touch sign and instead sit on the priceless antique coffee table whilst talking loudly over the already irritated guide. We were even feeling pretty confident about our mastery of Romanian public transport until I made us miss the bus back to Brasov. The following hour was spent watching gypsy families travelling by rickety looking carts attached to mangy looking horses that would have the SPCA in a fit. The other highlight of Brasov was being able to get a taxi home when we couldn't be bothered getting wet (it rained most of the five days we were there). Just let this sink in - 48c per km with no base rate. It was a sad morning, and not just because it was 5am, when we had to jump back on a train bound for Hungary. Budapest was nice, after we got over the hour we had to wait in our hostel foyer before we could get hold of the owner. He had kindly left instructions for us in an envelope on a bunk bed in a room with a PRIVATE sign on the door. As we had booked a six bed dorm for the night it is obvious that this should have been the first place I would look. Budapest is another beautiful European city and I'm sure it has much to recommend itself but due to budget constraints we spent the day walking along the river front and eating really well. Onwards to Bratislava.
Rachael and Jeremy