Winter in Transylvania
What was the most inspirational moment of your trip?
I loved the visit to the bear sanctuary. I knew a little about the history of the sanctuary prior to visiting and loved to see these beautiful creatures in a loving environment and being well cared for. Unfortunately the weather was not so good during the visit but it was so fascinating to just see these mammals rooting in the bushes and foraging. I would have liked a slightly longer time at the sanctuary to just watch the bears but was aware that they only open their gates for a limited period in order to protect the bears from simply continuing to be yet another "tourist attraction"; being the very reason they rescued them from the circuses in the first place. This visit was followed by a short hike across some woodland to a local village. Again it was very peaceful despite the weather's attempts to make it into a full blown winter hike!!
What did you think of your group leader?
Thomas was very attentive of the group and made an effort to chat to everyone at some point on the trip. He explained what each day would involve and listened to any requests that the group may have in order to try to accommodate these requests into the day's events. I felt he put himself out to ensure that the meals went well and all the restaurants were well chosen and had a well set out menu plan, especially for me being a vegetarian. He stayed later in the evenings and offered to show the group the interesting sites with evening walks in the villages and towns. He had a good knowledge of all the history of the areas we visited and ensured that he passed on this knowledge with querky walks and alternative strolls around the relevant sites. We would not have been aware of some of these buildings or history without his guidance. I felt he handled the group excellently and had a good sense of humour.
Do you have any advice for potential travellers?
Money was difficult to obtain prior to the trip to Romania from banks but some of the group managed to source some Romanian currency from the post office before the departure. Also the leader will guide you to the best exchange offices after arrival but this was not until day 3 of the trip for me. Because of the travel dates we flew out at a weekend so this was not until the Monday. That said, there was little need to spend a lot of money as the majority of the evening meals and lunches and all the visits to the churches, parliament building and sanctuary were included. The money is only needed for drinks, coffees etc. Bring warm clothes with you as the weather we had was quite interchangeable and also some "yaktracks" to put on your shoes for extra grip over the icy cobbles in the towns! But don't forget to take them off when inside the churches and buildings as they are quite slippy on the flag-stones. I would advise taking a smaller kit bag rather than a suitcase as you do need a large wardrobe and it is easier for transporting into all the different hotels and accommodation buildings. It is also nicer for the driver not to have great large cases to shift!
Is there anything else you would like to add?
I would definitely recommend this trip as an easy cultural break and the guide was excellent with the group and made sure we all saw the "local" Romania and not just the tourist side. I would seriously consider about a further visit to think about snow shoeing or more adventurous holidays to that country. The trip is fantastic value as all meals are included and you will not go hungry as the portions are bigger than the USA portions in my experience!!