CARPATHIAN CULTURE AND WILDLIFE
What was the most inspirational moment of your trip?
It is hard to pick out any one particular moment because there were many great experiences. The walks through the Carpathian mountains were awe inspiring; walking through meadows of wildflowers and witnessing rural life in action. Of course, seeing wild bears at the bear hide was a special experience. I actually also really enjoyed the short night walk through the forest at the end of visiting the bear hide.
What did you think of your group leader?
Cosmin was excellent. He led the group with a calm confidence. I was really grateful for the fact that, without any fuss, he was able to assess the appropriate pace for the walks. He walked at a steady pace and took breaks at appropriate times. He had a great knowledge of the environment, the history of the area and the wildlife. I felt that we were in good hands with Cosmin.
Do you have any advice for potential travellers?
It would be a good idea to prepare in advance for the walks. On the day when you walk up to the Shepherd's camp, they give you the option (which I nearly took) of returning early to the hotel by backing tracking through the gorge. If you are pondering doing so, I strongly recommend that you continue on the walk, as the views are awesome and the shepherd's camp was very interesting (even if a bit confronting - you will see why when you visit). Make sure you take good walking shoes. I took old boots and the sole fell off on the first day! Fortunately, the amazing Katarina at the hotel came to my rescue with a pair of shoes for me to wear. The village where you stay in Magura has no facilities at all (no shops etc) but you really don't need anything because Katarina at the hotel looks after everyone so well that you want for nothing.
Is there anything else you would like to add?
I chose to go on this trip for two main reasons. The first was because of the bears, specifically the chance to see wild bears in Europe. The second was because I felt that Romania was probably a country in transition, still holding on to traditional methods of farming and with untouched wilderness areas - but that I worried it may not stay this way for long. It was certainly a great experience to see the bears - at the sanctuary and at the bear hide. I particularly enjoyed seeing the large mother bear who visited the hide towards the end of our visit, and sat down and made herself at home, staying so long that we had to sneak out the back of the hide to return to the vehicles! As far as the lifestyle and environment are concerned, it really was a glimpse of a different way of living. The village of Magura is idyllic and a very special place to stay. On our walk through the village, we came across a wedding - the people were dancing and the hosts actually came out onto the road to offer us food and drink. That was a true welcome! I really feel that we had a genuine experience of Romania. It was great to witness the people using horses and carts for transport and farming, making hay in the fields and the shepherds with their flocks.