CARPATHIAN CULTURE AND WILDLIFE
What was the most inspirational moment of your trip?
Seeing the bears in the wild just metres away was really quite something! We saw 6 different bears at the bear hide, and they were already there (not far from the path!) when we walked from the minibus to the hide. There was a mother and 2 cubs but they didn't come round to the front of the hide so unfortunately most of us missed them. Libearty Bear Sanctuary was a fantastic place. Some of the stories about the bears' previous lives were heartbreaking, but the work they are doing there is really amazing. A great opportunity to see the animals close up enjoying life as they should. They have loads of space to roam the forests but are often up at the edge of the enclosure where you can see them. The landscape was breathtaking, so unspoilt, and we managed to see lots of other wildlife as well - a wildcat, chamois (at a distance!), 3 beavers, a hoopoe and lots of other bird life - although I'm still a little upset that Cosmin didn't find me a black woodpecker ;-)
What did you think of your group leader?
Cosmin was absolutely fantastic. His knowledge of the area, its history and wildlife was really quite something. He is passionate about Transylvania and answered all our questions with patience and enthusiasm. He looked out for every member of the group and took time to get to know us all. I don't think we could have asked for anything more - he really made the holiday for me.
Do you have any advice for potential travellers?
I went in the first week of September and it was still pretty hot, so make sure you take sunscreen and a sun hat if you're going during the summer months. Also make sure you take plenty of water with you on the walks, as some days there was no opportunity to refill. Some of the uphill stretches on the walks were pretty challenging, and they saved the longest walk for the last day, but you are rewarded for your efforts so it's well worth doing all the walks. Good walking boots are a must. Most days you make a picnic lunch so it's a good idea to take a little lunch box to stop your sandwiches getting squished! You shouldn't need much spending money and you can change euros for Lei at the bank in Bran. Make sure at least one person in the group takes a passport for this as otherwise they won't let you change anything. I changed 150 EUR but had to change some back at the hotel before I left because I hadn't spent very much. There are few opportunities for souvenir shopping - a few stalls at Bran castle and some shops in Brasov - so most of your money will go on beers from the honesty bar at the hotel, the meal out in Brasov (enormous menu and very good value - take an empty stomach with you!) and the bear hide. The hotel will accept euros, Lei or pounds.
Is there anything else you would like to add?
This was my first trip with Exodus and I was a solo traveller so I was a little apprehensive. I needn't have worried - the group was very inclusive and although it was mostly couples (3 solo travellers including me), everyone chatted away during the walks and meals. Everyone looked out for each other and got on really well. The staff at the hotel were friendly and helpful, and the rooms were clean and comfortable. The owner, Katharina, was really great - passionate about animals, she showed us round Libearty and also had a great knowledge of the area. Nothing was too much trouble and I felt very at home there. I'm really glad I went and would recommend Romania, Transylvania and Exodus to everyone. DO IT!