Carpathian Walking and Bears

What was the most inspirational moment of your trip?

The bears were of course a highlight. Going to the bear hide and knowing that these were wild animals so close in front of us was quite something! We were very lucky and saw around 7 bears including a 21 year old female and an 18 month old cub. When they were just sitting munching on the food more lively entertainment was provided by a couple of cheeky foxes sneaking around stealing snacks, sometimes burying it a short distance away (maybe they don't know about the bear's amazing sense of smell!). The bear sanctuary was inspirational too, to know that these lovely creatures who have suffered so much have a nice and well thought out place to live out their days. I would have liked longer time there, it was quite busy and we only had a short tour. The main thing I loved though was just being outside in beautiful countryside, getting fresh air and exercise, enjoying good company and picnic lunches with stunning views.

What did you think of your group leader?

Udo is a great guide and a man of many talents! He is the go-to man for plant identification, knows all their proper names and uses, plus has a wealth of knowledge about wildlife, history, photography, shepherding, languages, and a great love and respect for the traditional Romanian way of life. He kept us entertained too and may roll down a hill if you ask him nicely/pretend that you will follow!

Do you have any advice for potential travellers?

When you go to the bear hide you cannot use a camera that has a focusing light as it will disturb the bears. We couldn't work out how to turn ours off so we just had to use our i-pad which wasn't really up to the job given the fading evening light. So if you can work out how to turn it off in advance that would be handy, or take an SLR. We took binoculars too and they were handy on several walks but mainly at the bear hide where they enabled us to see a lot more detail. Ask Katharina if you can watch the film the BBC made about the large carnivore project and rural Romania, it gives a greater insight into where you're staying and how tough the life of the shepherds is. We took lots of snacks along - more than we needed but I hate to go hungry! There are walking poles at the Villa that you can borrow - we made us of these when one of ours broke. They do make walking a bit easier and came in useful to steady ourselves a few times on the rougher terrain. Dogs live outside in Romania - take ear plugs.

Is there anything else you would like to add?

Thank you to Udo, all at Villa Hermani, and Exodus for a fab holiday!