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Romania is a ruggedly beautiful country and on this long weekend we uncover dramatic mountains, medieval towns and fairytale castles. We travel deep into Transylvania – the legendary home of Dracula – and visit the Saxon fortifications in Brasov. In season we have the unique opportunity to watch European brown bears emerge from the thick forests to feed at a local reserve.
Bucharest - Explore the city with guide including the famous Casa Poporului – Ceausescu’s Palace
Transylvania - Visit Peles, Pelisor, and Bran Castles, plus Sinaia, ‘the Pearl of the Carpathians’
Brasov - Discover the medieval Old Brasov on foot
Bear Watching - In the observatory at the local bear sanctuary
Arrive Bucharest and meet the group. Known for its wide, tree-lined boulevards, glorious Belle Époque buildings and a reputation for the high life (which in the 1900s earned its nickname of "Little Paris"), Bucharest, Romania's largest city and capital, is today a bustling metropolis. Romanian legend has it that the city of Bucharest was founded on the banks of the Dambovita River by a shepherd named Bucur, whose name literarily means "joy." His flute playing reportedly dazzled the people and his hearty wine from nearby vineyards endeared him to the local traders, who gave his name to the place.
Overnight Standard Hotel
Bucharest city tour; Visit Peles Castle and Pelisor Castle
This morning we start our day with city tour of Bucharest, Romania’s capital. A remarkable blend of turn of the century elegance and Communist excess can be observed through the architecture. Situated on the Danube plain and set amid a series of lakes and spacious gardens, remnants of more gracious days still exist to charm the visitor. We visit many of the older parts of the city to see some of the buildings that earned the city the reputation as the ‘Paris of Eastern Europe’ and of course no visit would be complete without seeing the Casa Poporului, the magnificent but blatantly excessive palace of ex-President Ceausescu. After the city sightseeing tour we drive to the nearby Sinaia, known as the ‘Pearl of the Carpathians’ because of its stunning scenery. Our first port of call is the wonderful Peles Castle. Built for the imported Hohenzollern monarch Carol I, Peles resembles a Bavarian Schloss and is richly decorated with stained glass, Persian Carpets, Renaissance weapons, ebony and mother of pearl. Then we shall visit the adjacent Pelisor Castle, largely the creation of Queen Marie of Romania, with a fine Art Deco and Art Nouveau interior. From here we drive to the Transylvanian village of Moeciu, where we stay in a local guest house for the next three days.
Overnight Standard Guest HouseIncluded meals: Breakfast, Dinner
Visit Bran Castle; Bear watching
Today we visit the castle at Bran. The truth behind ‘Dracula’s Castle’ is even more fascinating than its myths. In the early 20th Century it was the home of the remarkable British born Queen Marie of Romania, granddaughter of Queen Victoria. Vlad the Impaler, the heroic 15th century ruler of Wallachia, never actually lived here and Bram Stoker never came near Transylvania! Perched on a crag in a valley between two high mountain ranges, the castle controlled an international trade route, but is now a rural backwater. Exploring the village, the castle and the museums gives us a chance to unravel myth from fact. There are several churches dating from the 14th through to the 18th century and we shall include a visit to the Black Church as part of our tour.
In the evening we make our way to the observatory for bear watching. The Romanian bear population is one of the few strong and healthy populations remaining in Europe and the Carpathians as a whole are home to about 43% of all European bears (accounting for 5,500 in Romania alone). This region is therefore of key international importance in the conservation of brown bears and, due to increasing human-bear interactions, is also the focus of much research into effective management of bears and their habitats within Romania.Bears may be active at any time of the day but generally forage in the morning and evening and rest in dense cover by day. We try to spot these bears at dusk when they come out to feed.
Overnight Standard Guest HouseIncluded meals: Breakfast
Visit to Brasov; Optional bear watching
Today we drive our way to the medieval city of Brasov. Brasov is one of the most historic cities of Transylvania, and we spend the rest of the day exploring. The town is a gem of old buildings, cobbled streets and local atmosphere, all clustered within the medieval fortifications and overlooked by a magnificent 15th century Gothic cathedral. Founded by German settlers to protect the routes that made their way up to the high passes over the Carpathians, Brasov is an architectural delight.
Later in the afternoon you may like to visit one of the museums, the first Romanian school or St. Nicolas Church in the Schei area (the old Romanian district of Brasov).
In the evening today you have an option of returning to the observatory for bear watching.
Overnight Standard Guest HouseIncluded meals: Breakfast
Tour ends Bucharest
If you are not leaving early today there are many more interesting historic buildings to see in Bucharest but if you fancy a change of pace there is always the possibility of some shopping. Since the 1990s, brand names and high-end stores have been pushing their way into the Romanian market. From high fashion boutiques to art galleries, shopping in Bucharest can fit any taste or budget. Stroll down Blvd. Magheru from Piata Romana to Piata Universitatii for a shopping extravaganza or hit one of the many shopping malls favored by the local rich & famous. Great for people watching or just stopping for a coffee.
Included meals: Breakfast
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