More Central and Eastern European bling (incl Transylvania); *A flights, Accor hotels

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RooFlyer

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Re: More Central and Eastern European bling (incl Transylvania); *A flights, Accor ho

Leaving Vlad behind (we get to Dracula’s castle later :) ) we carry on the main road to Brasov which has been reconstructed recently with EU money as it is a main tourist and trucking route. Nearly all one lane each way, but a great surface and not many bad bends. Within towns the road project has planted roses beside the road (thank-you to the tax payers of Germany etc!)

We turn off for Viscri and the road quickly deteriorates to a pot holes and gravelly surface, and we weave our way to the town at no more than 40km/h.

The village is quite picturesque; many in the main street have been done up a bit. Price Charles apparently bought one of the houses to highlight the historic significance of the town and its preserved Saxon architecture.

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Settlement dates from about the 1100s. The present church was built about the 1300s and was fortified around that time and again around 1500, again as a reaction to Turkish threats. Its also a UNESCO World Heritage site.

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Unfortunately the care taker is, to use the words of our guide “ a genuine Transylvanian old bat” who keeps changing the admittance hours. We have struck a long lunch ‘closed time’ so didn’t get to see inside. Again, the principle is that when there is an attack on the village, the houses outside are sacrificed and everyone moves inside the defenses around the church.
We adjourned across the road and had as really refreshing fermented (sparkling) locally harvested elderflower juice. In a small back-yard restaurant (its these things that a local guide is invaluable for). Lots of storks on chimneys throughout the region.

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Local ladies knit and sell woolen socks; a pair cost me €20 – way too much, but no harm supporting the local economy.

So, back to the highway and we pass the fort at Rupea, but don’t stop. Its currently undergoing a lot of restoration work.

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Re: More Central and Eastern European bling (incl Transylvania); *A flights, Accor ho

Last stop of the day, and only a few km out of our destination of Brasov, is Prejmer and its defensive church (yes, UNESCO World Heritage listed). It’s a classic and a bit different from the previous ones.

Construction began before 1300 and the walls were re-inforced in 1421 by the local Saxons, against, you guessed it, the threatening Turks/Ottomans. The walls are 5m thick at the base and between 12 and 14 m high. Entry is via 32m long tunnel with a portcullis in the middle.

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In this version of a defensive church, there is a mini town on the inside. The village folk retreat inside, the gates get closed and there are about 270 rooms within the walls, facing in – rooms to live, school rooms, shops etc.

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And of course the church in the middle, modified in Gothic style, originating in 1218 by the Order of the Teutonic Knights. It is fairly simple inside, but has an altar icon board one of the oldest in Romania, dating from 1450.

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Between the backs of the living quarters and the outer walls are the defensive galleries. There is complete access around the inner wall on several levels. Bowmen and shooters can rain down mayhem to those outside (and in addition to the hot tar, there were buckets of cold sewerage).

The indented board in the RH pic below is part of the ‘death organ’. A rotating wooden board that accommodates 5 barrels on each side. Each is fired in turn, with the opposite 5 re-loaded at the same time. Therefore almost continuous firing could be achieved.

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Re: More Central and Eastern European bling (incl Transylvania); *A flights, Accor ho

We drive off the plain towards the mountains and make Brasov, a city of about 320,000 people about 5pm. We have 2 nights there and its now one of my favourite small cities  .

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It started out as yet another Saxon (Teutonic Knights) merchant town in the 1100s. The Knights established a town Kronstadt (‘Crown City). A citadel was built and the current Old Town lay within its walls, but only traces of the former defenses remain today. The city’s symbol, a crown on a tree with exposed roots we were told represents the legend of the founding of the city, when the Teutonic Knights supposedly came across a crown in the root mass of a tree that had blown over.

The tour had booked us into the Bella Muzica Hotel, which is right on the old town square or Piaţa Sfatului. A great choice. Extremely friendly staff, an obviously very old building (but modernized) and a great restaurant in the cellar. I had already upgraded the booking to superior room, which meant a 2 story staircase climb and a room with abundant history. Mind you, those low beams became a bit of a trap for the unwary at night :(

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We went for an evening stroll. On the left below is the site of the first school teaching Romanian (old, can’t remember when), St Nicholas’ Cathedral (14th Century) and a memorial to Romanian soldiers killed in WW2. On the right is a pic of the Town Square, which had a stage set up for orchestral music and a bear figure – there are still wild bears in Romania.

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Now 2 panoramas of the Town Square, which was a real delight. Bustling but not crowded, good music and heaps of cafes and restaurants under large umbrellas round the edge and down adjacent pedestrianized streets. Note the lush green mountain right behind the city. The ‘Brasov’ sign was a 2004 creation and is floodlit at night. There is a cable car going to a comms tower at the top.

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RooFlyer

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Re: More Central and Eastern European bling (incl Transylvania); *A flights, Accor ho

We went that evening to a restaurant recommended by our guide - ‘Sergiana’, which, we found later was also #3 on trip Advisor’s list. I haven’t done much food in this TR as my friends are embarrassed when I take pictures of the food and restaurants. This time I prevailed. I started out with a Transylvanian Sour Soup and then had effectively a mixed grill of various meats (mainly pork) with polenta and cabbage. The soup was a broth of vegetables and pork and although there were green chilies as decoration, the soup wasn’t spicy at all (not expected to be). The main was very tasty, but I only got half way through it. Just behind the maoin dishes you can see the ‘pork crackling’ that was brought as an appetizer. In fact it was pork fat, only some of which was ‘crackling’. Sounds gross, but very tasty in small portions.
In all a premium beer, 2 courses and 2 glasses of wine cost the equivalent of A$20 !! Not all Romania is this cheap (petrol is about $2.30/litre) but a lot of it is.

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There are many streets lined with outside cafes and they all seemed to be doing good business. We heard little English spoken in the crowds. I must confess, I sinned at the place on the right. It’s a pastry and ice-cream joint. I bought a macaroon flavoured cone for €5 (about ½ the cost of dinner!!)

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Next day was another brilliant fine day and we headed for the Carpathian mountains south of Brasov. Towering, rugged peaks. The cross atop the one on the right was set there by Romanian Queen Elisabeth (of Romania) as a memorial to the Romanian dead in WW1

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Now what of the Romanian Royal family, I hear you ask?

In the mid 1800s ‘Romania’ was emerging from out of Ottoman rule and Alex Cuza was elected to the Throne of Wallacia & Moldova (southern and eastern modern Romania and Moldova) and for the fist time, the state was called ‘Romania’. He abdicated and a Prussian prince became Carol I, the first king of Romania in 1866. His queen was Elizabeth.

In WW1 Romania was on the side of Britain & France. This resulted in the Austrians losing Transylvania and uniting with the rest of Romania.

The line continues today, although the monarchy was effectively abolished during WW2. Romania entered WW2 on the German side, largely due to the influence of the ruling clique and as a ‘defense’ against the Russians; a fascist dictatorship was declared and the monarchy forced out. Many Romanian Jews and Roma were murdered during the war. However in 1944 Romania suddenly switched sides and helped shorten the war. However at Yalta, Romaia was given to the Soviet side and a socialist, then communist republic declared.

But back to the Royal family. King Carol I built his palace at Sinaia,almost on the boarder of Wallacia and Transylvania, as an act of unification. Called Peleș, it was built between 1873 and 1914. Very Germanic (especially inside) and very fairytale-ish.

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Before we look inside, nearby is this spread called Pelisor Castle, built for his nephew (and future King) Ferdinand who didn’t get along with Carol. Not bad. And here, and elsewhere in the mountains you can buy little baskets for fresh raspberries, which our guide assured us were picked from the forests.

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Cossie

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Re: More Central and Eastern European bling (incl Transylvania); *A flights, Accor ho

I'm not so sure. All rentals (with the majors) I've had in W Europe specifically exclude taking the vehicle into E European countries (eg. from Austria I couldn't take the car into Czech Republic, which did surprise me as I wouldn't have thought Czech was so 'Eastern' any more - so I missed getting to Ceski Krumlov which I had hoped to do.)

Sorry to sidetrack, but it can often depend on the sort of car. When last in Germany I was given an Audi A4 as an upgrade, but when I said I wanted to go to the Czech Rep, they gave me a brand new Opel Astra instead (about 20 kms on the clock) and was told 'go where you want, Poland, Croatia, Slovenia, Slovakia, Greece, Romania' they didn't care where. They wouldn't allow certain makes to venture into the old Eastern Europe.

Put Český Krumlov down as a definite, quite possibly my favourite town in Europe. Make sure you can stay a couple of days so you can see the place without all tourists on day trips from Prague and have a late evening beer at the brewery up at the Eggenberg Castle.

Sorry, back to the topic which is very enjoyable.
 
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boomy

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Re: More Central and Eastern European bling (incl Transylvania); *A flights, Accor ho

Thanks RooFlyer for the details and photos of Romania. It gives me some good ideas as it's one of the stopovers on my next euro trip.
 

drron

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Re: More Central and Eastern European bling (incl Transylvania); *A flights, Accor ho

Fantastic TR.Love the pictures especially the panoramas.Must take some lessons.
 

JohnM

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Re: More Central and Eastern European bling (incl Transylvania); *A flights, Accor ho

Sorry to sidetrack, but it can often depend on the sort of car. When last in Germany I was given an Audi A4 as an upgrade, but when I said I wanted to go to the Czech Rep, they gave me a brand new Opel Astra instead (about 20 kms on the clock) and was told 'go where you want, Poland, Croatia, Slovenia, Slovakia, Greece, Romania' they didn't care where. They wouldn't allow certain makes to venture into the old Eastern Europe.

Put Český Krumlov down as a definite, quite possibly my favourite town in Europe. Make sure you can stay a couple of days so you can see the place without all tourists on day trips from Prague and have a late evening beer at the brewery up at the Eggenberg Castle.

Sorry, back to the topic which is very enjoyable.

Dang :( - now I find out :evil:. Thanks anyway :).

Rooflyer: sensational photos. Like the panoramas. You are obviously a photographer (not like me, who just uses a dinky pocket camera). How do you get more than 5 pics per post? The system kept telling me that 5 was the max.
 

RooFlyer

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Re: More Central and Eastern European bling (incl Transylvania); *A flights, Accor ho

Dang :( - now I find out :evil:. Thanks anyway :).

Rooflyer: sensational photos. Like the panoramas. You are obviously a photographer (not like me, who just uses a dinky pocket camera). How do you get more than 5 pics per post? The system kept telling me that 5 was the max.

Thanks JohnM. No, not a photographer, just have a great camera :) Its a Sony compact (fits in my pocket), DSC HX50V 20megapixels, great zoom (30x optical, more digital), panoramic function, HD movies etc. And GPS, which is invaluable for plotting on Google maps to see where the hell that pic was actually taken!

I copy images into Word - 2 per page, then take a Win7 'Snipping tool' image of the page. That produces 2 pictures per AFF image, and they come out at the right resolution to be uploaded.
 
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RooFlyer

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Re: More Central and Eastern European bling (incl Transylvania); *A flights, Accor ho

For a creation of the early 20th Century, Peleș still contains some pretty amazing stuff. Unmistakably German in its tenor, heavy walnut and mahogany carvings and paneling feature throughout, with some gilt and marble. This is the entrance, which leads onto an ornate reception hall:

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The mandatory armaments collection, then room after room of sumptuous furnishings.


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The highlights were probably the dining room and the Turkish room. We only saw the main floor, for the upper floors you had to take a guided tour and we didn’t want to spend the time. Entry to the main floor, plus audio guide plus photo permit was about $20, the most expensive stop of the trip. Oh, and there's a café where you can buy a beer or coffee and a pastry for a few dollars and just gaze at the castle.

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The area around the castle is fairly densely built up. Originally the well to do built their summer houses near the castle, then it just became a popular mountain spot, servicing some skiing as well. Normally to have to park well below the castle area and walk about 20 mins up a road, but thanks to our guide (I assume paying off the gate man) we got to park next to the café in one of the old service buildings and just strolled in.
 

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Re: More Central and Eastern European bling (incl Transylvania); *A flights, Accor ho

And now to … (cue lightning, sound effects, fog machine …) Bwwwwhaaaaa (echoes) !! Dracula’s Castle. :evil: <lightning flash & thunder>

...

Well, actually it’s nothing like that. We drove out of the mountains and back onto the Carpathian basin plain and re-approached the mountains again. No craggy castle in sight.

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We parked, again paying off a parking guy and first fought our way through tacky horror shows and awful souvenir places. This was the only place where the souvenir ‘Transylvania horror’ thing got tacky and as soon as you passed through it, and into the castle property, things got serene again. Nice gardens; flowers in bloom.

And there it was – Bran Castle aka basis for Bram Stoker’s Dracula’s Castle. Something you’ve heard about all your life and wondered what it would be like.

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In the early 1200s, the Teutonic Knights were at it again, building a fort to guard a valley that was a major trading route through the Carpathians. Predictably, it was destroyed by the Mongols.

In 1377 the Hungarian King gave the Saxons of Brasov the right to build a castle, which they did around 1440. It became a customs point for traders passing from Wallachia in the south and Transylvania in the north.

Vlad Ţepeş (Vlad the Impaler) does not seem to have much to do with the castle, but he was in the area. There is debate on whether Bram Stoker even identified Bran Castle as 'his' Dracula’s.

In 1920, the castle became a residence of the Romanian royal family, being King Ferdinand (ruled 1914-27) and his Queen Marie (a grand daughter of Queen Victoria). It was taken by the Communist regime after WW2. In the early 2000s, Romanian laws that saw that property expropriated by the State under the communists was returned to the original owning families, effected the return of Bran Castle to descendants of the Romanian royal family. They refurbished the castle and put it on public display. A current proposal for sale is causing some controversy.

The interior is simply furnished, as it was in the last century. Queen Marie’s bedroom for instance. Although there is the odd secret staircase to spice things up a bit. Otherwise, there are no chains, no instruments of torture and no shrieking screams. Bummer.

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As we get to the upper ramparts, there are nice views over the local countryside, but I doubt Drac would have appreciated them. A final well worn staircase leads down to the exit, and the ice cream sales points.

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The castle wasn’t disappointing, but I was thinking of something a bit more … grand and foreboding. But it certainly does very good trade!

I’ll never be able to take a vampire seriously again. :(
 

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Re: More Central and Eastern European bling (incl Transylvania); *A flights, Accor ho

On the road again, and this time it’s just a short hop across the valley to Râșnov. And you can see that this time the Teutonic Knights meant business. What’s Romanian for: “That’s not a fort … THIS is a fort!”

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Great views from the top of the fort, or rather, citadel. The mountains/hills in Romania are covered with some of the lushest, most verdant foliage I think I’ve ever seen. Maybe NZ, maybe some of the forests in France, but in Romania they go on and on …

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The current citadel was probably first built in the early 1200s. In the 1300s, Tartar invaders failed to conquer it. The Ottomans in the 1400s failed again! Only in the 1600s did it fall, due to the exposure of the castle’s secret water supply. The citadel was damaged by earthquake and neglect during the 1800s but again provided refuge for the villagers in the mid 1800s. Reconstruction started under the communists and continues today.

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Before the walk to the base of the hill, we are rewarded with fresh lemonade and another basket of berries (total cost about A$5). Bliss!

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Then we drive back to Brasov, through some ‘typical’ villages, where the houses along the road might date back to the 1500s … not looking a day over 200 years old!
As soon as we get back and shower, we make a beeline for a wine bar we discovered the previous night and were determined to go back to. Recounted here:
 

drron

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Re: More Central and Eastern European bling (incl Transylvania); *A flights, Accor ho

Once again thanks for the photos.
instead of a PM I will ask a question here as I think it would be of interest to a few of us.
The "snipping tool"you talk of is the one from Microsoft I presume.I did google snipping tool and there are lots of them.
 

TomVexille

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Re: More Central and Eastern European bling (incl Transylvania); *A flights, Accor ho

Berries look delicious.

Keep up the great work RooFlyer​. You really do a great job with these.
 

RooFlyer

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Re: More Central and Eastern European bling (incl Transylvania); *A flights, Accor ho

Hi drron

Yes, its found under 'windows accessories', although I keep it handy in the task bar:

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Just open the tool, click on 'new' and drag the cursor over the area to be captured, and save it as a JPEG.
 
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RooFlyer

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Re: More Central and Eastern European bling (incl Transylvania); *A flights, Accor ho

Our final day in Romania, driving back from Brasov to Sibiu via Făgăraș. This town is host to – you guessed it, another fortress from the earty 13th Century, conquered, part destroyed and re built through the ages. Unlike the others, this has a moat and in fact its probably the best fortified. There’s a moat, a tall citadel wall made of brick and then regular fortified towers and walls.

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I’m not sure about the church with the gilded dome. But I’m sure its old.

The inner fortifications. The tower on the left was used as a prison during the communist regime.

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Speaking of the communist regime, it was overthrown in the course of a week in December 1989. According to our guide Marius (who I think gave a pretty down-the-line account, but I’m sure there are other perspectives) it occurred largely independent of the other anti communist revolutions that year, as the state media prevented broadcast of them (this seems a bit far fetched).

The dictator Nicolae Ceaușescu, although possibly the most ‘liberal’ of the communist leaders began an austerity program in the early 1990s to pay down the ballooning debt and at the same time glorified himself and his family more and more. In December 1989, students began adgitating in the town of Timișoara and the State police cracked down. The agitation and riots spread out over the next few days. Killings of the public, the police and army numbered in the thousands.

On 22 December Ceaușescu gave a speech top about 100,000 people in Bucharest; it was a fiasco; he was eventually booed down. The speech was being broadcast by state television. A riot ensued. The next morning the Ceaușescus attempted to flee first by helicopter then by car. Howver by the is time the army had changed sides and Ceaușescu and his wife were captured. A brief trial ensued, they were found guilty and shot on the 25th December 1989. There is some speculation that the revolution’s speed and the capture and dispatch of the Ceaușescus was too ‘neat and tidy’ (and immediately after the debt was paid off) and that it wasn’t as spontaneous as it seemed.

Post revolution, democracy has been in place, although most of those in power are former communists (adding to the speculation above). The country now has a decided western bent and is in the EU (but not yet in Schengen/Euro zone) and belongs to NATO. We found it to be a delightful place.

All castled-out, we asked if we could get a view from one of the mountains and Marius obliged with a quick trip up the Trans Făgăraș road, which is a ‘short cut’ over the mountains between Wallencia in the south and Transylvania. Know as Ceaușescu’s Folly, it road was constructed between 1970 and 1974 by the military at huge cost, including in lives. About 40 deaths were admitted, but its suspected that many, many more died.

The road climbs to over 2,000m although we only went about 2/3 of the way up. It’s a very winding road all the way. Starting in glorious beech and pine forests, it quickly emerges into alpine meadows with some spectacular waterfalls. Here we approach the mountains and climb through the lower portions:

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This is the second stage, winding up a classic glacial U shaped valey, with the road switching back and forth dozens of times.

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The last picture shows the crest of the road, on the skyline, where there is a ski lodge. A cable car runs all the way up the mountain to the top and mainly runs in summer for the skiers. Next time I want to drive the Trans Făgăraș all the way! However, anyone contemplating this should be prepared for a slow trip stuck behind a bus or three - unless you are willing to do some 'Romanian style' overtaking :shock:

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RooFlyer

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Re: More Central and Eastern European bling (incl Transylvania); *A flights, Accor ho

Berries look delicious.

Keep up the great work RooFlyer​. You really do a great job with these.

Thanks TV :) I find its a good way to keep on top of the burgeoning digital photo collection (ie a quick review and first cull) and to think about some of the history, before its forgotten, or at least blurred.
 

boomy

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More Central and Eastern European bling (incl Transylvania); *A flights, Acco...

Well done, great TR so far.
Looking forward to the next chapter!
 

Cossie

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Re: More Central and Eastern European bling (incl Transylvania); *A flights, Acco...

Romania has been on my list for a while, even more determined to go there now. You probably also know that top gear featured Ceaușescu’s Folly in an episode. Clarkson reportedly said that it is the best road in the world. From having a look at wiki, the northern section is also used for the Tour of Romania cycle race.

Thanks, I am really enjoying reading this TR.
 
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RooFlyer

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Re: More Central and Eastern European bling (incl Transylvania); *A flights, Acco...

Romania has been on my list for a while, even more determined to go there now. You probably also know that top gear featured Ceaușescu’s Folly in an episode. Clarkson reportedly said that it is the best road in the world. From having a look at wiki, the northern section is also used for the Tour of Romania cycle race.

Thanks, I am really enjoying reading this TR.

Thanks Cossie ... I didn't know about the TG episode. Must look it up. It is a magnificent drive, but a few passing lanes would be handy.
 
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