Tag Archives: Romania

Bucharest, Romania – a visit

Bucharest was a city about which I knew little. I knew that the fictional character of Count Dracula hailed from Transylvania in the north of Romania. The city of Sibiu was a beautiful location when I visited the week before Christmas in 2021. The Romanian capital city was a mystery to me. I’d heard grim murmurings about how the city was polluted and crime-ridden. However when Ryanair had a flash sale last  month I noticed that a return flight to Bucharest would cost 60eur for a four night stay in January. I purchased my ticket, invited my friend and departed last Friday morning. A dive into the unknown.

Parliament Palace

From Dublin the flight takes 3.5 hours. We landed in Otopeni Airport (located twenty kilometres north of the city) at 5pm. It was already dark. Purchasing a seven day public transport pass we took the number 783 bus to the Old Town Centre – called Lipscani. The rain was heavy but the forecast for the coming days was encouraging. Upon arrival we encountered a friendly gentleman who attempted to assist us in entering my friend’s apartment (we were staying a five minute walk from each other). His motives were mercenary, his assistance was unnecessary but he wasn’t threatening. That evening we dined in the pub downstairs from my flat before heading to a bar called the Storage Room for a few sociables. It was quite plush in its décor. What was that smell though? Indoors? It was very retro. There were ashtrays on every table and people were happily puffing on cigarettes and shisha pipes. Smoking is banned in bars in Romania – but I guess this venue never got the email.

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Stavropepleos Monastery Church

Pandemic travel: Sibiu, Transylvania, December 2021

My final trip of the year was touch and go, as to whether it would actually happen. I booked the ticket only a few days before departure, when Ireland was shutting down once again. I had planned to see Villagers in concert on Saturday night in Vicar Street. As cases of the omicron variant were exploding, new restrictions were introduced, meaning the show was cancelled. Travel was still permitted however, so I went to the ‘Fare finder’ section of the Ryanair website, and entered my flight budget (under 80eur). The result came back as either Birmingham or Sibiu in Romania. I like the city of Birmingham, but this was not a difficult choice. I would be traveling for the first time to the country of Romania, to a city whose name I had never previously heard.

Grand Square

In the days prior to departure I checked the news to make sure that new travel restrictions had not been imposed. I had a bad case of the nerves – fear that while abroad, Ireland might place Romania on a red list of countries. I was still going though. Some precautions would need to be taken. I carried a month’s supply of insulin in case I got stranded. My work laptop was neatly packed in the event I was still abroad on Tuesday when I was due back at work. I had plotted my exit from Romania to Budapest via bus, in case any flight bans were introduced. Excessive planning on my part, perhaps, but everything seemed so flimsy, I thought it wiser to be prepared.

Sibiu is a town of approximately 170,000 people in the centre of Romania. Located in Transylvania it is known as ‘The City with Eyes’ for the design of the houses with eye-shaped windows in the rooves. It was originally a Saxon city, and until World War 2 it was a city where the ethnic German population of Romania lived.

I was staying in a little ground floor apartment in a courtyard off a street, that was metres away from the Piața Mare (Grand Square) where the annual Christmas market was being held. The two bloodhounds roaming this courtyard were very friendly but had a disconcerting habit of jumping on you to express their happiness to see you. I arrived too late on my first night to go out, so ordered a pizza and watched Dolly Parton videos on MTV Romania – the woman is a star the world over.

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