When I think Romania, I think
vampires mountains, so I couldn’t wait to pull on my hiking boots and explore them for a few days! After about a billion Google Image searches Dan and I decided that Piatra Craiulu National Park has the prettiest peaks so we stuck out our thumbs and grabbed a ride down to Zarnesti.
Actually we caught a ride to Brasov, and then hopped on a tiny electric commuter train to Zarnesti. The ride took about an hour and was BEAUTIFUL. I tried to convince Dan to scrap this hiking idea and just ride the train back and forth all day, but apparently he had bigger plans for us.
Would I come to regret following Dan up that mountain and wish I were still on that little train? NO. Well, maybe. Actually, yes.
You see, while Romania has some gorgeous mountains with tons of hiking trails, there’s very little information (at least in English) about those trails. I searched for ages for details – or even just a map of the park – but came up empty. And then we tried to find Piatra Craiului National Park’s Visitor Center in Zarnesti, but the spot marked on Google Maps turned out to be… a barn?
The cows and horses didn’t have anything helpful to say to us, so we headed into the park on our own. (It turns out we just needed to continue on that road another 20-30 minutes out of town, whoops).
Luckily there was a map at the start of the park, so we picked the yellow route and headed up! It was a really steep hike, but after about an hour we reached the prettiest mountain meadow, so it was worth it. (Plus we had lunch, so it was like, actually worth it.)
Tummy and my camera’s memory card both nicely filled, I turned to walk back down the mountain. And was stopped by Dan because apparently the real hike hadn’t started yet.
We were going to the Piatra Craiului peaks!
Did it matter that thick clouds were descending? They only made the hike more magical!
So, the route we chose up to one of the peaks was beautiful and so, so worth it, but I’m pretty sure we also accidentally were on a rock climbing route. Of course I can’t be sure because there is zero information about this hike online, but we were climbing vertically for a lot of it – at least we had those helpful bolts to hang onto!
After seeing all the views that needed to be seen, we headed back to Zarnesti through a gorge!
It was fun, until the sun started to disappear alarmingly quickly and we found ourselves on a steep slope of frozen snow. It was one of those times I was happy no longer to be traveling solo, as Dan basically had to carry me down the gorge.
Yet still somehow I was the one who couldn’t walk for several days afterwards. I swear I’m going to join a gym when I get to Norway. (I’m not, but I will be going on a lot more hikes!)
We spent another day in Zarnesti, and if you take a look at where it is on a map I know what you’re going to think: “Great, so you had time to visit Bran Castle (aka Dracula’s Castle)!”
Um, no. We spent the day in bed binge watching Treme. Didn’t I already mention the sore muscles? Even two days later I could barely walk with my backpack on.
It was a shame to miss Bran Castle, especially when it was only 10 kilometers away from our guest house, but I was actually way more interested in seeing Corvin Castle.
You see, while Bran Castle is famous for being Dracula’s Castle, Vlad III only visited a few times. On the other hand, Vlad was held prisoner in Corvin Castle for 7 years. Even more visit worthy though: legend has it that Corvin Castle was never taken by enemies because anyone who approached was overwhelmed by ominous feelings. Because it’s haunted.
A hitchhiking fail + a lot of rain meant that we ended up missing Corvin Castle and heading straight to Timisoara instead, but it’s at the top of my list for my return to Romania!
In Zarnesti we stayed at at Pensiunea Garofita in a huge double room. It’s a really pretty wooden lodge run by the sweetest couple, and makes the perfect base to explore Piatra Craiului National Park. And there may even be a yellow lab named Maximus living there. Maybe! Check current rates for Pensiunea Garofita here