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Steve and Emma's Travel Tales

Train Trip Around Transylvania: Alba Iulia

ROMANIA | Saturday, 24 October 2020 | Views [168]

Emma’s half term was approaching and she definitely needed a break, so as we were still free to travel around Romania we thought we would plan a week’s train trip around Transylvania. The name Transylvania conjures up images of Dracula, castles and forests and it was indeed the inspiration for Bram Stoker’s book, although he never actually visited the area. The area was an autonomous region until it joined Romania in 1918 and is steeped with history and has many beautiful medieval towns. Sounds like a great place to visit to us, so we planned our trip around the 3 main tourist centres of Sighisoara, Brasov and Sibiu to see what Bram missed out on.

We love travelling by train as although not the quickest way from A to B you get to see lots of beautiful scenery. The plan was to get the train from Timisoara to Sighisoara but on consulting the very useful website for Romanian Railways https://www.cfrcalatori.ro/ we found that we would have to change trains at a junction in the middle of no where with only 30 mins between trains. We had heard that Romanian trains are more than often late so we didn’t want to risk getting stuck. We looked for a decent stop off and Alba Iulia sounded just the ticket, as a bonus could get a direct train from there onwards to Sighisoara the following day, so we booked a ticket.

Our train pulled out of Timisora station on time at 6.20 am but disappointingly it was quite a modern affair, we love the old fashioned trains with compartments. It was also pretty busy but we soon found some empty seats and looked forward to our trip. We had brought breakfast and brews so we were well set for the long trip to Alba Iulia. The weather and views on this leg of the trip were not great but we were hopeful that they would improve as we entered the famed Transylvania.

We pulled into Alba Iulia station half an hour late, so we would have missed our connection if we had tried to get to Sighisoara on the same day. We felt justified in that decision. We walked from the station for 15 minutes down a pleasant tree lined avenue to our hotel for the night, Matia Resort. This turned out to be a decent little gaff and the staff let us check in even though it was only midday. After a quick brew and a sarnie it was time to explore the town. Our guide book didn’t really big it up saying ‘’there is little reason to spend time there’’ but it does boast a citadel and lots of history so we will see. Hopefully they will let us in the citadel unlike in Arad !

Turns out we were just round the corner from one of the gate ways into the citadel and we were soon marching through the impressive entrance up the cobbled street to the citadel. We were greeted by a 22m high obelisk and a bridge over a moat to enter into the inner walls of the fortress. The place is fantastic, don’t believe the guide books ! We loved wandering around the citadel and it is home to lots of beautifully restored building, many of which house museums and of course there are 2 cathedrals and a church. We paid 20 Lei to enter the ‘Route of 3 Fortifications’ which entitles you to wander around the walls and into 3 fortifications some of them kitted out with medieval clobber. There was lots of information boards in English and we enjoyed learning about the history of the place. After looking in every nook and cranny we deserved a drink.

The whole citadel is pedestrianised and in the middle there were a few pop up bars with tables and chairs spilling out across the square. We had to take advantage of that, especially when we ordered 2 bottles of Timisoreana and it was only 5 Lei each, cheaper than the brewery in Timisoara. What is going on? Can’t be cheaper than in our home town! Oh well I wasn’t complaining. After a couple of beers we were hungry so we headed out of the inner walls to Restaurant Pub 13 which we had spotted on the way in. It was just starting to rain so our timing was impeccable. This eatery is located within the actual walls of the fortress and I’m sure it would be incredible to eat inside the walls but due to covid we ate outside. Luckily they have an outside area on a bridge over the moat – how cool is that? So we could enjoy a meal while looking at the castle walls. We thought it might be a bit touristy but it was quiet and the prices reasonable. We went for some traditional Transylvania food and the pork wrapped in cabbage leaves was extremely tasty. We headed for an early night back at the hotel as we had a train to catch in the morning but we had really enjoyed our stopover in Alba Iulia. There were very few tourists as it is not one of the famous spots of course, but there was plenty to see and lots of history. Sometimes the places that don’t sound great in the guide book turn out to be well worth visiting. Next stop Sighisoara, which everyone says is amazing – let’s hope so.


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