Bordering the Black Sea, between Bulgaria and Ukraine, Romania also has borders with Hungary, Serbia and Moldova. Covering some 238,391 square kilometres (92,043 square miles), it is a country blessed with a temperate climate.
With just under 20 million inhabitants, Romania is listed as the 7th most populated member of the European Union, having joined in 2007. Bucharest is the capital of Romania and with a population of 1.9 million Bucharest is the 6th largest city in the EU. Bucharest also has the 2nd largest building in the world (the Pentagon in the USA being the largest), in the Palace of the Parliament (The Peoples Palace).
Romania is a country of immense and diverse natural beauty, offering the visitor such delights as the Black Sea area, the Danube Delta, and the magnificent Carpathian Mountains. High on the tourist list of places to visit is Transylvania, famous for its starring role in the 1897 Gothic Horror novel Dracula, by Irish writer Brams Stoker. Besides Bran castle, visitors to Transylvania will also wish to visit Poiana Brasov, a fantastic ski area, and Sibiu, Brasov, and Sighisoara.
I was embarking on a 9 day holiday to Transylvania, staying in the Brasov area. I have visited this area on two previous occasions, both times flying with British Airways from London Heathrow to Bucharest Otopeni airport. This time, however, I was flying, with Ryanair, into Otopeni from Stansted airport. The flight was an early morning flight, 06.25, so I had decided to stay the night before at Down Hall Country House Hotel, close to Stansted airport. I had also organized a ‘Meet and Greet’ service for parking my car at the airport, anything to make the start of my holiday easier and more relaxed.
Having already checked in on-line, it was a simple task of dropping my luggage off at the ‘Drop off’ desk and making my way, via fast track, through security and into the departure lounge, but, even so, it was still a long winded and chaotic transit from check-in to departures. However, once in the departure lounge I could relax for a while and get something to eat and drink. I had booked a ‘Business Plus’ ticket with Ryanair, this gave me a checked in bag allowance of 20kg, fast track through security, speedy boarding, preference seating (extra leg room), and the flexibility to change my booking up to the day of departure.
The flight took just over three hours and was uneventful, the cabin crew went through the usual safety talks, and then walked through the aircraft selling food and drink, as well as duty free items. We landed on time and proceeded through passport control, baggage reclaim, and eventually customs. Finally, I had arrived and could start my holiday, albeit with at least a two hours drive from the airport to Codlea, which is where I was staying for the next 9 days. The drive was a most pleasant one, the sun was shining, and the roads were not overly busy. We drove north away from Bucharest, through industrial areas, and eventually through the Carpathian Mountains, when all at once the scenery changed, giving way to the beautiful mountain landscape, lush countryside, and wonderful little villages.
The following 9 days were spent exploring and enjoying the local area, however, as I had visited this area on two previous occasions, there wasn’t much new for me to see. I was surprised, but from a tourist’s perspective pleased, by how little things had changed in the preceding ten years since my last visit. Apart from the improvements to the main roads, a few more hotels, and new shopping malls, life appeared to be going on pretty much the same. There was still the extraordinary sight, to my western European eyes, of horse drawn carts on the road, as well as working in the fields and forests. A lot of investment has poured into Romania in recent years, and the infrastructure is certainly improving, with much better roads than I remember, however, I think the average Romanian has seen his life change very little.
The weather for the most part of my holiday was very good, although not as hot as it can get in Romania in the summer months, and we did have two days of constant rain, very unusual for this time of year, which caused severe flooding and mud slides in some areas. The good weather meant I could explore the great outdoors and I had a very nice day walking through the forest in the mountains above Brasov, somewhere I hadn’t been before. Among the other new destinations for me was the town of Zarnesti, where I spent a night at the Hotel Transilvania, a lovely, small hotel and restaurant with modern facilities and some very good traditional Romanian food. I also visited Fagaras and the nearby Manastirea Brancoveanu, a beautiful, monastery. The town of Sighisoara, where Vlad The Impaler once lived, was another worthwhile visit, as was Viscri, where I am reliably told by locals, Prince Charles has some properties.
As with all holidays, all too soon my time in Romania was over, but I had, once again, had a wonderful time seeing beautiful places and meeting wonderful people. I, reluctantly, retraced my route back to Bucharest Otopeni Airport in order to catch my 10.30pm flight back to the UK. Such a late departure meant arriving back into Stansted airport in the early hours of the morning. I had therefore booked myself a room at the Radisson Blu Hotel at Stansted airport. This meant I could rest and have a good nights sleep before driving home the next morning. This was just as well, as my arrival into Stansted, and transit through the airport proved to be a lengthy, stressful process. It was at this point that I started to feel pretty pleased with myself that I had the good sense to pre-book the post flight hotel.
Anyone contemplating either a pre or post flight hotel stay near Stansted airport may wish to read my reviews on Down Hall Country House Hotel, and Radisson Blu Stansted. There are of course a wide choice of hotels around the airport, most offering deals on stay and parking. I certainly found that both a pre and a post flight hotel stay added to my overall holiday enjoyment, and I would definitely recommend it.