Romania?! Yeah, that’s what I said when Matt suggested it – what the heck is in Romania?! Well…..MOUNTAINS and TREES, of course!! And while we enjoy everything the deserts of Israel have to offer, as children of the Sierra Nevada Mountain Range, we were in dire need of a mountain fix!
When we set out in search of our adventure destinations, we typically start by perusing Google Flights for a cheap flight. Israel offers a wide variety of exciting options and the $200 ticket to Bucharest caught our eye immediately. Followed by a few quick Google Images searches, we were SOLD!
As always, it would be too easy to leave Tel Aviv without a little fun. Our flight left Tel Aviv at 9:45am and we compromised on getting to the airport about two hours early (marriage insight: I like to get to airports TOO early while Matt likes to get there juuusssssttt shy of TOO late). We also needed to return our rental car, so yeah, 2 hours was going to be tight.
So we got to Avis at Terminal 3 and checked the car in. Then we asked how to get to Terminal 1 and the receptionist gave us one of those “are you serious” looks. Well, we had the option of waiting for a bus or waiting for an Avis employee to give us a ride. We opted to wait the “10-15 minutes” for the ride from Avis….. about 20 minutes later, with mounting anxiety (in Kelley), and about 1 hour until our flight, we hopping in a car and zipped over to Terminal 1.
If you’ve ever flown out of Tel Aviv, you may know its not usually a walk in the park. Understandable, security is HIGH and it’s not uncommon to have your entire bag unpacked and individually sifted through during a variety of security checks. Luckily, the lines were not too long and we didn’t get the grand interrogation at Customs.
As you may remember, we dropped our car off at Terminal 3….and now we are at Terminal 1….only to find out that the flight actually leaves from Terminal 3 and we have to get on another little bus to go BACK to Terminal 3 to get on our flight. Oh Tel Aviv! So we boarded the bus and with about 30 minutes to go, we “enjoyed” a light jog (Matt: I was walking) through Terminal 3 to our gate.
Fast forward to a safe and uneventful landing in Romania.
While we had planned to take a taxi into town, our frugality got the best of us and we opted to wait for the bus. Landing in a new country is always exciting because you’re usually tired, hungry, and have no idea where you are. We hopped on the bus heading towards downtown Bucharest and patiently watched the dot on the map get closer to the central area. Enticed by who-knows-what, we jumped off a few stops early and stood hungrily on the side of the road wondering which way to walk. So we started walking and eventually found a pizza place…definitely not an authentic experience….most likely the Romanian equivalent of Dominos…but we were fed and spirits improved. We also learned that Romania REALLY is as inexpensive as we heard….$10 for a large pizza, onion rings, and 2 cokes.
After lunch, we started our walk across town to the main train station. We needed to catch a train around 3pm to head North to the town of Busteni. On our walk, we enjoyed a variety of buildings, churches, and a lovely park. With only minor detours and route-finding, we arrived successfully at the train station!
We enjoyed a very pleasant train ride and met a chatty classical violinist; who taught us a little about Romania and his journey with music. As we approached the mountains, our excitement mounted. We hopped off the train at Busteni and YAHOOOO! MOUNTAINS!!!!
After a bit more stumbling through town, we found our way to our hotel, dropped our bags, and took in the view! We stayed at a very nice hotel, Casa Magica, for a whopping $25/nt!
Our evening ended with a nice dinner at the hotel and delicious crepes! Busteni is incredibly adorable and the views can’t be beat. We liked it so much, we decided to book an extra night and check out the offers at the spa!….more on that in a minute.
The following morning, we woke up and enjoyed breakfast before heading up into the mountains. While I don’t mind an exhausting hike up a steep peak, I’m also not one to pass up a quick Gondola ride to the top! The ride was nice and only left Matt mildly disappointed that we didn’t hike alllll the way up. BUT alas, at the top, our legs were fresh, feet blister-free, and ready to explore the plateau and our first taste of the Carpathian Mountains.
We were overcome with giddiness from the views and vast expanse of rolling peaks. We also immediately noticed an abundance of wildflowers….EVERYWHERE! We got our blood pumping on a hike over to a large World War I Memorial on the mountain’s edge called Heroe’s Cross.
After our hike, we thought we had given ourselves PLENTY of time to get back to the hotel for our 6:30 massages but the line for the gondola took TWO HOURS! We made it back JUST in time!
SO, spa-life in Romania is pretty popular and also quite inexpensive. We signed up for 2, 90-minute massages, which were going to be about $25 each. When we arrived at the spa, she suggested we start with a few minutes in the sauna to loosen up. We proceeded to the sauna for about 15 minutes until she came to get Matt. I relaxed in a chair for a bit then returned to the room only to have Matt come back to the room shortly after me…..huh?! “She just stopped” – oooohhhhhhhhh… Reflecting back on my initial conversation with her, she thought we signed up for a massage totaling 90 minutes… 45 minutes each… well that’s disappointing (we will make up for that later)! After a good laugh, I went down for my massage. It was still $25 well spent! We topped the evening off with a four-course dinner and a bottle of wine for a whopping $25 and watched the Wales vs Belgium Euro Cup game, which Matt watched with rapt attention.
Stay Tuned for Part 2 when we REALLY take to the mountains for a two-day trek and MORE WILDFLOWERS!!!