As you may remember from Carrie’s last post our mission in Ploiesti was to learn more about Romanian wines and actually see where they are produced. Also, if you read my post from Sinaia, you know that we left there with our ‘batteries’ only 60% recharged and Ploiesti didn’t add any charge to the ‘batteries’. So, it was time to seek out another relaxing type destination in an attempt to regain a full charge. And once again, per the guidebooks, Brasov seemed to fit the bill.
Brasov is surrounded by the Carpathian mountains and is part of the Transylvania region. Yes, Bran Castle is nearby – the supposed home of Vlad the Impaler – who was the inspiration for Bram Stoker’s Dracula. But, the important thing to note here is that we’re giving the Romanian mountains another chance. Why, you ask, after the fiasco that was Sinaia? Because we’re suckers for mountains and forests, and for the smell of pine while imbibing a nice vino overlooking some grand vista. I’m not sure why, after our Sinaia experience, but we were cautiously optimistic that Brasov would give us the relief we were seeking after 5 plus months on the road. Perhaps our optimism stemmed from the fact that Brasov had a rather large and well preserved old town and that our AirBnb was in its center.
Trains, I Hate Taxis, and the Check-in
We once again used a train, this time to get us to Brasov, which took about 2 hours of huffing and puffing its way through the mountains. Incidentally, the train took us right back through Sinaia, where I lovingly hoisted a middle finger as we passed by. Knowing that Brasov is a relatively large city, we expected a sizable train station with an army of taxis stationed just outside prepared for a full frontal assault on anyone resembling a tourist. And that is exactly what we encountered, however, we also received the old price gouging – good cab driver/bad cab driver routine. Here’s how it went down: Our Airbnb host told us to expect to pay between 12 to 15 Leu ($3 to $4 US) for the ride to our Airbnb. When we approached the front of the line taxi driver, he quoted us 50 Leu (~$13 US) and told us that was the going rate to get into the city center. I started ranting and waving my arms telling him I would rather walk than get ripped off by him. He smiled and shrugged. Steaming, we walked off and found a shady
spot to figure out a plan when we were approached by another driver who told us that he’d take us into town for 20 Leu. Tired and not willing to squabble over the equivalent of $1.30 US we told him sure and jumped into his cab. A few minutes later we were at the edge of old town, very near our lodging. I think he felt a tinge of remorse because he offered us a big chunk of homemade Romanian bread that he had in the back of the taxi. Not a good start to our second Romanian mountain experience.
But things were about to get better. A few minutes after exiting the taxi we were happily greeted by our host. After the initial pleasantries we tell him that our life mission is to drink wine and unique alcohols of all types and could he recommend some wine stores or other adult beverage establishments nearby. He smiles and while providing us with the requested information, opens a door hiding wine racks and multiple oak barrels. It’s common practice in Romania to distill your own hooch or tuica made from plums and our host did it in style. He poured us two versions; one unflavored and very strong and another that was diluted with a plum wine. Tuica, it seems, is an excellent ‘battery’ charger and immediately had us hopping around like the energizer bunny and ready to start exploring. Unfortunately, that was the last we would see of our host until it was time to leave.
Old Town, New Town, a Mountain Excursion, and Wine-Wine-Wine
The guidebooks are filled with the praises of Brasov’s old town, which makes it a popular tourist destination and with good
reason: It’s quaint, with sidewalk cafes and restaurants lining the streets as well as other shops ready to help you part with your money. And part with our money we did, but as usual we spent it on booze and food. Two foodie highlights of note; A walk up shop specializing in french fries. You simply walk up to an open window facing the sidewalk and pick your flavor. A few minutes later you receive a paper cone filled with these delectable sticks of pure heaven. As I savored each bite, my happy place was flooded with childhood memories of the food trucks which would caravan with the traveling carnival that took over our small town for one weekend every summer – the street fair, we called them. The fries were served hot and greasy and smothered in vinegar, a potato gourmet’s heaven. Our second foodie highlight was served up at Restaurant Sergiana , featuring traditional Romanian fare, cozy atmosphere, and great service. A don’t miss if you’re looking for good Romanian comfort food.
Now that we have that out of the way, let’s get to the real important stuff – the wine. We found three places that served our needs well. Although we love those high end ‘special’ wines, we also like to find out what the locals drink everyday. You know, things like the quaffing wines, the vino sfuso wines. And old town Brasov accommodated with a nice little shop where one brings
in an empty 1 liter bottle and it’s filled with the red, white, or rose of your choice for only a few dollars US. Perfect for snacks on the patio or when dining in. Unfortunately, we don’t remember the name, but we do know that it is across the street from a full service wine shop called Terroirs Boutique Du Vin. Anytime the word boutique is in the name of the store think dollar signs. And Terroirs Boutique Du Vin was no exception. However, when you’re looking for high quality wines, a exhaustive selection, with a knowledgeable and helpful staff, Terrior Boutique is your spot.
But cute little old towns can get a bit monotonous after a while and they don’t really reflect the daily life of the local people. So, it was time to cross the imaginary tourist line and head off into the unknown; new town as we like to call it. We always like to have a goal when we set out on an adventure and what better goal than the discovery of a new wine shop.
Stepping off the tourist yellow brick road caused an immediate change not only in the scenery, but of the vibe exuded. No longer the pretty cobblestone streets and updated antiquity, but rather, stark angular buildings – communist era – dominated the skyline. People scurried about with the same angular expressions as the buildings, going or coming from work or the completion of daily chores. It felt
stale. It felt cold, uninviting, and unfriendly.
But with the help of the old Google bitch, we eventually located our fine wine store within which was a very friendly proprietor. Casa Vinului, a tiny establishment filled from floor to ceiling with Romanian nectar from the gods. I pulled out my wallet immediately and said: “Give me some of the good stuff, Amigo!” And he did and we went off to the La-La land of old town to consume our bounty. But the glitter of old town and coldness of new town left us in need of a more natural setting. Somewhere with fewer human influences and more of Mother Nature’s.
So, the next day we hop a bus for the 30 minute ride to the ski resort town of Poiana. Once again, however, Romanian mountain towns disappointed. It had the same look and feel of Sinaia and we know how that turned out. We walked around with the tourist hoards, had a beer, and got back on the bus headed for the sanctuary of our Airbnb.
The Wall and We Just Dropped In To See What Condition Our Condition Was In
So, that’s it. We came and we saw. There were some good things and some, well, not so good things. At least that’s how I felt as we were leaving. Maybe, it was more us and not really about Brasov. As I stated earlier we hit the travel wall when we got to Sinaia, continued to bump into it in Ploiesti, and ran into it like a runaway train in Brasov. And it hurts! Our next stop is Sibiu, still in Transylvania, with a another cute old town. Maybe there. Maybe there, we’ll break down the wall and get a full battery charge. Yes, maybe in Sibiu.
Hike Drink Live Laugh (Apero Time) More photos below.
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