As we made our back into Transylvania from the northern part of Romania, we stopped in the city of Cluj Napoca for a night (simply known as Cluj). The old city (dating back to 12th century), used to be the capital of the Grand Principality of Transylvania. Today it’s a very important academic center with 12 or so universities. I’ve always wanted to see Cluj because my parents went to school there and it’s also where they met. Continue reading
After a couple of days of visiting monasteries in Neamt and Bucovina, we decided to head west into Maramures. Our GPS calculated the “best” route and spat out an estimated time of 4 hours – not too bad. Little did we know this would become the best and worst road we’d travel. We started out through the idyllic countryside traversing through the Carpathian Mountains. A hot and sunny morning morphed into a cooler and greyer afternoon producing fog at the top of the mountains. Continue reading
Arriving in Romania was a unique and much anticipated experience. First there was the border control – of all European countries we visited previously this was the only checkpoint where cars were actually stopped upon entry (including ours). Formality or not, it seemed pretty unnecessary. The other immediate noticeable difference was the roads. Roads in Romania are a work in progress, to put it gently. Continue reading
After a couple of solid days of exploring Budapest we opted for a road trip. Our itinerary included one of Buda’s caves, and the towns of Esztergom and Visegrad.
Budapest is not only fascinating above ground but under as well – there about 200 caves under the Hungarian capital but only 3 are open to the public. Continue reading
Within less than 20 minutes on the highway (after leaving Bratislava), the Slovakia/Hungary border quietly slipped under us. Soon after we noticed signs for the town of Gyor and decided to stop. Armed with a map and recommended sights (from the Tourism Info Office), we made our way through town. Most remarkable and beautiful was the new City Hall, an elaborate 19th century building. Continue reading
We arrived in Bratislava (Slovakia’s capital), in the evening around 6pm and settled into our hotel. Thunderstorms deterred us from marching into the old town so we enjoyed a few hours of Slovak television comprised of Knight Rider re-runs and music videos (kind of like what MTV used to be back in the day). Our hotel was located in the communist section of town which meant all buildings (including ours), were über-plain and lacked even the slightest notion of architectural imagination. Continue reading
The back country road connecting the Czech Republic to Austria seamlessly brought us across the border (into Austria). What was once an actual frontier checkpoint is now nothing but a desolate crossing where you simply slow down before hitting 60mph on Austria’s departmental roads. A circular blue sign speckled with the European Union’s yellow stars greeted us by saying Österreich (Austria in German – the country’s official language). Continue reading
With 4 days at our disposal in the Czech Republic we researched a few day trip options and there were plenty. We narrowed down our list to the Karlštejn Castle and the medieval towns of Kutná Hora and Český Krumlov.
Karlštejn Castle was about a 30 minute drive southwest of Prague. The road took us through a picturesque countryside with fruit trees lining both sides of the road – apple, pear and plum. Continue reading
We arrived in Prague in the early evening and decided to get a little familiar with the old city. We figured wandering around would give us great exposure and prep us for the next day. Prague dates back to the 10th century and over the years became one of Europe’s most beautiful cities. Most notably it served as the capital of the Bohemian Kingdom and the Roman Empire and today it’s the Czech capital (and home to 1.25 million inhabitants). Continue reading
To kick off our tour of Eastern Europe, we decided to drive to the Czech Republic via Germany. Nurnberg would be our mid-way point and stop for the night.
We arrived in the industrial German city by 7pm and decided to grab dinner in the old town which is surrounded by an impressive fortified wall. Continue reading