Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Rasnov area. Cows of the household

Village at Rasnov Castle
Rasnov: Highly domesticated cows 

Rasnov area, Romania. Cows of the household

Evening is a good time to arrive in an area near Rasnov.  The cows coming down from pasture in the evening walk quietly in single file, or double, and on their own, coming through the village. Each weaves off at the home street, then lumbers and sways down the center or the side, and stops at the gate of its household, and waits for someone to open the gate.

Be watchful. As Dan took a picture of something else, near our pensione (rooms), a tan cow softly padded up from behind.  It was not on a lead, but soon was met by the owner and a soft lead.  Other cows stopped at their own front doors. Much surprise, no harm, no threat. 

Enjoy the idea of a partnership with one's cows, part of the family, a different angle on the circle of life. Nowhere nearby was a western-style downer-torturing feed lot.

Sunday, May 20, 2012

Sinaia - Peles Castle

Sinaia, Peles Castle, Romania

Arrive at Bucharest, drive north, see Lake Snagov where Vlad Tepes was said to be buried in part at the monastery there; and then Sinaia. Peles Castle.

Sinaia. It is a prime ski area, great resort, and there is a splendid castle.  A fine video of Peles is at  For photos and surroundings at

Beware of claims to a Vlad Tepes connection.   The castle, Peles, has no connection to Vlad that I can find, but this site suggests by its name that it does -

Peles was built, instead, by King Carol I during a period centuries after, in the 19th Century, 1873-1883. See Still, it is magnificent, and the photos at the infotravel site include other castles - worth a look.  See also

Carol I, King Charles I.

The town has all the shops and cafes you would expect. We don't shop, we people-watch and this was excellent for that.

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Curtea de Arges, Monastery, Church

Curtea de Arges, Monastery, Romania

Curtea de Arges, Monastery 1517.

This Church was built by Voivode (designation for a warlord?)  Neagoe Basarab.  The name Basarab dates from far earlier, Basarab I ruling from 1325-1352, and it was this earlier Basarab who had unified much of the Romanian land from the Danube River to the Carpathian mountains, and conflicted with Hungarian ruler plans for those areas. See

Orthodox or Catholic?  See√éntemeietorul/ The best sites require clicking on the translate.

Th Curtea de Arges structure has origins in legend and fact.. One story claims that the Master craftsmen were killed, stranded on the roof until they died, so they could not create such beauty again. See

The Legend of Manolo.  Another names a Master, one Manole, who dreamed the building would be flawless if he walled his wife in the walls. So he did.  The building was beautiful, indeed. And it was then that the ruler herded the Masters to the roof, and Manolo tried to escape like Icarus by flying with wings. He leaped and did not survive. See

Another story adds details to the walled-in wife.  The ruler declared something like this: the first of the workers' wives to arrive with food for that day would be killed. The workers all told their wives to stay away, except for one.  His wife duly arrived, and was killed.  See http:/

The blogsite by Laivindur does not mention those.  Are they, then, unreliable?

Travel tip:  At Curtea, there will be a sign as you begin the road north to the Carpathians and to the Transfagarasan Pass, where Vlad III Tepes (the Impaler) had his castle, now a ruin at Poinari Citadel. The sign says whether the pass is open or not. We went without seeing the sign, but fortunately all was open, and there are places to stay if you are stuck. Just don't drive after sunset if you can help it - there are few markers to the next stopping point, and gas can run out.

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Transfagarasan Pass, Carpathian Alps, Poienari Citadel

Transfagarasan Pass, Poinari Citadel

A main historian-tourist objective is seeing what corroborates events in the life of Vlad III Tepes.  Poinari Citadel is the mountaintop (a manageable walk with mild switchbacks up from the road) castle where, it is said, the Turks were threatening, and Vlad's wife so feared being taken that she hurled herself off the parapet to her death. 

Poienari Citadel. Vlad escaped from Poinari Citadel, and went to another castle at Targoviste. See; and the more tourist-oriented version for the story at

This fortress was built in the 1300's and became the main defense point for the Basarab rulers. See


Poinari Citadel, Path to ruin of castle of Vlad III Tepes (Transfagarasan Pass)

Poienari Citadel, Poienari Citadel.
Castle Ruin, Vlad Tepes

1.  The path to Poienari citadel.  Vlad's real fortress is 1480 steps up a steep walkway from the road and parking area below.  Just leave the car.  No guards.  So?

Spellings change: Poienari, Poinari, Poenari. See

Dan Widing climbs path to Poenari Citadel, Castle, Vlad Tepes, Romania

 The path is safe, with a pipe-type railing to keep you on track. A group of tourist teenagers behind us dubbed this the Great Wall of Romania. Laughs all about, including from Romanian tourist teens from a different bus above us.  With the switchbacks, conversations carried.  There was no steady stream of tourists this late in October, just us and the bracketing other groups.

View from Poenari Citadel, Castle ruin, Vlad Tepes, Romania

2.  Guides.
Guides are not really needed, because there are signs and pathways, but expect someone to join you and expect a payment. We did that, and I only regret not giving more.  Sometimes, however, with a larger tip, there is more intrusion as the guide wants to be sure you get your money's worth.

Our guide appeared when we were just about at the top, from a little house up there. Do carry some dollars for people who are especially helpful. They really want them, and deserve to be compensated. I tended to tip in Romanian currency, however. Dollars: There is a midground to caution. I do wish I had been more generous with other individuals, like older women sitting asking for money at the monastery gates.
3.  Arefu - the village that spirited Vlad away
Vlad escaped with the help of villagers at Arefu nearby. I understand that the villagers still identify with that event and can name the individuals and their descendants.

Vlad rewarded them with land, an unusual step for peasants. For an account of places and his life, see the Vlad sites at  Someone slept out up there. See

Wednesday, May 09, 2012

Arefu: Reward from Vlad for the Ages

Arefu:  This village enabled the escape of Vlad III Tepes from the invading Ottomans in 1462.  Vlad's wife, fearing the worst if she were captured, had already thrown herself from the parapets of the fortress Poinari Citadel, now a ruin.

Drive through the village and find deeply rutted dirt roads, a poor place, but proud. Villagers even today trace their background to Vlad's time, and those loyal to Vlad Tepes. See  Did Vlad bequeath to them their lands in posterity, in thanks?  I am looking for that reference.

We did not stay here because we were headed further through the mountains. Luckily we found a cabana, a government hotel, before it became dark. Better, looking back, if we had simply stopped. Pensiones were fine, clean, safe. But Dan would say, let's go on a bit. And we would.  Vlad Tepes: a complex leader, a violent era, as ours, in our way, spend time looking for history. See

Tuesday, May 08, 2012

Transfagarasan Pass - Hike. Carpathian Alps - Route from Wallachia to Transylvania

Transfagarasan Pass
Carpathian Mountains

Carpathian Mountains, Transfagarasan Pass, Romania

1.  Blasting open the Pass

The Fagaras Mountains, are part of the Carpathian Range.  Wallachia is on one side. Vlad III Tepes was Wallachian.  Transylvania is on the other.

At the northern end of the pass are the cities of Sighisoara, the birthplace of Vlad III Tepes, and Sibiu; entry to the painted monastery areas, and much more.
There is a history of hardship and labor deaths here, from blasting a way across and through a tunnel, for vehicles. See

The Pass was built as a way to move troops and ammunition to defend against a feared Soviet invasion in 1968. The Transfagarasan Pass, through and over the Transfagarasan Mountains, is more easily remembered by the name of the town at the north side, Fagaras. See

2. Accessibility

The Pass in these mountains is open as weather and season permit. This was the end of October - lovely for leaves, views, but beginning risky for weather.  With snow the tunnels and high switchbacks are closed.  Check at Curtea de Arges before launching out in this direction.  There will be a sign, not big, affirming whether the pass is open. On maps, the road will look as though it stops.  Instead, that open bracket symbol means tunnels.

Cabanas is the magic word. There are hotel-type places for sleeping, called Cabanas. Are they government-run? Not sure.  Just don't let it get dark on you. Stop in time. For an overview of the mountains in Romania, see "Romania's Road to Heaven," at

On the way, we knew there would be "cabanas" or small hotels, but did not expect the distances between. Don't wait too long in the day to stop. You need all the visibility you can get - not all vehicles have good headlights, and animals may wander in the road. We were just about to turn back, when one appeared. Do not expect signs to tell you when the next will emerge.

3.  Stop the car, park and trust, and hike.

Transfagarasan Pass, midday hike, Romania

Stop along the way and take a hike. If you are a worrier about leaving the car, you will miss out. We never had a problem. Look closely:  There is half of the Car-Dan Tour Company, snapped by the other half, as we crossed a boulder-strewn creek bed with no particular destination in mind.
The car was indeed there when we returned.

Other attractions: See