Bună Ziua! Welcome to Bucharest. Often called the 'Little Paris of the Balkans', Romania's capital is known for its Belle Epoch architecture, thumping nightlife and communist sites. After the welcome meeting this evening, you might like to get a head start and explore the city by night, or perhaps head out for a group dinner to get a first sample of Romania's unique cuisine.
This morning take a guided tour of Bucharest. After taking in the recently restored old town of Bucharest, visit some of the more significant sites of the revolution of 1989, which culminated in the ousting and execution of communist leader Ceaucescu, and the end of Romania's 42-year communist rule. Bucharest likes big things – the tour will also stop by the huge Piata Unirii, one of Europe's largest squares, and continue on to the ‘Ceausima’, Bucharest's 12-storey Palace of Parliament. The palace is the second largest building in the world (after the Pentagon). The former dictator ordered the construction of this monster, a building of staggering scale and opulence that includes 1,100 rooms and 4,500 chandeliers. Later today, take a train to the town of Sibiu (approximately 5 hours), arriving in the evening. Sibiu is one of the original seven Saxon fortified towns established in Transylvania in the 12th century to defend the Habsburg Empire from the threat of Ottoman invasion. You'll be spending the next two nights here.
After an orientation walk this morning, enjoy a free day to explore Sibiu. Formerly the wealthiest and largest of the Saxon strongholds, called Herrmannstadt by the original inhabitants, Sibiu retains a medieval Germanic feel to this day. Perhaps head to Grand Square for a coffee and some people watching, or stroll along the medieval walls on the town's perimeter. While most of the historic sights are in the Upper Town, make sure you take a wander through the Lower Town, a tangle of streets lined with colourful houses. The best way to get there is down the 13th-century Passage of Steps, which takes you past the city's oldest building, the Tower of Stairs. You can admire icons and Romanian impressionists in Sibiu's Brukenthal Museum, or stroll to the nearby Liars' Bridge, Romania's oldest cast-iron bridge, which is said to collapse if you tell a lie when standing on it. Perhaps visit the 14th-century evangelical church, where the son of Vlad the Impaler was stabbed.
Today leave Sibiu and drive north to the town of Biertan (approximately 1.5 hours). On the way, make a stopover in the village of Bârghiș to see your lunch being made in a traditional ceaun, a large cast-iron pot laid over an open fire. 13th-century Biertan was once a large city, but it has declined in population dramatically over the centuries and is now a mere village. Once in Biertan, you will catch a horse-drawn carriage to see the nearby charcoal burners in action and learn about their trade. You will then visit Biertan's World Heritage-listed fortified church. Inside the church is a room full of exquisite medieval stone carvings of bishops, and another where troubled couples would be banished to work through their differences in medieval times. The room contained only one bed and one set of cutlery. This cosy accommodation is supposedly the reason why there was only one divorce here in 300 years!
After breakfast this morning you will head off to visit the ancient town of Mediaș (approximately 30 minutes), whose winding lanes, churches and colourful houses evoke a medieval feel. Continue on to the Jidvei Winery (approximately 45 minutes), the biggest winery in Transylvania, churning out over 8 million litres of wine annually. Here you'll enjoy a tour and tasting. Harvesting the vineyards in this area is a long-standing tradition, with the first historical references by Herodot in 600 BC. From around AD 1200 the Jidvei-Târnăveni region was referred to as Weinland – wine land. Afterwards, travel through pastoral fields and untouched Saxon towns to the 12th-century town of Sighișoara (approximately 1.5 hours). Medieval Sighisoara is likely to seduce visitors more than any other place in Romania.
World Heritage-listed Sighișoara is one of the most beautifully preserved medieval towns in Europe, and often a favourite among tourists. The town was first settled by the Romans but flourished under the Saxons from the 12th century. Today is free for you to explore the town. Take a walk around the old town, which coils up a narrow hill and is surrounded on all sides by fortified walls, and stroll the cobbled streets past churches and burgher houses. Perhaps check out the 13th-century Venetian House, the Church of the Dominican Monastery or the 500-year-old frescoes in the Church on the Hill. A must-see is the 64 metre-high clock tower that dominates the citadel. The top provides great views across town and the surrounding Transylvanian countryside. Walking through the town is like taking a trip back in time to the medieval age, and it’s easy to image streets crowded with vampires, evil counts, wolves, peasants riding through the untamed countryside on horse-drawn carts and crooked old men doddering along the narrow streets.
While your next stop is less than an hour away, you'll feel like you've entered a different world. The small Transylvanian village of Viscri was originally inhabited by Saxons from the Luxemburg area, and the whole scene is picture-postcard rural. This idyllic village of red tiled roofs is a World Heritage site, virtually unchanged for 900 years. You’ll visit the town's fortified church (thought to be the oldest in Transylvania) and the museum of Saxon culture. You’ll also learn about the Sock Project, which supports the local Roma community. Time permitting, you may even like to go for a horse ride through the area, over pastures and through wondrous woods of oak and hornbeam. Tonight, experience a special village homestay in Viscri. The rooms are in different houses, all of them traditionally furnished. Eat dinner with the family, sampling fresh produce, homemade wines and schnapps. This is a unique opportunity for local interaction and indulgence, and to try to pick up a few tidbits of the Romanian language.
Travel to the 13th-century Saxon city of Braşov (approximately 40 minutes). Also known by its German name of Kronstadt, this town flanked by mountains and city walls was once a major medieval trading centre. Enjoy a guided walk around town, checking out the ornate churches, townhouses, old city walls, and squares surrounded by gingerbread-roofed merchants' houses. Visit Braşov's main attraction, the gothic Black Church (Biserica Neagra), which took its name from its blackened appearance after a fire in 1689. No trip to Romania would be complete without a visit to the famous Bran Castle. The castle was built by the Saxons in 1382 to defend the Bran pass against the invading Turks. With its fairytale turrets and whitewashed walls, it's far from menacing and spooky, but it is undeniably impressive, perched on a high cliff top and surrounded by pine trees.
This morning spend some more free time in Braşov. Perhaps climb nearby Mt Tampa for views over the city, or take the cable car up for a more leisurely experience. In the afternoon, take the train back to Bucharest (approximately 2.5 hours). If you have time, you can check out the Museum of the Romanian Peasant. Tonight you might like to head out for one last group dinner to reminisce on your spooky Romanian adventure.
There are no activities planned for the final day and you are able to depart the accommodation at any time. For those who wish to stay longer in Bucharest please enquire about additional accommodation at the time of booking.