The Transylvanian region of Romania is famous for its castles, bear watching, winter sports and unspoilt countryside. Romania and Moldova also offer some interesting and remarkably good value culinary experiences as Doug Goodman discovered.
Before heading off for Transylvania and the Painted Monasteries of Moldova we spent a couple of days in Bucharest, Romania’s capital, which has the huge range of restaurants that visitors might expect.
A lunch in the city centre’s Caru’ Cu Bere, a traditional restaurant and a cross between a baronial hall and wine cellar, offered a delightful experience. It’s been going since 1879 and is located in Str Stavropoleos close by the beautiful monastery of St Stavropoleos.
Crowded with locals and tourists Caru’ Cu Bere nevertheless provided fast, efficient service. The meal consisting of smoked sausages (Carnati Binie afumati) with chips and salad and a sensibly sized beer was just 36 lei – about £7. Incidentally Romania’s most popular brews Ursus and Cuic, are around 10.50 lei a half litre – about £2. To learn more about beer don’t forget to visit the beer museum.
Leaving Bucharest we headed north to Transylvania to visit the castles in Peles and Bran. Dinner in Braşov, capital of the region, with a heavy German influence, was in an atmospheric cellar called Bella Musica. Here we sampled Romanian Sauvignon Blanc, chicken and chips, plus Greek salad for £8 per head.
One of the reasons for a visit to Romania had also been to see the Painted Monasteries in Moldova. The Bucharest to Suceava trip is around 250 miles which took the Inter- regional express six hours at a cost of around £10 second class.
The two nights in Suceava at the Hotel Gloria and a night at Dragomirna Monastery allowed time to explore several of the most important Painted Churches. Thanks to our expert guide Sorin Fodor we saw 11 of these beautiful churches mostly built in the 16th century decorated with their external murals.
Eating and dining in the city which until 1918 was divided by the Austrian and Romanian borders was a pleasure. Take a pre-dinner drink in Suceava at The Saltzburg, a bar opposite the Hotel Gloria or at the Oscar Wilde bar in the main square. Staff will be keen to speak English with you.
We sat on the terrace of Centru Vechi along with what seemed like the entire student population. A bottle of dry white wine, two pasta dishes and two puddings cost around £16.
On the way to Dragomirna we took lunch at Hanul Voievozilor in Horodnik de Sus, a hotel set in farmland. The owners proudly showed us pictures of recent guests – the British Ambassador to Romania and his family. Rooms were decorated in a traditional style and suites costs under £50 per night.
Storks were nesting on chimneys and the farm had donkeys, pigs, cats and dogs. Shepherds tend their flocks, farmers wave to you from their horse carts and so do people working in the fields – North East Romania is gloriously unspoiled.
Explore Worldwide Ltd: www.explore.co.uk has a good range of tours in Romania
Hotel Minerva, Bucharest: www.minerva.ro
Restaurant Caru’ cu Bere: www.carucubere.ro
Hotel Gloria, Suceava: Tel – 0040 2305 21209
Bella Musica: www.bellamuzica.ro
Restaurant Centru Vechi: www.centruvechisv.ro
Dragomirna Monastery: www.manastireadragomirna.ro
Guide: Sorin Fodor email – email@example.com