I’m always looking for a bit of adventure and excitement in my holidays, favouring hiking in Morocco over a luxury spa holiday or a shopping trip to New York (yawn – not for me!). So when I spotted the Romanian snowmobiling trip pop up on Groupon last November I signed up without hesitation. Why wouldn’t I? I’ve never been to Romania (or indeed any Eastern European country beforehand) and I’d never done snowmobiling, but I thought it looked pretty cool and it appealed to the adrenaline junky in me!
Palace of Parliament, Bucharest
We flew in to Bucharest Wednesday afternoon 2 days early to take in the sights of the city. Unfortunately, apart from the odd beautiful building (sadly juxtaposed next to a hideous buildings/graffiti) and Caru cu Berre – the oldest restaurant in Bucharest serving traditional Romanian food, there isn’t much to do during the day. But, as my liver will tell you, it really comes into its own at night, with copious bars and restaurants and drinks at a fraction of the price we pay in the UK.
Having sampled the delights of the city, we met with the other people in the group (a mix of Belgians and Brits – all lovely people!) and were transferred to our Mountain lodge in Poiana Brasov where we met with the snow mobile guide. If you imagine following as spoken by Dracula himself, we were told ‘If you do not follow the instructions, you may die’. Well, at that point all of us were rather scared/excited about what the next day would bring!
We started out early in freezing cold temperatures for our briefing, which comprised ‘these are the breaks, this is the accelerator – now go!’ – clearly not known for small talk Romanians! 🙂 We raced off behind the slightly deranged guide – note: the health and safety police haven’t reached Romania yet – desperately trying to keep up and trying not to lose control of the snow mobile. The first 3 hours were cold and I couldn’t wait to get back to the lodge to regain the feeling in my fingers and toes. In the afternoon, the blizzard had subsided and the sun was out. We headed up the hill for more adrenaline-fueled fun (at 40k/h no less), including racing around a circuit and realising that snowmobiles can quite easily tip over (scary stuff), get stuck in the ice up a hill, or indeed fall into a snow hole!
After an early night (snowmobiling is exhausting), we had an early start on the Sunday for more snowmobiling shenanigans – the sun was beaming down and this time we headed up the hill and got the most spectacular view of the forest and the mountains, somewhat reminiscent of Alaska or Canada.
On our way back to the hotel in Bucharest for our final night, before an ungodly flight at 6.30am, we visited Dracula’s castle in the heart of Transylvania, which was truly magnificent!
Would I go back?
Yes I would. I would never go back to Bucharest, but I’m glad I went. I would love to explore more of the mountains though, perhaps next time on foot.
Romania is a truly unspoilt wilderness with a real mixed heritage (oddly latin-based language but with Hungarian influences on the food), but if you are expecting a tourism mecca with all the hospitality you would expect from a Western European country, then Romania is not for you. Tourism clearly hasn’t quite reached Romania, which I think is all part of the charm. All in all, I met some fantastic people and had lot of fun – a truly great experience indeed!