For big anniversaries such as 25, 30 years, JB is always entitled to surprise gifts. And this year, as he just celebrated his thirties, I secretly planned a romantic weekend in Sinaia, where the most beautiful castle in Romania is located
Part 1: Travel Diary
If we are currently based in Bucharest, JB has to go to Paris every week at the moment, just for a physical meeting that lasts barely 1 hour. So it’s around 1am that he finally comes back, exhausted and sick, to Bucharest… to be woken up at 10:15 a.m. by my phone
Feeling that he intends to continue his sleep-in, I tell him that he has 45 minutes to get ready because “we’re going somewhere for the weekend”
He asks me, looking enthusiastic: “Shall I take my swimsuit?”
ah no! I’m lying to him, slipping his sports gear and swimsuit into the suitcase myself, neither seen nor known 😀
Having gone to the train station the day before to buy the tickets, I know the way by heart and brings us to the North Station (ouiii they also have a North Gara in Bucharest) in 30 minutes
We barely have time to buy sandwiches at Subway when our train is already arriving. We are in the wrong car but the controllers are very nice and show us the right car. I took the 1st class for us, fortunately I did it because JB would have been too cramped in 2nd class. As usual, everywhere in the world, JB falls on a square of 4 (snif), he hates it because it’s not ideal for his long legs
In the train, vendors pass by to offer us chips, drinks and glasses of raspberry and blueberry. Hmmm difficult to resist when it costs only 2,5€ the big tub of blueberry
The train arrives on time and we discover a beautiful mountainous city, a little too populated for my taste. We walk to our hotel… I tease JB by showing him some dingy hotels and pretending that they are ours. Finally, we arrive at last at our 4* hotel and I announce to him that it is equipped with a sauna, a hammam, two swimming pools, 3 jacuzzis… He is delighted because he fights against his tiredness and his cold since one week and a good sauna will cure him
It is already 2:30 pm and the castle closes at 4:30 pm. One quickly takes a cab, not having the courage to take a good difference in altitude during 40mn. The driver is super funny, he announces to us, the serious air, like Game of Thrones that “Winter is coming”. That we had an exceptionally mild month of August but winter will soon show its nose with its -20°C for weeks
Normal, Sinaia is also a ski resort!
Peles Castle is the summer residence of the 1st king of Romania. It is very beautiful and above all modern: equipped from the very beginning with electricity, heating system, running (and hot) water. For the Romanian style, we will visit other things eh, because this one is built in a German style
A small zoom on the door?
Even if it’s not quite the same thing, it still makes me think of the poster for the film Dracula by Bram Stocker
The castle must be visited with a guide (it is included in the rates). We choose the normal tour for 30lei/person which lasts 1h. And we choose not to pay the extra 35lei to take pictures
I must say that for the second most visited castle in Romania, the organization is bad. We queue in front of the front door, only to be chased away by an employee “come back in 15 minutes, the next tour is at 15:15”. Yeah great, when we come back in 15 minutes, we’ll get back in line and wait for the next round again, right? They should have assigned everyone a specific time
The guide isn’t very interesting, it’s just a pretext to regulate the traffic within the castle which has a very small ceiling height and a very busy decoration (wood everywhere, sculptures and statues everywhere). It’s not too much our style, but looking at each detail, one can only be ecstatic in front of so much technicality, richness and precious materials
Photo taken on Eastcomfort.com
The two-storey dream bookstore is also very impressive
Photo taken on adventure-romania.com
The stained glass windows are also beautiful. It’s a pity that there are so many people because we have to move very quickly from one room to the other; and try to be next to our guide otherwise we will hear the guide of the next tour, explaining the same thing, but in a language that we don’t understand
I have to admit however that it is my favorite castle in Central/Eastern Europe… for the moment
After 1 hour of visit in a restricted space with ill-mannered tourists, we are happy to finally get out of it. We pass in front of the other castle (Pelisor), reserved for the 2nd king of Romania. This one is the nephew of the 1st, because the 1st has no children. But the castle is already closed at 4:30 pm, we are going to be satisfied to look outside. Anyway, JB is still sick and can’t wait to enjoy his sauna
We hail a cab that refuses to put the meter on (10lei to our hotel, he says). Always so charming cab drivers, everywhere in the world! But hey, 10 lei = 2,2€..
When I booked the hotel (Hotel International), there were only rooms with twin beds left. I made the reservation and then wrote an email to the hotel mentioning JB’s birthday to ask them to book us a double room if possible. This trick always works in luxury hotels because we had, thanks to the same technique, an upgrade at the Sheraton in Macau (+ macaroons) and a special attention at Vinpearl Vietnam
Here is the beautiful view we have from the bed. The chairs you see there are part of our private terrace. Hihihihihi
We quickly move on to the Wellness area (after going around in circles – apparently signage isn’t one of the Romanians’ strong points). The pools are much larger than in the pictures, and we are surprised to discover a large salt water pool
The hammam is super hot (it reminds us of the thermal baths in Budapest), the sauna is fine, the jacuzzis are small but fun. In short, after 2 hours alternating between jacuzzis, pools, saunas and hammams, JB is almost cured. Yippee!
We dine at the hotel’s Tifol restaurant, which is super disappointing. Fortunately the prices are reasonable and the service impeccable
The next day, we enjoy the hotel’s super varied and generous breakfast (all-you-can-eat buffet). The Romanian pastries do not equal their French versions but it is still very good. On that note, we make a last visit to the wellness area before leaving the hotel
We have lunch in a restaurant on the main road. JB is surprised to see that the menu isn’t translated into English for such a touristic place. However, Romanian is very close to French, so we had no trouble understanding the menu
In fact, non-Romanian tourists visit Sinaia in the morning and then continue to Brasov and visit the Bran Castle (the fake Dracula Castle). But this weekend is mostly an opportunity to offer a relaxing break to a sick birthday boy so we put less emphasis on visits
Thus ends our quick weekend in Sinaia. The train will take 1h30 to bring us back to Bucharest, under a torrential rain
Part 2: Practical Tips
- Hotel International ****, 130€/night, breakfast included, access to the wellness area (there are other hotels much cheaper, from 20€/night)
- Meals: between 70 and 80 lei for two people (17€)
- Visit to Peles Castle: normal tour 30 lei/person, optional tour 60 lei/person
- Cab downtown => Peles Castle: 7 lei normally, but the drivers will try to charge you 10 lei
- Train Bucharest – Sinaia: 10€ in 1st class/person/journey, you can buy the tickets online here http://www.cfrcalatori.ro
If you are interested, there is also a cable car in Sinaia.