Our product manager Philippa Butcher has just returned from Romania, where she was making the final preparations for the first Newmarket Holidays tour there this summer. Read about her journey in our latest instalment of Staff Stories.
When people think of Romania, they often picture tired stereotypes. Think Dracula and the austere effects of communism. However, there is so much more to this fascinating country, which has a unique story to tell that goes well beyond tales of dictators and fictional blood-sucking counts.
The flight, direct from London Gatwick to Bucharest Otopeni, took around three hours. Heading out from the airport into the striking Romanian countryside, you start to get a feel for the country, which is a delightful mix of hills, meadows and mountains.
We travelled first to Brașov, a sprawling city in Transylvania surrounded by the Carpathian Mountains, where we will spend four nights.
The Black Church
At its heart is the charming Old Town, with its Saxon walls and Gothic church, known as the Black Church due to its appearance after it was damaged by fire in the 15th century – it was rebuilt, but the name just stuck!
The cobbled Old Town is home to a collection of colourful Baroque buildings and lively cafés, centred around the impressive Council Square. Elsewhere in the city, a funicular takes guests up the hillside, near the Hollywood-style Brașov sign, with sweeping views over the Old Town and rest of the city.
Over to Vlad's house
From Brașov, we visited Bran Castle on an excursion, famous as the home of Vlad the Impaler, who was reportedly Bram Stoker’s inspiration for Dracula. The stunning medieval castle is an impregnable fortress, with an inner courtyard, and some lovely tea rooms, serving some delicious Dracula-themed treats.
We also visited Peleș Castle in the Carpathian Mountains, which, although slightly smaller, was equally as stunning, together with the charming cities of Sibiu and Sighișoara, both around two hours’ drive from Brașov.
Sighișoara, supposedly where Vlad the Impaler was born, boasts a stunning Old Town, set on a hill overlooking the main town.
The café capital
My last stop was Bucharest, a cosmopolitan and forward-thinking city, where we spent two nights. Romania’s capital is a very welcoming place, and its residents are very proud. Locals will rejoice in telling you that Bucharest’s Palace of Parliament is the world’s third-largest administrative building.
European café culture has firmly taken hold in the city, providing the perfect opportunity to take a break from sightseeing and try some tasty local dishes, like papanasi, a doughnut filled with sour cream, fruit and jam, topped with a smaller doughnut!
Romania is a beautiful country, with a rich history and fascinating cultural heritage – I just know our customers are going to love it!