Road Trippin’ from Budapest to Romania: A Travel Story

Road Trippin’ from Budapest to Romania: A Travel Story

What does it feel like to venture into Vlad Dracula's hometown?

One of the most hair-raising travel experiences you could possibly have is taking a road trip through Romania. It all looked very straightforward on the maps as my travel buddy and I planned out our exciting vacation. We would spend a couple of days in Budapest, then hire a car and drive over the border into Romania, journey deep into the heart of Transylvania – the region of Dracula fame. We would then make our way south to Bucharest where we would continue our journey to Istanbul on the overnight train.

Also read: Epic European Road Trips You Need To Take

What could possibly go wrong?

Romania, as we quickly found out, was a land of strong contrast and contradiction. One minute we were sailing along smoothly through areas of pastoral charm, the next minute we would have a heart-stopping moment as huge lorries swerved erratically into the oncoming lane to avoid a horse and cart in the road.

Women in headscarves worked in fields alongside the road and men stacked bales of hay onto their rickety carts. On the road, many massive transporter lorries carried tonnes of freight through the country at breakneck speed and the odd mega-money sports car would pull out from lavish mansions on the edge of communities of small, tumbledown shacks. It was as though the 21st Century had collided with the 19th, and we were just keen to avoid a collision of our own!

In the cities we passed through close to the Hungarian border, the soviet 20th Century was very much in evidence in the form of the crumbling apartment blocks of that era. In crowded, traffic littered streets, beggars banged on windows and offered to wash cars. It brought home the stark contrast between urban and rural poverty. This, as much as the tranquil countryside, was the ‘real’ Romania. On the city outskirts, women stood bedecked in gaudy dress, waiting for customers on farm tracks.

Progress is swift here, things seem to be changing at breakneck speed. Many, however, still seem to be left far behind. In fact, the Romania we saw those few short years ago is already gone. A new motorway has replaced the road we travelled on and developments have continued apace. Whole new communities and an influx of new money has altered the landscape of some areas almost beyond recognition.

While things around us whirled on, our journey seemed to be taking forever. Cluj Napoca was 20km away, then, a few minutes further on down the road, another sign announced the same – 20km to Cluj Napoca. We felt as though we would never reach our destination.

In the dark of the wee, small hours we finally made our way into the quaint Transylvanian town of Sighisoara. Its quaint and delightful appearance could not have been a more stark contrast to the towns further west. We fell into our comfortable beds for the night.

We stayed in this touristy, ‘Dracula central’ town for a delightful day and then continued on our journey through the country. We passed through Brasov’s busy streets and then took a look at the fairytale castle in Bran, held up only by cows crossing the road in their leisurely fashion. As dark feel over our accommodation in Bran, silence fell, and it was almost easy to believe the legends of vampiric doings as the empty streets rang to the sound of church bells in the dusk.

Also read: Discover Europe on a Thrilling Road Trip

We crossed the Carpathians at night, and as snow began to fall heavily. With hindsight, perhaps has we known the dangers of the route we would not have been so ‘gung ho’. Lorries shrieked past at breakneck speeds, tailgating us and approaching fast on our side of the road. Fortunately, one lorry driver saw the precarious position that we were in and shepherded us down the twists and turns of the steep road.

Eventually, nerves just about intact, we made it to Bucharest, to start the next stage of our dramatic journey.

About Author

Elizabeth Waddington
Elizabeth Waddington

Elizabeth Waddington lives in rural Scotland with her husband and her dog. She is part of a small community who are trying to live as sustainably as possible. A professional freelance writer who works from home full time, she has over ten years of writing experience and an MA in English and Philosophy. She mostly writes about travel, sustainability and permaculture and has a particular interest in adventure holidays, camping, walking and sustainable travel. She travels whenever she can.


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