The volunteer program I was on includes the occasional day trip out to other touristy sites in the area. For my last Friday there, Gabriel had offered to drive me out to Bran Castle (billed nowadays as "Dracula's Castle," though the only connection with Vlad Ţepeş [the supposed "historical" Dracula] is that he once laid siege to it). However, Robin was going to be working that day and taking Sunday off, and I wanted to help him with the construction project as much as I could while I was still around. So I passed on that and figured we could take a trip together on Sunday. Once Friday rolled around, though, we found out it was a saint's day of some sort and we weren't allowed to work, so we had two days off. By that time, though, Gabriel had disappeared with the jeep and the only vehicle we had available was Robin's RV. We didn't want to go all the way to Bran in that, so no castles for us, but we found a couple other nice places to go visit and hike around.
On Friday we went to Cheia and had lunch at a fairly nice looking restaurant where most of the items on the menu were not available and most of the desserts involved "pancakes" (which turned out to be crepes -- I got the ones wrapped around scoops of chocolate ice cream). From there we went to a mountainous national park, which I unfortunately did not get the name of. We left the RV at the bottom of the non-RV-friendly road and hiked extremely uphill for a while, cutting across the loops in the road via paths that mostly went where we expected them to. At more or less the top, it flattens out a bit and there's a parking lot, a cafe and some other buildings.
However, as you look around there, you see another ridge up above that seems to have a completely vertical black line painted on it (see this photo). While Robin took a break to get some coffee, I went to investigate and found that you could go up yet another thousand feet or so. It wasn't quite as vertical as it looked (though close to it) and there were rough steps pressed into the earth and steel cables strung alongside. (This was presumably for you to hold onto as you climbed, though there were sections where you had to choose either the cable or the steps. But mostly the steps were enough.) I climbed about 600-something steps and got probably 3/4 of the way up. The last section gets even steeper and more rugged, though, and since it was already quite vertiginous enough for me, I decided to let it go. I'm pretty sure the view couldn't have gotten much better anyway. Coming back down turned out to be more difficult than going up, actually, since you're not facing into the mountain. My legs were killing me by the time I got back down. Great climb, though.
On Sunday we pulled out the map again and found a lake called Siriu that looked like it would be a nice size to hike around in an afternoon, so we packed a picnic and drove out there. It was quite a nice lake, though it turned out to be man-made with a dam, and to not have anything remotely resembling a trail around it. We hiked along the hilly shore for a while then sat on a nice rocky outcropping to eat lunch. It was getting ready to rain at that point, though, and we could tell there was no way we'd be able to make it all around so we headed back to the RV and had a nice cup of tea inside during the afternoon shower.
Rural Romania is really lovely, so it's a shame that people don't take care of it very well. Everywhere we went there was trash just all over the ground, and of course no trash bins to put it in anyway. Bucharest was actually cleaner in that respect since the city and parks have places to actually throw away your stuff.
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