My next stop was Cluj-Napoca, the unofficial capital of Transylvania. I spent the day roaming the city streets. Matthias Corvin, the King of Hungary, was born in Cluj, and his impressive statue stands in front of St Michael’s Church in Piata Unirii. I climbed Cetatuia Hill for some excellent views of the city skyline and traditional architecture.
In Cluj, I rented a car to explore Transylvania on my own. The first stop: the Turda Salt Mine. Apparently, salt was traditionally very valuable. The world salary even comes from the Latin word for salt, showing just how important salt was in Roman times. They’ve mined for salt in Turda since at least 1075. Today, it is a halotherapy center and museum. You have to descend a couple hundred feet just to enter, and then Rudolf mine is 13 stories below that.
The highlight of the trip was Castelul Corvinilor, in Hunedoara. This castle is a little under a 3 hour drive from Cluj, and I found it easiest to drive myself.
The castle was built in 1446, and has been spectacularly renovated.
Legend has it, that Vlad the Impaler, the inspiration for Dracula, was imprisoned here for seven years.
SIBIU & SIGHISOARA
I used Sibiu as a base to explore the Old Town, and also venture out to Sighisoara. In the Old Town, I climbed the Turnul Sfatului, or Council Tower, for some great views of the entire area.
From there, I continued my self-guided walking tour and saw the Evangelical Church, Piata Mare & Piata Mica, the Stairs Passage, and the oldest restaurant in Romania: The Golden Barrel.
Sighisoara is a very well-preserved medieval fortified city. From atop the famous Clock Tower, I got some incredible views of the surrounding countryside.
Inside the Citadel is the house where Vlad Tepes was born.
Driving from Sibiu was an unforgettable experience. For several hours, I wound through the Carpathian mountains from village to village on the DN7/E81.
Along the way, I stopped at the Castrul Arutela Gate, founded during the reign of Hadrian in the year 138.
The only other stop was making way for the occasional horse and buggy, sometimes transporting farm equipment, sometimes just taking the locals to the pub!
My trip to Transylvania was part of my larger trip to Bulgaria and Romania. See the rest of the trip here: