By Rashi Sen, Editor, Travel & Tourism News Middle East
Since I read Bram Stoker’s Dracula in my early teens, I have always dreamt of visiting the mysterious Carpathian Mountains of Romania, home to spooky legends, Romani gypsies and virgin, dark forests.
Seven days in the country and we realised that rustic Romania is all that and much, much more. The Merry Cemetery in Sapanta, the wooden churches of Maramures and the stunning Transfăgărășan were just some of the places we were lucky enough to visit.
My husband, my two-year- old daughter and myself started our road trip from Cluj- Napoca, the unof cial capital of Transylvania, from where we drove to Sapanta close to the northern border of Romania.
Sapanta is home to one of the most unique cemeteries around the world – most of the tombstones are painted in a striking blue colour, mirroring the sky. The Merry Cemetery gets its name from the poems, paintings and stories that are inscribed on all the 600 tombstones in this cemetery. The paintings often cite a funny anecdote from the deceased one’s life, such as an angry mother-in-law or a flirtatious drunk.
This cemetery is not one to miss if you are a taphophile or a tombstone tourist – as the blue cemetery is one of those rare cemeteries that do not leave you feeling blue.
Next on the cards for us were the centuries-old wooden churches of Maramures, eight of which have been awarded Unesco World Heritage Site status. As darkness fell and as the last of the tall dark wooden churches faded into the horizon, we drove south towards Transfăgărășan, one of the country’s highest and most expensive roads.
Transfăgărășan is, without a doubt, the most stunning road we have ever driven on, and we have done all the top drives of Europe: the winding roads interspersed with stunning glimpses of Lake Balea completely did us in but the imposing fortress of Vlad The Impaler looming in the distance was definitely the cherry on the cake.