Not too long ago, we flew over 30 hours from Sydney to Bucharest in Romania. Romania is a destination that both Zombie and I had long wanted to visit mainly because of the famed Romanian castles: Bran Castle (aka ‘Dracula’s Castle) in Transylvannia and Peles Castle in the Carpathian Mountains.
And while we were able to accomplish that goal (separate post soon), there was one unexpected experience in Romania that proved to be unforgettable, up to this day.
A stay in the Romanian countryside.
We wanted a unique experience in Romania. The country’s capital city, Bucharest, has undergone changes from pre, during, and post-communist times. The two castle destinations, though historic and are considered a must-visit when in Romania, can be touristy.
I researched prior to our flight to Europe and read remarks that if one wants to experience what life was like PRE-communist times, your best bet is to head to rural Romania, where life still is as unchanged as it can be.
It was my fortunate luck to be introduced to Dan Chitila of Outdoor Activities in Romania by happenstance and Dan was determined to provide us an authentic and unique Romanian rural experience. After finding out what our interests and fitness levels are, Dan came up with a personalised itinerary. Because we also wanted to hit the two famous castles, he suggested we stay over in Pestera, a rural area east of Romania.
Pestera is roughly a 3-hour drive from Bucharest, and we reached the place late in the afternoon as we spent the day touring Peles and Bran Castle.
We stayed at Casa Folea, a very warm farm house run by husband and wife Rodica and Iosif Folea. This place is where Rodica and Iosif had lived since way, way back pre and during communist times.
The house was warm, made of wood and the smell of good food was brewing from the kitchen. Rodica had been calling Dan while we were on the way, asking what time our ETA was as she wanted to have food ready when we arrived. Dan did warn us that Rodica will not allow anyone to leave her house unfed. I had no issues with that at all 🙂
In the meantime, we explored the surrounding areas.
While there is no Wi-Fi in the farm (really though, I wasn’t expecting it and you wouldn’t want to be connected to the outside world in a place like this!), what there is lots and lots of in Pestera is: SPACE. Tons of it. See the distance between houses? This place is a heaven for claustrophobics. It’s the complete opposite of being in the city. Fresh air, serenity and silence. Well you will hear the occassional cow bells, and that’s music to the ears.
We explored Pestera and it’s neighbouring villages. It was a mixture of walking, taking the car, doing a bit of walk again, etc.
The things we saw on the way ranged from villagers just going about their day, horses, cows and dogs.
There were definitely surreal moments, like seeing horses and cows just roam freely and approach you curiously.
But it was the farm dogs of Pestera that I fell in love with the most.
First, this resident dog at Casa Folea who was the first to greet us upon entering the driveway, almost never left my side the entire stay.
He’s a wizened , no-nonsense old dog who helps Rodica and Iosif around the farm. He helps herd cows, and in general keeps a roving eye over things in the farm.
We slept on the second floor of the house and early in the morning, when Zombie woke up to check the sunrise, he found the dog by our doorstep, and hours later , when I got out of the room, he was still there.
And when we went around the farm, he walked ahead as if proudly showing ‘this is my turf!’, and I found it so adorable that he really wouldn’t leave our side , to the point that I couldn’t even get a photo with either Zombie or Dan without my black dog around. He stubbornly and firmly made his mark.
The only time that this lovely companion of mine left us was when we wandered outside of the Casa Folea farm property. For some reason, there’s an invisible line where farm dogs know they cannot tread past. He walked with us for a fair bit and at some point, he stopped automatically as if there was a glass barrier.
Then soon after, as we were walking within close distance to another farm’s property, a furry jet of black fur shot within view and started playfully circling us.
The cutest, cuddliest farm puppy! He was so playful and was so in the mood for a cuddle. It really took so much self control for me not to take this little pup into the car with us. 😉
I nicknamed him “Drake” (short for Dracula) and again, he playfully walked with us until he reached that invisible glass wall. I don’t know how they train their dogs to not go past these points? There was no visible line / barrier so I don’t know what indication these dogs use.
Meanwhile, back in Casa Folea, Rodica had been busy in the kitchen.
All ingredients that Rodica uses in her cooking come from her garden and farm. Prior to us arriving, we were asked about dietary requirements. I have been on a Pescetarian diet for about 5 months now (and planning to stick to it long term!) so she prepared polenta with cheese and chicken broth with dumplings. She also prepared a separate meat dish for Zombie and Dan.
The polenta dish was absolutely yummy! You can see how she makes it on the video. I’ve had polenta lots of times before but never this way. Baked with cheese!
The dumpling soup was just so good. It is of the Eastern European kind, which means the dumpling does not have any meat filling in it.
Everything was so fresh and comforting. The next day, for breakfast we had eggs, tomatoes, cheese and bread with jam that Rodica made herself.
I love this kind of food – so simple and clean. And so fresh that you don’t need much seasoning. I was told that Rodica and Iosif’s children are all grown and have moved out, and visit them from time to time. If I was one of her kids, I think I won’t be leaving the farm, or will be visiting every other day for this kind of fresh food!
Rodica would come in to the dining room every now and then and beam with delight whenever she saw us heartily eating her food.
After dinner, we went out to see and experience farm work.
We followed Iosif, Rodica’s husband to milk the cows. I decided to give it a go as well but I tell you, it’s not as easy as Iosif makes it look!
And that very same evening, that pail of milk was put through a cheese cloth sieve, boiled and….
Yes, drank that very same evening as a night cap. It probably was the freshest and fullest cream milk I ever had.
Here’s a video of our rural Romanian experience:
As much as I’d like to use the cliched term ‘stepping back into time’ to describe my time in rural Romania, there is no such ‘time’ in my life to step back to something similar. I’m a city person through and through so all this experience is so refreshing and new to me.
I’ve never experienced life that is this pure and unplugged before and this is why I appreciate it so much.
I would recommend this experience to anyone visiting Romania. Most especially if like me, you live in the city and are used to the urban life. We need this kind of detox (mental and physical) in order to live life more fully.