Geocaching showed me Romania. In all its colours, moods and spirits. It took me to silent backstreets to unravel unexpected treasures, or to obvious landmarks where concealed secrets appeared to be hidden right under the public eye… only visible for the lucky few. A secret, global community. Us.
Like most foreigners, I didn’t know much about Romania. I knew it had something to do with vampires and the Black Sea, but that was about the sum of my knowledge. And that’s a good thing! I mean… what purpose does travelling even serve if you already know (or think you know) the entire destination? Travelling is about discoveries, broadening the mind and smashing stereotypes. Boy, do I love the latter! I didn’t know a damn thing about Romania, but I was going to travel the hell out of that place and take it all in. Just me, my backpack and my buddy GC (Geo Caching).
Clouds slithering by, engines growling… a sudden wobble, applauding idiots: touch-down. I was in Bucharest. A place I only knew from my geography classes, ready to internalize it into my memories. Curiously I peeked out of the airplane, “holy f**king f**k that’s cold”… but somehow it felt like how it was supposed to be. In the upcoming weeks every single Romanian would tell me how I arrived in the wrong season, but I beg to disagree. When the rest of the world thinks of Eastern Europe, we imagine snow storms, icicles and Game-of-Thrones-kinda-settings… and even though the vast majority of prejudices one could possibly have about Romania turned out to be bullcrap or greatly exaggerated, I was pleased to confirm that at least this one seemed (partly) true. Not only did I get full-on blizzards, the entire capital was covered in ice! Welcome to the Crystal City, you lucky bastard.
It turned out that I like many things about Romania. But one thing worth mentioning are the cheap mobile data packages (18 lei for 60GB – wow!), that’s some serious Geocaching-a-go-go! My digital scavenger hunt took off quite grimly, showing me a painful part of recent Romanian history in an inescapable manner: Club Collectiv, famous for its tragedy. Being a passionate metalhead myself this grabbed me by the throat, leaving psychological fingerprints for many days to follow. However, leave it to Geocaching to cheer me up with alternative musical finds, from Electro Record to the studio of Subcarpati. It brought me to venues such as Iuliu Maniu, Sala Palatului, Teatrul Capitol, Arenele Romane, the Roman Athenaeum and the grand Opera Nationale Bucuresti, instantly inspiring me to attend live performances (both Prokofiev’s Romeo şi Julieta and Soilwork’s death metal, I have a wide taste).
It invited me to dance until dawn in the clubs dotting Lipscani, and dragged me out of bed to stroll down the streets of Victoriei, Tonitza and Invoirii. Geocaching showed me art by leading me to the doors of its national museums, pearls of native culture, but also granted me a sneak-peek into Bucharest’s diverse street art scene, bursting of local talent. It led me over bridges, through parks, into churches and passed the most significant governmental buildings of the country. Geocaching revealed all the faces of Bucharest.
Read more about my Geoaching adventures in Bucharest here: https://www.budgetbucketlist.com/bucharest-one-geocache-at-a-time.html
Following a logical geographical course, I headed north to Sinaia. The appeal of pleasant low-budget ski resorts lured me in, but it was Geocaching that made me appreciate the less obvious. Instead of following the crowds and sounds of the main road, I followed the little digital compass into scenic little alleys and off-roads behind monasteries and castles. And with castles I refer to the Castle of all Castles, the jaw-dropping, knee-weakening, mind-blowing Peleş Castle! Not only is this spot one of the most prominent manifestations of Romanian high-end culture, it’s also dotted with a wealth of little hides placed by you, the Romanians… popular culture, if you will. Not only did I experience in Sinaia what it’s like to lose track on a mountain and accidentally thunder down an off-piste black slope while definitely not being skilled to do so(Romanian sign posts are only useful for Romanians so to say), but I now also know what looks people give you when you stick an arm into a tree-hole when you think that no one’s watching.
Read more about Sinaia here: https://www.budgetbucketlist.com/sinaia.html
Romania might be quite big by European standards… but it feels delightfully compact to me after travelling South America for 3,5 years straight. A short little train ride up and BAM, you’re in Braşov! A city that not only surprised me with its density of historical landmarks, but also with its variety in surrounding nature. I didn’t even bother to check travel-apps such as Tripadvisor or the Lonely Planet, I was pretty confident that Geocaching would show me all the highlights without spoiling the surprise. From the Biserica Neagra to the Prima Scoala Româneasca, from Rockstadt to Poiana Braşov, and from the narrowest street in the entire country to every single gate or tower ever erected on this patch of Earth, I’ve not only seen it… I inspected every little stone and hole of it. My personal highlight was the little detour to Bran… not because I’m particularly passionate about your boy Vlad or tourbuses full of Asians (although admitted, I enjoyed my little photo shoot with plastic Dracula-teeth), but because of the tourist-free Schaeffler Park just around the corner. If you love some serious dark art, this will give you more chills than that entire castle ever will. Thank you, @bdanv-and-georares!
Special thanks to the hostess of Teatru Dramatic Braşov, who chased me out as she thought I was possibly placing a bomb or drug-package next to the venue.
7 different experiences in Braşov: https://www.budgetbucketlist.com/brasov-7-different-experiences.html
When you travel long enough (5 years fulltime in my case) all places stared to look the same eventually. That’s when you start valuing towns such as Sibiu. When I was a little girl I was downright obsessed with Mary Poppins, rewinding that scene where she jumps into a painting over and over again… I broke that little head of mine to figure out ways how to turn that hopeless ambition into a reality one day. I wish I could go back in time and tell toddler-me that the time will come, that I just have to put up my thumb and hitchhike to a magical place called Sibiu. Full of bright colours, frosty rooftops and smiling people. And a shit-ton of Geocaches.
Together with my Couchsurfing* host, who I instantly infected with the Caching-virus, I drove from place to place to place to find a hidden world he as a local didn’t even know existed.
* Couchsurfing is a global travellers network where visitors sleep on the couch of locals for the sake of a cultural exchange. It changed my life.
To read more about Sibiu, the Făgăraș mountain range and sleeping in an igloo at the Ice Hotel, check: https://www.budgetbucketlist.com/transylvania-in-winter-sibiu-and-region.html
Geoaching reaches far and wide in Romania, all the way up the hills of the Sighişoara Citadel. Like an infiltration into a time cocoon. It’s easy to fall in love with the ultimate manifestation of picturesque, and therefore I wasn’t expecting to find anything ‘shit’ up here… but thanks to @dbotond I even discovered the ultimate outdoor toilet spot of Sighişoara, uncovering a cache surrounded by human feces. Thanks, bro.
My non-shitty impressions of Sighişoara: https://www.budgetbucketlist.com/sighisoara.html
Cluj Napoca / Turda
From the Turda Saltmine (and more importantly: its winery next door) to the diverse sun-shaped Geoaching tour made possible by the Sunshine Team* (@ancsam, @dr_henry, @kukukk and @sszabolcs99 – thanks guys!), there was plenty of Geocaching fun in Cluj Napoca to entertain me for almost a week straight. However, there was one place in particular, one unusual, dark, odd pearl of dark tourism, that I just had to experience for myself: the Hoia-Baciu Forest. So I went. At the dead of night. And yes, some seriously freaky stuff happened up there (check out the link if you’re curious)… but my question remains: What will happen to the Geocaches up there? Will they disappear and turn up unharmed 5 years later, like that little girl reappearing with untarnished clothes but a blacked out memory? Will alien faces and ghost appearances doom up in the photo-logs of the cache? Will poltergeists move their location, messing up the coordinates? Only one way to find out, community, we need some caches over there!
* You can earn yourself a free beer if you snap photos from every cache of this tour.
The reality behind Romanian ‘fun facts’ experienced in Cluj Napoca: https://www.budgetbucketlist.com/cluj-napoca-romania.html
You know where else we need some caches? In Maramureş, you people! I get it, you want to keep the absolute highlight of Romania, the core of your culture, a secret to an increasing trail of foreigner visitors and save it from the devastating effects of mass tourism… but let’s hope at least the Geocaching-crowd are decent folks. It was hard enough to get there, I’m not exaggerating if I report over 20 separate hitchhikes, including 1 on a horse-and-carriage… but these few caches I could trace down were often near to impossible to reach without your own vehicle as zero traffic flows even went up there (and we all know how well-developed the public transport network is up there). Well, at least I have a reason to go back there… as obviously the entire Romanian Geocaching-community will instantly start hiding boxes up there after reading this blog 😉
Follow my journey through Vişeu de Sus, Borşa, Barsana, Sighet and Săpanța here: https://www.budgetbucketlist.com/maramures-region.html
I wasn’t specifically planning on spending time in Oradea, but life is full of surprises. Especially when it comes to one specific cache in particular I ended up finding there. I thought of myself as quite the seasoned Geocacher after repeatedly running into (and almost grabbing into) heroin needles in the capital city Bucharest… but little did I know what Oradea had in store for me:
But then again, it’s an extreme sport.
Geocacher BudgetBucketListcom travels the world on a budget since 5 years and blogs about her adventures and budget tips on the website (what a surprise) www.budgetbucketlist.com. After journeys through South- and Central America, Oceania, Asia and northern Africa she’s now making her way through Europe while prepping her upcoming trip to Canada.