Romania – Red Wine & Vampires

 

A 16-day Wine & Culture tour of Romania from Friday 8th May to Saturday 23rd May 2020

 

 

Itinerary

Day 1 – Friday 8 May (Bucharest)

  • Fly to Bucharest. (KLM fly to Bucharest from Leeds/Bradford Airport via Amsterdam leaving at 0620 and arriving in Bucharest at 1340)
  • Met by guide at airport & transferred to BERTHLOT HOTEL
  • A relaxed walking tour in the City Center and Old Town if time permits (depending on time of arrival in Bucharest)
  • Evening free
  • Overnight in  Bucharest

Bucharest: Romania’s capital sometimes gets a bad rap, but in fact it’s dynamic, energetic and lots of fun. Many travellers give the city just a night or two before heading off to Transylvania, but that’s not enough time. Allow at least a few days to take in the very good museums, stroll the parks and hang out at trendy cafes and drinking gardens. While much of the centre is modern and the buildings are in various stages of disrepair, you’ll find splendid 17th- and 18th-century Orthodox churches and graceful belle époque villas tucked away in quiet corners. Communism changed the face of the city forever, and nowhere is this more evident than at the gargantuan Palace of Parliament, the grandest (and arguably crassest) tribute to dictatorial megalomania you’ll ever see. – (Lonely Planet)

Day 2 – Saturday 9 May (Brasov)

Brasov is the gateway to Transylvania. After coming from Bucharest, the pace of life noticeably slows. The air cools. There’s a relaxed, romantic feel as you wander through Brasov’s narrow cobblestone streets. The 13th-century city transports you back in time with an unassuming tangible authenticity.

Day 3 – Sunday 10 May (Brasov)

  • Breakfast at hotel
  • Drive to the Bear Sanctuary in Zarnesti (1 hr.)
  • Drive to Bran Castle (45 mts.)
  • Return to Brasov (1 hr.)
  • Evening free
  • Overnight in Brasov at Hotel Muzica

Bear Sanctuarey: Not enough time to join a bear hide excursion to see these impressive carnivores lumbering through their natural habitat? Libearty Sanctuary is the next best thing. This 69-hectare enclosure is the leafy retirement home of former captive bears, most of whom endured horrific confinement (and sometimes torture) at the hands of circuses, zoos and private owners. Visits are by guided tour, at times when bears approach the fences for some of the tasty entrails thrown their way by staff. It’s 7km east of Zărnesţi. Romania outlawed the keeping of wild bears in 2005. Most of the bears at the sanctuary are Romanian, but some have been rescued from as far afield as Albania and Texas. The giant of the sanctuary, at 400 kilos, hails from Armenia. It’s impressive to see these enormous mammals but undeniably sad to see scars of what they endured: some pace in circles, despite the abundant space. You may also spot tiny deer or the nine wolves who also make their home here. – (Lonely Planet)

Zarnesti: Though it’s perched on the eastern edge of craggy Piatra Craiului National Park, Zărnesţi shares none of its drama. This low-key little town is a useful base for day-hikes into the park, or to circle your wagons before a longer trek; otherwise there’s no reason to hang around. Some 7km east is Libearty Bear Sanctuary, though this is just as easy to visit on an excursion from Braşov or Bran (plus transfers and guided tours are easier to find from there than Zărnesţi). – (Lonely Planet)

Bran Castle: Rising above the town on a rocky promontory, Bran Castle holds visitors in thrall. An entire industry has sprouted around describing it as ‘Dracula’s Castle’, though connections to either the historical Vlad Ţepeş or Bram Stoker’s fictional vampire are thin. The liberties taken with Bran’s reputation are quickly forgotten on a visit: you’ll climb up its conical towers, admiring views over thick forest, and stroll through creaky-floored rooms furnished with bearskin rugs and 19th-century antiques. Noting Bran Pass’ strategic location, Teutonic knights built a citadel here in the 13th century. The structure was destroyed in battle, but fears of Turkish invasion led to a new citadel being built in the same place in 1382, as part of a 14th-century boom in castle-building. Bran Castle languished as an administrative building during the 18th century. The town of Bran was offered to Queen Maria of Romania in 1920, as a thank you for her efforts in uniting the country. Indeed, you’ll learn rather more about Queen Maria than Dracula. One room exhibits a half-hearted account of Romanian vampire lore, and rather infuriatingly shoehorns together some displays on Vlad Ţepeş – popularly, ‘the Impaler’ – and author Bram Stoker. Several displays are devoted to Maria, the castle’s former royal resident, and her belongings are lovingly displayed alongside video footage. One of the finest rooms is her husband King Ferdinand’s former bedroom, with decorated furniture and ceramic fireplaces. Bran Castle hosts atmospheric events around Halloween; check the castle’s website for details. – (Lonely Planet)

Day 4 – Monday 11 May (Bucovina)

Bicaz Gorges: National highway 12C winds its way through the Bicaz Gorges (Cheile Bicazului), 20km west of Bicaz. It’s a spectacular ride as the road cuts through sheer 300m-high limestone cliffs along which pine trees improbably cling. The road runs directly beneath overhanging rocks in the ‘neck of hell’ (Gâtul Iadului) section. A few kilometres west begins Transylvania’s Harghita County and Lacu Roşu (Red Lake), a pretty lake where you can get a bite and a boat, or hike around. The road continues another 20km to Gheorgheni via the similarly scenic Bucin pass.

Bucolic Bucovina is dotted with slant-roofed village houses and lovely groves of beech trees (indeed, the name ‘Bucovina’ derives from the ancient German and Slavic roots for beech). As in neighbouring Maramureș, across the mountains, you’ll encounter old women in colourful traditional dress, fearless children riding bareback on horses, and enterprising locals scouring the forest for some truly massive mushrooms. It’s an ornery place, and both public transport and foreign languages can be lacking, but Bucovina is nevertheless highly worthwhile for hill walks, cycling, rural idylls and, of course, taking in those unforgettably colourful monasteries.

 

Day 5 – Tuesday 12 May (Bucovina)

Voronet: Built in just three months and three weeks by Ştefan cel Mare following a key 1488 victory over the Turks, Voroneţ Monastery is the only painted monastery that has had an internationally recognised colour associated with it. ‘Voroneţ Blue’, a vibrant cerulean hue created from lapis lazuli and other ingredients, is prominent in its frescoes. A 2011 restoration of frescoes in the entryway revealed the incredible quality of these paintings even more clearly. The wondrous size, scope and detail of the Last Judgement fresco, which fills the entire exterior western wall of the Voroneţ Monastery, has earned near-universal accolades as being the most marvellous Bucovina fresco. Angels at the top roll up the zodiac signs, indicating the end of time, while humanity is brought to judgement in the middle. On the left, St Paul escorts the believers, while a stern Moses takes the nonbelievers on the right. Heaven and the Garden of Eden is on the bottom left, the Resurrection is on the bottom right. On the northern wall is Genesis, from Adam and Eve to Cain and Abel. The southern wall features the Tree of Jesse (King David’s father) with the biblical genealogy. The first three rows portray St Nicholas’ life and miracles. The next two rows recount the martyrdom of Suceava’s St John the New. The bottom row, from left to right, features the monastery’s patron saint, St George, fighting the dragon, St Daniel the Hermit (Daniil Sihastrul) with Metropolitan Grigorie, a Deisis icon, and the 1402 procession of St John the New’s relics into Suceava. In the antechamber lies the tomb of Daniel the Hermit, the ascetic who encouraged Ştefan cel Mare to fight the Turks, and then became the monastery’s first abbot. Daniel’s cave is located near Putna Monastery. The monastery is about 6km from the town of Gura Humorului.

Moldovita: Built in 1532, Moldoviţa Monastery occupies a fortified quadrangular enclosure with tower, gates and well-tended lawns. The central painted church has been partly restored and features impressive frescoes from 1537. The southern exterior wall depicts the siege of Constantinople in AD 626, under a combined Persian-Avar attack. Interestingly, the besiegers are depicted in Turkish dress – keeping parishioners concentrated on the contemporary enemy. Inside the sanctuary, on a wall facing the carved iconostasis, a pious Prince Petru Rareş offers the church to Christ. The monastery’s small museum displays Rareş’ original throne.

Day 6 – Wednesday 13 May (Maramures)

Widely regarded as Romania’s most traditional region, dotted with steepled wooden churches and farmhouses fronted by ornately carved gates, Maramureş feels as if you are climbing into a horse-drawn time machine and heading back a couple of centuries. Indeed, Maramureş’ tapestry of pastureland, peopled by colourfully garbed peasants, jumps straight out of a Brothers Grimm fairy tale. Welcome to the heart of folkloric, medieval Romania, where the last peasant culture in Europe continues to thrive.

The Village Hotel is set in over one hectare of land in the heart of the village of Breb, in Northern Transylvania. There is a stream that runs though the center, surrounded by fruit trees and organic gardens. Accommodation is spread over 3 private villas and one main house.

Day 7 – Thursday 14 May (Maramures)

Day 8 – Friday 15 May

  • A relaxed day in Breb Village – no bus services (driver’s rest day) 
  • Overnight in Marmures

Day 9 – Saturday 16 May (Coltesti Village)

Day 10 – Sunday 17 May (Coltesti Village)

 

 

  • Wine tasting at Villa Vinea (2 hrs. drive)
  • Drive 2h and visit Sibiu Medieval City 
  • OVERNIGHT IN SIBIU – HOTEL REPUBLIQUE

Day 11 – Monday 18 May (Sibiu)

 

  • drive 1.5h and visit Biertan Fortified Church
  • drive 45 min and visit Sighisoara Citadelle
  • drive 2h back to Sibiu

Day 12 – Tuesday 19 May 

  • drive 4h and reach Bucharest – walking tour
  • OVERNIGHT IN BUCHAREST  – BETHLOT HOTEL 

Day 13 – Wednesday 20 May (Danube Delta)

Tulcea: The Danube port of Tulcea (pronounced tool-cha) is the largest city in the delta and the main entry point for accessing the region. It’s got good bus and minibus connections to the rest of the country, and is home to the main passenger ferries. If you’ve only got a short amount of time (one to three days), you’ll want to base yourself here and explore the delta via boating day trips. If you’ve got more time, you’ll likely only transit through Tulcea on your way to deeper destinations like Sulina and Sfântu Gheorghe. There are plenty of good hotels and restaurants, and several interesting museums if you’re caught up in bad weather. – (Lonely Planet)

Danube Delta: After passing through several countries and absorbing countless lesser waterways, the Danube empties into the Black Sea south of the Ukrainian border. The Danube Delta (Delta Dunării), included on Unesco’s World Heritage list, is one of Romania’s leading attractions. At Tulcea, the river splits into three separate channels: the Chilia, Sulina and Sfântu Gheorghe arms, creating a constantly evolving 4187-sq-km wetland of marshes, floating reed islets and sandbars. The region provides sanctuary for 300 species of bird and 160 species of fish. Reed marshes cover 1563 sq km, constituting one of the largest single expanses of reed beds in the world. The delta is a haven for wildlife lovers, birdwatchers, fishers and anyone wanting to get away from it all for a few days. There are beautiful, secluded beaches at both Sulina and Sfântu Gheorghe, and the fish and seafood, particularly the fish soup, are the best in Romania. – (Lonely Planet)

Day 14 – Thursday 21 May (Danube Delta)

  • Breakfast at hotel
  • A longer, second Boat Ride to explore deeper Danube Delta – nature, birds, canals, lakes, animals, vegetation, etc
  • Traditional meal in the evening
  • Overnight Danube Delta

Day 15 – Friday 22 May (Bucharest)

  • 1 hr boat transfer back to Tulcea  and drive 1 hr to Macin Winery for another wine tasting. They are the wine provider for the Romanian Royal Family
  • Drive 3.5h to Bucharest (3.5 hrs.)
  • Free time
  • Overnight in Bucharest at BERTHLOT HOTEL

The Alcovin-Măcin Vineyard spreads over an area of 300 hectares, and it is the official wine supplier of the Romanian Royal House. The Winery has 5 major brands of wine – Pelegrin, Curtea Regală, Renatus, Tres Rosae, and Trei Brate, each of which produces a large variety of wines. Aligoté Curtea Regală is one its most appreciated wines. This young refreshing white wine is Dry and has an average percentage of alcohol by volume and a moderate acidity. It pairs perfectly with white meats, especially oily fish, and cheese products, and it was the favorite wine of King Michael of Romania.

Day 16 – Saturday 23 May (Flight Home)

  • More visiting if time allows
  • Transfer to the airport for the KLM flight to Leeds/Bradford via Amsterdam at 13.55 hrs
  • Arrival in Leeds at 16.50 hrs.

*****

Tour Cost:

  • 2065 euro per person  – dbl room stay
  • Single supplement Euro 200 pp.

Payment: The tour agent requires a 10% deposit by bank transfer at the time of booking. The balance needs be paid by bank transfer 1 week before the trip or in cash on arrival in Romania

INCLUDED:

  • 15  nights accommodation with breakfast in 3 and 4 star Hotels at good locations
  • 4 traditional meals in Maramures and Danube Delta
  • Minibus with professional driver
  • All transport costs
  • English speaking guide
  • All entry fees
  • Guides’ and driver’s expenses (accommodation, meals etc)
  • Booking accommodations and planning the itinerary
  • 2 boat rides in Danube Delta
  • 3 wine tastings

Excluded

  • International air travel
  • Travel Insurance
  • Meals other than the 4 included
  • Beverages
  • Photo fees
  • Expenses of a personal nature
  • Gratuities

Practicalities

  • The KLM flight appears to be the most convenient. However, Members are free to fly with any carrier of their choice. It is also possible to travel to and from Bucharest by train. (see note below)*
  • Central Bucharest is one hour from the airport
  • A Romanian ground agent will accompany the group
  • The ground agent will suggest and book restaurants if needed without a set menu. Allow Euros 10 -15 pp for lunch/dinner with drinks
  • Take out decent travel insurance
  • Get an EU health card. The EHIC card is available from ww.nhs.uk
  • Carry a spare credit card, designed for travel with no currency exchange loading & low/no ATM fees
  • Get a VPN for safe browsing when you travel

The suggested flights to and from Bucharest are as follows:

  • KLM flight KL 1540 from Leeds/Bradford Airport on Friday 8 May 2020 at 06.20 to Henri Coanda International Airport (OTP) in Bucharest via Amsterdam
  • KLM flight KL 1373 from Bucharest Henri Coanda International Airport on Saturday 23 May 2020 at 13.55 to Leeds/Bradford Airport via Amsterdam

To Bucharest By Train*: In Bram Stoker’s Dracula, young lawyer Jonathan Harker travels from London to Transylvania by train. You too can travel by train from London to Dracula’s castle at Braşov and across the scenic Carpathian mountains to Bucharest. Click here for train times, fares & how to buy tickets

Booking Form

HARROGATE MEDICAL WINE SOCIETY WINE TOURS

Booking Form

 Tour Of Romania” – May 2020

Mr/Mrs/Ms/Miss First name Surname D.O.B. Passport number

1…………….. ……………. …………… ……… …………………

2……………..…………….…………….…………………………

Room type Single   □ Double   □ Twin  

(Please tick)

Address for correspondence……………………………………………………………………………………

…………………………………………………………………………………………………………………

E-mail………………………………………………………………………………………………………….

Home Telephone number……………………………………………………………………………………..

Mobile number………………………………………………………………………………………………..

Special meal requirements……………………………………………………………………………………..

Any disability………………………………………………………………………………….

I have enclosed a deposit of Euro 206.50 pp( or £168.58 pp) (Cheque payable to HMWS or pay by BACS)

Booking conditions have been read and accepted by me and all the members of my party.

Signed………………………………………….Date………………………………………

Name of Travel Insurance Company…………………………………………………………………………..

Loss adjuster’s 24-hour telephone number……………………………………………………………………

Contact number of next of kin:……………………………………………………………………………………………

Please return to HMWS, c/o Dr. Bernard Dias, 21, St. Leonards Road, Harrogate, HG2 8NX. Or BrnrdDias@aol.com Fax: 01423 884426

 

 

HARROGATE MEDICAL WINE SOCIETY WINE TOURS

Booking Conditions and General Information

  1. Joining Tours: Only Members of the HMWS are accepted on tours. HMWS reserves the right to refuse any booking from a Member whom HMWS considers unfit or unsuitable for the type of travel to be undertaken.
  1. Liability: HMWS is not a tour operator or a travel agent and does not have membership of ABTA or similar organisations. The tours are arranged in good faith at Members’ request and the HMWS and the person or persons nominated to act as tour leaders do not accept responsibility for financial loss, death, injury or illness before or during tours.
  1. Is it the right tour for you?: Members should study the itinerary carefully before booking a tour to make sure that they are fit enough to undertake the activities listed.
  1. Payments & Cancellation: A 30% non-refundable deposit is payable at reservation. Balance payment should be made 8 weeks before departure. If the Society cancels the tour, a full refund will be made. No refund will be made if cancellation is made by members.
  1. Changes to Itinerary: HMWS reserves the right to make changes to the tour arrangements including flights, accommodation, transport or services.
  1. Refunds: No refund will be made for any unused hotel accommodation, service or transport.
  1. Insurance: It is compulsory that every traveller is adequately insured against personal accident and medical expenses. Members must send the HMWS details of their travel insurance policy. It is Members’ responsibility to ensure that they are adequately covered by insurance.
  1. Documents: You must ensure that all your travel documents, full passport, visas and vaccination certificates if applicable, currency and travellers cheques are in order. 
  1. Identity: The name on your airline tickets should be the name that appears on your full passport. 
  1. Dietary Requirements: Whilst every effort will be made to meet requests for special diets and disabled facilities, they cannot be guaranteed.
  1. Dress code & conduct: It is incumbent upon Members to dress in a manner befitting the occasion and conduct themselves in a responsible, restrained and sober manner when dealing with local wine suppliers and representatives, with local authorities and fellow travellers. 
  1. Wine Tastings: Members should have every opportunity to listen & learn during wine tastings and private conversations should be avoided during such events. Members should be allowed to freely assess the quality and potential of the wines being tasted without undue influence, and therefore, opinions should be expressed only after the event and not during.

An initial deposit is required when the booking form is submitted.

Please make your cheques payable to the HMWS. For BACS payments:

Sort Code 20-37-13, Account No. 50556149

Interest

  1. Benson, Renna (Knaresborough) Deposit paid 18/10/19, Second deposit (£200) paid 19/12/19 Flights booked 3/1/20 – Flying out on 6 May
  2. Dias, Bernard (Harrogate) Deposit paid, 2 deposits paid. Flights booked 29/12/19
  3. Dias, Ramani (Harrogate) Deposit paid, 2 deposits paid Flights booked 29/12/19
  4. Greenwood, Jane (Leeds) Deposit paid 28/10/19 Second deposit (£200) paid 17/12/19 Flight booked 7/1/20 
  5. Hanney, Ivan (Pontefract)  – Deposit paid 6/10/19, Second deposit (£200) paid 3/12/19 Flights booked 30/12/19
  6. Hanney, Ros (Harrogate) – Deposit paid 6/10/19 Second deposit (£200) paid 3/12/19 Flights booked 30/12/19
  7. Jones, David (Wakefield)
  8. Kraam, Abdullah (Menston) – Deposit paid 21/10/19 Second deposit (£200) paid 17/12/19 Flight booked 6/1/20
  9. Lee, Tony (Knaresborough) Deposit paid 18/10/19 Second deposit (£200) paid 19/12/19 Flights booked 3/1/20 – Flying out on 6 May
  10. Newland, Lesley (Wakefield) 9/10/19

Comments

  • “We have had a look at the itinerary for Romania. It covers all the places we had previously planned to visit and looks very interesting from a cultural and scenery point of view. Knowing only a little about Romanian wine I am not in a position to comment about the tastings but I am sure we can depend on your knowledge to put us right there. I am surprised that the agents did not suggest a Dracula or Vlad the Impaler theme for one of the day in Transylvania but maybe that is just as good! What time of the year do you envisage doing this tour assuming it gets a sufficient level of interest? I think you mentioned May in a previous e-mail. Is that still the case? We like both itineraries and would be happy with either. Itinerary 1 would be easier for us to organise as we would be away for the shorter time.” – Dr. Ivan Hanney, 20 August 2019

Worth watching

The tour was cancelled in March 2020 because of the Corvid-19 pandemic. It is hoped that it could be revived in May 2021 if conditions permit.

 

Correspondence

Hi dear Bernard

I got an answer from the minibus rental company. I work with them since I started in 2014. They are honest people. It is a small company and they are devasted by this situation. The owner invested all in buying a modern minibus and he is in a difficult situation. At this moment, he told me, he does not have the money to refund me the payment I made. I paid him 1920 euro for the tour.
He proposed to consider this payment for a future date when all this will calm down. He simply cannot pay it back 😦
I also got answer from one accommodation which had a cancelation fee of 30% = 148 euro. The same, they can consider this a payment for this season if the situation calms down.
So, in total I paid 1920 + 148 = 2068 euro
You paid me a 3000 euro deposit.
The situation in tourism is teriblle. In the same time, I know is nobody.s fault and that people want their money back. Altghouh it is difficult for me too, I still have some resources (limited) and I can refund deposit if you want. (Minus payments I made)
I would preffer, of course, to consider the deposit valid and keep it for a future date. This is my first idea. But, of course, I understand people…
So, if you are ok with keeping the deposit for a future period, that.s great. If not, I will refund 932 euro.
I am here at any time for you and I hope to travel together as soon as possible !
Your,s
GEORGE  (26/3/20)

 

  • Thank you for a copy of the e-mail from Romania. Our preference would be to defer the tour to a later date though, we understand, the logistics of this may be difficult. – Ivan and Ros (Hanney) 27/3/20
  • Happy for my deposit to count towards a future Romania tour. – Abdullah (Kraam), 27/3/20
  • I can understand why our deposits may now be lost. I can’t see anyway we could get all of it back. I’m also not sure whether our insurance will cover it either.
    We would be happy if the trip was to be rescheduled for next year and the deposit left in place. However I do understand that not everyone maybe able or willing to do that and it also depends on things having returned to something like normal by then .
    If it was just us we’d leave it in place but we are happy if the others decide it better to have what money is left returned and to leave the rest as a prepayment/deposit for potential trip next year. Tony Lee, 27/3/20
  • I am quite happy for George to hold the monies we have paid in the hope that at some future date we can make a tour of Romania. Jane Greenwood, 27/3/20

 

 

(Updated 28 March 2020)