Mocăniţa - must see Romania
When we first talking about adjusting our plans and making a trip to see the northern part of Romania we new that this would allow us to get up and see the Happy Cemetery, but it was something else that locked in our plans, the Mocăniţa.
This is something that we hadn't expected, but the guy we were talking to mentioned that he had taken a steam train ride up into the mountains and enjoyed a picnic before heading back. That sold it for me, when we saw that it would also allow us to see the Cheery Cemetery, well then Tina was convinced as well that it would be worth the trip.
Steam trains hold a place in my heart, and to ride them - even on a tourist holiday excursion - is something that I (we) will try to accommodate if possible in our schedule. This is the beauty of not having a fully planned out schedule.
We did make a note that going forward we need to check to see if there are steam trains running running in any of the areas that we will be heading into. Turns out that Romania has several old logging or train routes that they are in the process of converting into tourist sites, the Mocanita in Viseu De Sus is the one we took a ride on.
We spent a night in a home the first night we pulled into town, there are a few that you can find on the internet, but this one was nice - it was her daughter's house and she was renting it out while she was out, we think working in Croatia. Hard to say exactly, all of the communication was done with Tina's knowledge of German as English wasn't really an option. Hand signals always work, but Tina pulling out her language skills helped us here.
The town doesn't have much to it, a few cute churches and some restaurants, we grabbed some groceries and then settled in to make ourselves a nice home cooked meal. Salad and pasta, a simple meal but it was nice to just take a break from restaurant after restaurant.
Then the next morning it was up and out early for our date with the old Romanian steam train. We get in parked, quickly avoided the lines of people and picked up our tickets from the internet purchase line. We got our tickets, quickly found some seats and then wandered around taking photos of the ride we were about to take.
And then within a few minutes we were seated and the whistle was blowing to announce that we were off and climbing up into the hills on a rocking track.
The train winds up into the hills for about an hour and a half before stopping at a clearing alongside a brook where everyone can get out and enjoy a 30-40 minute break. You can purchase a ticket that includes a meal, we hadn't, but by the line of people waiting for food we were glad that we skipped that option. We wandered around taking photos of the engines and then then next train that was coming in to the picnic area.
We had purchased some fresh bread that morning, along with some cheese and some slices of salami to make sandwiches for ourselves to enjoy a nice lunch.
Oh, did we also mention that we brought a bottle of wine with us to open and enjoy as we picnicked.
And then the break was over and we were back on the train and headed back down through the valley.
Back down the to the start of the tour and we can wander around the yards for a bit and take photos of the other engines and train cars that are staged around the area. All in the ride up and back took about 5 hours, and we had perfect weather to enjoy the trip. We went on a Monday at the end of August and it was still crowded with locals, we can't imagine what it must be like in high season. We estimated that 90%+ were locals, we presume that most of the guests are Romanian, but all of the ticket sellers, conductors, everyone we had any contact with, all spoke perfect English.
And the best part of our trip to the Mocăniţa - they have a couple of old overnight cars from the old East German railways parked beside their site that that use for hotel rooms. That's right, take the train, enjoy a picnic, come back and spend a night in an old overnight train car from the communist days of East Germany.
The beauty of the stay, booking the overnight includes both dinner and breakfast in an old dining car.
The dinner was 4 courses of perfect, and the breakfast outstanding. The service some of the best we have seen in trying to make sure that everything was great during our short stay.
Cheers from a Communist dining car...