ROMANIA: Journey to Cluj-Napoca and the Turda Gorges

In early June we took a road trip to another large city in Romania called Cluj-Napoca. Initially we planned to fly to avoid the six hour drive northwest of Bucharest. In the end we decided to rent a car and take in the country-side. I am so happy that we did. I was able to really understand what people are talking about when they say “the gorgeous country-side of Romania”. I had seen some nice views going to and from Brasov the numerous time I’ve been there. But this was like going to a whole new world.

I did my best to snap pics of the mountains and hills while we drove. Turned on the action setting to avoid making my husband stop too many times so we wouldn’t take forever to get there. Some of the views reminded me of images I’ve seen from China. Breath taking views that were worthy the switchback roads and locals passing too close, as if playing sideways leap frog.

Here are some of my favorite photos taken from the road:

Once we arrived we checked into our hotel, Hampton by Hilton. At the time it was rated 4.5 on TripAdvisor and I feel it lived up to it. Rooms were clean and comfy, bar downstairs was stocked well, and the breakfast was better than expected. We stayed there two nights and I expect we will be staying there again on our return trip.

After settling in we decided to explore some of the city center while on our way to our first Cluj excursion: The Dungeon, an escape room game. I detailed the experience at The Room in a previous post.

Cluj-Napoca is really beautiful. Cluj is the 2nd most populated city in Romania, with Bucharest being the first. Immediately the fabulous architecture reminded me of Budapest. We later found out that at one time the city was a part of Hungary.

In the city center, located at Unirii Square, is the 14th century St. Michael’s Church. The wonderful piece of architecture was named after the Archangel Michael, the patron saint of Cluj-Napoca.

Right outside the church was a number of nice restaurants. We had the opportunity to try out two: Corso Cafe Bistro and Nuka Bistro. Corso Cafe Bistro was okay. Nice set up and had a variety of lemonades to try. But the food was only okay and the staff not too attentive. If you are in the square and only have one shot at a good restaurant I suggest making Nuka Bistro your choice. It was very good food, wine, with awesome decor and service.

There were a plethora of college age people all around. Likely due to Cluj housing the largest University in Romania, Babeș-Bolyai University. There is a famous botanical garden there but we didn’t check it out on this trip.

On our second day we ventured out to see the main attraction of our visit, the Turda Gorge. The Turda Gorge (Cheile Turzii in Romanian) is a natural reserve on Hășdate River. Founded in 1938, the Gorge is a little over 9 miles (15 km) away from Cluj-Napoca. There have been 990 species of plants, 110 species of birds, mammals and reptiles. We drove up and went for a hike through the center. Hiking on rough terrain, crossing rickety bridges, walking on narrow ridges, and looking out for wildlife equaled one amazing and unique adventure. I hope to go back in the fall to see the landscape with the changing leaves.

There was one awkward moment when we passed a large group for the 2nd time. One of the women said “Please lady can you take picture?” I assumed she saw my Nikon and, figuring I might know what I’m doing, wanted me to use their camera and take a photo. So I said yes, at which time the group rushed up to pose WITH me!

The trip up north was well worth the journey. I hope to go back again soon for more gorgeous photo ops. And maybe a few hours farther north to see the painted monasteries of Bucovina. In the meantime, here are some pics from they long trip home. And I finally got my pics of some poppies.

Until next time, la revedere!


The Dungeon Escape Game in Cluj-Napoca

It was a matter of life and death. One way out and only one key. Make it or break it. And all we had was 60 minutes…

This weekend we decided to venture 5+ hours northwest of Bucharest to the Romanian city of Cluj-Napoca (CLICK HERE for pronunciation).

I wanted to get out of the city and see more of Romania. So we grabbed another couple and headed out in the morning. Originally I wanted to to fly, but I’m glad we opted to rent a mini SUV instead. The country-side was gorgeous! Didn’t feel like such a long drive with the great views we had.

View on the road to Cluj-Napoca

Cluj-Napoca Journey

Cluj… I LOVE this city! The cool architecture, untouched by communism, stands strong and gives the city a feel like Budapest or Prague. But more on that for another post. Right now I need to put focus on the event that had me so excited that I wrote a mini blog post from my iPhone.

When planning our trip I did some research on Trip Advisor and looked up top things to do in Cluj. Number one…The Dungeon. The Dungeon is a room escape game. With your own group of 2 (min) to 4 (max), you are locked into a room until you can figure out a number of clues that will lead you to a key and your release!

We arrived early and went upstairs to the Q Caffe for a few drinks. The decor in this place helped get us into the mood.

When we reached our scheduled event time we made our way back downstairs to wait outside the door that would take us underneath the Q Caffe and into our mysterious game room.

Entrance to extreme fun.

Entrance to extreme fun.

Once past the door the hostess gave us the rules and a walkie talkie to stay in touch if we needed assistance. Then the game began.

You have 60 minutes to put clues together, crack codes, and locate the key that will release you from the room. We expected that it wouldn’t be too hard. But with price of admission fully refunded if we succeeded we should have known it wouldn’t be a walk in a park.

So, did we escape?

No. Overall it was a great game, but it was also pretty tough. The feeling I had when we successfully answered a question or unlocked a safe was fantastic. But, in the end, when the last second on the timer ran out, we had not retrieved the key. But still, a great time was had by all!

I hope to journey to Cluj again. And if I do I will check out The Dungeon again too. Apparently the design room and the game change every few months. This guarantees repeat visits, at least for sure from this chick.

Here are some shots from the room:

If ever you’re in Cluj-Napoca make sure to check out the Dungeon. It’s an experience you will never forget. I know we won’t!

The Dungeon Team

The Dungeon Team

And if you want to find a “room” near you do a Google search for “room escape”. I found one in the DC area that I’m itching to check out called “Trapped in a Room with a Zombie”. Definitely right up my geek alley.

Next up on the “Black Girl in Bucharest” blog: Sinaia and Peleș Castle. More on Cluj-Napoca in the next few weeks.