Walking is wonderful. Walking and walking for kilometre after kilometre, just walking, is good for the soul. Walking brings you back to earth literally and figuratively and it has the potential to lift you up especially when within and across magnificent Romanian scenery. It’s meditative, reflective, spiritual and good for you physically too. It’s also surprisingly tiring as I discovered on a two day hike along part of the magnificent Via Transilvanica. I would like to suggest that OZB readers give walking some of this trail some serious consideration as part of your upcoming summer holidays.
The Via Transilvanica is an astonishing achievement and a superb addition to Romania’s many attractions. Devised and delivered by the Tasuleasa Social Association it is a hiking trail that traverses Romania from the far North East to the South West – 1,000kms in total! It starts up near Suceava and the Ukranian border and ends down near the Iron gates on the Danube, close to the border with Serbia though there is nothing preventing people from doing it the other way around of course. It’s also great for families.
Speaking with OZB, Alin Uhlmann Ușeriu, chairman of the Tasuleasa Social Association and one of the founders of the trail, said: “The idea is definitely not new. We were inspired by the El Camino in Spain and other long-distance trails in the world (Pacific Trail, Apalachian Trail etc). Some members of our team have walked on the El Camino themselves and found many aspects of the experience that were very cathartic. So, naturally, we wanted something similar closer to home.”
The trail is clearly marked the entire route with artistic mini bollards each and every kilometre and with each one having its own unique image on it. Between the bollards there are further markings such that it really would be very hard to lose the trail.
Useriu continues: “We hope the VT will help uncover Romania, to make this country known, as it really is. We think Romania should be better appreciated for its rural heritage, natural beauty and wilderness. We want to reveal the diverse ethnic, historical, cultural and geographical layers of this country and what better way to do that, than to create a trail that quite literally and also metaphorically unites different points on the map of our country. Of course we hope it will create a real economic opportunity for the communities involved and represent a pillar for tourism in Romania.”
We set off from the charming and ancient citadel town of Sighisoara early on a bright Spring morning climbing up through an oak forest. This was part of the 203km “Terra Saxonum” section that passes through many ancient fortified church villages such as Crit and Biertan. We were making for Malancrav. Much of the hike was through forests, mostly beech and oak, but parts were along small country lanes and at times along fields. The section we did that day – Sighisoara to Malancrav – was around 25kms, the going was mostly pretty easy, no steep climbs. I thought I was reasonably fit, I wasn’t carrying much, but towards the end of the day I was pretty tired. Prospective VT hikers, especially those aiming to do several sections contiguously, should avoid being overly ambitious.
I was with a group – Andinio Travel – and we were met by a coach near Malancrav and taken back to Sighisoara where we stayed that night in the wonderfully old school Sighisoara Hotel – and for once “old school”, when applied to Romanian hospitality, was a positive. The next day we recommenced from the stunning town of Biertan. Climbing quite steeply up through a beech forest and along a ridge above the town. Further along the ridge and epic, empty, and beautiful landscapes panned out as far as the eye could see – much cultivation evidently in progress though little evidence of the person or people doing the cultivating! Tracks, trails, little lanes and muddy paths led us along to near the superb town of Medias with it’s charming and traffic free town square.
Asked how VT is being promoted the evidently and justifiably proud Useriu says: “The story of this trail, thanks to the areas it crosses, thanks to the people we’ve met along the way, the people who have joined us on this journey, the story tells itself. It’s a story that belongs to all of us and it resonates with many, many people who have shown great interest and they are constantly engaged. We use social media, namely Facebook and Instagram to promote Via Transilvanica. We’ve never invested in any other marketing strategies and we are being honest and transparent with our audience on social media. And people have responded. We have also written a Traveler’s Guide, where we have documented the entire route We always recommend this guide to people because it is crucial to read it before setting out on the route. Recently, members of our team opened the Via Transilvanica Shop where people can find many exciting things. And the story of the shop is a special one. Moreover, we have named some people as ambassadors. These people come from all kinds of backgrounds (actors, public figures, writers, filmmakers etc) and they do a great job of talking about Via Transilvanica at every occasion. And we are always talking about it. And all the people who love it, talk about it so word of mouth is very important.”
In these strange times when foreign travel is fraught with risks staying and exploring Romania has never made more sense and what better way than via the VT.
To find out more visit the site https://www.viatransilvanica.com/
To find out more about the organisation behind VT see https://www.tasuleasasocial.ro/
There is a dedicated app that hikers can download on their phone which details all parts of the route including sites, accommodation etc.