Hiking in the Romanian Alps was surreal

Truly breath taking

Hiking in the Romanian Alps was surreal. We ascended into the mountains and had lunch on the top of a mountain as the clouds rolled in from the valley below. Being able to see Iulian’s home made the trip personal and allowed a peek into Romanian culture and life. The views, fresh air, and incredible flowers that covered the mountainsides were breathtaking!!

While Iulian offers pure backcountry summer and winter treks for the hardy, we had an eclectic group of 30- to 60- year olds who appreciated a shower, robust dinner with ample wine, and a bed after our 17-22km dayhikes. The spas in some of the sporthotels saw some action. The countryside felt like a trip back a century among sheepherders with their dogs, cheesemakers boiling milk in their mountain huts (sharing the fruits of their labors with passing hikers!), and random encounters with free-ranging horses and donkeys (but none of the 6000 bears in the Carpathians). Lively mealtime conversation explored eastern European life pre- and post-communism and the influence of the EU. One of the things I love about hiking in the extremes of the Alpine range is that you see no other Americans and very few non-native Europeans, so you can immerse yourself in the local culture.

I have organized group hikes in many European countries and Iulian was by far the best local guide. Every detail was attended to, including individualized transfer and hotel arrangements for various group members who stayed on in Romania after the hike, at great prices. Last minute adjustments for missed flights and lost luggage were handled seamlessly. Iulian quickly picked up on the group culture and personalized the experience, from the never-ending case of local wine in his duffel, to picking out a unique Romanian pin to add to the collection on my hat. Guided tours of Bran and Peles Castles, monasteries, and the cultural heritage cities of Sibiu and Brasov added historical elements to the trip.

Dr. Michael Soulen – Professor of Radiology & Surgery at University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine, and a group of friends, June 2013 – photos here