On August 4-6, 2007 my wife and I embarked on a hiking tour in Romania’s Bucegi Mountains led by mountain guide Iulian Cozma, from the Step by Step Agency in Brasov. Our tour took us from the Prahova valley town of Busteni up by cable car to the Babele Chalet, the Heroes Monument, Omu peak, and back to Babele for the night. On the second day we went from Babele past Omu and all the way down to the Bran area, where we stayed at a wonderful inn in the village of Simon called Inn on Balaban. On the third day, we saw the Bran Castle and took a brief tour of Brasov’s historical area. I can honestly say that our experience with Iulian was great. Our relationship with him began long before the actual tour, via email several months ago, when we first approached him with our request. From the very beginning, we sensed that we can absolutely trust Iulian. He was very honest, professional and dependable, and he patiently answered each and every question and concern we had (and we had SO many!) in a timely fashion. He has also been sending us some wonderful photos he has taken of my beloved mountains. I think he also has great talent as a photographer, as he has a keen eye for lovely landscapes, and, in my opinion, the caliber of his photos equal that of a professional photographer. He also trusted us with money issues, which reinforced my feeling of security and comfort. Also, Iulian was VERY organized and dependable in making all the arrangements regarding housing and meals for the duration of our trip. He found us the best possible room at Babele, not to mention the terrific room at Balaban. Our opinion was confirmed during the actual hike. First of all, his fiancée, Rosana, was very kind to pick us up at our hotel in Sinaia, as well as retrieve us by car at the end of our trip. Iulian devised a great hiking plan for us. To begin with, he stood in line ahead of us at the cable car station in Busteni, so that we could get an early start in the morning. He proved himself a very experienced and capable guide, and not only advised us brilliantly on which routes to take or not to take given weather and time availability, but was equipped with the latest, state-of-the-art technology re. weather and route finding in case of poor visibility. I also appreciated very much his advice on what to bring with us re. mountain gear (all proved very useful, especially the warm clothes, hiking boots and rain gear!) and lent us trekking poles. He also took lovely photos of us and lent us his camera when we run out of memory on ours. He is very knowledgeable about Romania in general, and gave us good tips on hotels for future visits. I also thought he had a good sense of humor, and enjoyed talking to him in my native, if slightly rusty, Romanian. We enjoyed our trip very much, we felt safe, secure, and were in good hands. I only have 2 suggestions: first, perhaps you could adjust your pace more to ours—you actually did that sometimes during the first day—so that we don’t fall behind too much. You did wait for us, though, which was good, but sometimes we were not within ear shot. Second, even if this would take more time in colder temperatures, perhaps we could somehow all have a just few more quick rests, approx. 3-5 minutes long, interspaced with the walking. That would make a difference in preventing my wife from getting too tired. All in all, it was a great, memorable experience! We heartily recommend Iulian to anybody wishing to have a beautiful mountaineering trip and hope to hike with him again in the future when we return to Romania—I would love to come back to the Inn on Balaban for a few days, after which, do some hikes in the Fagaras Mountains using Bilea Chalet as main headquarters. Thanks for everything, Iulian. We could not have done it without you; congratulations on a job well done, and see you next time.
Eugene & Elisabeth Alcalay – Wisconsin, USA – August 2007