American hikers in Romania Fagaras mountain

Well in advance of a trip my wife, Susan, and I were planning to go to eastern Europe for some snowshoeing/winter hiking in Romania, Bulgaria and Hungary. We began looking for a guide. We are both experienced walkers and ordinairly don’t use guides or join groups because we enjoy the adventure of getting maps, guide books and the like to find our our own way. Because much of the geology in the areas we planned to visit includes limestone formations with caves and sink holes that could be hidden under snow, we opted to use a guide, at least on the portion of our trip in Romania. Susan discovered Iulian’s web site, and we made arrangements with him online. It is somewhat an act of blind faith to put your trust in a cyberperson to lead you in an unfamiliar environment, but we plunged ahead with plans and made our deposit well in advance. I am not sure how other guides conduct their business relations with clients once commitments have been made, but Iulian was terrific at communicating with us between the time we agreed to hire him and when we actually met him in Brasov. We got perodic updates on weather and conditions along with photos of some of the territority we’d be trekking. In addition, Iulian inquired about our travel and accomodation needs in Romania prior to and after our time together and offered to make some arrangements and reservations as part of his service. By the time we actually met, we were feeling very comfortable that we had picked a reliable and capable guide. From the moment we arrived, tired from 36 hours of cars, planes, airports and trains, we began to relax and enjoy our vacation. Over dinner that first evening, Iulian quickly explained that due lack of snow, he had somewhat revised the plan to accomodate conditions. Our four and a half days of tramping thru the Transylvania Alps were wonderful. Besides getting an opportunity to visit the quaint and bucolic mountain farm villages where little seems to have changed (except for the satelite dishes) in many generations, we just enjoyed walking and talking with Iulian. As one might expect from a guide, he is very knowledgeable about local history, flora, fauna, geology, traditions and culture. It is clear that he is proud of his native land and loves to introduce newcomers to it, but he is also very candid about what he recognizes as shortcomings and blind spots among his countrymen who are perhaps not as worldly and enviromentally aware as he is. If the Romania were smart, they would make Iulian Minister for Tourism, Transportation and Environment. I mention Transportation since we were notified, on short notice, that our flight out of Romania had be arbitrairly cancelled. Iulain not only made numerous calls on our behalf to rearrange our flights, but also spent extra time pointing out to TAR/Rom Air officials that the way they conduct their business was irresponsible and detrimental to tourism. In the end all worked out for our departure. Our two final days on the trails were especially fine as the counrtyside was transformed by a fresh blanket of snow and Iulain saw safely aboard our train the next day. Susan and I have the highest regard for Iulain as a professional guide and would recommend him without reservation. You will be well cared for and end up with a new friend in Romania.

Susan Davis and Richard Seiferheld, Nappa Valley, CA, USA – December 2006