I find it hard to describe how wonderful my experience was with Dan and his wife, Luminita. Everything was absolutely great - the accommodations, the food, the hike, and the guiding. It is well worth it do a hike with Dan given his vast knowledge of the flora, fauna, folklore and way of life of Transylvania.
The hike and the guiding
The hike was really much more than a walk in the mountains and the guiding was much more than just showing the way.
The first day we arrived Dan showed us a video on traditional Romanian shepherding, which has to be one of the hardest professions on the planet. He is also very knowledgeable about traditional shepherding practices since is family is from a nearby shepherd village and I believe that his uncle was a shepherd.
The next day we started off on our hike in the Piatra Craiului National Park (he was going to take us on another hike, but it rained really hard the day before and he did not think it was advisable). The first and last parts of the hike were on marked trails, but the middle part was on a shepherd trail, which I do not think you could find on the map. Along the way he pointed out different signs of wildlife and identified various species of plants and animals. He also told us about the folklore related to some of the plants.
Around lunch, we approached a shepherd hut. The sheep were not there yet, but there was a shepherd preparing for the coming season. Also there was his very large dog. I had read and Dan had also warned us that shepherd dogs will attack you. These dogs are very large and very strong and can take down bears. Needless to say, they can and will kill you. Anyway, thankfully Dan knew the dog since he was a pup and we were able to have a peaceful lunch by the hut. We were also able to spy some chamois on the rocks above the hut.
After lunch we headed onto a shepherd trail. This trail seemed much less traveled than the other ones. While on this trail we saw various signs of recent bear activity.
On this hike we saw at least 3 black woodpeckers, 4 chamois, 3 red squirrels, 1 deer, 2 nuthatches among other animals. Dan was also pretty sure he heard a wolf howl.
The hike itself was not difficult. Dan stops frequently to point out different signs of wildlife and various plants, and the pace is fairly slow that you can spot animals. I have been a fairly avid hiker for a while, but always just wanted to get from point A to B. I have a new perspective on how to hike after going out with Dan.
At night we went with Dan and a representative from the hunting association to an observation deck. There we saw 4 (yes, FOUR) bears. Two of the bears were adolescences (about 1.5 years old), 1 bear was an adult female and 1 was a HUGE adult male. We also saw a wild boar. Words cannot describe how awesome this was.
Accommodations & Food
Dan and Luminita are incredibly gracious hosts. We were greeted on the first day with delicious blueberry brandy and wonderful gingerbread. Throughout our stay Luminita was incredibly attentive and made sure that we wanted for nothing.
She also cooks some of the best food you will find anywhere in Romania. We were very well fed throughout our stay.
The room we stayed in was way fancier than what I expected. There were 3 comfortable single beds in the room, two of them pushed together to make a double bed, which I have found to be pretty common in Romania. The room was large, had a wood-burning stove and was very clean. There was also a TV with cable in the room. In theory, you can access the internet from the rooms, but it is best to go to the common area.
We are incredibly happy that we found Transylvanian Wolf.
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