Transylvania

9th February 2007 at 00:00
Carol (Charlie) Nemes teaches at the Technical College for Transport in Cluj-Napoca - the heart of Transylvania, Romania

Favourite place when you have a day or week off?

I like to walk in Central Park and the Botanic Garden, which has more than 10,000 plants, or in the Hoia or Faget forests. Cluj is a cultural centre, home to the Transylvanian ethnographic, history and fine art museums, as well as the architectural masterpieces of St Michael's Roman Catholic Cathedral, the Orthodox Cathedral and Reformed Church.

And when you have more time?

I am not a city man. I adore Mother Nature. In the summer, I live in the Apuseni mountains, about 100km from the city, where I have transformed a summer house into a guest house.

We still have unspoiled nature here, with endless pine forests where you can hike, pick mushrooms and different berries or watch animals or birds.

Don't miss Turda Gorge. I was born in Turda, about 30km away, where you can visit an old salt mine. The castle where Bram Stoker set the Dracula story is about 150km from Cluj.

When's a good time to come?

Winter is hard with a lot of snow - it starts in October and melts in early May. If you want to walk in the mountains, summer is best.

Lunchtime treats?

In Cluj, bars such as Crema and Diesel are cosy; for pizza, try the bar called More.

Evening delights?

On clear nights, stargazing in the mountains is wonderful and almost unbelievable to see. There are many nightclubs and smart restaurants in the city but I prefer the National Theatre and the Romanian Opera.

Be aware To travel in Romania is also to travel in time. Here you will see modern things such as supermarkets, cable TV, satellite dishes and mobile phones in everybody's pockets; but also bad roads, dirty streets, poor people, beggars, horses and carts on the main roads and buildings from your grandparents' time.

But food and drinks are cheap compared with England. Fuel is about one euro a litre. The currency is lei and the exchange rate is about five lei to the pound

FIND OUT MORE

For more information, contact the Romanian National Tourist Office on 020 7724 3692 or visit www.romaniatourism.com.

HOW TO GET THERE

Book to stay at Carol Nemes' guesthouse (www.podina.go.ro) with Green Mountain Holidays. Call 00 40 744 637 27.

www.greenmountainholidays.ro is a Romanian company which organises tailor-made active holidays. Prices start from (395 pp (about pound;266) a week, full board.

Romanian Airlines has connecting flights from Heathrow to Cluj-Napoca via Bucharest from pound;136 return plus taxes. Call 020 7224 3693 or visit www.tarom.ro.

Austrian Airlines flies from Heathrow to Cluj via Vienna. Visit www.aua.com.

Sunvil Discovery Romania has a four-night stay in medieval Sibiu, European City of Culture for 2007 and one of the prettiest and most romantic towns in Romania, from pound;500 pp, including return flights from Heathrow to Bucharest and car hire. Call 020 8758 4747 or visit www.sunvil.co.uk.

PRICE TO THE PLANET

Offset the climate cost of a return flight to Bucharest for pound;5 pp (www.climatecare.org).

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