19 June 2013

190613
Through Bicaz gorge to Piatra Neamt
Walk around but rain

200613
Bus to Targu Neamt
Pension and Castle

P02It was time to leave Lacu Rosu.  Although we would have liked to stay, we are travelling too slowly as it is.  Apparently we could catch a bus from on the main road just below the caszare, so we wandered down.  It took a while for the bus to arrive, so we amused ourselves watching the tadpoles swimming in a puddle of water.  There was also a small lizard living in the pool as well.  It hung around on the bottom, occasionally harassing the tadpoles, before it came up to the surface for some fresh air.  I have never seen an underwater lizard before, so was quite content to watch it.  It was not that big, and a light tan colour, but had a red belly that you could only see when it was swimming around.  There was also an old man waiting, but we were not sure if he was waiting for the bus, a friend or just hitching.  Turned out to be the bus as well.

P44postcanyonWhen it arrived, we got our tickets and found seats in about the middle of the bus, but before it had gone far, the driver had told the woman in the front seat to come and get us.  We were given pride of place, with Anna on a fold out seat beside the driver, and I was next to the woman!  We had no idea why, but the driver was a nice guy.  As we made our way towards Bicaz, we came to the place we had come out on one of our walks.  A few hundred meters further, we passed through a tunnel, and on the other side was a spectacular sight. P40postbicaz It was Bicaz Gorge itself.  The view is stunning as the road winds its way down into a very deep canyon.  The driver was very good, as it is a narrow road, and people were flying around the corners coming up without looking.  The cliffs overhang the road and you can’t even see the top!  It is quite long, and every now and then there are lines of souvenir stalls at lookout points.

A lot further on we came to Bicaz itself.  Now we were glad we had found Lacu Rosu, as it was a much better place to stay than Bicaz, and closer to the mountains.

P47posttilesThen through to Piatra Neamt.  P46postbricksThis was a means to an end as we just wanted to be on the other side of the mountains. We went for a walk down into the Historic Centre, only to find there was not much of it left.  There is a tower, church, and a few old buildings around the square.  The EU has put a bit of money into keeping these buildings.  The one feature of these buildings is the round plates about 3/4 of the way up the building.  Even the church has them!  Underneath the square is a through road and car park, at least it is an effective use of space.

Now the rain started up again.  (I am getting sick of typing RAIN!) Taking shelter in the first available place (a pub) we waited it out.  It took a while and the house wine was cool and drinkable so we didn’t worry too much.

P43posthouseThe next morning we stopped of in tourist info.  We could find it, and the woman was great.  She told us about the area and town.  Then suggested we go up the cable cart to the top of the hill.  She was happy to see an Australian here, as there has only ever been a couple visit in the 10 years she has been working there.
It is good to see that there are some people in Tourist Info that like their job and want to help people.

With that done, we decided to skip the cable cart and head straight to Targu Neamt.  There is an old fortress there we want to check out.
At the town, we couldn’t find anything helpful.  No map of the region, no tourist info, no hotels or pensions.  We stopped in to a pub for a drink and information.  We got the drink, but no info.  Trying to use the internet didn’t work either, but a man sitting at the next table pointed us down the street saying there was one about 2km away.  It was the opposite direction to the castle, but is the best lead we had.

P45postfeatureWalking along, we did pass an expensive hotel, and then found tourist info!  It is in a small building also used as the library.  Going in, we got very little help.  Apparently we were in the other kind of tourist info than this morning!
At least at the next crossroad we found a sign pointing to a pension.  Checking it out, we decided to stay.  However we were on the other side of town to the castle.

P42postcastle2We decided to walk.  As usual.  It turned out to be further away than we expected.  A long way out of town, we came to the sporting complex and stadium.  Still walking and then there were a few fancy pensions popping up, then all the restaurants.  From here, there is a walking path up the hill.  Well, it is the old road, used now for the staff up there.  Following it up there were a few signs out.  Mostly on the flora and fauna in the region.  Then there were other ones on the area, but all in Romanian.  How inconsiderate!  At each bend in the road there are little stalls set up selling things.  Not sure what, but mainly things for the kids.  Crossbows, bows, maces, swords and cheap Chinese plastic things.

At the top of the hill we came to the base of the castle.  This place is unique! Seriously.  There is a moat, but no drawbridge.  Instead there are thirteen columns and a wooden walkway curving around to the entrance.  P48postcastle1I have never seen this before and assumed it was a new addition.  Turns out it isn’t  It was not original, but put in about 100 years after the main construction.

The walls are thick, high and massive.  Walking up to the board walk, we got our tickets and headed in.  Apparently it is common to pay for a photo ticket in Romania, but here they were not too worried.  It seems to depend on the person if you are going to be charged for the camera or not.

Walking over the bridge, you get to see how high it is.  The bastions stick out,and the drop between the boards could bee disconcerting to people scared of heights.  At the entrance there was an old hole in the ground.  We have no idea on what it was for, but now it is used as a wishing well, with Romanians throwing all sorts of money down into it.

Going inside you can see how much restoration work has been done.  They have rebuilt two levels of rooms ringing the central courtyard and these have been turned into a small museum.  The first that we went into was about different styles of military dress and armaments.  Then we headed upstairs for a look from one of the battlements.  OK, so we didn’t do it in order! P41postcastle3 Upstairs there was a room on the coins of the time, with a couple of hoards that had been discovered in the region.  Then there is the compulsory chapel.  By now the castle had been invaded by school kids.  They have overrun the entire country and we had thought we were in the last safe place from them, but no, they had managed to scale the hill, cross the bridge, and enter the castle. Darn it!  Now we had to wait for them to go around.  Still, when they got too bad, running and screaming, the security guard had a word to them, so it was not too bad.  Our next room was fantastic.  If you read Romanian.  It was the history of the castle, and Stephen Cel Mare, one of the favourite kings in the area.  Unfortunately for us, we left knowing as little as when we went in, although the set up was good, and it was probably very interesting.

P49postcastle4Our last room was the dungeon.  There had to be one.  Torture and chains was the theme here, and someone had a lot of fun with stuffed rats, putting them throughout the room (and I imagine coming in at night to move them around).  That was about it for the castle, there were other rooms but we could not get to them.  We also could not get up the tower, although from the outside you could see some cannons sticking out through the turrets.

Going back to the pension, we found a nice pub with a pool table and 2 lei wine.  Home grown and not too bad at all!  So we imbibed a bit too much, and had some fun with the table.  We haven’t played pool since Morocco, so it was a good night.

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