Romania Easter Tour
Clewin Griffith, Jan Evetts, Hugh Penney
We landed in Budapest, somehow navigated the bus and underground system to our hotel, dropped the baggage and went in search of culture and (more importantly) food. The centre of Pest has more than its fair share of tourist cafes with 'Gypsy' violinists ready to spring out and play live music at you.
By diving down a dark set of stairs with only Hungarian writing on the board outside is a good way of finding cheap drinking establishments. They didn't really serve food though, so we applied the random walk algorithm to find a really good restaurant near Ferencek ter. A fantastic meal of meggyleves (cold sour-cream and cherry soup) paprikas (paprika laced meat) and various other things ensured our approval of Hungarian food.
Taking the train to Oradea the next day, our first view of Romania was less than inviting. Rubbish seems to litter the countryside everywhere. Romanian countryside can be described as many things: dramatic, wild, very traditionally rural, but sadly not unspoilt.
In Oradea we met up with Paul, our Romanian contact, and he bundled us on the next train to Şuncuiuş, where we would stay the next two nights. There we met up with Balint and Ionuţ, our caving companions for most of the rest of the tour.
Being the first evening we had spent in the country, you can imagine our reticence when they suggested we go caving after supper. All was well though as it was just a show cave. Balint and Ionuţ took us beyond the tourist bit to show us the places where they had found pottery, bones, and other archeological finds.
The next day they were kind enough to give us a lie-in (until 8am) before the day's rigourous caving activities. We began to wonder what we'd let ourselves in for. The 2 ½ hour walk to the cave and 3 ½ hour walk back was definitely more taxing than the cave itself (Peştera Bătrânului). This was a basically horizontal cave with wall-to-wall formations. A very enjoyable day altogether.
After just enough sleep to recover from the previous day, we joined a group of cavers from Cluj-Napoca (Ioţur, Cristina, Reiko, Saddam) and they took us down Peştera Vântului. This is an absolutely enormous cave (~50km) and from what we saw of it, most of the passage diameters are pretty large too.
Thankfully, the next day was a rest day. We hired a minibus to Gîrda de Sus, a small village high up in the Apuseni mountains. Here we found the Casa Speo, our home for the next few days, during which time we visited Zguraşti, Poarta lui Ionel, Gheţarul Scărişoara and Avenul din Şesuri.
After a fantastic Easter tour, we just needed one more thing: the scalding, freezing and pummelling experience that is the Gellert thermal baths in Budapest.
Many thanks go to Balint and Ionuţ for their patience, Cati for her brilliant cooking and Paul Iacobaş for making it all happen.