E is for Eastern Europe

By Judy

Far and away a favorite of mine, this trip took me and my daughter to the Carpathian Mountains in Romania for an Equestrian adventure. It began as a bit of a comedy of errors as our luggage – with ALL of our riding gear in it – did not arrive in Romania with us. We were picked up at the airport and taken to dinner as part of our weeklong package. Fortunately our tour guide was sympathetic to our lack of luggage and made a stop at a store where we were able to pick up a few essentials. We grabbed two changes of underwear, toothbrushes, toothpaste, shampoo, a hairbrush to share and some soap. Because of a terrorist threat, we had been forbidden from bringing even carry-on luggage with us, so we even needed basic essentials.

I truly believe when you can’t change the situation, you have to learn to laugh at it, so we made do and went on as positively as possible. The first thing on the itinerary was an overnight train ride to a region called Bucovina. Well … at least we had a comfy bed on the train and toothbrushes to clean our teeth.

We arrived in Bucovina in the morning, rested if not clean and refreshed, but off to see the stunning monasteries of the region that are listed as World Heritage Sites. When you see them in person, you can understand why. They are truly magnificent.

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After a full day of sightseeing, it was back on a train for the ride to Lunca Ilvei and Stefan cel Mare Equestrian Center. The small town in rural Romania is home to the ranch where our host lives and has a herd of horses. He met us at the station in a horse-drawn wagon. I felt like I had gone back in time. “Julian” called the airline for us only to discover our bags were still missing. With Julian’s stock of gear and the two other couples we would be riding with we were able to cobble together enough gear to ride in comfort. We slept in cozy beds in the farmhouse and awoke to a foggy, cool morning.

The horses were already saddled and bridled by the time we had finished breakfast, so with a bit of a boost we settled into the Australian saddles and took off for day one. The days all started in different villages. We rode out of town, then climbed up to the crest of a mountain and rode along the ridge line until it was time to ride down in to the next town. Image

We’d ride up to a small inn, dismount and hand our horses over to one of Julian’s ranch hands to tend to their needs. Then it was time for fun storytelling and banter while the seven of us (3 couples and Julian) enjoyed locally cooked meals and beer.

Our luggage finally caught up with us Wednesday night at our hotel. It was bliss to have our own things finally. The timing was perfect. Thursday we rode up to Dracula’s Castle for the night – an imposing, dark, foreboding structure. A tour of the castle included a few surprises to scare the wits out of us, then dinner with an amazing “blood red” wine.Image

The Friday ride was back to Lunca Ilvei. We were both sad it was over and already trying to figure out how to do it again. There were a couple of side trips on Saturday on the way back to Bucharest for the Sunday flight home. This was one trip I would do again in a heartbeat.

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