The winter is running out, and even the HR department though that I had too little vacation. So I decided to take some last-minute cheap flights to Romania to ski in my #57th country.
I had been to Romania only once before and even then spent all my time in some meeting room at a bland brand hotel.
So I didn't know what to expect. The premier ski destination in Romania is Sinaia, an hour and half away from Bucharest airport. But I really didn't know the country or the ski place. I was surprised to find that the mountains and the ski area are as big they are; Sinaia could easily compete with many destinations in the alps. The highest lift goes to a moderate 2103 meters, having 1223 meters of vertical. But it covers a large area, with plenty of skiable terrain, an obvious opportunity for adventure.
What I found was a strange mixture of old and new, modern western technology and classy hotels, mixed with remnants from the communist times and local culture. For instance, my very nice hotel Complex la Tunuri is hosted at a small luxurious castle, but when I arrived to see the castle towers and gates in the darkness I couldn't help thinking of Count Dracula -- Transylvania and the Bran Castle is just half an hour down the road, after all.
On the ski area the contrast between modern and communist era could not have been more striking. The area hosts two lift system companies, one by the city and one by a (bankrupt) commercial company that bought the communist-era ski lifts. You can ski most of the ski area using either lift, but if you insist on visiting every corner, like me, then you may actually need both of the quite affordable lift tickets. The modern lifts are in most cases the best option, as the older gondola lifts are wonderful but may require some waiting times. In general, the old lifts have great 70s colour scheme, lots of red, some blue... take for that reason if not anything else.
The ski area is basically divided into two parts, the high-alpine at the top, with relatively modest steepness but an amazing amount of free space and free skiing opportunities. A number of old, decommissioned lifts also sit on the high plains, and there's an option for hiking further to huts and even other lift systems at the top.
Under the high alpine area is the steep, partially forested and partially rocky set of complex gullies and slopes. There's plenty of space to play here, too.
The travel to Romania was surprisingly affordable, by the way. Direct roundtrip flights from Helsinki were only 159€ (a bit more after luggage options and waiting for the next day to book). The route is served by Blue Air, which is a no frills but well working airline. Although I'm a bit unnerved when flying in the Ukrainan airspace, but many of the flights to this corner of Europe go through Ukraine.
Rental car offers started from 1€ (!) and even the reasonable brand name offers were from 24€ for two days. Although I took a taxi because I figured I'd get to work and/or sleep on the way. I had fun sitting on the backseat and hacking away on my code in rural Romania, with access to GitHub with the snappy 10€ SIM card that I bought from the kiosk at the airport :-)
Another very nice ski experience, and country #57 on my list of skied countries. But I should come here again, there so much more to ski in Romania. I also wanted to thank my friend Dan for tips regarding Romania.
More pictures from skiing:
Ruins on the slopes:
This blog is also available on the Blogspot site. Tämä blogi löytyy myös suomeksi Relaasta. Photos and videos (c) 2018 by Jari Arkko. All rights reserved. The song "Magnolia" by The Silent Partner is freely usable from the YouTube Audio Library.