We first discovered Curtea de Argeș when we were reading through our guidebook, deciding where we should stop in Romania. There was just the tiniest little blurb about Curtea there, and it just seemed like few other tourists went there, but that it would be pretty, quaint, and unspoiled.
And for the most part, it was! It was the kind of place that road-tripping Europeans pulled over at to stay at a cute little guesthouse for the night, but no North American backpacker in their right mind would veer off the”tourist trail” to get there. Still, there we were.
There was no direct route from Sibiu, so we had to switch buses, a bit of a challenge, because we were still adjusting to local pronunciations and place names. We had to take the bus to Râmnicu Vâlcea, then switch to the minibus to Pitești, and get off halfway, in Curtea de Argeș. Those names don’t look difficult to pronounce, but somehow we really struggled, especially with “Pitești” — who would have guessed that the “i” is virtually silent?!
We walked up the hill from the bus/train station, looking for a hotel or pension. We checked out a hotel, and then we spotted the place we were meant to stay — bedecked with bright, flowering plants, was the Pensiunea Ruxi. It was bright and clean, run by the sweetest Romanian couple (named after their daughter), and, to Earl’s delight, they served homemade ice cream upon check-in!
After we settled in, we headed out to grab a lunch of Romanian pizza and a fresh pitcher of ice-cold lemonade…
… and set about planning our schedule for the next couple of days in the Curtea region. As we researched, we discovered that on a mountain near Curtea de Argeș were the ruins of Vlad “the Impaler” Tepes’ castle, Poenari castle. (Vlad is the figure on whom Dracula is loosely based). Being such keen Dracula fans (not!!), we thought we should take a look.
After lunch, we hopped in the public transit van/bus headed in that direction. When we stepped off the bus, we discovered just how much the Romanians, especially those in provinces near Transylvania, were capitalizing on the Dracula story:
We walked down the road, and came to the steps that, eventually, led to Poenari Castle. There were quite literally more than 1000 steps — Earl counted. Finally, at the top, we paid an entrance fee of a few lei, and explored the remains of the actual castle.
After we made our descent, we were exposed to a little of the local agriculture: it was haying season, so we got a chance to see how some of the traditional ways have made it into modern times.
On our way back to the pensiunea, the weather took a turn for the worse, and the skies opened up. It was just as well, as we’d had a late night the night before, followed by an early morning en route to Curtea de Argeș, and a ride over that did not lend itself to snoozing (besides, how often do you get to rip-roar up and down the windy mountain roads in Romania?!) We grabbed some dinner, and retired for the night.
The next morning we woke up and the weather was still threatening more rain. We decided to venture out for a walk within the town, taking our raincoats along and making a mental note to make sure we invested in umbrellas for our time in the UK. Curtea is actually a very important town in the region of Wallachia, as it is one of the oldest towns, and apparently historically a seat of government for the region. (Evidence of it being a local capital date from the 13th century!)
Because of this, there were all sorts of historical buildings, for us to look at. Apparently the monastery is quite well-known and impressive too, but at some point the drizzle picked up, and we skipped that sight. Still, here are a few of the ones we saw:
What an incredible visit to Curtea de Argeș. We were sorry our time there ended so quickly, though in reality, it is quite a small town, so unless you’re seriously into taking it easy, two days there was plenty. It was neat to experience a little of the “back country” of Romania, and it only whetted our appetite for more!