On the road in Moldova

We traveled to the province of Moldova recently (not the Republic of Moldova, the province of Moldova, which is part of Romania, as was the Republic of Moldova at one time), and while on the road, I recorded these videos.

The first is of the sunrise somewhere between Iasi and Piatra Neamt. I processed this to give it an old-time feel, with film grain, scratches and an appropriate soundtrack.

The second, filmed a little later that same morning, is of an historic piazza in Piatra Neamt.

The third, filmed that same day, is of a mountain brook in Cheile Bicazului, as we crossed the Carpathian Mountains from Moldova into Transilvania.

I hope you enjoy them! (They’re all in HD, so if you can’t see them at full res on my site, click through to YouTube and make sure to select 720p.)


We stopped at Pizzeria New Croco in Cluj-Napoca last night, around midnight. Among other things, I ordered my usual espresso. It had a strong taste, the right aroma, a bit on the bitter side, but it was what I needed to keep me awake for a night trip that would last another few hours.

Taste-wise, this espresso ranks right up there with some of the best I’ve had in recent years. It may have been a little bitter, but it was its strong character that set it apart from some of the swill I’ve tasted at times.

Here’s a map of the restaurant’s location. They have a website as well, but it’s done in Flash, it takes forever to load, and you can’t shut off the annoying music that starts playing as soon as the site opens up.

Espresso at Pizzeria New Croco


Espresso at Pensiunea Stejarul

A few days ago, on Tuesday, we’d woken up early to drive to Cluj, and we were passing a place I’d often wanted to stop at, but never found the time. The place is called Pensiunea Stejarul, and they’re open 24/7. The setting for this restaurant is quite beautiful. It’s high up on the tallest hill outside the city of Tarnaveni, in the middle of an oak forest.

That day, we had the time. It was freezing outside, it was snowing slowly, we were driving slowly, and wanted to stop and take in the scenery for a bit. So we did. I had an espresso, and Ligia had a tea. My N95 refused to focus properly, and all the photos I got were rubbish. This was the best of the lot.

The espresso was almost great. Much better than this one, but not among the best I’ve ever had.

This is what the restaurant looks like from above, courtesy of Google Maps. And this is their exact location.


Espresso at Hotel As

The photo you see below doesn’t tell the whole story, but I like photographing espresso cups, what can I say…

It was a little past 6 o’clock in the morning this past Thursday, we’d been driving all night, it was snowing and freezing outside, there was black ice on the road, and we needed some warm breakfast. We stopped at a hotel/restaurant called Hotel As, on E60, between the villages of Tureni and Copaceni, north of Turda, in Transilvania, Romania.

We had scrambled eggs, I had the espresso, Ligia had a tea, and we walked around the restaurant looking at the beautiful paintings they had on the walls, depicting quaint medieval streets and buildings. Unfortunately the waiter couldn’t tell me who the artist was, and didn’t have any contact information for him/her. We wanted to buy one of the paintings.

I suppose I need to rate the espresso: it was barely decent — nothing special, but at least it had a modicum of caffeine to keep me awake. Got a screenshot of the hotel from Google Maps below, and this is their exact location. We’ll probably stop there again at some point in the future — if for no other reason than to look at the paintings once more.

Places, Video Log

The winter road trip

After a cross-country trip through Romania to visit family for Christmas, our car’s on-board computer told us we logged 1,560 km (969.34 mi). I was already a big fan of our VW Jetta TDI, but now I like it even more. Our average fuel consumption was 6.1 l/100 km (38.6 mpg) while our average speed was 63 km/h, though we traveled around 90-100 km/h (62 mph) when the roads allowed it. Our total fuel cost was roughly 300 RON (about $100). Total driving time over a period of a week or so was 24 hours and 54 minutes. Although there were two trips whose time was around 9 hours and 30 minutes, somehow small trips here and there added an extra 6 hours to our driving time.

We left as a recent snowfall was melting and the weather had turned dreary, and we came back through fresh snow and clear, sunny skies. As we crossed the Carpathian mountains, we found ourselves in a winter wonderland. Trees and mountain slopes as far as the eye could see were decked in pure white snow, lit up by the most gorgeous morning hues of orange and purple light. I took photos, and also recorded a driving video. I hope you’ll enjoy them, they’re posted below.

If you plan to travel on A2 (Autostrada Soarelui), the Romanian highway between Bucharest and Constanta (which is still unfinished and only goes to Cernavoda,) be aware of two things. First, they’ve started charging 10 RON for the use of the highway, so it’s become a sort of a turnpike, although it’s the only highway in the region, so that’s not right, and two, it’s full of potholes. During our drive from Cernavoda to Bucharest, during the night, we not only had to deal with black ice, but with over 40 potholes, each over 20 cm in diameter and 5-10 cm deep. If we had been traveling at the posted speed limit of 130 km/h (81 mph), our suspension would have blown up long before we reached Bucharest. Instead, we drover 80-100 km/h, weaving in-between potholes while trying to guess which portions of the road had black ice. And yet the people who administer the road have the gall to charge money and ruin our car at the same time.

Still, we weren’t going to let a thing like that spoil our trip. The weather was truly beautiful on our return, and the snow made everything look gorgeous, particularly once we approached the Carpathian Mountains. We got close to them at daybreak, and by the time we were crossing them, the golden-pink hues of the dawn light made each snow-covered peak look magnificent. The mountain forests were glorious. Branches everywhere were laden with snow, and the crisp mountain air made each roadside stop memorable. You’ll see what I mean if you watch the video, which is about 10 minutes in length.