I was in Iași again the last weekend of April 2014. I was there for a long time — nine days, which might be a new record for me — between two holiday weekends, and staying there over a weekend, which usually isn’t necessary. Romania, as we discovered last fall, isn’t particularly foreign-tourist-friendly. And I try not to obligate my work people to spend more of their free time with me than, say, one evening once per visit. But the team surprised me with an exciting day trip around the region, including all new stuff for me to experience.
I’ve been visiting Iași since November 2006. I’ve eaten at most of the restaurants you’d take a visiting foreigner who likes local cuisine. On Friday afternoon they said “bring a jacket (in case it rains), comfortable shoes, and your camera. Be ready at 9:00 sharp Sunday morning out front at your hotel.” Mysterious! I had no idea this was going to be a roadtrip through Northeastern Romania — or a wide swath of it, anyways.
Our first stop was an hour and a half away at a medieval fortress from the 13th-14th Century. There was substantial documentation there in Romanian, explaining the political, geographical, or historical setting in each of the rooms in the citadel — but alas, not in English. Fortunately, I had a team of native speakers with me, happy to give me the gist.
Rezervația de Zimbri Dragoș Vodă
Next up — a zoo! Nearby to the citadel was a zoo featuring the nearly-extinct European bison, a bear, a wolf, some exotic chickens and peacocks, a couple of elk, and a bunch of deer. I liked spotting the deer the best. They were the least enclosed of all the animals. Hard to spot at all, when they weren’t moving.
We drove on, higher and higher into the mountains, until the space between dwindled to almost nothing. We had arrived at Bicaz Canyon, a place of breathtaking natural beauty and plenty of rocks to climb on.
After goofing off there, stretching our legs and oohing and aahing at the views, we drove on a little further to the Red Lake, where we snagged a table for eight for a meal along the lakeshore, and decided to rent a couple of rowboats for an hour, racing each other and enjoying the sunshine and fresh air.
The final stop on our tour was at the dam creating Lake Bicaz, Romania’s largest artificial lake.
From there we drove back about two and a half hours, nearly non-stop, to Iași where we parted ways and got ready for Monday morning to start the workweek. For the first time since arriving on this trip, I slept like a stone that night! It was certainly all new for me; I hope my hosts enjoyed it and each other as much as I did.
Here’s a map with pins showing each stop on the route: