As we'd seen most of Cluj yesterday afternoon, we decided last night that we needed to plan another day trip for today. Tim had a look at our Transylvania guidebook and read about an interesting place called Bánffy Castle, located in a nearby village called Bonțida. We decided to give it a go.
Bonțida is on a direct train line from Cluj, so it was fairly straight forward to get there. The only problem was that the trains run quite infrequently, especially at weekends, so there was essentially only one train which we could get out in the morning and one which we could catch back to Cluj in the evening.
We made the morning train at 11.01 and 40 minutes or so later we arrived at the station in Bonțida. First impressions were that we seemed to be absolutely in the middle of nowhere.
We had to stand and wait for our train to move on before we could walk across the tracks to the station.
It was a very pretty place to wait though
Eventually the train moved on and we were able to walk across to the station building and check that we had the right time of 17.53 for the return train.
Train time confirmed, we set off towards the castle, which is a couple of miles away from the station. Luckily it's quite an easy walk, all down one main road through the village of Bonțida.
The village itself is small but it's in a lovely location.
There were some posters up, presumably for a forthcoming election. This politician's slogan reads "For a normal Romania"; not quite as ambitious as making Romania great again
After a while we crossed a river.
It was bigger and faster flowing than some of the rivers we've seen on this holiday.
Once we were across the river, we were getting closer to the centre of the village.
There are two churches close together in the central square. This is the Catholic one...
...and this is the Orthodox one.
There were also some really big flags in the centre of the square.
Just round the corner from here, we got our first view of the castle.
It only cost 10 lei (about £2) each to get inside.
A castle was first built here in 14th century, with most of today's fortified structure dating from the late 17th century.
Renovations were made during the 18th and 19th centuries and the castle was so ornate that it became known as the Versailles of Transylvania.
Unfortunately, during the Second World War the castle was destroyed by retreating German troops, taking revenge on its owner - Count Miklós Bánffy - who had been assisting the Allied forces. During the Communist period, the castle fell further into decay.
Today efforts are ongoing to try and restore the castle and several bits of it are now open to the public to walk around.
The first thing we saw when we arrived was a display of statues. Or rather, the remains of statues, which used to decorate the facade of the castle and which were destroyed by the Germans.
We then walked into a room where the walls were covered in patterns.
It wasn't entirely clear, but I think these were examples of how the castle would have been decorated.
Some of them were really pretty
From there we were able to walk around some of the rooms which have now been made safe for visitors.
This was the main castle building...
...where there was a big ladder to climb up.
(Though not a lot to see once you got up there!)
This building would once have been the castle's chapel.
The castle used to have a large landscaped park.
That hasn't been restored yet, so at the moment there's only a little lake which you can walk around. It's pretty though
Once we'd finished exploring, we still had some time to kill before our train back to Cluj. Luckily one of the restored buildings is home to a cafe, so we were able to sit there and have coffee and chocolate (/beer and crisps!).
Then it was time to start walking back through the village towards the station.
It was a really scenic walk and we were passed by three separate horses and carts on the way.
We were back at the station on plenty of time for our train to Cluj, which arrived very punctually. Romanian trains always seem to be on time!
Once we got back to Cluj we were hungry, so we decided to walk into the town centre in search of food.
On the way we passed some interesting buildings which we'd missed yesterday. There was this really pretty church...
...and this very striking synagogue.
The restaurant we ate at yesterday was so nice that we decided to go back. We both had the goulash with gnocchi that Tim had had yesterday.
While we were eating, some rather strange figures appeared in the square behind us.
It was a group of slightly scary people on stilts Some of them were dancing, while the others were beating drums.
Partway through the performance, the lightbulbs hanging above the street were suddenly turned on.
We thought the performance was over and everyone was walking away...
...but a few minutes later they all reappeared...
...and danced past us again.
It was a rather bizarre performance, but it was nice seeing the old town all lit up with the light bulbs
Overall we've had a great two weeks in Bulgaria and Romania It's been really fun to explore two new countries, both of which have turned out to have some beautiful countryside and some really interesting towns. I have a feeling we will travel to both countries again at some point in the future