Road Trips

Romanian Roadtrip: Ukraine Border and the Merry Cemetary

Romanian Road Trip Map

Day 2: Sighisoara to Vișeu de Sus

For information on what to do in Sighisoara, check out Day 1.

Day 2 was a long day of driving but had beautiful countryside views. The plan was to get to Vișeu de Sus so we could take a ride through the Romanian forest on a steam engine train.

We stopped for lunch at a random gas station restaurant, found a royal family crypt, and discovered that bicycles are the primary mode of transportation in small villages.

Unique Stop: Teleki Castle and Family Crypt

Another Geocache find. We took a narrow dirt road up to a cemetery in search of the crypt of the Teleki Family. The Teleki family is an old Hungarian noble family dating to the Holy Roman Empire. The door to the crypt was open, and although the entrance was gated, you could see the remnants of tombstones of several of the family members. The crypt was vandalized, and the bodies were removed when the family fled during World War 2. Even if you aren’t into geocaching, take in the view from the top of the hill. Located in Sárpatak Glodeni, Romania.

Found a Geocache

Check out my complete list of unique places to visit in Romania.

Where to Eat: Stop at a random restaurant on the side of the road. Choose something that seems so local; it is out of your comfort zone. The camera function on Google Translate will help you read any menu. We stopped at a gas station restaurant and had a fantastic meal.

Where to stay: Casa Mocanitei (Strada Moldova 4, Vișeu de Sus 435700, Romania) – This hotel is right across the street from the Mocanita Train. The room was more of a mini-suite with a sitting area and bedroom and was very clean. There is a restaurant onsite that was perfect for a late dinner.

Day 3: Merry Cemetery and the Ukraine border

The best way to get to know someone is to wash their underwear. Before our road trip, Rahat and I both needed to do laundry. While he was working, I took one for the team and took our dirty clothes to a laundry mart I found online. I had planned to get some work done while I waited, but I ended up talking to the owner. We had so much in common; it was great to hear about Romanian from someone with my mindset. Before I left, she recommended the Mocănița Maramureș.

Unique Stop: Mocănița Maramureș

A narrow gauge steam engine train that takes you into the Romanian forest up the Carpathian Mountains. Although it was a local tourist attraction, we were the only English-speaking people, making it very authentic. The signs didn’t even have English translations, and the instructions given by the conductor were only in Romanian.

You can buy tickets online up to 48 hours prior. After that, it is possible to purchase tickets at the ticket counter but beware that the train leaves on the dot, so arrive early. The ride takes about 4.5 hours, including stops for breakfast and lunch. There is an option to include snacks and lunch in the ticket price, but you can also buy food el la carte. There is also entertainment and a hiking trail at the lunch stop.

The Ukraine Border

First, for anyone about to yell at me, consider I was as close to the current conflict as Massachusetts is to Ohio. There is no reason not to visit northern Romania. On that note, please do your research, as things can change anytime.
A small river separates the northern border between Ukraine and Romania. The main road we were on runs parallel to the river. We stopped for lunch at a restaurant on the Romanian side of the border crossing. It was a unique and weird feeling to be staring into Ukraine. A place that seems so far away when watching it on the news.
What was the border like? It is one of the furthest borders with Romania from the conflict, so I wonder how busy it got at the beginning of the war. There weren’t many cars going in either direction, and one box truck got turned away trying to enter Ukraine. A few people walked in both directions and appeared to be commuting for work or leisure. There were tents with supplies, but no one was utilizing them.

Unique Stop: The Merry Cemetary

The Merry Cemetery in Sapanta, Romania, contains beautiful blue crosses depicting the life stories and final moments of the deceased in vibrant paintings and funny limericks. Compared to other cemeteries, the graves in Sapanta describe an accurate, if sometimes negative, portrayal of the person’s life. As the creator, Dumitru Pop, states, “There is no hiding in a small town.” 

One cross reads, “Underneath this heavy cross. Lies my mother-in-law poor… Try not to wake her up. For if she comes back home. She’ll bite my head off.” Another shows the deceased as the town drunk. 

There is a small donation to enter the cemetery, and it closes at sunset.

Where to Stay: La Conacul Vesel (775, Săpânța 437305, Romania, +40 740 523 043) – Situated across from the Merry Cemetery, this hotel is the perfect place to finish your road trip. I suggest calling to book through the hotel itself. We did and were given an enormous room with a wrap-around balcony looking over the cemetery. I can’t guarantee it was because we called the property directly instead of using a third-party site such as, but I feel that helped. They also serve an excellent breakfast for a small fee.

The next day we headed to Cluj, Romania, where we said goodbye. I left on a train to Hungary, and Rahat stayed to hang out with a Tinder girl.

We made it!

Avoiding the Tourist Traps: Road Trip Through Romania

I was determined to make it up to the Merry Cemetery along the northern border of Romania. I was planning to take the train or a bus until I spoke to several locals who told me that Romanian trains are very slow. They are from the Soviet era, and the tracks are not maintained. The buses were infrequent and not very reliable.

I met a new friend on my food tour in Bucharest who liked the idea of my mission and enjoyed random attractions like I did. That is how I ended up on a four-day road trip through Transylvania up north to Ukraine in a car with a stranger.

Check out my complete list of unique places to visit in Romania.

Day 1: Brasov to Sighisoara

Romanian Road Trip Map


Brașov is a beautiful medieval city with cobblestone streets and cute cafes located in the Transylvania region of Romania. It has the third narrowest street in Europe- Strada Sforii and boasts its own “Hollywood” sign. Check out the Black Church, named after a fire that destroyed much of the town, but the church remained black with soot.

Unique Stop: Bran Castle

The first stop on our road trip was Bran Castle, or Dracula’s castle. I promised this would be a unique road trip, but I had to see Dracula’s castle. First, Bram Stoker’s Dracula is loosely based on Vlad the Impaler. Bram Stoker nor Vlad the Impaler had anything to do with Bran Castle. But Bran Castle does look creepy, and you can walk through it for a small entrance fee. Go during lunchtime when everyone is eating. After lunch, the line was long. Plus, we were able to eat without a wait.

Where to Eat: Trăsura cu Bucate A roadside stand with local food and friendly staff. Try the Mititei (Romanian Skinless Sausage).

Unique Stop: The Sinca Veche Monastery

If you want to explore a new place and find things off the beaten path, I recommend Geocaching. People hide “treasure” worldwide and post coordinates and clues for others to see. I talked Rahat into stopping at a Geocache not far off the highway.

We pulled off onto a dirt road and followed a windy road through rolling hills until we came to a small parking lot. After getting out, we realized we were at a nunnery. We found a trail and followed it through the woods. Suddenly we were in front of a structure carved into the hill and covered with wood paneling. The next thing we knew, a man yelled at us, asking if we spoke English and saying he would give us a tour of the monastery if we wanted. Monastery? Now, I was trying to cover up my shoulders and hide my cleavage.

This stop wasn’t about visiting the monastery, although it was gorgeous. It was about pulling off a random road and seeing what you find.


The best way to see this medieval town is to walk around at night. We wandered old cobblestone streets with only a few other people. Then I heard a band playing in the distance.

Let’s go! Poor Rahat agreed to follow me. By the time we found the bar, the band was finished, but we found a cheap local restaurant and a good view of the town. You should always be careful walking around any new city, but I felt safe walking around Brasov (except in the cemetery).

On the way home, I took a shortcut through what ended up being a cemetery. It was completely dark, and each turn that I thought was the street was another grave site. I finally found the exit and headed to my hostel when a black cat crossed my path. I ran the rest of the way.

Unique Places to See: The Covered Walkway with 176 steps and Vlad Dracula’s childhood home.

Where to stay: Venesis House (Strada Ecaterina Varga 12 a, Sighișoara 545400, Romania) – It has a hostel vibe with a common room and kitchen but clean private rooms. And the man who ran the place was so sweet.

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