Day 4 – Sovata to Măgura
From Sovata we headed south cross country to Măgura where I had a booked a stay in the mountains with a trip to a bear hide. I’d been waiting the whole trip for the chance to see bears doing their thing in the woods, so this day went so slowly as my anticipation built! I booked the bear watching through Carpathian Nature Tours, staying at the Villa Hermani.
Our first stop for the day was in the 12th century town of Sighișoara in Mureș County. A popular stopping point for tour groups due to its unbelievably picturesque architecture and cute cobbled streets.
Oh yeah, and Dracula was legit born here. In 1431, Vlad Tepes was born in the house his father, Vlad Dracul lived in and stayed there until 1435. The house is brightly painted in yellow, which seems an odd contrast with the myth of Vlad’s later years.
Sighișoara is well worth a stop, it’s quite a large place outside of the old medieval town, which boasts a beautiful clock tower which you can climb, plenty of highly instagrammable streets and a few interesting churches.
After wandering around for an hour we headed for Măgura where the bears would be (hopefully) waiting for us. The journey was a more or less flat but rather narrow and twisty affair in places, taking us through yet more tiny towns and villages.
The end of the journey was a white knuckle ascent of a hair-pin unpaved mountain road of considerable grade. With just the huge trees each side to catch the car if our wheel caught the edge of the gravel, I clung onto the door and didn’t take a single picture.
I had thought there would be little but the villa at the top of this treacherous climb, but in fact there was a rather large and spread out village at the top amongst verdant rolling hillside. The views across to the distant Făgăraș Mountains were spectacular and there was a wonderful quiet about the place (except for the incessant barking of guard dogs!).
Bear watching was prefaced with a disappointing soup (not really what you want when you’ve been told there are no toilets available until you get back around 9pm) and then we bundled into a minibus like a really exciting school trip. Rather annoyingly it was a one hour drive to the bear hide (although we were allowed to pee in the woods before we went to see the bears- yay!). It meant heading back down the steep and winding gravel road back the way we had come up just an hour previously. Our driver was rather less cautious and we bumped and lurched the whole way down in the rickety bus.
After an hour winding up and down mountains we pulled off into a nondescript layby to meet up with another car load of bear sighting hopefuls then quickly forded a deep river (as you do in an old minibus) and headed off road into the woods.
After about 5 minutes we pulled up and got out to walk the rest of the way to the hide. It felt so exciting and also slightly scary knowing that somewhere out ‘there’ were bears, maybe listening to us and watching us walk along. On the short walk to the hide we encountered our first evidence of bears, huge paw prints pressed into the soft mud.
As we entered the hide we saw the bears already in place, feasting on the snacks left near the hide to draw them in. We crept quietly in so not to disturb them and there they were, a mother and her two cubs to one side, and a huge male sat on a log. The mother was much darker than the male with a white patch on her neck. The baby bears were gambolling about together but ever mindful of the big male bear, shooting wary glances in his direction the whole time.
After various comings and goings (and about 200 photos) we’d seen about 6 different bears, far more than I had ever expected.
We left the hide to head back to the minibus and the hour long trip back to Villa Hermani. Dinner was get what you’re given and we were served some indifferent veal, a salad and some delicious mashed potatoes. Starter and dessert had been eaten before we left, so that was our lot and I went to bed slightly hungry.
I had a slightly restless nights with the constant barking of dogs outside, presumably repelling the advances of all manner of bears and wolves. It was strange looking out into the pitch black of the mountains and wondering what was out there. The morning brought beautiful sunshine and more spectacular views. After enjoying a few cups of tea in the sun it was once again time to hit the road…and back down the gravel hair-pin route.