Regrets. Last-minute, slapdash planning with little time for research meant I sulked in Cluj-Napoca over the lack of time to absorb the achingly beautiful architecture around every corner, and could only window-gaze at the closed quaint second-hand stores and chic modern boutiques. Adding insult to injury is that we also missed so many dining opportunities in Transylvania’s culinary and cultural capital.

Cluj was an important city in the Hapsburg Empire, and it’s easy to see why even in this small collection of photos. This is St. Michael’s, Transylvania’s most valuable Gothic church that dominates the square.
Teleki and Banffy Palaces, now home to the National Art Museum.
The National Theater.
The Orthodox Cathedral.
As it goes around this part of Europe, the beautiful New York Hotel was Gestapo headquarters; it was from this building where the deportation of over 16.000 Jews to Auschwitz was organized.
Oradea, Romania. More regrets. With a forecast of rain, rain, and more rain for our final intended destination in Hungary, we canceled our lodging and rerouted toward home a day early. With nothing more in sight for kilometers, and tummies rumbling madly, we reluctantly pulled in for “lunch.” Yep, Romanian McDonald’s are as uninspiring as you might imagine. Later we learned that the city is a culturally and architecturally vibrant destination, and worthy of much more than a passing glance through the panelak-ed outskirts. Sigh.
Not all of the trip was a culinary regret, thankfully. Delicious food was enjoyed at every destination, just not enough of it for me.  In Szetendre I was delighted to find the Hungarian version of my beloved Shopska salad, the perfect accompaniment to Hungarian Goulasch soup. Just look at the richness of that paprika-colored soup! Anna Grace had Cevapcici, a traditionally Yugoslavian ground meat dish spiced with garlic and paprika; while Tony opted for a simple grilled pork cutlet topped with fried potatoes.
At our guest house in Sapanta, we were treated to a first course of Ciorba de Perisoare, a traditional pork and rice meatball soup with a slightly sour taste. Delicious. The main course was Sarmale, Romanian stuffed cabbage served with the best polenta we’ve ever eaten. Sarmale are different from the Polish stuffed cabbage I grew up with and, dare I write, a bit tastier?
Breakfast the following morning was amazing. Fresh yogurt unlike any we’ve eaten before; vegetables, a spread of roasted paprika and eggplant, and delicate cinnamon-filled rolled cookies, along with Romanian kolbasa and fresh sheep cheese.

To close the road trip report, one more border crossing photo for my collection, the jaunty and retro-colored frontier line between Hungary and Romania.

So. Last year’s spring holiday was an oversold disappointment, and this year’s last-minute abbreviated road trip was an undersold whirlwind. Maybe next year’s spring holiday will be the “Third time is the charm?”