In fall of 2023 I spent 10 days with my mom in and around Brașov, Romania
Transylvanian Saxony was a great experience, and I highly recommend it to anyone. In between old places, historical centers, and mountains there's lots to see and experience.
You can see people try and preserve as much as they can, even if there might not be enough money to make everything perfect. There are thousands upon thousands of people from all over Romania visiting, and you always see busses full of school kids going to landmarks, historical places, bear sanctuaries and ostrich farms.
Libearty Bear Sanctuary by Millioane de Prieteni (Millions of Friends) is cool place and worth a visit just for the history of the place and of the bears.
The whole thing started as a dog shelter in 1999, but since 2005 they've been taking care of bears, too. Look at them go. Or, well, look at them be leisurely:
They are taking care of 126 bears. And they are still getting animals rescued from private homes and illegal zoos.
These bears are in a limbo state:
they are still wild animals (that's why all the photos are taken from a safe distance from behind a fence)
if you release them into the wild, they will come back to people because they've grown dependent on them for food.
In extreme cases they can't even take care of themselves because they have been declawed, and their teeth have been removed
So the sanctuary adopts these bears, sterilises them (so that no cubs are born in captivity to perpetuate the cycle), and gives them a huge chunk of a forest to roam, with lakes, pools, trees, places to build dens and so on. And also treats them, takes care of them, monitors their health, and provides them with additional food (because there 126 bears after all).
Each bear comes with its own story, and many of them make you lose all faith in humanity. But the sanctuary restores that fate, because the people who work there are awesome.
The railway station in Chișinău is, or could be, beautiful. It suffers from neglect and Moldova's inexplicable love affair with dull gray paint.
The train that runs between Chișinău and Bucharest is charitably called an express train. It's also charitably called modern. It consists of Soviet-era carriages mildly refurbished to be able to connect to Romania's actual modern trains:
The corridor and the rest of the carriages are unchanged from the Soviet times. It should be noted that everything is very clean even if it doesn't often look like this in the pictures.
A view into the "restaurant". Snacks, and alcohol:
The toilet is still a hopper toilet. That is, you step on a pedal, the bottom opens up and everything is dumped outside. They keep it locked during stops, for obvious reasons :)
It's an unwritten law that you must eat when you travel. This time with some traditional plăcinte.
The track gauge in the former Soviet Union is wider than the track gauge in Europe. On the border with Romania the carriages are lifted up and fitted with new wheels (called bogies).
As you can probably guess, the entire system was built in Soviet times and never updated or repaired since.