Up bright and early to hit Sarmizegetusa Regia (the ruins of the ancient Dacian people and another UNESCO site) when it opened at 9. The plan was to have a fairly easy going day adventure-wise (just one), then get to the bnb that I booked last night by noon and relax, work, blog, and do laundry. The drive from Hateg to the site was just stunning. I swear, Romania is so gorgeous!! I was on rural back roads the entire hour and half and couldn’t have been happier. And there were even a few places to pull over and snap a pic! I was the first one in the parking lot at 8:48am!! Woo-hoo!! But no sooner than I started walking up the long path to the site, cars started pulling in. That put a giddity up in my hitch, because I wanted to be the first to the top!! And I was. Went to the ticket counter. 10 lei. I headed toward the site and saw an audio guide icon. Went back. 20 lei ($5). A bit pricey, I thought. But ok, I’ll bite since I know zilch about this place. I should have saved my money. The audio guide was pretty bad….
So who are these Dacians (that I, admittedly, had never even heard of)? Well, honestly, we don’t really know much about them. They left no written records. And what records there are were written by the Romans, who conquered the Dacians about 1900 years ago. There were a bunch of different groups of people running around in the general area of present day Romania and parts of Eastern Europe. By about 500 BCE (2500 years ago!), the Dacians were a distinct group of people. It took them about 400 years to really get organized and build a serious civilization (I see why- this place was so remote there was no way they were going to get a phone signal, much less a data connection!). One of their kings moved the capital of the civilization to Sarmizegetusa Regia around 50 BCE. The next king really grew the civilization in the early 90’s CE. So much so, that he caught the attention of the Romans. Something you probably didn’t want to do back then… Especially if you were sitting on large gold and silver reserves as the Dacians were… The Romans first marched in and attacked in 102 CE. After that, the Dacians actually rebuilt Sarmizegetusa Regia and their other cities in the kingdom. So the Romans came back and issued the final crushing blow in 106 CE, ending the Dacian kingdom and heavily colonizing the area.
The Dacian site had 3 main parts to it. The fortress, the sacred area, and the settlements where the people lived. The fortress (or what was left of it) and the sacred area are the only parts open to the public. The first part you see is the fortress, or what is kind of left of it- basically some block walls, and some rock rubble.
I continued past the fortress area and followed the path to the sacred area. Now THIS is where things got interesting!! The first thing was an original portion of a road that led to the sacred place- about 2000 years old! And on the opposite side of the path from that was a break in the trees, and my first view of the VERY impressive sacred site!
There were remains of the column bases of temples. Now, we aren’t really sure what gods the Dacians worshipped, but we do know they were polythestic. The first picture is the “new” temple that was being constructed with that 2nd wave of Romans came along. The second picture is of an older temple. And there was a picture of what the temples would have looked like assembled, which was helpful.
Honestly the thing I was most impressed with was connected to this big round thing carved with notches like a slice of pie. There was signage that stated it was an altar. But the impressive part was that those notches were where “liquid” (the audio guide didn’t elaborate, dammit!) from sacrifices would run off of the altar. Ok, that’s cool, but the BEST part was where it would drain into. There was an entire sewer type system installed, that ran through the area and off into the woods. I don’t know why, but I was all about that sewer system! In fact, I did a whole video for class about it!
Most normal people (those who are not infatuated with ancient sewers) are most impressed by the huge circular temple in the middle of the lower field. It was originally built out of stones and wooden timbers, the latter of which has been recreated to show the shape of it. Like the other temples, this one would have had a roof on it. Again, not much is known about their religion, but there are concentric circles that make up the temple, and it’s thought that the innermost circle would be the most holy of the areas, with only the high priest being able to enter. Hmmmm….sounds a lot like the “holy of holies”…. The arrangement of the stones has been compared to Stonehenge.
I was at the site for a little over an hour, then headed out toward Sebes. Reached my airbnb right at noon. Maria, the host, didn’t speak English. We already know how fluent I am in Romanian. Unless we were going to be talking about entering a chicken with an apple and a cherry, I was screwed. But- she did speak SPANISH!! Woo-hoo!! A language that I can actually speak in semi-coherent complete sentences (all in the present tense, but still)!! And we communicated absolutely perfectly in Spanish! There was something about being able to use Spanish in Romania that was quite satisfying. I mean, I’ve used it all over Central America and Cuba and been fine. But to use it in Romania and have someone understand what the hell I was saying- well, I kinda felt like a rock star. No lie. I easily impress myself.
Maria left and I had the entire apartment to myself. I think the apartment buildings here might be a throwback to the communist times. They have that “blocky industrial” look and feel to them. But the apartment was large and lovely. And the best part (aside from only being $42 for the night)- A WASHING MACHINE!! My gummy ass, stinky shoes were long overdue for a solid washing… Put everything in and headed out to find food.
There was a grocery store and a pizzeria close by that Maria had shown me on google maps. First, the grocery store. It was really small and didn’t have anything I really wanted (like a damn roasted chicken- my kingdom for a roasted pui!!!). But lo and behold, they DID have Dr. Pepper! I couldn’t believe it! I have enough of them though from my spree in Bucharest, so I left empty handed and decided to go get a pizza.
Sebes is not a tourist town in the least. It was ALL locals here, which was nice. I walked through some more apartment blocks to the pizzeria which….was closed until 5. I’d die on the streets of starvation by then. Quick check of the map showed another restaurant called Restaurant Parc which was in…well, the park! I checked the reviews online. People said decent, cheap food, but menu in Romanian and no one speaks English. Hmmm. Intimidating (not withstanding the fact that I hate to eat in restaurants alone), but I’ve got this!! Walked in, sat down (nice view over a pond), waitress brought me a menu. I said thank you and she said you’re welcome. Well, probably everyone knows that. She brings me over a menu. Sure enough, 100% Romanian and all text- no pictures. I could pick out porc for pork and chicken is the first word I learned (pui), so I could tell the differences between those, but otherwise, flabbergasted. I pulled up google translate and started the laborious process of typing stuff in. The waitress came over and asked “Do you need help?” OH HELL YES!! Engliiiiiiiish!!!!!! She explained the menu to me, and I chose a pork cutlet with vegetables (traveler’s scurvy, the struggle is real) and a Pepsi. Food came, was really good, and less than $7 for the whole thing. I was rather pleased. 😊
Back to the apartment, hung out laundry, showered, worked, blogged. It was good to just chilllllllll for an entire afternoon. Tomorrow would be my last day with the car…
UPDATE: THIS happened to the road to Sarmizegetusa Regina about 4 days after I was there!! It’s closed now for an indefinite amount of time. I’m so lucky that I was one of the last people to get to see it! Hopefully it will be reopened soon.