Sinaia, Romania, sits high in the Transylvanian Alps, just south of Brasov, and 125 kilometres from Bucharest. The main road between Bucharest and Brasov runs along the Prahova Valley and through Sinaia. The town stands at the gateway to the Bucegi Massif and the heart of Romania's skiing country. It is a year-round tourist town, having good ski slopes in the winter which make great hiking mountains in the summer.
Peles Castle, a former Royal Residence, and birthplace of ex-King Carol II - the last ruler of Romania before the communist regime - is a picturesque attraction in the town. It was started in 1863 by Prince Carol of Hohenzollern-Sigmaringen, who had been given the Crown of Romania in 1866. It was modelled on drawings by Wilhelm Doderer and so has a German style, as is the Monastery, which has many icons, books, pottery and porcelain, and which was founded in 1695.
The largest ski area in Romania, and the biggest skiable vertical, are both in well-kept Sinaia. The chair lift takes you to the peak at 2000m, 1100m above the town. Nine lifts serve the 12 wide and open pistes, offering plenty of variety on the slopes. Almost uniquely, the nursery slopes are on the large plateau at the top of the mountain.
There are also cross country trails and a bobsliegh run in the valley below.
The Main Street in 1988
In the late 1980s, the iconography of Nicolae Caucescu was everywhere. The bookshops had all his books, or his wife's, on display and nothing else. In the evening, groups of soldiers would march up and down the main street. The food, even in the top tourist hotels, left a lot to be desired, especially in the ski season. And as with most Communist powers in the dying days of their regimes, electricity was severely rationed and never seemed to be operating at full capacity.
Now, all this has changed, and Sinaia is an attractive destination to visit, and tours of the former Royal Place as well as nearby Castle Brun, the legendary home of Count Dracula, are included on tour itineries.