After a stopover at a thermal “resort” just before the border, we crossed into Romania and made the 4 hour drive to Turda. The first half of the journey was pretty tiresome as it passes through a succession of small towns and villages each with a 50kph limit, with barely a straight bit in between. Interesting to see the way of life (lots of fields of sunflowers and maize and a staggering number of vehicle dismantlers!) but slow going. As we near ancient city of Cluj there are winding hilly roads and forests, and then a blessed 50km stretch of brand spanking new motorway into the unfortunately named Turda – home to huge underground salt mines and a really impressive gorge.
Via the magic of Google, we stumbled across Camping De oude walnut – a brand new micro campsite in the large garden of our very accommodating hosts, complete with walnut trees and splendid facilities. A welcome apricot schnapps and a bowl of freshly fallen wallnuts (delicious) greeted our arrival along with all the information on the local sights that we could absorb.
The gorge itself has a tourist walkway through its 2km length, criss-crossing via a series of bridges. There are crags dotted along its length, from path-side single pitch to 10 pitch adventures on the Big Wall. We worked our way along doing a route on four of the more accessible crags.
The climbing is okay rather than awesome (think of Chee Tor in a more impressive setting, and similarly dusty in places as even the south facing walls get little sun at the base, being so deep in the gorge) and you are very much the centre of attention for passing tourists (apparently we just escaped the end of the main season, when the paths are teeming). The bigger routes might well be a different kettle of fish.
Back at the entrance to the gorge there’s an open area with food and souvenir stalls. We were intrigued by the local delicacy being prepared on several stalls using special setup resembling a series of rolling pins rotating over a charcoal barbecue. Wikipedia proclaimed that “kurtos kalacs” were “spit cakes” which happily refers to the cooking process rather than the ingredients!
A more useful translation was “chimney cake”, a speciality specific to Hungarian-speaking regions in Romania,. It’s like a cylindrical pancake with a really crispy caramel coating, that is cut to form a spiral ribbon. Yummy freshly hot from the spit!