Well, it's the end of the year (or at least it was when I wrote most of this), and it seems only proper that I do what every other publication does at this time of year to fill up space. And that is to provide a "Best Of" list. Now, more or less everyone reading this will probably never visit Miercurea Ciuc (although those blanket invites are still valid), but on the off chance that someone happens across this page while googling "Things to do in Miercurea Ciuc" or "Lonely Planet: Csikszereda" or something like that, here are the best things you or anyone else could do while you're here.
Best restaurant (in town): Either of The Korona – a new place attached to an equally new hotel. Good décor, nice food, and dead cheap, or Park Hotel - Pretty rubbish décor, a bit like eating in a toilet, but the best food in town.
Best restaurant (within a reasonable drive): Lobogo Panzio Good food, and a nice place in the hills. The owner is an obviously entrepreneurial entrepreneur since he has built this very nice panzio, stuck cabins in the back, created a horse-riding centre and built a ski run. The website’s a bit rubbish though.
Best pizza: Renegade Pub and Pizza. Aside from the San Gennaro where they do real Italian pizzas (which are also very good) this is the only place in town that doesn’t give you ketchup with your pizza. And that, round these parts, is enough for a recommendation
Best bar: Probably Morpheus, but it’s a bit smoky (a common problem, frankly)
Best bar for watching sport: Gosser, where they have a big screen and a projector. I intend becoming a regular when the World Cup starts.
Best place to hang out (and also buy fruit and vegetables - and meat, if that’s the kind of thing that floats your boat): The Market. Not only do they have cheap and abundant produce, but it’s the best place in town for being multicultural. Stallholders come from all over the country to sell their wares to the hungry Hungarians of Csikszereda, and so it’s the only place in town where you can never be sure of which language to use. Also, not only is it a forum for Romanian/Hungarian interaction but there are also Roma salespeople there (particularly in wild foods seasons – mushrooms, berries, etc.). The other day, I was buying olive oil and the woman at the stall asked me if my wife had had the baby yet. I’d only been there once before. That’s service for you. (Plus their olive oil – extra virgin cold pressed, from Turkey – is way cheaper that anything in any supermarket and even in the big hypermarkets, Metro and Carrefour, that you have to drive to Brasov to visit)
Best small shop within a short distance from our house: Napsugar, without a doubt. Huge range of products stuffed inside a tiny phone-box like space. Moving around in there on days when there are more than about 5 customers is basically impossible. Also they sell good wine much cheaper than the bigger shops like Madezit and Profi.
Best place for a coffee: San Gennaro. I'd like to recommend it as a restaurant too, as it is a real Italian place and the food is authentic, but the portions are small and the prices are high (in Csikszereda terms - for anyone else it's dead cheap). The pizzas are good though - being real Italian ones.
Best Hotel: No idea really. The Fenyö is the most prominent, and it seems pretty good. If you want a three star business standard hotel, it's obviously your best bet. If you want something cheaper, then there bare numerous pensions and smaller hotels, which are also probably good. Since I've never had to stay in one, I am not really ideally placed to comment in this category.
Best annual event: The pilgrimage to Csiksomlyo. I know it's based around a weeping madonna (no, not that one crying after seeing how she looks on that Hung up video), and I was kind of rude about it when I described it, way back when, but it is quite remarkable.
Best beer: Csiki Sör obviously (that's Bere Ciuc to any Romanian readers). I'm quite getting into Silva dark too.
Best wine: Romanian wine is the next big thing in European wine drinking circles, of that I am quite sure. It's often delicious and dead cheap. The well known brands are Murfatlar and Beciul Domnesc (both very good as long as you make sure you read the labels and avoid anything dulce and demidulce). I'm going to big up these bottles that we get that are labelled (in English) "Prahova Valley". Good wine and at $2 a bottle you can't go wrong.
Best bread: The bread here is fantastic, and in other places I've not seen such good bread. The Black Sea coast is rubbish for bread. Cluj must be good, because one of the very interesting loaves you get here is called something like Kolszvari Kenyer (Paine de Cluj), and has potatoes in it.
Best city to visit as a tourist: Sighisoara, no contest. I haven't been to every city in Romania, but I've been to the ones that people talk about as being interesting, so I'd be surprised if Craiova, for example, turned out to be a gorgeous place. Central Brasov is probably in second place, followed by Sibiu (though my view of Sibiu was tainted by the fact that it was being dug up when I was there). All those cities are Saxon ones. I have no idea why it should be that they're the nicest three. Did the West German government pay Ceausescu not to bulldoze them?
As an aside to the above: Best restaurant in Romania – the Hanul Dracula not far outside Sighisoara – though it is 4kms off the road down a rutted track.
Places I have not yet visited but really want to: The Painted Monasteries of Bucovina, and the Danube Delta.