Back to The Balkans- Day 5: Visiting A Bear Sanctuary & Getting To Bucharest

Trip Planning: Back to The Balkans

After visiting castles and medieval towns around Transylvania, we decided to change things up a bit. Before heading to Bucharest (our final stop in Romania), we figured it would be great to visit the Libearty Bear Sanctuary.

Romania has the largest amount of brown bears in Europe and we thought it would be very interesting to get to see them and learn a little about the sanctuary.

The European brown bear is very similar to grizzly bears but are a bit smaller. The bears we visited were all rescued from some pretty awful situations and we got to hear the stories of many of them.

The bear sanctuary is located in the Carpathian Mountains around 40 minutes away from Brasov, our base while visiting Transylvania.

Getting to the entrance of the sanctuary was interesting. We saw sign for it from the main road but then our driver started driving on a gravel road passing farms with goats and sheep along the way.

Once the car was parked we walked down the road a short distance to reach the main gate.

We then had to wait around 15 minutes before being allowed to walk to the small visitors center where you pay your admission, can watch a short video and buy some souvenirs to help support the sanctuary.

I expected the bear sanctuary to be a quiet place but was surprised by how many people came for a visit. All visits are done by tour. Our group had to have 50 people. (The group which left before we were allowed to enter seemed to be equally as busy.)

Once we were given a quick introduction and warning to not touch the electrified fence, we got to see our first group of bears.

This bear came right up to the fence and it was a pretty amazing sight to see. We were literally face to face (maybe 2-3 feet away) with a European brown bear, only separated by a thin, wire fence. I think he was expecting a snack from us but we had nothing to share.

This first area had around 5-7 bears. One of them was much smaller than the others so we assumed it must be a young bear. However, this sadly was not the case. This smaller bear had grown only so big due to being forced to live in a small cage for many years.

The bears at Libearty Bear Sanctuary are all rescues. Most were mainly used as performers and to make money for their owners in cruel ways. (Some of the other bears came from zoos that had closed down.)

Many were left in small cages outside shops to draw interest. Others were forced to perform or take photos with people in order to get fed. There were stories about many of the bears and our guide could even identify most by their name.

Most of the bears are free to roam around the huge enclosures but some have to be left in areas on their own or with a smaller amount of animals.

One bear we visited is the oldest in Europe. He is slow and can not compete for food with the others so he must live on his own except for having his friend the wolf share his space.

Another bear was taken as a cub and tortured so he would be obedient and stay still to take photos with passerbys for money. The bear had to be left in his own area since he was blinded by his previous owner.

We heard a story about another bear which Lucas has been talking about for the past two weeks. This bear was from Texas and had been fed McDonald’s for a very long time and developed stomach issues. Due to this, he needs to stay in an area with only one or two other bears to control his diet.

While at Libearty we heard many other sad stories but also got to see this wonderful place where the bears get to live out their lives in relative freedom. Since they were in captivity for years they can never be re-introduced back into the wild.

My one complaint about the visit was that it felt to me to be a bit too long. The bigger problem may have been that Lucas was getting sleepy and wanted to be carried a lot towards the end. (We were told the roads inside the sanctuary were not good for stroller so we left ours in the car. If you happen to go there with a toddler and have a decent stroller, I would say take it.)

Overall our visit to the Libearty Bear Sanctuary was a really enjoyable experience as well as a great way to do something different during the trip. This is a great kid-friendly place to visit- Lucas really enjoyed seeing the bears up close.

After spending close to a half-day at the bear sanctuary we were supposed to get dropped off at the train station in Brasov so we could catch a train back to Bucharest. We had asked about the price to be driven there at our hostel and it seemed to be a bit to pricey.

While on the way to Libearty, our driver mentioned the idea of driving us to Bucharest and gave a very good price which came to not a whole lot more than taking the train. We agreed to his offer but he changed his offer once we finished visiting the bears. After some tough negotiating, we agreed to pay him a few dollars more than our original deal and set out for Bucharest.

During the ride (which took around 2.5 hours), it was nice to get a better idea of what the country looked like. We had planned to use some of the time we saved from not taking the train to wander around Bucharest when we arrived but had some trouble at the hotel, the Radisson Blu.

By the time we got going, we decided to head over to the underwhelming pedestrian street called Lipscani  to grab something to eat. Otherwise we enjoyed seeing some of the interesting architecture and then headed back to the hotel for the night.

That’s sums up our fifth day in the Balkans. Keep checking back to find out more about our trip.

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