At the end of February I had the opportunity to visit a country which has been on my hit list for a long long time. Romania has always fascinated me, everything I had heard about it seemed such a far cry from anything I knew, yet it’s just a short plane ride away, and in the very same continent I live in. The extreme poverty, the images of the orphanages in the 1980s, the horrific dictatorship, the hardships the Romanian people have had to endure; it seems like something that would happen in another world, far from privileged western society, and surely not in the modern day. Yet much of this dark history was during my lifetime, and since 2007 Romania has been a member of the European Union, the very same union shared by powerhouses such as Germany and the UK.
The trip was planned as a ski adventure combined with some culture and exploring of Romania, and I will share some of my experiences in Romania over the next few weeks, but I would like to start on a happy note. Whilst there we were absolutely delighted to be able to visit a rescue bear sanctuary in the town of Zarnesti, around 3 hours north of Bucharest, and we loved it so much, we visited again!
Horrifyingly, only in 2005 was it made illegal in Romania to take bears from the wild and hold them captive as ‘pets’ or tourist attractions, and thus the “Libearty“ sanctuary was created in an effort to try and rescue and care for the brown bears which had been mistreated and abused across Romania. Many were kept chained in front of restaurants, hotels, and gas stations as tourist attractions. Believe it or not, one bear was even rescued from a cage in a monastery.
Since the sanctuary opened, 95 bears have been rescued, and now live a life as close as possible to how they would be living in the wild, with 70 hectares of space to roam, hunt, swim and hibernate.
They run solely on donations and support from animal charities and supermarkets, and we discovered to our horror that the sanctuary’s running costs are a whopping €40,000 per month. It is a truly wonderful place and a remarkable achievement. I thoroughly loved spending time somewhere so selfless and so dedicated to others. I couldn’t recommend a visit more highly if you ever find yourself in Romania.