Brasov, Transylvania, Romania
Our Romanian adventure started in Bucharest, the capitol of Romania. I will have to say, that I was not impressed with Bucharest and did not find the area interesting enough to spend much time in. Before we arrived, we read warnings about the area having high crime, among other problems. One warning had stated there were packs of wild dogs in the area and not to go out without dog biscuits. We saw no crime and never needed those dog biscuits during our time in Bucharest, even though we did do a lot of walking and riding of subways, and trolleys. The people in this area were not especially friendly and most of the taxi drivers were very rude but no incidents occurred to make us feel threatened. On my next trip to Europe, maybe I will take a closer look at Bucharest. There must have been something of interest that we missed.
We took a train from Bucharest to Brasov, about a three-hour train ride costing about 24 lei/Ron per person or $7 US. Love those trains. They were a little rustic in this area but we found them to be much more comfortable than the bus. Our hotel was only a short distance from the train station. With the help of a young Romanian girl we found the correct bus that would drop us closest to the hotel. The only disadvantage in getting to the hotel, was its location, high up on the side of the mountain, leaving us with a walk up a steep incline, while pulling bags through small one-way streets.
Brasov is a small medieval town nestled at the base of the Carpathian Mountains. We found it to be one of the cleanest, well kept cities that we visited on this trip. The city square was where most everyone ends up who comes to Brasov. Also, Black Church is just to the side of the square, one of the oldest churches built in the 1400’s and the most interesting church I have ever had the pleasure to visit. The area is also filled with shops, restaurants and street entertainment.
We went to Romania especially to visit Dracula’s Castle, which is located in Bran about 15 miles away from Brasov, a 45-minute bus ride. While making plans to visit the castle we found brochures everywhere – even in Bucharest, offering trips to Dracula’s Castle along with other castles in the area. The cost ranged widely- anywhere from 45 euros to around 200 euros depending on the stops you choose. The trip was a group tour of around 12 to 15 people. After asking around we found out from the local people that the same locations offered by the tour companies could be reached by bus costing no more than $6.00 per person. That was exactly what we were looking for. There are buses that run all day back and forth to Brasov. We wanted to be on our own, take time to explore the area and come back when we were ready.
Bran is a very small community located at the base of the mountains just below the Bran Castle aka Dracula’s Castle. After hearing so much about Dracula’s Castle, I could not wait to go there for a visit. As a matter of fact, we went out of our way just to visit that area where the castle is located. As we walked up the trail towards it, I appreciated its beauty, but somehow I did not feel the energy I thought I would feel when we got there. It soon became apparent to me why I was having those feelings.
While listening to the locals talk about the castle’s history, they rarely mentioned Dracula. Dracula’s Castle is highly advertised worldwide as the home of Dracula, the character in the novel based on Bram Stoker aka Prince of Darkness. Bram had a history of inviting large groups of people to dinner, only to end the evening with slaughtering everyone who came. According to our tour guide, he would then impale many of the dinner guests and display them in front of his home for everyone to see. It appears his actions were against Muslims for the most part, as a defender of the Christian faith.
As far as the blood-sucking vampire stories we’ve all heard, none of those are true. The only blood consumed by Dracula was when he had just killed someone and sat down to dinner, using their fresh blood as dipping sauce for his bread.
It appears that the family of Queen Maria, Princess Ileana, now owns the castle, advertising it as “Dracula’s Castle.” This is misleading to say the least. Had this been the castle where those incidents actually occurred, the tour through Dracula’s Castle would have been much more interesting. But in reality, the castle of course was never occupied by Dracula and definitely not owned by Dracula or his family.
The castle is furnished with furniture that once belonged to Queen Maria. Although it is very beautiful, I have serious doubts that all of the people who visit the castle would do so had they known they were only going to see the furnishings of Queen Maria.