Encountering Transylvania

Transylvania proved cool with hints of mystery. Cool as in unique and cool as in cold. Mist settled on top of the mountains everyday blotting out the sun. Light snow fell off and on shrouding the hills in silence. Dogs howled during the night and bats circled above. (Yea, yea no bats but the dog howls sounded otherworldly and almost human). We stayed in the village of Brasov which has a charming historic downtown and is within close driving distance of Bran’s Castle (Dracula’s Castle), ski resorts, Pele’s Castle, and other sites of interest. While Bucharest was an intriguing city to tour I believe getting out of the city provides rich insight into the culture and country of Romania. This is my second trip to central/eastern Europe and I wish I could have seen more of the country while visiting Poland. Cities seem to have a harder time shaking off the communist block vibe than the rural areas. Transylvania is rebuilding and tourism seems to be picking up with the ski resorts and those interested in local folklore.

Our first stop: Bran’s Castle (Dracula’s Castle). Bran’s castle was a summer palace for Romanian royalty. Unfortunately, Dracula (a fictional character based on Vlad the Impaler) never lived in the castle but he was a cruel man belonging to the order ‘Draculi’ that lived in Transylvania.

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After visiting Transylvania the region seems an ideal location for vampire legends. Mysterious mountains, black forests, little to no sunlight, and garlic. The garlic below is favored by locals and we’re told boasts a different flavor than garlic sold in other parts of the world. People braid the garlic for easy storage.

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Next we drove to the citadel in Brasov which is about 10 miles from Bran’s castle. A friend mentioned that there used to be a getaway tunnel from Bran’s castle to the fortress in the event of attack. I’m not sure if this is a myth or fact.

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The fortress was one of my favorite stops on the trip. It was an unexpected find set atop the city. The isolated fortress had amazing views and one could imagine life spanning from the Roman empire.

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Our final stop…Pele’s castle! The castle was commissioned by the last King of Romania in 1873 and was influenced by Italian and German architecture. Today, the castle is on lease from the royal family to the Romanian public. The grounds and statues were beautiful…straight from a fairy tale.

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We stayed in the city of Brasov where we ate more pork, sheep, and cheese. Brasov has a small historic center with restaurants and shops.

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