The Castles of Transylvania
Every time we hear speaking of Romania and Transylvania all that comes to mind is the tale of Count Vlad Dracula, a blood addict who lived in a dark and scary castle in the middle of the mountains of Transylvania.
But these are all just tales we have all heard and seen in our favorite vampire films. Vlad Țepeș, also known as Vlad the Impaler was indeed a real person, yet he was no blood sucking vampire, nor did he own this castle. In fact, he was not even from Transylvania, he was the prince of Wallachia, the region south from the worldwide famous Bran Castle.
Waking up in Azuga had just been the beginning of the day. We had breakfast and then, before going to Bran, we headed south to Sinaia, located in the mountains of Prahova. Not only is Sinaia one of Romania’s most visited destinations, it is also home to many attractions, such as the Sinaia Train Station, the Peleș Castle and the Pelișor Castle.
As we had enough free time before heading to Bran, we decided visiting what is considered to be the most visited museum in the country, Peleș Castle, located on the medieval route linking Transylvania to Wallachia, two of the most important historical regions. It was inaugurated in the year of 1883 and seventy years later declared a museum, after World War II in the year of 1953.
Along the road leading to the top of the hill there is a small river covered in ice and snow. The temperature outside? Below zero!
The complex to where the road leads is also home to Pelișor Castle that you can visit for 20 RON (Approximately 4 EUR) per person. It’s a smaller castle built by order of King Carol for his nephew and heir, King Ferdinand.
As soon as we reached Peles Castle we bought ourselves entrance tickets and we waited outside. We had been told to wait some minutes for the tour to start, so we knew that we would have enough time to have a better look at the garden surrounding the fortress. Unfortunately, and not for my surprise, the fountains were not working. I don’t think with those temperatures water could be running anyway. There were also some statues, and I remember this creepy lion statue with its mouth opened. What I liked the most from the outside was indeed the architecture of the castle itself. Not that I understand much about architecture, but the shape of the construction, the colors and the windows make it look fabulous, perfect for postcards!
Our tour started and we were presented the story of the castle. The inside, was a lot more golden than I had ever imagined. Maybe this is the reason why Ceauşescu did not like this castle that much, he was probably thinking that all gold should have been used in the construction of the Palace of the Parliament. I have to say that my favorite room was with no doubt the armory room where we could find more than four thousand pieces or weapons and armor. Having had played many online games when I was younger, I could imagine myself shooting one of the crossbows on the wall.
When the tour was over we went outside for some souvenirs before walking back to the car. Souvenirs in Romania can be really cheap, creative and of good quality!
Our next destination? Bran! Approximately one hour later we arrived to Transylvania! Our friend Alex, who had been driving us all the way from Bucharest, shot some photographs with us in front of Parcul Regal from where we could see the worldwide famous Bran Castle. After some photos we were then dropped off in “Pensiune La Busu”, the hotel where we were going to spend the night. The staff? Very welcoming and nice people. The room? Clean, warm and cozy! We dropped our bags, Alex drove us back to the park next to the fortress and then we said farewell, not knowing when we would meet again.
Castelul Bran, as they call it in Romanian, is one of the oldest castles in the country. It’s construction started in the beginning of the 13th century and it was completed in the year of 1377. It is commonly known as “Dracula’s Castle”, yet there is no connection between it and the the story of “Dracula” written by the Irish author, Bram Stoker.
Ticket prices cost 35 Lei (Approximately 7.8 Euros) and grant you access to the inside of the fortress. For more information regarding hours and admission please refer to the official website:
Walking all the way to the top was a slippery mission, the floor was covered in ice and we had to hold on to something to avoid falling. The inside of this castle was very different from Peles Castle that we had seen earlier that day. Instead of a rich castle covered in gold, we were inside one of those fortresses that you see on famous TV shows. The furniture was antique, the walls were either white or grey and there was traditional Romanian patterns spread all over different rooms.
On the same floor there was also a secret staircase. Stone steps connecting the first and the third floors. Probably not the most comfortable place for people who suffer from claustrophobia.
We were now presented with a Christmas tree and a bear skin rug. The remaining rooms were very similar. Furniture pieces made out of wood, which didn’t look very different from what I was used to see in my grandparents home when I was little. There was a door leading to the inner balcony for the perfect view of the fortress. Bran Castle is indeed an incredible stronghold built on a rock.
The remaining rooms didn’t have much more to see, being that the main reason for many people to feel disappointed after paying a visit to this museum. A few shields and weapons on the walls for those who are interested in ancient war material and a torture room that unfortunately we didn’t get to visit. (Admission fee of 10 RON).
In the courtyard there is a well where visitors use to through their coins and bills and make a wish, a similar practice to that of Rome’s Fontana di Trevi.
When our visit was over, just like always, we went after some fridge magnets. Outside the castle, down the hill, there is a souvenir bazaar with dozens of stalls. Winter clothes, toys, food, and plenty of souvenirs could be found in here.
It was getting colder and we were tired. The roads were covered in snow and the river was frozen. We went back to the hotel for a nap far from the temperature of -10 degrees Celsius, before going for dinner in one of the few restaurants we could find.
For dinner I had a “Dracula Pizza” and then after a walk in the snow we went back to the hotel for what was going to be our last night not only in Transylvania but in Romania. A long trip was ahead of us right in the next day. Waking up as soon as possible, catching the bus to Brașov, where we would then get on a second bus to Bucharest and finally a third bus departing from Filaret bus station to Sofia, Bulgaria.
I didn’t expect Romania to be as nice as this. Romanian people are amazing, the cities are beautiful, the magic of winter and Christmas was present at all times, there are hundreds of castles, the food is quite appealing and the mountains are astonishing. It’s a shame we couldn’t spend more time but we are definitely visiting again in the near future.
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