“Transylvania” conjures up images of vampires, monsters and cheap horror movies of the mid-twentieth century. Today, you’re more likely to find lovely old castles and villages rather than blood suckers.
My friend Saul and I took a day to drive north from Bucharest to check out a few places that had been recommended to us by our local staff.
Top on anyone’s list in Transylvania is Bran Castle, which is thought of as “Dracula’s Castle.” The original 1897 novel by Bram Stoker linked the historical figure of Vlad the Impaler with the vampire Dracula. Many people thought from the description in the novel that Dracula’s castle must be Bran Castle, but in fact, Vlad was only there for a few days. Regardless of the facts, locals have been striving for years to encourage tourists to think of Bran as blood sucker central.
The castle served as a military post to guard the entrance to Transylvania from the Turks. Later, the first queen of Romania decided to remodel the place for her summer home. The result is a really nice look reminiscent of Santa Fe homes. The tour includes a secret passage staircase run up between the walls. There is an optional tour of a torture museum, but we decided we could skip that.
Our tour guide Helen had terrific English which she said she learned watching “Seinfeld.” Finally, a worthwhile use for that show.
The town of Sinaia offers a really spectacular chateau called “Peles.” This place was commissioned and built for Romania’s first kind, Carol I. An incredibly opulent ”hunting lodge” comes complete with secret passage, theater and turkish style room. Sadly, King Carol died a few months after it was completed. It reminded me a lot of Neuschwanstein Castle because of the similar era of construction.
The town of Sinaia which contains Peles is a cute little mountain villiage. The lifeblood of the town, outside of Peles, is its renown as a ski area during the winter. Saul hopes he can come back and check it out.
If you keep driving a little further North, there is another cute little medieval town called Brasov. Of note is the Black Church, were there is a 6pm organ concerot every night.
I think it would be better to take a couple of days to see all of this rather than the whirlwind day trip we took. If you did do take longer, Brasov seems like a nice place to be your base of operatione.