Part 1- Prince of Wallachia

Romania Travel Blog

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Upon our arrival into Bucharest I must admit to not being impressed with the city. Although Vlad Tepes Dracula had founded this capital hundreds of years ago, I suspect he would not recognize this city. It was chaotic and full of traffic. All of the old communist buildings were gray and dilapidated. The parks and people were lovely and it was interesting being in Revolutionary Square, but I was more and more looking forward to our trek into beautiful Transylvania.

Due to my unfamiliarity with Bucharest's transit system, particularly in the hinterland, I booked a guide through CT Tours. They were recommended by Lonely Planet and I thought the only surefire way to see the Wallachian places where Vlad spent most of his rule. Claudio met us at our hotel at 9am. He then took us to the Old Town where the ruins of Vlad's Princely Court were. I was taken aback at how little tourist information there was. It was just... there. You had to know it or not. No signs, shops, etc. Just a ruin with a statue of his face. There is so much construction going on to rehabilitate the Old Town now that I wonder if it will continue to be neglected for long. I just hope they leave the ruins as is. Our next stop in the Old Town was an Orthodox Cloister nearby. Beautiful courtyard and lovely church. All of the Orthodox churches we come across are bathed in gold with gorgeous frescoes. We then had lunch in a traditional Romanian restaurant in the Old Town, where we mistook chicken for chicken liver due to the language barrier. Oh well. I always say you must try everything once. I ate about half of it. You can't say I didn't try.

We now take a car ride into the nearby Wallachian countryside where horse and wagons compete with cars on the roads. We enter Snagov, a strange village where brand new large homes are smack next to run down shacks. The contrast was startling! We drove down a gravel road to a dilapidated pier. A bridge was being built to an island in the middle of the lake. This island is where Vlad is buried. Since the bridge is incomplete, our guide arranged with the local monk to drive us to the island on his motorboat. The monk was a character. On the island is a monastery with a chapel, under which Vlad is buried. The chapel's frescoes were being painstakingly restored by 3 women. It was wonderfully tranquil on the island. I wonder if that will still be the case once the bridge is built.

Our next stop on the Vlad Trail was Poienari Castle- the real Dracula Castle. This was Vlad's stronghold, precariously perched on a cliff overlooking a valley into Transylvania. You could see it for miles. What a beautiful ruin. Once again though, no signs, you had to know it was there or you'd miss it. We bought some juice from a shed outside the trailhead and climbed up the almost 1,500 steps to the castle. It was exhausting but well worth it. The views were beautiful and the castle-ruin very interesting. You can see why he placed his fortress here. There were a few hardy tourists there and even a small "souvenir shop" and "bathroom" (really a shed with a hole in the floor.) I love sights like this... world-class but undiscovered. (except by the Aussies who always seem to find all the cool places I've been) 

After trekking 1500 steps down, we took a side trip to a nearby dam and lake which was lovely, and then headed to the pretty town of Curtea de Arges, which was once the capital of Wallachia. There was another beautiful Orthodox Church there. Finally we began the 2 hour ride back to Bucharest, where Claudio dropped us off at another traditional Romanian restaurant near our hotel. The food and staff were excellent there.

Claudio really was a godsend. He was very warm and friendly. He felt like a friend. Considering the length and distance of our tour the price was very reasonable. Most of all, without his assistance, we would not have seen many of the sights that we traveled across the ocean to see. Thanks Claudio!

Next Stop, Transylvania!

montecarlostar says:
Great blog. I want to go to Transylvania.
Posted on: Jul 23, 2009
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