Part 2- Trekking in Transylvania

Transylvania Travel Blog

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Well after our excursion into chaotic Bucharest and the wonderous Wallachian countryside, we followed Vlad the Impaler to his famous Transylvanian haunts (pardon the pun). We took a very slow hot train from Bucharest to Brasov, which we decided to make the base for our remaining exploration. Brasov was the antithesis to Bucharest. It was very clean, manageable, airy, and the old town was stunning. Beautiful brightly colored Saxon architecture around a delightful square, with mountains as the backdrop. There was even a wonderfully cheesy BRASOV sign overlooking the city that lit up at night. There was no missing it! There were many non-Dracula related sights to see in Brasov, so we spent quite a bit of time exploring this city and hiking the mountains.

But back to Vlad's footsteps. We decided that we had to go see "Dracula's Castle" in the nearby village of Bran. We had already been to his real castle in Poienari, but this one is the big tourist magnet. Although Vlad only spent a couple of days here (still making it worthwhile for a real Dracula tour), the castle sure does look the part of a creepy medieval vampire castle. Even without the connections to Vlad (which are totally blown out of proportion in Bran, but not by the Habsburgs, who own the castle itself), this would be a nice place to visit. It was crowded but it was manageable. Outside the castle is a medieval type fair with all the Dracula kitsch you could possibly want. Then we went back on the bus to Brasov. If you have ever seen "The Muppet Movie", you'll have a good idea about how the bus was. Old and faded with torn rich upholstery.

Our next venture out of Brasov was to the lovely citadel town of Sighisoara, which was not too far, but on the hot SLOW trains, a 3 hour ride. It's a nice town. Apparently the citadel is the only inhabited one in Eastern Europe. Wonderful gothic architecture... kind of like a mini-Prague. There was much restoration going on in the town (now flush with EU money). Every street was dug up and the cobblestones being replaced, and I mean EVERY street. It looked like one big construction zone. Still the place was charming, with a nice spooky cemetery. The town's connection to Vlad was that this was his birthplace. The house in which he was born is now a rather mediocre restaurant. Still we had to eat there, and then I had to be the ultimate tourist and drink red wine with dinner. (Yes I was a little ashamed of myself afterward). The town plays up its connection with Dracula, but more with the historic figure rather than the vampire (although still plenty of vampire stuff around).  Vlad Tepes Dracula is very much revered as a hero in Romania and that is more of the figure the town wishes to portray.

After our LONG trip back to Brasov we admired the beautiful countryside, and the people still working the land in the traditional methods. We imagined that maybe not much has changed since Vlad's time. We thought about the places we had seen and figured we covered much of Vlad's life: his birthplace, his court in the capital he founded, his real castle, another castle he visited, and where he is buried. We did not get to go to Tirgoviste, where many of the infamous impalings occurred, but other than that we accomplished our goals and got a great feel for the history of the country and its warm and beautiful people. There was one thing left though. Since costs were so cheap in Romania, my friend decided to buy a black wooden coffin in Transylvania to have it shipped back home to use as a coffintable... until the time to use it for the reason for which it was made. We went to a Funeral Store in Brasov where a lovely couple sold him the casket he wanted.. a lovely black lacquered wooden casket. They didn't understand why black, but we did. We chatted with them, over coffee, for hours about everything. Then we left for Bucharest the next day before flying out of Romania.

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photo by: Marius1981