Transylvania is the stuff of legends. Just say the word and people immediately have a mental picture of what it’s like. Thanks to Hollywood, that mental picture probably includes werewolves, bats, vampires and screaming villagers with pitchforks. The reality is quite different from an old horror movie.
It is a beautiful and mysterious part of Romania that is well worth a visit if you have the opportunity. I am in Romania for work and took the weekend to spend some time up here. I was able to visit Transylvania in 2012 and really enjoyed myself. A highlight from that trip was visiting Sighișoara, which was the birthplace of Vlad the Impaler and a beautiful old saxon village (I also just like saying the name Sighișoara, it just rolls off the tongue). This visit featured stops at two of the biggest towns in Transylvania, as well as a visit to Dracula’s castle.
We started our trip in Brasov. It is the first major town in the Transylvanian Alps. It took about 3 hours to drive there from Bucharest.
Brasov is one of the cities that the Saxons helped settle during midevil times. There are seven of these towns in Romania and they are known as the “siebenbergen” (seven cities) of Transylvania. Each of these seven cities has its own German name, Brasov’s is “Kronstadt”. The architecture here has a strong Germanic influence. It was easy to find a place to eat near the main square to enjoy the view and watch the world go by.
After leaving Brasov we headed to Bran. Bran is about 30-40 minutes from Brashov and home to Bran Castle. Bran Castle bears the closest resemblance to the castle Bram Stoker describes in his book “Dracula” so people have taken to calling it “Dracula’s Castle”.
There are a number of shops and restaurants on the walk up to Bran Castle. They sell things catering to the thousands of tourists who walk through Bran on the way to Bran Castle every day.
The locals in Bran cater to the Dracula association. There is vampire-related stuff everywhere. I hear it gets pretty crazy here around Halloween.
The grounds inside Bran Castle are beautiful and well-maintained. They charged 30 Lei (about $7) to get inside.
The castle was really impressive. It has served as a home for Romanian monarchs and has a history going back to the early midevil period when the Teutonic Knights laid the initial foundation.
We left Bran and headed up to Sibiu though the Transylvanian countryside. Hay stacked like this is a common site. For some reason it always reminds me of a Led Zeppelin album cover…
You also see livestock wandering around small villages quite often. This guy (who was in the middle of the road!) seemed really curious why the weird American was pointing a camera phone at him.
In some of the small villages the drainage by the streets is open like this. My co-worker was backing up the car trying to get in position to take a picture and the rear wheel on our passenger side fell into this ditch. I had visions of being stuck in rural Romania for hours, waiting for a tow truck to come and pull us out. Instead, I went and sat on the hood and he was able to get the car out of the ditch. Crisis averted…
They were having some kind of “Summer kickoff” music festival in Sibiu. It was right outside our hotel. This made walking around the town square impossible, which was disappointing because it is a very beautiful town at night when it is all lit up.
After hearing techno reverberating in my room until I fell asleep, things did manage to calm down in front of our hotel the following morning. Apparently the party went until almost 2 in the morning.
Sibiu is another one of the “siebenbergen”. Its German name is Herrmannstadt.
We were able to enjoy Sibiu during the daytime. It has many charming beautiful old buildings and reminds me a little bit of Prague on a much smaller scale. It was named a European Capital of Culture by the EU in 2007. It’s well worth the visit if you’re in the area.