After spending some time in Bucharest, my roommate and I went off on an adventure north to Transylvania. I, like most people, associate Romania with Transylvania – the mystical home of Dracula the legendary vampire, created by author Bram Stoker in his 1897 novel of the same name.
Though Dracula is a purely fictional creation, Stoker named his infamous character after a real person who happened to have a taste for blood: Vlad III, Prince of Wallachia or as he is better known: Vlad the Impaler. The morbid nickname is a testament to the Wallachian prince’s favorite way of dispensing of his enemies.
I would argue the real Dracula’s taste for blood was much worse than the fictional character. According to one of our tour-guides in Bucharest, Vlad would take a stake, coat it with pigs fat, and impale his victims between the buttocks. I will spare you the details, as they are quite gruesome, but if you are up for the cringe you can read more in this article.
Dracula history aside, Bran Castle (in the town of Bran) is a must see. The castle sits atop a hill looking over the city below, and the inner courtyard is one of the loveliest I’ve seen. The town itself is quite small, and the castle is what brings in most people. We were lucky we visited Bran on the day we did, because the next day the castle closed due to the Coronavirus.
Our walking tour in Bucharest also had to close the day after we partook. We were literally one day ahead of everything closing.
As a result of Corona starting to spread, there were little to no tourists in any of the cities we visited in Romania. Going in March likely helped as well, March is not a hugely popular travel month. Dracula’s castle was the only thing “I had to see” when I decided to visit Romania, and I am thankful I made it just in time.
The path leading towards the castle takes you through a mini market of sorts, with vendors selling local products like cheese and meat, as well as handmade items. This was something I noticed driving into Transylvania, handfuls of vendors along the sides of the road selling items like honey, alcohol, and trinkets.
I saw three cats and three dogs in Bran. The dogs were in a pack, and the cats were each on their own (naturally – which is why cats are my spirit animal.) My favorite cat was the below photographed scowling puss who was going in and out of the castle restaurant like he owned the place.
Bran Castle was a bucket list visit for me, but arguably superior to Bran is Peleș Castle, a Neo-Renaissance castle in the Carpathian Mountains, near Sinaia. Sinaia is technically about 31 miles from Transylvania – but it’s close enough to be included in this post. Peleș Castle was the summer home of King Carol I (whom I briefly mentioned in my previous post) and I have never, ever, seen ANYTHING like it.
The town of Sinaia is a mountain town, and this town convinced me I needed to return to Romania someday for hiking. The castle is tucked into the mountainous woods, with an immaculate view of the surrounding landscapes. I regrettably didn’t go inside this castle, because we visited Peleș Castle before going to Bran, and I didn’t want to miss my opportunity to go inside Bran.
In hindsight, we would have had time for both, but alles gut.
I did spend more time wandering the exterior of Peleș than Bran, which felt endless. The grounds are also home to Pelisor Castle, a smaller version of Peleș with more of a German texture style if you ask me. Peleș also has a bit of German influence with the criss cross lines on the exterior. Only makes sense with a German king.
Both castles were 10/10 visits, and the moment time travel is figured out I plan to go back to King Carol I times to visit his summer home with him. I did say he was a babe after all, and Peleș Castle is almost as beautiful as he was. 😉
Q: What’s the most unique castle you’ve ever visited (or seen in photographs if you haven’t been to a castle?) Peleș Castle is officially the most unique castle I’ve seen thus far.