Monday, August 5, 2013

Hunting Dracula in Transylvania

If I could do the Romania leg of our summer trip over, I would cut our time in Bucharest in half and spend the bulk of our time in Transylvania. We only dedicated one day to it and were disappointed we didn't spend more time there when we saw how beautiful it was.

Our guide was quite the character. G grew up in Bucharest and was opinionated about everything. As we drove out of Bucharest and he started telling us the history of Romania. When he got to Vlad the Impaler he suddenly stopped and demanded of our group, "Ok, who is here for this Dracula nonsense??"

We all laughed a little nervously and shrugged our shoulders.

Dracula himself

"All you must know of Dra-CU-la, as you are supposed to say it, is that this crazy man, Bram Stoker, has taken our national hero and made him into this bullsh** vampire story! There are no vampires in Romania!! If you want vampires, look in Bucharest! They are there in the Parliament, sucking my blood each day!!"

The van settled into an awkward silence and I tried so hard not to bust out laughing. Following his eruption, G continued his story about Vlad Tepes (Romanian for Vlad the Impaler), who is called Dracula because it means "Son of Dracul". Dracul is the word for "Devil" because his father's sign was a devilish looking dragon. So Dracula literally means, 'Son of the Devil'. With a name like that, I feel like becoming famous for impaling your enemies is kind of expected...

The many faces of Dra-CU-la...

After the "Dracula nonsense" had been cleared up, we headed to the Sinaia Monastery. There are two churches there from 1695 and 1846, both built in the Byzantine style.

We visited on a Sunday morning, so the newer church was having a service and we weren't able to go inside beyond a quick peak through the doors. Fun fact-Orthodox services don't use live music, only a capella choirs. It was really ethereal to walk around the old church and monastery while these beautiful Orthodox chants echoed from the church.

From there we continued to our first castle of the day, Peles Castle. It was built by the German-born king of Romania, Karl I, in the 1880s. It's nestled in this beautiful part of Transylvania way up in the Carpathian Mountains and it's crazy ornate over the top-ness puts Neuschwanstein to shame, in my opinion.

Haha Fionn and I were totally unaware we were photobombing the orange matching track jacket photo shoot...

The inside was quite pretty, but since they charged a crazy high "photo fee" we didn't snap any pictures. Next up, we drove deeper into Transylvania, heading toward Bran Castle, also known as Dracula's Castle.

Our guide was quick to squash our dreams of vampire sightings by telling us that the "Dracula's Castle" bit is just a ploy by the Tourism Board (spoilsport!). In reality, Bran Castle was a strategic fortress and served as a military barracks. While Dracula may have stayed here briefly while fighting in the area, it's certainly not his castle, nor was it even the one Bram Stoker had in mind when he wrote the book (according to G, he never even visited Transylvania).

Either way, the castle is kind of spooky and the surrounding village has latched onto the Dracula myth to sell all manner of vampire themed items. There's also Dracula rooms inside with info on vampires and movie memorabilia from Dracula movies.

Vlad statues outside the restaurant we stopped at for lunch

Bran Castle aka Dracula's Castle

At least they're honest about intending to bleed you dry...

The castle is very medieval and Fionn and I enjoyed exploring the spooky towers and secret rooms. We didn't spot any vampires, but then again, it was the middle of the day. Maybe they were asleep.

Recreating Vlad's famous outfit

Saying goodbye to Dracula, we headed to the town of Brasov, a beautiful, typical Transylvanian town. We didn't have very long to look around, but luckily we got to catch a folk dance exposition. Brasov is so famous it even has its own Hollywood sign knock off. Who knew? ;)

With night falling, we started the trek back to Bucharest. We loved Transylvania and wish we could've spent more time there! Kind of glad we didn't see any vamps, though..

That was the end of our time in Romania, and the next day we set off for Lisbon, Portugal for the final leg of our 2 week summer trip. That'll be next!

Hope you're enjoying our travel adventures. Would you go to Romania?


  1. Looks great! They certainly know how to capitalise on their vampire-fame!

  2. Wow, this place looks beautiful... especially that church!

    1. There's just something about those Orthodox churches that makes them so unique!

  3. hi there, what was the name of the restaurant with the statues of Vlad the Impaler in front of it and what city was it in? Looks really cool.