|This is what I've been waiting to see...the awe inspiring Transylvania where I half expected fanged goons to be climbing down the walls of their Gothic castle and wing-flap to moats to villages where they would pick and choose their daily meal of human flesh. I was sorely disappointed on that count... But the area is jaw-droppingly gorgeous and the history of the place is incredible; and NOTHING like what you think.
I headed out early and firstly to Sinaia, an hour south of Brasov, (enroute to which my bus broke down) to visit the magnificent Peles Castle originally the summer residence for the first Royal Couple of Romania. It is just like a fairy tale castle, with turrets rising above acres of lush green meadows (do NOT walk on the grass!) and grand reception halls fashioned in Moorish, Florentine and French styles. Endless heavy wood carved ceilings, gilded pieces and a truly remarkable fully stocked leather bound library threatened to overwhelm my wee mortal mind. Unfortunately not only did I have to wear slippers inside but photography was an additional $50, which travelling on a shoestring does not allow for, so you will just have to imagine.
Then onwards and upwards to Bran Castle; widely known as Dracula's Castle. Now I am sorry to break it to you but Dracula is not real. Kind of just like a really scary Santa Claus. In fact, not only does he not exist but the person on which his character in Bram Stoker's famous novel was supposedly based never sucked on any one's blood either!
One theory is that Bram Stoker used Vlad 'The Impaler' Dracul as the inspiration for his main character and whilst there is no denying that Vlad had a very nasty streak, being an accomplished torturer and sadistic man, he was no ghoul and never lived in a castle such as the one attributed to him in the novel. He simply lived in the area and had a remarkably similar name. I guess the connection is good for the tourist dollar though and the Romanians seem to milk it for all it's worth!
In reality, Bram Stoker never even visited Transylvania and his novel "Dracula" was loosely based on a compilation of various myths he had heard from travellers. Made for a great story though! So as I mentioned earlier, Bran Castle is widely known as Dracula's Castle, although there is nothing to support the theory that Bram Stoker based his famous novel on this location or even that Vlad the Impaler even visited the castle at any time. At first look the 60m castle, set on a rocky outcrop between facing hills, seemed vampirific but inside it was a bit of an anti-climax. The Dracula memorabilia being sold by the truckload outside was a bit of a detraction also. The Dracula cocktails were a nice touch though :)
From there I went to the ruins of the 13th century Rasnov Fortress, which while delightful, was over run with medieval-costumed characters, creating an amusement park atmosphere. The recently installed rock-climbing wall on one side of the fortress didn't help either!