Written by Joe Fry on 26 Apr, 2007
Transylvania, for me, has always been a dreamland, a land of myths and legends, famous as being the home of Dracula. In truth, the area is mountainous and spectacular. In the north of Romania, the journey from Tulcea was rather arduous. A four-hour bus ride…Read More
Transylvania, for me, has always been a dreamland, a land of myths and legends, famous as being the home of Dracula. In truth, the area is mountainous and spectacular. In the north of Romania, the journey from Tulcea was rather arduous. A four-hour bus ride took us to Bucharest, which was then followed by three hours on a very slow express train. Popular in
winter for its ski resorts, the tall, rugged mountains dropped down to lush, green valleys. Arriving in Brasov, the municipal center for the area, a short drive brought us to Bran, a picturesque village, and birthplace to the folklore Legend of Dracula. This time, for accommodation, we found another ecologically friendly residence. The wonderful thing about these places is that they are incredibly cheap. Our beach cabin was only $10 per night, and here, all five of us fitted into two rooms for a total cost of $20 per night. Once more, we had an adequate restaurant and bar, where even the barman joined in by becoming the nightly entertainment. Guitar in hand, he serenaded everyone with a national and international repertoire.
Castle Bran is visited by thousands daily. From all over the world, they pass through the gates and climb up the winding path to enter the ancient portals, cameras in hand. Built in the second half of the 14th century as a stronghold against the Ottoman Empire, Bran owes its notoriety to the striking image associated with the places where Dracula haunted, the title hero of a novel, created by the Irish novelist, Bram Stoker. Now a National Museum, in the latter half of the 20th century, Bran became one of the summer residences of Queen Maria of Romania. The most infamous resident, however, was Vlad the Impaler, King of Wallachia. His unsavory reputation came from the fact that he had a penchant for skewering his opponents on stakes and then eating his dinner amidst them, as they died a long and painful death. The insides of Castle Bran shows no reference to Vlad or Dracula, but the visiting guests certainly get a feeling of the evils possibly done centuries before, and it is not hard to understand why Bram Stoker used the castle and village as his source of inspiration.
It’s possibly to travel in Transylvania very cheaply. We hired a local resident and minibus that charged us $20 a day, including fuel. For this, he took us wherever we wanted to go for a twelve-hour period. One place was Sinaia, home of yet another National Museum, Peles Castle. Where Bran offered legends and history, Peles gave us grandeur, opulence, and elegance. Built in 1873 over ten years, the castle was the stately home of King Carol, the first Monarch of Romania. Even today guarded by armed soldiers, Peles boasts the first central heating system in Romania, which is, amazingly, still intact and working. The king also installed an electric lift, never heard of before in this country. The various collections, including furniture, artwork, and armoury are wonderfully preserved and are a definite must for budding antique experts. It was sad that we could only tour the ground floor. The others were off-limits due to the aging woodwork being diseased. Still, what we did see was well worth the while.
Brasov and the surrounding areas are tops for skiing in winter. We took advantage of the ski lifts and cable cars, still running in summer. A twenty- minute ride takes you to the mountain peaks over 1400m high and more. Peace, quiet, and clean fresh air certainly make you forget the troubles of the world. As I looked on the miniature villages far below, I had visions of Julie Andrews, running across the hills in full song. From high up, I realized that I had found a true form of relaxation, where the stresses of a busy life had been left behind.
We spent five nights in Transylvania and, as we made the long journey back to Tulcea, I wished that we could have stayed a little while longer. Anyway, I decided that a return visit was a must.
Once more back down south, I was soon to discover that the Danube Delta had a lot more to offer. The area should be declared an “outstanding beauty.” My hosts seemed to know exactly what were the right things for me to do. On this occasion, they had hired a boat, and off we went for twelve hours with the wildlife. We cruised for miles without seeing another soul. Our only company was the wild birds perched on rushes, watching our intrusion. Sitting on deck with a drink, it wasn’t long before I dozed in the sunlight, the only intrusion being the low drone of the engine. Our destination of the day proved to be Mila 23, a fishing village hidden away in the Delta. A row of small houses lined the riverbank, standing out against the greenery with their blue painted façades. Fishermen sat outside the solitary bar waiting for passers-by to purchase their catches of the day. We didn’t disappoint them and cruised away with eight kilos of fresh river crayfish. These were later cooked on the boat and washed down with a few litres of homemade white wine. I even tried fishing. Everyone cheered as I had three successes, although I do admit that the largest was only four inches long. Still, I was pleased at my first attempt at “big game fishing.” Close
Written by 3mttours on 23 Oct, 2006
Formerly the centre of the Dacian Kingdom (between the 1st century BC and the 1st century our time), then becoming a Roman province, Transylvania, "the country between mountains", becomes in the 11th century part of Hungary. Hungarians at that time, were few, and, having to…Read More
Formerly the centre of the Dacian Kingdom (between the 1st century BC and the 1st century our time), then becoming a Roman province, Transylvania, "the country between mountains", becomes in the 11th century part of Hungary. Hungarians at that time, were few, and, having to defend such a big territory, King Ladislau the 1st brings some colonists on the Eastern border of Transylvania, the Szekely, a branch of the Magyar tribes, while King Geza the 2nd decides in the 12th century to invite some colonists of German origins, called afterward „Saxons", who occupied the whole Southern territory of Transylvania. Their privileges were confirmed in the Andreanum, under King Andreas the 2nd. It is this document, that calls them „saxons", thanks to a mistranslation into Latin and then back to German. Together with the Hungarians and the Szekely, they formed the thre favoured nations, each of them being divided in 7 „seats", or counties, as we would call them in our days. This being the reason, why Transylvania is being called in German „Siebenbürgen", "seven fortresses".
Shortly after the Hungarians settled and built their state, Transylvania becomes an autonomous region, with its own ruler, who, however, responded to the Hungarian King. 1526, after the battle at Mohacs, that ended with a Turkish victory, Transylvania becomes an independent principality, under Turkish suzeranity. It is a period when the Habsburg Empire is also looking forward to get a hold on Transylvania, which plays the Turks off the Habsburgs. 1686, Transylvania is invaded by Habsburgic troops, but it does not succeed, so that Brasov is put on fire, though one year later the conquest succeeds and it is taken under Habsburgic control. It is only 1876, when it re-joins Hungary, while in 1920, after World War 2, when the Habsburgic Empire falls and each province has the right of self-determination, Transylvania chooses to join Romania.
Written by Ste Mansfield on 01 Sep, 2004
Getting to Brasov from Cluj Napoca can again only realistically be done by train. Tickets can be bought from the train station one hour prior to departure and the station is always manned right through the night. A return ticket can be bought for about…Read More
Getting to Brasov from Cluj Napoca can again only realistically be done by train. Tickets can be bought from the train station one hour prior to departure and the station is always manned right through the night. A return ticket can be bought for about $25 (purchased as two separate singles, one a both ends) and the journey takes approximately 4.5 hours.
On arriving, again try not to be put off by the hordes of taxi drivers offering to take you to Bran, as it is far more expensive than coaches there. The tourist information is in the station itself, as the one we located in the town centre had closed down completely. Getting into Brasov itself is best done by the local bus service from outside the station and will take you directly there.
There are lots of places of interest in the town centre, from towers to churches and museums to cable cars. One work of warning about the cable car, though. We traveled here in the summer, with all the flora in bloom. When you get to the top of the mountain, the view is obscured by the vegetation, so i think we were a little bit conned. The only views we got were from the restaurant and we got hustled out of there very quickly as we weren't going to eat. However, it is an excellent view of the city from there.
Written by Quan on 15 Dec, 2000
The drive to Brasov was a highlight of my Romanian trip. We approached Brasov from Transylvania. The way to Brasov was mountainous, therefore the drive was gorgeous. We passed by little huts, and old men in felt clothing and pointed boots, with…Read More
The drive to Brasov was a highlight of my Romanian trip. We approached Brasov from Transylvania. The way to Brasov was mountainous, therefore the drive was gorgeous. We passed by little huts, and old men in felt clothing and pointed boots, with pointed green felt hats that reminded me of medieval Europe. The places seemed to be untouched by modern time, and I wondered whether it was untouched by the repressive regime that was Chechescu. I can only dream that, but the reality I knew to have been different. Even though isolated, I am sure that people in the countryside still have to interact with others from nearby towns, and the central government who sends its troops out to enforce rules and regulations. I can only wish that these towns can find its humanity once again and strive past the once tumultous political atmosphere that was theirs. Close