9 June 2011

Armed with Stakes and Garlic [Romania]

TRANSYLVANIA! The name generally gets the reaction 'is that place really real?' Well, my faithful readers, it is real... really real. And really freakin' beautiful! While the Dracula legend is part of this regions attraction, it is only a small part. There is much more to it...

As I mentioned in my last post, I arrived in Timisoara (just over the border from Serbia) after 10pm. My most awesome CouchSurfing host, Sonia, came to the station to pick me up at the train station. We then went straight to a bar where I met a few of her friends, and we spent the rest of the evening chatting (shite) over a few drinks.

I did not have a lot of time to check out Timisoara, but the impression I got from my short stay; it is a nice, relaxed place. There are a lot of Austro-Hungarian style buildings, most have not been restored which I think adds a bit of authenticity and character to the city. Other than that, there are wide open streets and big cobble-stone squares, beautiful churches and friendly people. I'm not sure why this place isn't more popular? Maybe I am bias... Sonia basically spent the whole time looking after me. Showing me the city, helping me buy train tickets, driving me around, making me food... I was disappointed that I had to leave so soon.

The train to Brashov got in at 10.30pm. 9.5 hours on the train covering a total distance of 450kms... Turns out Romanian trains are not all that efficient. They seem to stop every 10 or 20 minutes and just sit there in the middle of nowhere, waiting for a train coming in the opposite direction to pass... or a hedgehog to cross the tracks or something. Whatever, it was slow! BUT it was on time, (so at least they know they are slow) and I can't complain too much. My hosts Oana and Dan were at the station waiting for me. I don't know what it is about Romania - but again they were amazing hosts. They really made me feel at home, made beautiful meals, invited me to a friends BBQ, took me out walking around the city, and even for a drive to some of the surrounding cities.

Lets start with Brasov - on of the main cities in Transylvania. It is tucked in amongst large, forest covered mountains. One of which is sporting a Hollywood style 'BRASOV' sign. It is actually not the only one in the area, and while it is kinda cool, I think it is probably more cheesy than anything. Anyway, Brasov has a population of 300,000, but it feels more like a small town. The old town area is really nice, with a big open square and lots of colourful buildings.

The first place I visited (outside Brasov) was Bran - famous for Bran (or Draculas) Castle. A quick story for those not in the know (this may not be historically accurate, but just go with it...). Bram Stoker, an Irish dude living in London, wrote Dracula in the 1890's. It was loosely based on Vlad the Impaler, who was a ruler in the South of Romania (Wallachia). He was the son of Vlad Dracul (Dracul meaning Devil). Vlad was nicknamed Dracula, which means son of the Devil. Vlad was a pretty ruthless dude (you don't get the name 'Vlad the Impaler' for no reason), people were generally pretty scared of him. Vlad never actually ruled over Transylvania, but he did live there for a few years (I can't quite remember the reason why). So why did Bram Stoker set the novel in Transylvania? Well, the area was generally known for supernatural happenings... Monsters, demons, witches etc. It was also said that the people of Transylvania drank the blood of their enemies. Bram never actually visited the area, he had only read about it and the legends surrounding it. But the area and the 'supernatural' fascinated him. So there you have it...

Bran is a tiny place that has basically been turned into a tourist trap, suckling on the teat of the Dracula story. The castle itself is... OK. It is certainly not overwhelming in size or decoration. But I guess it is kinda cool and contains a lot of information, so is worth seeing.

Oana, Dan and I also took a trip to Sighisoara, another small mid-evil town in Transylvania. It is really a beautiful town, with cobble streets, large city walls and watch towers and brightly painted buildings. I took this photo while walking through this large covered stairway... Maybe it is distorted because it was dark and I didn't use a flash... or maybe there is a more sinister reason... Hmmmm.

Transylvania as a whole is a really beautiful area. A wide, green platau surrounded on all sides by tall mountains. The forest is thick, green and lush, and full of hiking trails. If you like the outdoors at all, this is heaven.

Oh, and to finish up; I think this is one of the most awesome billboards I have ever seen...


  1. Wow! Was looking at your trip plan and it's pretty damn amazing. Definitely going to be keeping tabs on your blog.

  2. Ever since I started reading your blog I have been itching to go to Eastern Europe--definitely underrated destinations!


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