Transylvania has been a region of Romania since 1918 but historically was an independent province. Ottomans, Hungarians, Jews, Serbs, and Roma gypsies all lived in the area over hundreds of years. Their beliefs and cultures have woven the history and myths into the region. I love history and the stories of Vlad the Impaler, Dracula, Transylvania, and the surrounding castles are all part of the next few days adventures.
We left Bucharest early in the morning with our guide Vlad as it promised to be a long and busy day getting to Brasov. The drive is very scenic, with stops at Snagov Monastery, the Mud flats, Bran Castle and Peles Castle. Now there is Vlad the Impaler of Transylvania myth and history, and then there is our guide whom I distinguish as Vlad the Storyteller. We would ultimately spend three full days with Vlad the Storyteller. Lots of information, lots of laughs, and one of the best guides we had on the trip.
I wanted to go to Snagov Monastery because I had read it was beautiful. There’s a rumor that Vlad the Impaler is buried there and Vlad the Storyteller teased me that the real reason I wanted to go was to make sure ‘he’ was there. Ya, no. The monastery is built on a tiny island at the end of Snagov Lake. The small church dates back to the 15th century, but there’s been some form of church here since at least the 11th century. My interest was simply to visit a historic place, never mind myths about Vlad. The monastery is beautiful and serene. The dogs will keep you company as you walk back and forth to the bridge, whether you want them to or not.
We also became famous, according to Vlad the Storyteller, at Bran Castle. Bran Castle is one of the most famous attractions, due to it’s legendary ties to the story of Dracula. The castle dates back to the 15th century and overlooks Bran Gorge. However, it was a fortress used for defense against Ottoman invasions. And while it has hundreds of years of history, it was in the 20th century that it became ‘home’ to the fictional Dracula. Even though the author of Dracula, Bram Stoker, never visited the castle, nor did Vlad the Impaler, the economy is fueled by the myths and stories of it’s most famous ‘inhabitant.’ When Vlad asked if we wanted to go inside, we declined. Surprised he asked as to the ‘why.’ I replied that it was not associated with Vlad the Impaler, nor the fictional Dracula other than in the minds of fans and fanatics of Dracula, which I was not one of them. He laughed and declared, ‘you are famous! You are the first tourists I’ve ever had who declined not to embrace the nonsense!’ So there you go…. I’m famous!
We did however choose to go inside Peles Castle. It’s history is real and the beauty of the castle, even though it still needs work on the outside, was impressive. Peles Castle was built by King Carol I and while it is another iconic landmark, it is much younger having been built in the 19th century as a summer residence. The castle is located in the town of Sinaia. In general, I’m not really a ‘castle girl’ but I did like seeing the outside of this romantic landmark.
Buzau County is home to the Berca mud volcanoes. Muddy volcanoes are created by gases pushing water up through the clay soil and bubbling all over the the area. The mud volcanoes were not as exciting as I’d hoped for. Of course, you can’t make a mud volcano explode any more than you can control a geyser. While the mud volcanoes are interesting, it was not worth the stop for us and we also hated to drag the mud that stuck to our shoes into Vlad’s car, never mind the fact he kept saying not to worry about it. There are many other things to do in Transylvania, so I would offer this one as a ‘skip that’ stop.
What I was really interested in seeing in Transylvania was the local towns and surrounding beauty. Located in the Carpathian Mountains, the city of Brasov is one of the best preserved medieval towns in Europe. And I LOVE a good medieval town!
Brasov has iconic landmarks such as the Black Church, which is a Gothic style cathedral built in the 14th century. The church got its name after a fire in 1689 left the walls blackened but the spirit intact. If you’re expecting a black church, inside or out, you will be disappointed. The church is restored and lovely, albeit a bit plain, I think it’s draw is the name.
Brasov’s Old Town is filled with cobbled streets, colorful buildings and friendly shop owners! Brasov was settled in the 13th century by Germanic settlers. It became an important center of trade and culture. Like many towns in Italy and France, there was a large town square with surrounding restaurants where tourists and families alike spent time relaxing. One day we wandered through a small farmer’s market that included local crafters in the square.
We stayed at the Kronwell Brasov hotel and enjoyed dinners at several local restaurants. I didn’t realize it literally is next to the train station. You’d never know it though, the room was so quiet. Our room was a bit weird with the bathroom walls only being glass. It’s a good thing we’ve been married nearly 39 years — it was definitely lacking privacy. I’d rather poop in private.
This beautiful church was a surprise. Once you pass through the front, you enter a passageway that then opens to another church. Inside is beautiful.
Transylvania has a lot of legends and myths that creates a fun and mysterious time warp. When you visit, watch out at night for the werewolves and Vampires! Who knows, maybe Vlad the Storyteller, and the rest of Romania, are wrong — and maybe they do exist!
For more on where we ate while in Brasov, check out my ‘Eating Michelin’ link on our website!
You can reach our guide, Vlad the Storyteller on what’s app. We highly recommend him! He will configure 1 day or multiple day tours. You can start in Bucharest and end in Brasov. Start in Brasov and end in Budapest like we did or whatever you want to see in Romania.
Tomorrow we head to Sigisoara and Viscri with a different guide. Fingers crossed it’s another great day!