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Transylvanian Castles

ROMANIA | Thursday, 24 April 2014 | Views [600]

Our Transylvanian Castles Tour took us a couple of hours out of Bucharest in a 12-seater coaster. We had the company of a group of elderly Belgians, a couple of Italian blokes and an American (or Canadian?) couple, and were guided by one of the natives named Andrei. He was an informative chap and kept reminding me of Chekov from Star Trek except he didn't mix his r's and w's. But he managed to summarise 2000 years of Romanian history in about 10 minutes which was good because we couldn't concentrate any longer with the lack of air conditioning warming the coach and our brains to a non-reactive 26°C.
The scenery changed to a wonderful snow-capped mountainscape as we went deeper into the Carpathians, and before long we stopped at the Sinaia Monastery to marvel at the really, really old church that had been restored in all it's religious iconic glory.  The really, really old church had been superseded by a second really old church which was still in use by the local town. 
The fresh mountain air was great, and revived us enough to get to our next stop, the magnificent Peles Castle, once the residence of King Carol the 1st in the 1860s or thereabouts. It boasted 170 rooms, most of which we saw were so elaborately decorated in hand carved timber, gilded gold leaf, hand woven Persian carpets, masterly painted artwork and the finest silver in Europe, that it boggled my brain as to how I've managed to live all my life without my own hunting lodge and guest house! And by guest house, I mean a second castle that boasts a meager 50 rooms that all my kingly mates could camp in on a long weekend!
But for me, the less ornate Bran Castle topped the day.  A tourist smorgasbord of cheesy Dracula paraphernalia and souvenir stores littered the entry way to the castle, and a carpark full of buses lay testament to the popularity of this place. Owned by the Hapsburgs of Germany, Bran Castle was instrumental in a master stroke of marketing that linked Bram Stoker's vampire legend to the place that Vlad the Impaler occupied, even if for only a brief period of his life. (The Dracula legend is in fact a composite of Vlad senior, known as Vlad of the Order of The Dragon, the Dracul, and Vlad junior or the Impaler).
 The castle has been largely modified by King  Ferdinand and the popular Queen Marie since those good old days when the Ottoman Empire threatened Transylvania from the south, when a simple impaling on a stake would virtually guarantee your subjects loyalty to fight for you against the evil enemy! Anyway, we had to participate in the mass hysteria and buy some crap, I mean souvenirs! :) Oh and mum beat me to the t-shirt, hehe.
We rounded up the day in Brasov, a fabulous little town with so much of it's own history that I'll have to continue that story in the next blog post. First impressions have been really good and I can't wait to have a better look around tomorrow.

Tags: castles, sightseeing

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