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Erasmus Shenanigans "Not all those who wander are lost"

Dracula's Crib

ROMANIA | Monday, 17 April 2017 | Views [1138] | Comments [1]

Bucharest (24th – 27th March 2017)

Here I go again, inviting myself to pre-planned trips with other people I barely met. This time it was with three lovely Spanish girls, one of whom is in my Nanobiotechnology class. We caught a 7 am coach from Brno to Budapest, and flew via Wizz Air from Budapest to Bucharest. We arrived in the capital of Romania at 7 pm and were outside the door to Globe Hostel an hour later. The fatigue from travelling a full 12 hours made us decide to just have dinner and call it a night. We walked down a main road, away from Piata Romana where our hostel was, and took in the sights of Bucharest at night. My first thought was that it reminded me of New York! Why? Yellow taxis, wide roads, and huge billboards. However, it also had a touch of India; street-sellers shoving their wares at car windows, unfinished buildings, and a power failure at the airport. This was my first time in the Balkans and wondered if the other countries in this area were similar, because Bucharest was so different from the other European capital cities I’d ventured in! We had dinner in the garden of a gorgeous Italian restaurant named Trattoria Buongiorno and tasted the local wine (me) and beer (Marta). She had found a free walking tour the next day at 3 pm, so we decided to explore the city by ourselves in the morning.

We woke up bright and early, and made our own breakfast with the food they provided in the hostel’s kitchen. We took a map and followed it around some pretty parks, the first of which resembled more of a botanical garden. The amount of money the government spent on keeping these parks in great shape surprised me. The whole city consisted of grey, cracked buildings with dilapidated houses on every street. All major cities have a poor area, but this entire city seemed to be stuck in a different era. It wasn’t until the free walking tour that I fully understood why things were the way they were. One of the things I’d been excited to see was the biggest administrative building in Europe- the Romanian parliament. It was only second to the Pentagon in the US. Honestly, it was underwhelming; plain white and unsymmetrical. The title of most beautiful parliament would go to the Hungarian parliament for sure. The tour started in a park located on the longest and widest avenue in Europe, even beating the Champs-Élysées in Paris. All these superlatives are thanks to a man named Nicolae Ceaușescu, Romania’s last Communist leader. Inspired by the great devotion of the public to its leaders in some Asian countries, he aspired for a similar relationship between himself and the Romanian public. To do this, he wanted the biggest and best of everything, not caring about the entire village he destroyed to make space for the parliament.

Of course, the tour included background history on Vlad the Impaler (son of Vlad Dracul), the very real human being on whom Bram Stoker based his classic novel ‘Dracula’. He earned his title by impaling 2000 soldiers along a road leading to his enemies, the Turkish. We would see Vlad’s castle the next day. The tour was one of the best I’ve been on, not only because they gave out free cookies to people who answered questions correctly, but also because our guide brought along pictures and got very personal with us. Most guides usually do a more show-and-tell tour about buildings and landmarks. Our guide told us about when her parents only had access to hot water for 2 hours a week under the Communist rule. She ended the tour in Piaţa Universităţii and we walked diligently back to Coffeol, a café we’d passed on the tour serving the most glorious jars of coffee you could imagine. I ordered an apple pie coffee, with apple sauce, whipped cream and shortbread sticking out of the top. I will put a picture in the Bucharest photo gallery, you have to see it to believe it! We sat outdoors for a good 2 hours, bought our dinner and back to the hostel.

When we’d first arrived at the hostel, we’d seen a poster advertising a tour of Peleș Castle, Bran Castle and Brasov for €40 per person for a group of four. It was a good price and covered more than what would have been possible in one day by train. We decided to do it on Sunday, and at 9 am our guide picked us up and we drove the two and a half hours to Peleș Castle. I was surprised to learn that it was high up in the hills, similar to driving to a hill station in India. The village surrounding the castle was picturesque, with wooden beams and white walls. The Castle itself was straight out of a fairytale! Stone statues of the king and queen of Romania stood in front of it and faced a view of green hills. We bought tickets for a one hour tour for which we had to wear blue plastic covers over our shoes, just like going into a tissue culture lab. The inside of the castle was richly decorated, as you’d imagine, but it was unique in the way that it had rooms decorated in the styles of different countries. There was even an Asian room with a table and chair set from India! Another curious feature were the fake wardrobe doors, that the queen used for entry into her bedroom. Judging by her painting on the wall, we mused about whether she would have actually fit through the small opening.

By the time we reached Bran Castle, it was snowing heavily. The temperature had dropped to 3°C and we were all shivering. Arms shielding us from the snowstorm, we walked up the steep slope to the entrance. The bottom of the castle was merged into the rocks, making it intimidating. This was the castle whose history was intertwined with tales of a vampire, earning it’s nickname Dracula’s Castle. The rooms were plain and the wooden stairs were cramped. It was in stark contrast with Peleș Castle. The only beauty came from the snow outside, whirling around the orange-tiled turrets. Entry to Bran Castle had been more expensive, but it wasn’t as good an experience as the previous one. If you plan on visiting Dracula’s Castle, I suggest going on October 31st, when you may have the thrill of spotting Dracula lurking around. He would be the only interesting thing.

After lunch at an Italian restaurant, we drove a further 20 minutes to Brașov, population 200,000. We were now within the Transylvanian district, a location I thought was make-believe before embarking on my Romania trip. We climbed up to Brașov Citadel Fortress, where we were met with a stunning view of the new and old towns, the latter surrounded by snow-covered hills. The large, white sign reading ‘Brașov’ tickled me as it was in the same style as the Hollywood sign in Los Angeles. We walked through the city centre, and saw the main square and the Black Church, so-called because a deliberate fire had left it with scorched walls. We saw a stranger sight of a group of tourists dancing in the style of a traditional Turkish folk dance in the middle of the main square. We were exhausted after covering three locations in one day and we slept on the 3-hour drive back to Bucharest.

That morning we’d left a note in our hostel complaining about the red bumps that had appeared on our bodies overnight. We thought they were bed bugs, or some other insect. When we returned that night, we found a reply saying they’d called in people to check for bugs but they found nothing. They even went further to suggest that we may have brought them in with us! I left a poor review on Hostel World, and would never recommend Globe Hostel to anyone visiting Bucharest. After a sleepless night on Saturday, thanks to no rules on noise at night, we all slept blissfully on Sunday. The next morning, we checked out and travelled the full 12 hours back to Brno. We managed to see a lot in a short amount of time, and I must thank Marta, Angela and Cristina for planning a wonderful trip and letting me tag along!

 

 

Brasov Main Square

Brasov Main Square

Tags: brasov, bucharest, castle, dracula

 

Comments

1

Dracula wudve rolled in his grave ! ;)

  poongothai Apr 4, 2017 8:36 PM

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