I thought to share my travel story of Bran Castle in Romania would suit the Halloween spirit quite well. Also known as Dracula’s Castle, I visited Bran Castle in the summer of 2015. (I also went to Greece and Bulgaria that summer. Read my story in Athens during Greece’s Referendum and the awesome free food tour I participated in Sofia!) Bran Castle in Romania was the first little adventure I and Jim took together, so the trip to Bran has a special place in my heart. (We just met in Ohrid, Macedonia a week before we met up again in Romania. We weren’t dating at that time 😉 ) Also, I’ve been talking about writing a blog post on Bran Castle in Romania FOREVER. So, here it is!
How did we get to Bran Castle in Romania from Bucharest?
Visiting Bran Castle in Romania wasn’t a part of my travel plan. Well, the truth is I didn’t have a plan. Even going to Romania was spontaneous. Jim helped us looking up the timetable for the train from Bucharest to Braşov. We left our hostel at about 7 am to catch the 8 am-ish train. The train ride was around 2.5 hours long. We couldn’t reserve seats on the way to Braşov since we purchased the tickets on the same morning. (Which means you might want to book your ride at least the day before.) The train was packed with passengers, so we had to sit on the floor. (We were able to reserve seats for the way back tho!)
Bran Castle is between Transylvania and Wallachia. The weather was gloomy when we arrived Braşov’s train station. We needed to change two more buses to get to Bran. There were two bus stops nearby after we stepped out of the train station, but we didn’t know which one we should go to wait for the bus. The woman who was working at the newsstand wrote us a note for directions, but it was a bit confusing (For me at least.) Another group of tourists was also looking to get to Bran Castle. They ended up renting a cab together.
Finding our connecting buses was troublesome.
Jim and I went to the ATM at the mall nearby to withdraw some cash then went to wait for the local bus. I don’t remember how long we waited. Perhaps for half an hour at least. Later we discovered we could actually walk from this bus station to the second bus station. The bus finally came, and it was crowded. We also weren’t sure where to pay and how to pay the bus fare, so we took a free ride …
When we reached our stop, we had to walk to another bus terminal to catch the connecting bus. This terminal seemed empty. Our transfer bus wouldn’t be here for another while, so we grabbed a beer and sat and waited. After some uphill and turns, we finally arrived Bran Castle in Romania.
Here are some facts about Bran Castle in Romania for you.
Bran Castle is also known as Dracula’s Castle. The character Dracula was inspired by Vlad Țepeș, who is also known as Vlad the Impaler or Vlad III. Vlad Țepeș was a ruler of Wallencia. He was involved in several events to punish the German merchants of Braşov who didn’t follow his commands in his Walachian markets. The original customs houses for taxes collection from merchants entering Transylvania are still at the base of Bran Castle. Vlad has also taken several Bran lords as hostile, and they were perhaps tortured by Vlad since there was also torturing equipment in the basement. However, in the autumn of 1462, the Hungarian king captured Vlad and locked him up in Bran Castle for two months.
Some said that Bran Castle wasn’t even what the author of Dracula had in mind for the setting of the story. The author actually has never been to Romania. Other said that the imaginary description of Dracula’s Castle from the first edition of “Dracula” is remarkably similar to Bran Castle. Regardless of what the actual story is, the legend of Dracula attracts many visitors to the castle.
Now, the rooms inside of the castle display Queen Maria of Romania’s personal collection. The royal family of Romania took residence in Bran Castle during the 1920s, and it was the Queen’s favorite residence.
So, this was how we felt about Bran Castle:
Frankly, we were quite surprised how many people were visiting Bran Castle. I think most of the people came to visit because of its tie to Dracula. It was almost like the Disney Land of Romania. There was even a scary house right outside of the castle! A huge line awaited us at the ticket booth. Jim got us corns on skewers while we waited. Fortunately, we didn’t have to wait for too long to purchase the tickets. The line moved fast.
The castle itself was like a maze with lots of narrow, low ceiling tunnels. I felt like I was in an underground prison, and it felt cold and humid inside the castle. I guess that just fits its legendary reputation. The castle had a great visit access design for going through each room. It was also quite informative, and I learned a good deal of history about the castle and the origin of Dracula.
Want to get some souvenir with you at Bran Castle?
There was a marketplace outside of the castle. Jim bought a wooden flute as a new addition to his instrument collections. You could get some scary mask, too. They are perfect for Halloween! I don’t see my home having these as decorations tho.
On a side note, a few weeks ago, I assigned an eight years old student a piano piece called Romanian Rhapsody. I shared my travel story with her and showed her some pictures of my trip to Bran’s Castle. She told me the scenery of Romanian countryside is gorgeous, but the castle looked creepy. She also said this little house right next to the castle might be where he stored the body parts of the people he ate! I just love children’s imagination! I hope I didn’t give her some false impressions about Romania. Now she might think Romania is a beautiful country full of vampires.
How about having some local sweets near Bran Castle in Romania?
We got chimney cake (kürtöskalács in Romanian) after we left the castle. This spit cake came from the Hungarian-speaking region of Transylvania in Romania. And that region is precisely where Bran is. A good Kürtöskalács contains flour, sugar, milk, butter, eggs, yeast, and salt. Sometimes they add extra ingredients such as cinnamon and walnut. Cinnamon flavor was what we had if I remember correctly.
The sun came out right after we left Bran Castle. The landscape in Romania’s countryside was purely stunning.
I enjoyed my trip to Bran Castle. I love the long train ride with the view. I also loved the trip because I had good company. 🙂 It would be wonderful if we could spend more time in Braşov cause we’ve heard good things about the city. Well, I guess that just means we need to go back for another visit 😀
Have you visited Romania? Share your story with us in comments!
Also published on Medium.