Dracula, mysterious castles, vampire slayers, “top gear” roads, Carpathian Mountains and the best places to visit.
Romania is a country of Dracula’s origin, mysterious castles, vampire slayers and “top gear” roads. Forests and mountains are home to wild animals like bears, wolfs, lynx, and half-wild like horses which are in some regions domesticated only in the season. Long history rooted in Dacia, symbolised by the Dacian Draco which is a serpent dragon with a wolf’s head. Fields of golden sunflowers in summer, Carpathian Mountain, the Black Sea, Transylvania, mystic knowledge draw adventure seekers from around the globe. One of my favourite countries in Europe!
Transfagarasan and Transalpina are famous mountain roads on an altitude of 2,145 metres, full of curves and amazing views. They are open only in summer and spring seasons. The first time I’ve heard about those roads was from the old show “top gear” and years later when I visited this place I could fully understand why… It is driving with a bit of thrill.
On the road you may meet some nice fluffy guys who likes fruits:
You can also see hundreds of sheep and Shepherd dogs who looks like teddy bears, but don’t be fooled. My first reaction was “aww what a cute doggy, come for a hug” yet the dog gave me the alpha look like “don’t come any closer” and I immediately froze. I was explained later that these dogs spend their life fighting with pack of wolfs, bears (and maybe even ware-wolfs since we are talking about Transylvania🙃). They are far from being teddy dogs.
I’m lucky to have wonderful friends who showed me the most beautiful and secret places in Romania which I would never see otherwise.
One night they took me by car to the peak in the mountain area of Novaci, which was very hard to reach because there was no paved road. Once we went outside, we could hear wolf’s howling and some strange sounds in the bushes. My friend was reassuring us that this is just a dog, but not a usual one 😉 Anyway, we girls decided to sit on the top of the car and admire the sky with stars so close that it made me feel like I can reach them with my hands. It was a special summer night with comets showering and wolfs communicating each other, creating a show that I will never forget.
In Romania you can explore fairy tale, mysterious and romantic castles. I know it should be written gothic, renaissance or medieval castles, but it doesn’t sound so fascinating 😉 Many of them are famous Dracula’s castles, but to be honest, there is only one were he spend time in, which is Poenari castle a remote citadel in the mountains and it is a ruin now. For the last centuries many people say this fortress is haunted.
Check my insta highlights to see the castles and much more.
Neo-Renaissance Peles castle from 1883, located near Sinaia in Bucegi Mountains is a masterpiece of architecture that draws people from the whole world, including movie makers. It is well preserved on the outside and inside as well. Rich with decorations of all kind, furnitures, sculptures, art and many more that make you feel like a queen or king in a previous epoque.
There is my favourite Corvinus castle in Hunedoara where Dracula was a prisoner in dungeons:
The most popular is Bran castle, around 25 km from Brasov city in Transylvania. It is famous in the world for being the Dracula’s castle from the novel “Count Dracula”written by the Irish author Bram Stoker. The historical ruler of Romania from medieval ages was never here or was imprisoned for two months.
Under the fortress there is a small “cottage” where you can have a coffee prepared in a medieval style and buy some souvenirs, like a cup with an image of Vlad the Impaler to enjoy your morning tea with this not very warm persona.
I mentioned a few times Dracula before so let’s get into who he really was. The historical name is Vlad Tepez prince of Wallachia from XV century. He grew up as a hostage in the Ottoman Empire and later became a ruler of Romania, a very controversial one… According to many sources from many parts of the world, Vlad was incredibly cruel, famous for impaling people (hence his name) and doing things so sick and disgusting that I don’t want to write about. That’s one side of the coin, the other side shows a little bit different story. Vlad had a goal to rise the country to its highest potential and didn’t cooperate with anyone who was standing on his way, this included the church, corrupted nobility, countries and their representatives that were not allies, and many more. The list is long 😉 I watched some old movie based on the history where he would say something like “Who wants to become a minister of the Finance? You? Ok, but remember to do you job well, otherwise you will end up on a stick in three months”. It was kind of his encouragement to work hard and prevention from corruption…
Moreover the development of printing helped to sell stories about his violence with titles like “Vlad dining at a table surrounded by dead or dying people on poles”.
He was not a fan of church and was diminishing its power. Some brutal tales of him allegedly comes from a monk informing the pope about his evil spirit, so it sounds a bit suspicious.
What is the truth and what’s the black PR? I don’t know and I’m not sure if I want to know 😉
Maybe stories were exaggerated and Vlad embraced it using as an advantage over his opponents who were scared and reluctant to pick up a fight with “a wicked tyran, demented psychopath, a sadist, a gruesome murderer, a masochist”. Who’d like to go on a war against a guy like this..?
He was born in Sighisoara in the house you may see on my pictures. The first time I’ve heard about this medieval town I thought it must be nice to visit, yet when I got there, it exceeded my expectations! The old fortified town is colorful, charming and the whole area is the UNESCO heritage. It’s great just to stroll around, go to the traditional cafe shops and talk to locals who are very open and friendly. There are also shops with antiques which I love, and also with traditional clothing. I’ve heard that there is a medieval festival in summer which I’d be excited to join as a lady in a long dress & crown of course👸
One building is decorated with a golden dragon logo which is a symbol of The Order Of The Dragon. Vlad’s father was a member of it and it originated their nickname Dracul. It means a dragon and also the devil in Romanian language.
Once we went hiking in the mountains to the remote lake and the area was so beautiful that we wanted to explore more so decided spontaneously to take a narrow path through the low pine trees and pass the spring jumping from one rock to another. Later on, it was not easy to find the trail but we managed to after circling a few times, and had to step into the forest. At some point it started raining. In the mountains it gets slippery and water in streams rises quite fast which started a real adventure with a pressure of time of an upcoming dusk. After around 20 km of walk we went out from the mountain forest which was great, but there was one more problem… We were another 20 km from our car. We had no other choice than to hitch hike on the Transalpina road and after further challenges, one nice man stopped and took us all.
A quick video from this remote, beautiful place:
When we came to my friend’s house completely exhausted and hungry, the boys told us that when we were in the middle of the way, there were scattered pieces of a sheep’s fur… but they didn’t tell us, so we wouldn’t freak out. That’s very kind because we girls would definitely freak out 🙂 In the mountains we could see many signs of wild animals and one surprised me in a positive way, like I learned that a bear’s poop is the least disgusting poop I’ve ever seen, it just looks like a pile of blueberries 😉
I have to admit that it was scary for me to see the broken soil by wild boars, bear’s excrement, signs “warning! venomous vipers”, lynx’s marks, and listening to the wolfs howling at night. It is their home after all. But in the same time it was also fascinating to be so close.
My friends own a house and land in a place where they don’t close the doors in summer (it’s wide open most of the time). When they told me a story about the lynx who lived near on the attic of an abandon house, that night I woke up hearing something coming in to our bedroom and I almost had a heart attack. I was screaming-whispering that the lynx came in, and when it jumped on the bed, it turned out that it was our lovely friend cat Zgabarta 😂💙
I don’t have a picture of Zgaba but here are some other guys:
Somewhere between Sibiu and Brasov there is a place with a new fairy tale clay castle. It is an eco-friendly unique hotel where you can feel like in the hobbits and elves magical world:
The colourful forest is in fact Dumbrava Forest near the Poienari. Created by the artist who explains that this is “some kind of manifesto against everything that happens with deforestation, an artistic manifesto.” Really positive and beautiful kind of a protest:
Viscri is a medieval Transylvanian – Saxon exceptionally preserved village where you can visit Prince Charles house and the fortified church from XII century. The way up to the top of the tower you have to take at your own risk, but it is one of the best conserved buildings from that time I’ve ever entered (later I’ve visited the Rasnov citadel and it was even bigger, also very impressive). At first I wasn’t sure what to expect by visiting the Prince Charles house because his place in London is well protected and it’s not like you can just walk in and have a tea 😉 He was not at home yet we could enter and see the traditional blue, charming house and talk with nice locals.
Busteni is a town in the Bucegi Mountains where I’ve heard you may came across a bear at nigh😅
In Cisnadioara near Sibiu you can can go for a walk to the hill where on top is a small fortified church mentioned for the first time in 1223, dedicated to Saint Michael. There’s a beautiful view from the hill. In medieval ages in Romania many churches were fortified due to Ottoman attacks.
One winter we decided to make a road trip to see the vibrating moss green Bigar waterfall, clear turquoise water of Beiului lake, and frozen Beușnița waterfall. All those amazing places are in the south-west part of the country.
The next day we wanted to drive along Danube river to explore Rock Sculpture of Decebalus and Herculane but one problem appeared… We came back to the car after dusk from the waterfalls and drove further while calling all the possible hotels to book rooms. Unfortunately we couldn’t find any and dusk turned into dark, foggy night when we received a massage “Welcome to Serbia”on pur phones… It stressed us a bit and the perspective of stying in a car overnight with lynx in the woods, but my friend didn’t give up. Finally we found a hotel, came inside wearing muddy boots and pants, with a little bit of desperation on our tired faces, and realised that there was some kind of a party (like wedding) where ladies were in cocktail dresses and gentleman looking smoking hot. Receptionist looked at as with a compassion and gave us the last room that was not meant to be booked. So this way, we were sleeping super squeezed all three in one bed and woke up with sore necks but grateful even though.
Rock Sculpture of Decebalus on the river remind me of “The Hobbit” scenery. Decebalus was the last king of Dacia who fought Roman emperors. It is located at the Iron Gates – the gorge on the Danube between Romania and Serbia.
Herculane is a spa town 🙂 with planty of natural hot springs and thermal baths. The town architecture made my feel like in a previous era. There is a legend connected to Hecules and statues of him in the center, hence the name. Fans of abandoned buildings have a lot to explore here as there is an impressive old casino and hotels closed for years.
The area around is very interesting as well and has signs of inhabitation from the Palaeolithic era. You can hike to the “grota” which is a steaming cave up in the mountains and see a nice view from the peak.
In Romania live Gypsy people and you can recognise their houses from the far as in their culture it is common to build big mansions with many towers, decorated fences, and rich in styles architecture. I haven’t made any picture but I hope you can imagine this peculiar bling making the landscape even more interesting 🙂
Romanian cuisine is tasty for me, and if you want to eat vegan you can always ask for “de post” fasting meal which is very convenient and everyone understand what do you mean.
Now, I miss polenta with mushrooms similar or the same as “mamaliga” (I’m not sure), stuffed cabbage, beans stew, zacusca (eggplant spread), and a desert papanasi. We also tried the traditional alcohol Palinca which is a strong thing, be careful with that 😉
There’s many interesting places in Romania and it’s best to see them for yourself:
The great fortress built in 1225, but there are archeological traces indicating that the first version of the citadel dates back to prehistoric Dacian times.
Polovragi monastery & Cheile Oltetului (it’s a gorge)📍
There’s also a cave where according to legends lived the Dacian god Zalmoxes (or Zalmoxis) of the mystery, ecstasy, the underworld and immortality. He was a teacher, high priest, healer and vegetarian.
Alba Iulia 📍 is an ancient city with a citadel in a shape of a star, ancient Roman and Dacian history and architecture. Very impressive!
I would love to visit two more places: the happy cemetery in Maramures and Danube delta. If you’ve been there, share your adventures in the comments.
Ok, there’s also the bear’s sanctuary and the medieval festival in Sighisoara on my list 😉 And Râpa Roșie.
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