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Vlad Tepes a.k.a. Dracula
Pros: beautiful countryside, impressive castles, most impressive-palace at Sinaia
Cons: none

Brasov, Romania

Thursday, Aug 25, 2005 17:02

From Budapest to Brasov in Romania, it took a 12 hour train ride. Trains here are very slow.

Brasov is a good place to base oneself to visit the castles and surrounding countryside in Transylvania. The Dracula castle is in Bran, the citadel is in Rasnov and the impressive Peles castle is in Sinaia. At Brasov, I stayed at the Kitmat Dao Hostel. Dao you ask? Yes, this hostel is actually opened by a Korean-American who was a backpacker hinself. Throughout the hostel you can find framed comic strips of monks sharing enlightments with humorous twists.

Dracula (real name Vlad Tepes) did not actually live in the Bran castle. But they claim that he lived in it for one night. The castle he actually lived in is very plain so it is not much of a tourist attraction. According to the guide, a princess who used to live in the castle killed 600 virgins because she believed by drinking their blood, she would remain young. Ironically, she later died in the castle all alone with all her beauty. Later, the castle was the residence of the King and Queen of Transylvania.

The story on Vlad Tepes is that he was well studied and knew some medicine so he was able to torture his prisoners by running a spike through them (from the bottom ...ahem) without hitting any vital nerves. He could then watch them for days before they died. Many older people in the region do believe in vampires.

The citadel at Rasnov is basically a town that was moved to the top of the hill to protect it from foreign invaders. In the centre of town is a 150m deep well that the people ordered two Turkish prisoners to dig in exchange for their freedom when they finished. It took 17 years to dig and the prisoners were never released. Our guide as a little girl used to drop lighted paper down the well to see how deep it went but always got in trouble. They built a mesh as a result. But that was not enough to stop her as she delightfully demonstrated to us how to get past the mesh. It was good fun except the pieces that did not go through the mesh created alot of smoke and almost got us in trouble. And by the way, she does this tour every other day.

By far the most impressive was the palace at Sinaia. The detail and craftsmenship was stunning and can rival any palace in Europe. Without a doubt, excessive self indulgence by the King at the time and perhaps a legacy followed by Ceausescu in later years. This palace is certainly a hidden gem as most have not heard of it and so the place has relatively few tourists. Once the word spreads, I am sure tourists will flood in so perhaps a good time to invest into hotels in the area. This area also has many beautiful Romanian houses which are very unique in their styling and in their use of sheet metal or bronze as roofs.

At the palace, they were very strict and did not allow any picture taking. They screamed at anyone who took photos and a couple Aussie guys almost got kicked out. Marcos however, a Romanian-Brazilian on the guided tour, managed to bribe a women there with 100,000 lei (3 euros). The women closed the doors for him alone and even took pictures for him as he posed and smiled on the throne and various other furniture.

On the second day, Marcos and I went to the town of Sighisoara (pronounced Sig-gi-shrada) famous for being the birthplace of Vlad Tepes. It is the perfect picturesque Transylvanian town. Very small but also very poor with many gypsies at the train station and along the streets. The town is beautiful and for now, remains untouristy. I got many long stares. We had a great time and lots of comedy.

In Romania, there is a chain called Fornetti that makes small pastries they sell by the Kilo. The pastries have various fillings and when hot are a little taste of heaven. I think they would do quite well in Canada. Perhaps a great franchise opportunity.