Lately, we were listening to a podcast on Bulgaria, someone was saying “don’t touch Dracula, it belongs to Romania”. Indeed, according to the legend, Dracula would be coming from Transylvania and it is an important tourism symbol in Romania. It’s in that context that Karine insisted to include Romania in our itinerary to bring the boys to see Dracula’s Castle. Too cool! We booked an apartment in Brasov in Transylvania. Brasov is a charming medieval town straight out of a fairy tale book and it’s in the old town, in an historic listed building, that we found our accommodation, very close to the walls of the fortress.
The old Brasov
Brasov has been inhabited since the year 100 BC and its streets are filled with old buildings and history. We walked through the smallest street of the country, Strada Sforii which is only a little over a meter wide. Brasov square is occupied by the Council square (Piata Sfatului) where, in the middle age, large fairs were taking place. Today, it is surrounded by a maze of streets with many restaurants and cafes patios. There is also a myriad of shops that makes it a complete tourist destination for some.
In Brasov, as many other medieval cities of Europe, it is possible to see the remains of an ancient fortress. While walking on the Royal promenade, we have observed among others the White Tower and the Black Tower, both had the functions of observation towers in the past.
We also visited the Black Church, it was named this way after a huge fire, which ravaged the city in 1689 and covered the Church with soot. The rain washed the soot subsequently, but the name remained. It is the largest Gothic church between Vienna and Istanbul and it is still being used today. A few days a week, it is possible to listen to an organ concert. We went in not knowing what to expect, the Church was full, but there were only a few children. The concert experience was good and a very talented artist was performing, but let’s say that we wouldn’t buy a full album of organ music.
The castle of Bran
As you probably noticed, we have not been disappointed too often after an activity, but we have to admit that we have been a little following our visit of the Bran Castle. The economy of the town of Bran appears to be based exclusively on tourism. The castle is sold as being Dracula’s castle and the streets nearby are surrounded by stalls of products intended for tourists. There was a ton of different items for sales branded with the famous character. Despite the mixed reviews we had read on the Internet about this visit, we still decided to go since that Lonely Planet recommended this visit. Furthermore, this was the reason why we decided to come to Romania in the first place, we had to take our chance, right?
When we arrived in Bran, we all had a big surprise: a waiting line of more than an hour before the ticket booth 😉 We had not seen anything like that before, and we certainly didn’t expect it on a weekday, but it is a popular tourists destination and we were hoping that the visit was worth the wait. After a long wait, where we at least enjoyed chatting with the family in front of us, we finally entered the Castle and began our visit by following a line of people who were already crammed up in there and would remain this way until the end. Nevertheless, the visit through the castle was well done, and the course was long enough. It was taking us up and down several set of stairs, including a secret staircase which was quite narrow. We visited a large part of the Castle and most of the signs were translated in English.
We were very disappointed to see that only two rooms were dedicated to Dracula. In those were only a few exhibition panels to read about the history of Dracula, the myths and the reality. We learned among other facts that Vlad Tepes has never lived in this castle and had perhaps never actually set a foot into the castle. Ditto for the famous author Bran Stoker that was only inspired by images of the castle to write his famous work ‘Dracula’. If you plan to go there to learn more about Dracula, we would recommend to buy a good book on the subject instead. To finish on a positive note, the exterior of Bran Castle, which dates from 1378, is incredible. It is perched on a rock and the view left us speechless. At least the kids can say they have seen Dracula’s castle. hahaha
A few blocks away from where we stayed, is located mount Tampâ. It is there that the defence fortress once stood. It is possible to reach the summit by cable car or walking through one of the many trails. We took the easy but longer trail that was leading to the top. It had been a long time since our last hike and we really missed it. The summit offers a splendid view of Brasov at the step of the hill, but also offered a view of the hills and valleys that occupy this part of Romania. After a picnic at the top we came back down through the more difficult way, which was made by series of narrow and steep set of stairs.
The water park
Since the weather forecast was calling for rain for our last day in Brasov, we had to find an interior activity. Given that we could not go for a swim in Budapest, we were all very excited to go to Brasov Waterpark. We spent a very nice afternoon there having fun in the water. There was a heated pool outside and since the temperature was a little cloudy and cold, we had a huge pool for ourselves. Kolya and Karine enjoyed themselves in the water slides. Unfortunately, Simon came back with a nearly broken nose and Hugo with some scratches. Let’s say that these were not the safest waterslides…
Initially, Brasov was essentially a point of transfer between Budapest and Varna and we stayed only a few days in this city. We enjoyed the relaxed character of a small town with fewer tourists. We also discovered through our sightseeing through the window of the train or at the top of mount Tampâ, a country that we would like to discover by car, with the ability to explore the mountains, valleys and forests by hiking and camping.