For us, the big draw in visiting Romania was the chance to see Transylvania. Transylvania had captured both of our imaginations with its tales of vampires and castles. Andrew found day tours that would take us there from Bucharest during our weekend in Romania. We booked one for that Saturday that would take us to Transylvania, Peles Castle and Bran Castle, intending for the tour to be the main event of this trip.
As quirky a locale as it is, I was super excited we were going. This was definitely the type of trip that we wouldn’t have flown all the way from the US to make, so it felt extra special to be there.
As we learned on our trip, any vampire-chasing tends to be popular with Americans, not so much others around the world – ha! I guess we’ve really taken to Bram Stoker’s tale in a way the rest of the world has not. Kinda like our affinity for Halloween.
I can remember GoogleMapping Transylvania at some point in my life (yes, that interested – I love all things Halloween) and not seeing much there. Then, it seemed Transylvania was a myth. And well, it is, seeing as the story of Dracula was completely fabricated by an Englishman who had never actually been to “Dracula’s castle,” but that’s a story for later. Now, having visited, I understand why there is not much on the map – the area is rural and it is beautiful.
We unknowingly picked the perfect time of year to go – mid October – when Transylvania and much of Romania is at peak autumn foliage. As the bus moved further and further out of Bucharest, the leaves on the trees became brighter and brighter.
Our tour’s website seemed to indicate that the tour would take about twelve hours from start to finish. Unfortunately, traffic management in Transylvania wasn’t at its best and our tour guide warned us that this trip would likely be more along the tune of 14-16 hours. That is a long time on a bus. But we had already boarded and were all geared up to see Transylvania, so there was no going back.
It was an adventure we won’t soon forget. Discovering more of Romania’s history and countryside was captivating.
The spot was chosen for its beauty year round, and as we discovered, autumn is particularly beautiful there.
The history of the castle is as fascinating as its woodwork is extraordinary.
Built in the late 1800s, Romania’s struggle to establish a monarchy and cultural identity more like those of Western Europe is reflected in this castle. It is a smorgasbord of the best of Europe’s design and art.
The result is a castle that is incredibly beautiful and luckily well preserved.
Try to visit the castle on a tour that has pre-booked tickets. The castle is not very large, but it is very popular with tourists and the line for tickets was long when we went. It gets crowded and the entrance is also the exit so it can get pretty crazy.
Our next stop was in actual Transylvania. We were headed to Bran Castle, the inspiration for Dracula’s castle. Set on a rocky outcrop, you can see why such a place was deemed fit for a vampire!
Made of stone, this castle is very different from Peles. It feels more like a fortress.
Built in medieval times, there are some castlely elements to its design, which provide a beautiful contrast to the cliffs and foliage.
The original fireplaces remain, with beautiful tiling detail.
We were expecting this place to be full-on touristy cheese, but it really wasn’t that bad. There was a little market at the base of the hill of the castle selling vampire wares, but compared to US tourist sites, it is barely commercialized.
After touring the castle, we enjoyed a traditional Romanian meal at Galeriile Bran which was delicious. Seriously, I loved Romanian food. I tried sarmale, which are stuffed cabbage rolls, served with polenta.
Andrew went for the more-appetizing-looking beef gouash, also delicious.
When we finished our lovely meal, it was time to get back on the bus for our final stop before returning to Bucharest.
We arrived in Brasov as the sun was setting and because of the traffic we encountered, our tour guide made it snappy.
We did a quick tour through the town, which was interesting and I do wish we had had more time to explore a larger town outside Bucharest. What we did see of Brasov was pretty neat.
We saw the beautiful Jewish temple there.
As well as the Black Church.
The square was large and lively. It would have been fun to wander around.
We made it back to Bucharest around 10pm, slightly tired from our adventure, but so glad we went!
Good to Know
- You will need to pay extra to take photos in Peles Castle.
- Our tour guide was awesome and did a great job keeping us in the loop of expected arrival times, sharing his thoughts and experiences living in Romania and giving us details and history of the sights we saw that day. He was funny and made our long day aboard the bus more fun.
- Romania has built some nice rest stops along the way to accommodate the tourist traffic. We were able to easily get snacks, even gluten free ones, along the way.
- There is skiing in Romania! Who knew? There are several ski resorts near Peles Castle, which our guide said can cause serious traffic in the wintertime. Keep in mind if you book during the winter months!