Dracula’s Castle?

One of the absolute highlights of our extended weekend trip to Bucharest was our day trip to Dracula’s Castle. It turned out that ‘day trip’ came close to the truth, as we left at 8am in the morning and came back the following day at 1:30am due to a number of traffic jams, but it was worth it.

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The route our small 25-seater bus took had its first stop at Peleș Castle, completed in 1883 for King Carol I. as his summer residence away from busy Bucharest. It was among the most modern castles of its time, and presumably is to this day (considering that people don’t tend to run around and build castles so much anymore these days), with central heating, electricity in all rooms, insulated walls, and professional venting.

dracula-vlad-the-impaler-i   TITLE: DRACULA (1958) ¥ PERS: LEE, CHRISTOPHER ¥ YEAR: 1958 ¥ DIR: FISHER, TERENCE ¥ REF: DRA015CJ ¥ CREDIT: [ THE KOBAL COLLECTION / HAMMER ]

It was interesting walking through the many grandiose rooms and checking out how kings used to live 130 years ago, but it can never beat the experience of exploring a medieval castle, so we were ready to leave after the tour had finished an hour after arrival.

We stopped for lunch at the lovely village of Brasov, another hour’s drive away. The whole city doesn’t have a single modern building and is nearly exclusively made up of medieval houses, churches, and residences of merchants and noblemen. It is beautifully located in a valley surrounded by steep hills. We were also lucky to arrive there just when the Brasov Marathon was in full swing, and we cheered the runners that hadn’t let the 37 degree sunny weather put them off their 42km pursuit of pain. Well done! (We were struggling to walk from the bus to the restaurant of our choice, that’s how incredibly hot it was, and not a cloud in the sky.)

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La Ceaun served very cheap chirpy and cheerful portions of basic local food, nothing too special, but very pleasant. Service staff immediately made us feel welcome and were very helpful answering our questions. It was also an added benefit to be sitting on the terrace out on the street under huge parasols, being able to watch passers-by.

After lunch we spent some time walking about town through the many crooked, bendy, medieval alleyways, before the bus picked us up again. The marathon had more or less finished by then, and it was only little kids who were kidding around at the finish line, pretending to just finish the last few metres of their marathon to the applause of locals.

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The trip from Brasov to Dracula’s castle, or more precisely: Bran Castle, only takes another 30 minutes or so. To be frank, it looks less impressive than most famous castles we’ve been to, relatively small, and the hill it is built on is tiny too, but our tour guide made it worth our while.

It gives you shudders and makes your blood freeze to hear about the cruelties committed by Wallachian ruler Vlad Țepeș, or ‘Vlad the Impaler’, the actual historical person, Count Dracula is based on.

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The castle got its nickname Dracula’s Castle only because Bram Stoker’s novel placed him here, not because Vlad was closely associated with it. Some historians say that Dracula’s never been at Bran, the majority concede that he’s probably stayed here for a few nights on one single occasion.

We’d recommend this day trip to everyone who is staying in Bucharest for three or more full days.

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