Monday 23rd of January 2006
I was up around 8.30am. I had a pretty good nights sleep and most of the people in the room (Americans) were heading off down south to Belgrade. I had a free coffee in the kitchen and enjoyed the nice views they have from there. I checked out and left my bag in the TV room. There are no lockers anyway in this place. No locks, no doors – very few facilities at all.
Time then to make the short journey to the craggily picturesque castle of Bran, reputedly Dracula’s home. Which sounds more like it … until it becomes clear not only that the vampire count never existed, which one probably suspected, but that he wasn’t even based, however remotely, on anyone who did. Sure, he shares his name with a medieval Wallachian warlord called Vlad Dracul (“Vlad the Devil”), but the blood-sucking nobleman of 19th-century Transylvania is a fictional figure, conjured up in 1897 from the imagination of the Irish actor-manager Bram Stoker.
I was a bit sleepy and took the wrong bus from the sqaure to the bus station. When i got off, I was lost, and as all the windows on the buses were iced up, unsure as to what direction to take. I gussed and luckily saw a road sign for “gara”. I took the next bus in that direction and got off. Just a guess really in terms of distance, as the windows were ixed so you could not look out to see if you had the right stop. Anyway I did, but was now heading to 10am.
Its a large but unimpressive station. its dark, ugly and dirty but Brasov station has a Wasteels office (open 08:00 – 18:00, 09:00 – 12:00 Sat, closed Sun), where you can buy tickets for onward travel to Budapest and beyond. The ticket kiosks only sold tickets to Su one hour before departure but i wanted to sort it out. The Wasteels office will sell tickets without commission. The cost was 371,000 (37.10). The train leaves at 23.09 and arrives in Suceava at 7.14am the next day. A duration of 8.05 hours over a distance of 457km.
Once that was sorted, I had the whole day for my destinations. I took the number 23 bus from the train station ( I think the 12 goes there from the hostel square) to Autogara 2. The problem is, its not on the road. I was looking out through ice tyring to figure out if a building looked like a bus station. It should have been quite busy. I just stayed on until I found something that looked like a bus station. I found a ticket counter (empty) that said “Moiecu Bran” but it was closed. I sippose it runs dedicated tours during the high season. I spend 20 minutes asking around and I was fedup. No luck. I walked to the other side of the road, purchased a ticket in order to head back to the train station. and then, there it was (on the left at a roundabout). I walked in and there wasa bus just about to leave for rasnov. I paid 25,000 lei I think and off we went.
I expected Cetatea Risnov to be closed. It said so in the guidebook 🙂 but it was open. Once I got off the bus, there was a road sign for the castle. I should have gone into town wheres steps from the town centre to the castle. Still, the place was frozen with snow and ice and walking up steps (what steps) may not have been such a good idea.The only thing I was worried about was there were no footsteps on the snow. Either the snow fell last night or I was the only person to visit this castle in a few days.
It was a lonely 3/4 km on a large road with forest on either side. I spotted a roaming dog, which always makes me swat. About 3km in, there is a path (unseen because of the snow) that leads you by foot through the forest to the castle. It was cold and desolate but after a while I could see the castle through the trees.
I walked in and around and a lady popped out of nowhere with a ticket book. It was a steep 90,000 lei in. It said on the back “Discover the greatest of all rural fortresses from the south and south eastern Transilvania, which served for the defending of the inhabitants from Tara Barsei several centuries.”
Anyway after about an hour there I decided to take the shortcut back from the hill to te town. It was covered with snow and tere were only railways on about 50% of the path and steps that were buried under snow. I was a bit nervous going back down the steep hill guessing where the path was. A few skips and slides and I was happy to get back down. I went back to where I got off the bus hoping to get a bus to Bran to see Castle Bran. I was there 20 minutes and I wondered whether I was doing the right thing. There wasnt even a bus stop so I had no idea if the bus would pass here. i asked a few people and after some misunderstanding, a nice lady brought me back out to the main road bypassing te towna nd told me to wait at a certain stop. After a while more people appeared. I was waiting for around 20 minutes in the freezing cold until a packed bus arrived. I think I paid about 20,000 Lei. The problem was, Bran was just a stop on the way and the windows were all iced up. I thought maybe a 20 minutes journey bus it was a btlonger. I felt sure I would miss it, as Bran is supposed to be just a few shops and not a town of any substance. Anyway, I saw a Bran Carpark sign and jumped off. From reading about Bran Castle and talking to other backpackers, the interior of the Casle is meant to be quite bland and not worth the price of admission. Anyway, the place was closed to day so i just took a few exterior shots. Check
the museum official website www.brancastlemuseum.ro
This fortified medieval castle, often referred as Dracula’s Castle (just a legend !) was built in 1377 to protect nearby Brasov from invaders; it also served as a customs house. The castle’s rooms and towers surround an inner courtyard. Some rooms are connected through underground passages to the inner court. In 1920, the people of Brasov who owned the castle offered it as a gift to Queen Maria of Romania. Nowadays, the Bran Castle is a museum of history and feudal art, opened Tue-Sun from 9:00 AM to 4:00 PM. The Bran Castle houses a rich collection of Romanian and foreign furniture and art items from the 14th-19th centuries. The castle sits high atop a 60 m. tall rock overlooking the picturesque village of Bran. On the grounds below there is an open-air ethnographic museum of old village buildings with exhibits of furniture, household objects and costumes.
Directions: Village of Bran, 25 km. southwest of Brasov.
May 2006 As a postscript Romania has given back Dracula’s castle to owners. More than 60 years after it was seized by communists, the Romanian government plans to hand back one of the country’s most popular tourist sites, the fabled Dracula Castle, to its former owner, the culture minister said Tuesday. Bran Castle, better known as the fabled Dracula Castle, will be handed back to its former owner. Bran Castle, better known as the fabled Dracula Castle, will be handed back to its former owner.
The castle, worth an estimated $25 million, was owned by the late Queen Marie and bequeathed to her daughter Princess Ileana in 1938. It was confiscated by communists in 1948 and fell into disrepair. It will be transferred on Friday to Dominic van Hapsburg, a New York architect who inherited the castle from Princess Ileana decades after the communists seized it, minister Adrian Iorgulescu told a news conference.
Van Hapsburg is a descendant of the Hapsburg dynasty which ruled Romania for a period starting in the late 17th century.
I was only there 20 minutes and then started waiting for a bus abck to Brasov which was another 20 minutes. Once I got back to central Brasov, I had to take one bus to the town centre and another back to the hostel.
A few things about Brasov:
– You can get a hot coffee at the majority of kiosks from between 8,000-12,000 lei. I am not a big chocolate fan, but warm chocolate in this weather was great.
– The amount of stray dogs. Everyone seems to keep large guard dogs here. Every house you pass, a great big vicious bastard of a dog jumps out. Do they thing all their neighbours/countrymen are thieves or are they all dog lovers.
– The international clientele here. Lots of winter sports participants from around the world from the States, to germans, austrians etc. its cheaper here.
I left the hostel around 10.00am. The only staff member there was a beared young Romanian guy who spole just American slang. He also worked in the excnge office at the train station. He was a big “lost” fan whose episode 1, second season had just started on TV. He went to great lengths to tell me the great dangers of Roma and theives on the train and to make sure I didnt fall asleep. Fucker!
Anyway, I took a dark, cold bus to the station (15 minutes). It was bitter cold and the train arrived around 10.45pm. A second class train, no sleeping carriages. It smelt of piss. My assigned carriage had no heating. Beside me, were about 8 drunk guys who were roaring and screaming for no apparent reason, only to out do each other in noise. Only one comparnet in each carriage had heat, so everyone crowded into them. i didnt feel sociable on a night time train journey, i had to stay awake on so I stayed in my cold comparment. Every few minutes, I used to get visited by a passenger (i was getting paranoid) but once they realeasised there was no heat, they left.
I had a uncomforatable cold and sleep free night.