We made it home from our trip Back to The Balkans this past Sunday evening.
It took us quite a bit of time to reach our first destination in Romania. We had a long layover of 20 Hours in Berlin before flying to Bucharest. From Bucharest we had to take a 40 minute bus ride to the train station to catch our train (about 3 hours) to Brasov, a town which would be our base for exploring Transylvania.
We had originally planned to take trains around the area to visit various towns & castles in the area. However, a couple of things made us change our decision and just go along with a (unguided) tour from our hostel.
- The trains, while not pricey are also not so cheap. Getting around by train would be just a little bit cheaper than paying to be driven around plus a whole lot less convenient.
- Time- it would’ve taken us way too much time taking the trains due to the schedule plus still getting into the towns to see the actual sites.
During our first full day we visited three interesting sites:
- Peles Castle
- Bran Castle
- Rasnov Fortress
It took around an hour to drive from Brasov to Sinaia, the area where Peles Castle is located. We had a painful walk up a hill over loose rocks and stones to reach the castle itself. During the walk there were amazing views (like the photo above) of the castle which made the time move a bit quicker.
Once we arrived, the line to buy tickets was a bit long but worse than that was the line to then get into the castle. (Visits are only allowed by tour.) Peles Castle seemed to me like one of the worst organized sites I’ve ever visited.
There were three lines to wait on for tours in Romanian, English and French. With long lines for Romanian and English tours I came up with the bright idea for Kim, Lucas, myself and the other two couples (German & Swiss) from our van to try going to the French line where nobody was waiting.
At first it seemed like we would get in quickly but we were then stopped in our tracks when we were told the wait would be at least 20 minutes.
When we finally got inside the wait was well worth it.
The castle is amazingly decorated in carved wood which was very interesting to see. To take photos inside you need to pay a tax which I did not do. I was able to take a bunch of photos regardless but they aren’t the best.
Some other interesting things about the castle- It is the first European castle with central heating, electricity and vacuuming! From the views of the outside to the incredible details inside, Peles was my favorite castle that we visited in Transylvania.
Next up was close to another hour to reach what should’ve been the main attraction, the famous Bran Castle.
Once we arrived we came across another very long line but it moved relatively fast. While waiting I enjoyed looking at the shops selling tacky (mostly) vampire related souvenirs. After another walk up a hill we reached the castle and went inside for a self-guided visit.
Bran Castle is famous for being associated with Dracula although it doesn’t have much to do with him. Vlad Tepes whom Dracula is supposedly based on may have spent some time at the castle.
With Bran Castle being so famous I expected it to be the highlight of our visit.
The castle was interesting to see in person but was most impressive from far away. Inside the castle was decorated and set up like it would’ve been when lived in centuries past. It was fun wandering around the building and some tight spaces (see above) and learning all about Dracula and other things related to Bran.
Bran Castle is one of the main sites to visit in Romania but I wish it had more of a darker, Dracula feel to it. Overall I found it to be a bit too crowded which made reading the info difficult.
The ruins of Rasnov Fortress was an impressive and fun, quick visit. Unlike Peles and Bran, there is a tractor- train ride up the steep hill (for around $1 per person) to the edge of the fortress which Lucas loved.
There is a small admission fee to enter the fortress which upon entry seems a bit like a rundown souvenir mall. (OK, maybe it wasn’t that bad.)
Vendors all around sell all different (mostly junky) souvenirs and there was one area where you could pay to throw axes. I didn’t try the axe throw but we enjoyed watching others try out this old sport.
We left Lucas’ stroller in the van which was a good move since there is lots of steps and uneven terrain to walk and climb around.
The main highlights of Rasnov are the awesome views which are found from all around the top of the fortress.
This wraps up our first full day checking out some of the sites around Transylvania. While none of them totally blew us away, we still had a really fun, busy and enjoyable day seeing some of what Romania has to offer!