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krisek Brasov - A travel report by Krys
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Brasov,  Romania - flag Romania -  Bra¶ov
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krisek's travel reports

In the land of vampires. Seriously!

  17 votes
Page: 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16
There are arguably no other places in the world with so much legend and fantasy than Transylvania. It’s land of great mountain scenery, which would inspire any fairy teller, author of thriller novels, and attract wildlife lovers like Brigitte Bardot.

Bran 'Dracula' Castle
Bran 'Dracula' Castle
In the past, Transylvania was an independent principality, but it has been also a part of the Kingdom of Hungary and the Austro-Hungarian Empire. Throughout the years, it acquired many names: Erdély in Hungarian, Erdel in Turkish, Siebenbuergen in German or Siedmiogród in Polish. Only in English, Romanian (although they also use the word Ardeal), Serbian and Slovak the word Transylvania appears.

Vampires! The only reason I ever heard of Transylvania was the vampires. And wolves! Although the existence of vampires has been firmly questioned, the wolves are a fact of Transylvania and they are in large numbers. And so are bears. Unfortunately, illegal hunting and pouching are a problem, I hear. I would like to believe that the Romanian government makes effort to put this to end, otherwise Romania will end like the Western Europe – with no wolves and no bears.

Back to vampires. The English word ‘vampire’ comes from German ‘Vampir’, which in turn came from old Polish ‘vaper’ with the nasal ‘a’. The old Polish word came from the old Slavic words of opiri and netopyr’, which meant ‘bat’. And there you go! One has to be however careful not to mix the factual Vlad III Draculea, ruler of Romania from the XV century and connected with him genuine historical monuments, and the fictitious Count Dracula, vampire monster from Transylvania. The latter has been connected with a few places and objects in Romania, which have absolutely nothing to do with Vlad III, although many would try to convince tourist otherwise. For example, the Bran Castle, built by the Teutonic Knights in the early XIII century and remodelled later by the Hungarian and Saxon kings, is now branded as ‘Dracula’s Castle’, although Vlad III had only tried to sack it once, after having lost his grip on it inherited from his grandfather Mircea the Old. This inaccuracy is easily forgiven because the castle is nice and creepy.

Favourite spots:
Bran 'Dracula' Castle
Bran 'Dracula' Castle
Bran is a sleepy town, whose fame depends on the existence of the aforementioned castle. It is a very nice castle, perched on a hill amongst the Bucegi mountains. It was a royal residence of the Hungarian King Sigismund of Luxemburg. Bran is also home of a small museum, which boasts fine examples of rural housing. It is quite interesting to visit it, however the museum in Bucharest is much larger and better. One thing to avoid is the flea market at the entrance to the castle and the museum, as the merchants excessively focus on Dracula and vampire products.

I almost forgot to say that people of Transylvania still do believe in vampires. If they believed that someone, who died in the past, might be a vampire, and was haunting and terrorising the neighbourhood, they would exhume the body and put a thorn in the heart. It is amazing that the authorities, however reluctantly, do allow for this practice.

What's really great:
Rasnov is another appealing town in the Brasov County, which boasts a citadel erected by the Order of the Teutonic Knights in 1215, then known as Rosenau. It is being wonderfully restored and the quality of the place easily competes with similar places in Switzerland (the fortress is located among mountains), Germany or Austria. It is clean and authentic. It actually looks like it was a proper town rather than a military fortress. Rasnov has been so solid that it was conquered only once – in 1608 by Gabor Bathory, the Prince of Transylvania, related to the great Polish king Stefan I Batory (Istvan Bathory). There is a terrace right in the middle of the Rosnov within the citadel’s walls, serving wonderfully refreshing beer. There is not much to do in Rosnov otherwise. It is a great place to visit and to drop in for a picnic. The town of Rosnov, at the foot of the citadel’s hill, is a rather quiet place, too.

I liked Brasov very much! The historic centre is small, but neat and pretty. Brasov’s main square (Piata Statului) is very photogenic, and I would’ve taken many more pictures there, had an ugly temporary festival hall hadn’t obscured half of the town! I only managed to see a small part of the town – one pedestrians-only street, the main square and the Black Church with remarkably contrasting white interior. I was speculating to have lunch there. I looked for a restaurant serving Romanian food around the main square. Had I quickly found it I would have soaked the atmosphere of the town a little longer. However, I could not find any good traditional restaurants in the area, and therefore decided I was rather in a hurry to see the Peles Castle in Sinaia. If I showed pictures I took in Brasov to my friends in England, France or Poland, they wouldn’t believe me that I actually took them in Transylvania. This is how little they know about the state.

Peles Castle
Peles Castle
I stayed in Bucharest in the Hilton (free voucher!), but I heard that there were many budget hotels around Transylvania. I cannot comment on any specific accommodation options, but since there are some great mountains with reasonable tourism infrastructure and the area attracts ever more tourism particularly in the winter (it did in the communistic past as well), there is an increasing supply of places to stay. However, there is a large number of private rooms that people let to travellers, some of which are said to be good value and decent.

While Romania is on the rise and perhaps gets commercialised and aligned to the EU rules and regulations, Transylvania appears to stick to its traditions. The fact that the Transylvanians continue to believe in vampires has more to do with romanticism than macabre. And yes, many of the younger generations seem more skeptical about vampires' actual existence and prefer to profit on the convenience of their birth's location, but this is what European great legacy and history is about, is it not? And I loved it. I even bought a large medieval cup, with a recipe of bloody Transylvanian cocktail and a disclaimer that the cup should only be used for blood.

Rosnov village
Rosnov village
Transylvania truly surprised me in the positive sense and met my expectations in equal measures. The little villages where horses, or better bulls, pulled carts, fitted exactly in what I imagined what rural life in Romania might be - hard and simple. The palaces, castles, citadels and the lovely old town of Brasov took me by surprise. Preconceptions, which settled deeply in my mind, did not allow my imagination to go far enough to figure out that there must be grand historical places in Transylvania and Romania. For the country was in Europe, and was an actual part or under strong influence of ancient Greek and Roman empires. Before communism appear to have destroyed the artistic freedom to be expressed in flamboyant architecture, Romania was a great place, a developed country. It was foolish of me to believe that there would be no trace of that today. And I was very happy to eventually have seen them and kill my silly preconceptions.

Rosnov castle
Rosnov castle
A few dietary items in Transylvania were based on cabbage. I tried minced meat rolled in sauerkraut, called sarmalute - a very traditional dish, and I am somehow lacking words to describe how it tasted. ‘Interesting’ would probably be just appropriate, and I’m not going to say anything more than it would taste so much better with fresh cabbage and tomato sauce. I also tried polenta, which was hardly edible. It was a corn-based pulp. It often came automatically with everything else on the menu. I also tried something completely new. It was calf's brain. It sounds terrifying, I know, but was served breaded and deep fried, so it wasn’t that obvious that ate a wrinkly organ. It was very popular, and an entire family sitting at the next table, ordered ten of those. When it arrived, it didn’t look very conspicuous but when it was melting nicely on my tongue, I knew that I was trying something completely new! It wasn’t too bad in fact. It tasted similar to pig’s liver or duck's heart.

Other recommendations:
Rosnov castle
Rosnov castle
It is difficult to say anything specific about the people, because I did not have much chance to meet many of them. I shook hands with some, and they were good, genuine handshakes.

Funny thing: when my Romanian colleague asked me what I thought about Romanian girls and I replied that they were average (based on what I saw in small towns and villages), he was not satisfied with my answer. He insisted we went back to Bucharest and, as a matter of priority, visited a large shopping mall, where I could have a proper look. It was a good idea, because we sat down, got beer and started the process of judgement. I chose the spot, so I could clearly see what I was dealing with. Well, the girls were not too bad at all. With every second sip, I was increasing the grade, but I do not think it was related. In fact, many were pretty and had great taste evident in clothing. Overall, I found the Romanians friendly, welcoming and open-minded.

Published on Tuesday March 4th, 2008

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Wed, Mar 19 2008 - 04:03 PM rating by jorgesanchez

Erudit report written with authority

Fri, Mar 14 2008 - 01:51 PM rating by alfonsovasco

you are numero uno writing good reports, first class

Mon, Mar 10 2008 - 02:51 PM rating by louis

Nice report, I was there last year and your report bring me back a lot of memories. Good info provided about vampires. In Transylvania I liked the most small Saxon villages, they were really charming.

Sat, Mar 08 2008 - 03:39 AM rating by szidonia

Krys, I know Brasov very well, it is just 100 kms away from my hometown. Thank you for writing about it, there are wonderful places around and is good to see, that you kinda dissolved the myths about vampires. As a matter of fact you missed the most important, next time pay more attention in meeting people in Transylvania, they are one of a kind :) Do come again...

Thu, Mar 06 2008 - 04:28 AM rating by skula

Very well done, Krysztof, you really dig down to the roots to interpret your experiences.
One bit I don't like so much is the nightlife section, you don't seem to meet the point there. So where can travellers go out after a hard tourist's day??

Thu, Mar 06 2008 - 12:30 AM rating by rangutan

Not the most exiting place but still a very good report.

Wed, Mar 05 2008 - 05:07 PM rating by rmoss

Intriguing stuff. When did you visit?
Is it true that the Saxons all left Romania in the 1990's? I read that most swarmed back to Germany after hundreds and hundreds of years of life in Romania. It struck me as one of the more strange exodus of history. Why, and what happened to their houses, and way of life?

Wed, Mar 05 2008 - 05:44 AM rating by ravinderkumarsi

Hi Kris,excellent series of report from you ,Transylvania report is another one in that series ,keep it up

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