I made it back to Germany! I actually got back Sunday night, and by Monday morning was thrown back into the deep end at work. I finally managed to carve out a couple of hours to dedicate to posting again, and so I wanted to start with the best part of my Romanian two-week holiday, which happened to be the trip home.
We decided that, from now on, we’re going to treat any future visits to Romania as mini road trips. For our first trip back we decided to stop in Transylvania, where there are two castles a mere 50km away from each other. One is Peleş, in Sinaia, and the other is the world famous Bran Castle, also known as Dracula’s Castle.
It was pretty cool to do this castle road trip, as both of these castles were very cool to see, and could not be more different from each other.
Peleş actually consists of two things to see. One is the “mini castle”, i.e. the residence where the royal family actually lived day to day. The other is the main castle, which can only be visited with a tour.
Peleş is quite impressive. A tour of both the ground and first floor takes about an hour and 15 minutes, and if castles are your thing, this is one to put on the list. While it costs extra to be able to take pictures inside the castle you might want to consider it, if you are into opulent rooms decorated in different styles from all over the world.
While Peleş was grand, regal and imperious, Bran was rustic, medieval, and stark. The look is definitely suggestive, with this structure sprouting up out of the rocks on top of a rather steep hill.
The inside is labyrinthine, which conveys the medieval logic of making the castle as defensible from intruders as possible, and even includes an amazingly claustrophobic “secret passage” up to the second floor.
Both of these locations are quite touristy, with your standard souvenir stalls parked outside the entrance to the grounds, and convenient free standing ATM machines for those finding themselves short on lei. However, I didn’t mind that at all, and bought my standard shot glass from each location. Other people collect magnets, key chains or those odd teaspoons from places they visit, but my boyfriend and I have decided that we’re going to go for the souvenir shot glasses instead, because what better place to start up the conversation of our adventures than over drinks?
The fact is, Romania has a lot more to offer than most people know. It has some beautiful natural scenery, caves lakes and mountains, castles and fortified churches, and so much more. Unfortunately, they also have an abysmal organization making no attempts to attract foreign tourism, horrendous infrastructure which includes potholed roads and a sparse train service, and a capital which was made ugly and tense by a Communist regime. Before the dictatorship Bucharest was known as little Paris, and offered plenty in terms of art, culture and night life. After it was destroyed and rebuilt as big blocks of gray cement by Ceauşescu, people who backpack around Eastern Europe stop in Bucharest, take in the tension and drab appearance, and write off the country altogether. Since we’re going to have to go to Romania every couple of years anyway, we’re going to take the opportunity to see as much as it has to offer every time we drive through it.