• Spike

Romania

I was lucky to explore Romania with two of my best friends, Alex and Robyn who were great company for such a country.

I image that most tourists visit Romania to see Transylvania which is a large region of the country, not a separate country as is often thought.

Transylvania is of course nothing like the gloomy, stormy and creepy setting seen in horror movies. Instead it's a beautiful and colourful area surrounded by the impressive Carpathian mountains.

I can't say I encountered any vampires, but it was like steeping back in time. There 's very little sign of modernisation, and there were even horse and carts transporting hay barrels.

What to see

Bucharest

The capital of Romania, and a world away from Transylvania. I have never seen traffic like it in a European country. There's very little infrastructure in place to support the heavy amount of traffic, meaning there are cars parked all over the place and the roads are heavily congested. In terms of sights in Bucharest, there is an old town which isn't a true old town. It's been built in more recent times to compete with the traditional ones found in many other European cities. It's probably the nicest area of Bucharest to explore, which plenty of shops, restaurants and bars. You'd never know it's more of a "new town".

I think Bucharest has a long way still to come to compete with more popular tourist destinations, but the churches of the city are the buildings that truly stand out here.


One thing that surprised me was the nightlife. I enjoy good nightlife in a city, mainly so I can get talking to locals in a relaxed and fun setting. However the nightlife in Bucharest was on another level, and too much for me. It was like being on a party island such as Magaluf. All the bars had music booming out, too loud to talk. They were overflowing onto the streets. Trying to find a bar with a seat where I could chill for a bit and meet some locals seemed like an impossible feat. Maybe it was a special holiday and that's why it was so busy, maybe it's not always like this. But after a few beers I gave up and headed back to my hotel.

Over all I wasn't all that impressed by Bucharest, but I think it is a city that's gradually changing and offering more to see and do. Bran Castle

If you're visiting Romania and in particular Transylvania, then this is the attraction you'll most likely visit above all overs. Bran Castle is known as Dracula's castle. Whilst Dracula is a fictional character, he was based on Vlad the Impaler, a past ruler famed for a taste for blood and impaling his victims. Vlad never lived at this castle, although he was a prisoner there at one time. The reason this is known as Dracula's castle is simply due to Bram Stoker, the author of "Dracula", using it as the inspiration for the castle in his novel. It's an impressive building to walk around, but doesn't feel particularly creepy as you might expect.


The furnishing inside the castle are not historic, and are simply there to give the castle a little more to see inside. Outside the castle you'll find several markets selling souvenirs, mainly tacky vampire and Dracula souvenirs, such as T-shirts, mugs and magnets. I did however manage to pick up a nice replica map of Transylvania, which was a little more stylish than the other items for sale.

Peleș Castle

If you take on a guided tour, it's likely you'll visit here along with Bran Castle. And this castle is without a doubt much more elegant and beautiful in comparison. Although it's often referred to as a castle, it's actually a palace. Not only is the exterior beautiful, but the rooms inside are astounding to match. Just a heads up, you will have to pay extra if you want to take photos inside. But I think it's worth paying for.

The palace belongs to the Romanian Royal Family, although they are technically defunct. They abdicated when communist rule took over the country in 1947. It's their wish that the palace remains a museum.

It's suggested not to wander too far from the palace, as tourists regularly get lost here. If you walk down the hill you'll eventually reach a Ski Resort. And the guided tours won't wait for you if you don't make it back on time, as they have a schedule to keep to.






Brașov

Due to this being our last stop and crazy traffic when we were exploring Transylvania on a guided tour, we had very little time here.

From what we did see, it was a beautiful little town. And like the rest of Transylvania, it felt like we'd taken a trip back in time. There were several colourful buildings, small shops, pubs and cafes in the town. There was also a giant "Brasov" sign on a hill in the style of Hollywood, and the Black Church of Brasov. But for me I thought the Town Square with the town hall in the centre to be the most impressive part.


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