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Brasov and Bran

I woke up early in order to make sure to catch the 8am bus to Bran. This bus leaves from a bus station further from old town, so first, I had to take a city bus to get there. Good thing I had a ticket left over from last night! I don't think the ticket office was open and that could have put the kibosh on my plans. I made it to the station with plenty of time to spare. It was pretty cold, but I left my sweatshirt at the hostel in anticipation of it warming up a bit. I went to go sit in the indoor sitting area, but it was so disgustingly smoky (despite nobody actively smoking in there) that I decided that it was a better idea to sit in the cold. It was also somewhat chilly on the bus. I don't think they used heat. I managed though. Otherwise, the bus was comfy, if somewhat old and worn. It stopped at all sorts of seemingly random roadside places, both to pick up and drop off people. It didn't seem like there were official stops, both due to the lack of signs/stands, and also because the driver picked up a passenger, started moving, and picked up another about 2 bus lengths further down a country road. The ride had nice scenery- fields in the foreground and mountains in the background. In about 45 minutes, we were in Bran. The castle wasn't open yet, so I checked out the area around it a bit. The souvenir vendors were all setting up their wares-coats, hats, furs, Dracula items- hut no gloves or mittens. I was cold enough that I would have bought gloves, had they been for sale. Instead, I stood in the sun and warmed up sufficiently. When the castle did open, I was the first one up the hill. I had Bran Castle to myself for a few brief moments, and then everybody else started trickling in. The audio guide explained what was in each room, as well as some of the history of the castle. Most of the rooms had been decorated in the 1800s or even early 1900s, so it wasn't the typical medieval castle look. They did have some old armor, but they also had an old-fashioned elevator. The focus was on the later queens who spent time here, but there were 2 rooms about Vlad Tepes (Dracula/the Impaler). Those rooms pretty much echoed what I'd heard in Bucharest- he was seen as a cruel guy in his age, but really only got famous when Bram Stoker got creative. The museum added another dimension- locals saw him as a type of Robin Hood, since he was so cruel to the big bad guys and took out nobles who weren't so great to the peasants. Next to the castle, I noticed a haunted house. It was cheap enough, and appropriate for October, so I checked it out. It was fun. There were no tricks that made me wonder how they did that, but there was a lot of rattling and things popping out. It was well-decorated. It was fun. I'm not sure I'd call it scary, but it was worth the inexpensive price. From the castle, I had spied some tents set up in festival formation. When I exited the haunted house, I walked over to check it out. I'm guessing it is some kind of harvest festival. There were meats and cheeses galore! Each of the dozens of stands seemed to have the exact same items- the same sausages, the same braided smoked cheese, the same tree-bark cheese, and the same floppy meat. I got a big ball of polenta stuffed with cheese. It was huge and tasty. I wandered the fair, enjoying the mix of local music and Latino music, and came across the animals. The sheep all huddled together. I didn't think it was that cold, but I could see their breath. Huge sheep dogs hung out by the donkeys. Horses kindly stood calm while people petted them. One of the horses had a hairstyle straight from the 80s: crimped hair off to the side and covering one eye. In all, I think I spent about as much time at the fair as I did at the castle. I wandered back to where the souvenir vendors had set up. It was a significantly busier place than it was in the morning. By now, they had broken out all of the goods, and it seemed that a lot of them were actually made in Romania. Wood products were popular choices, as well as fur hats, painted pottery, and Dracula/Bran items. I ended up buying some stuff. The vendor didn't speak English at all, but his Spanish was good and so we spoke in that. I was kind of done with Bran, so I walked back to where the bus dropped us off, and found an actual stop with a shelter and schedule in the direction I needed. A helpful Romanian women showed me the schedule.on the wall. It said there was a bus at 11:40 and 12:40, but she insisted that the 11:40 one wasn't today. I thanked her and then waited for it. It was a few minutes late, which wasn't surprising given all of the festival traffic it had to deal with, but it came. On the way back, we ran into another big jam for another festival that was happening outside of the city, seemingly in the middle of nowhere. Again, they had set up a huge tent city, but I couldn't see much else from the road. I walked town a bit, and ate a langos. It's like a semi sweet white pizza, sort of. Then, I went to the fountain to meet for the free city tour of Brasov. The tour had fewer stops than expected, but we learned a lot at each. Romania was the crossroads of three big powers- Moldavia (and Moldova) used to be part of Russia, Wallachia (as evidenced by Vlad's story) was paying tribute to the Ottomans, and Transylvania was Hungarian. The Hungarians wanted to fortify the area against the Ottomans, so they brought in Germans. The Germans built the citadel, the towers, a huge Catholic (later Lutheran) church, and the main town. They collected taxes, made laws for merchants, and formed guilds. They were well organized. They were also proud of their town logo- a crown with tree roots coming out of it, representing the power Kronstadt (German for crown city, Brasov's former name) had over all the nearby root villages that fed into it. While many merchants came from Ottoman areas, the Germans needed everybody to know that this was a Catholic town, so they built a church big enough to hold 5000 people, even though the town's population at the time was only 2000. The church is somewhat unique in that it contains the largest collection of Muslim prayer carpets outside of Istanbul. The merchants would bring them in, people would buy them, and then donate them to the Church for special occasions. The German church (aka the Black church from the soot that colored the walls after a huge fire) became Lutheran later when a popular priest converted. He had brought the first German school and kindergarten, bringing in the ability to read and think for one's self. So it made it easier to disseminate German writings and made it easy to convince people who didn't speak Latin that Lutheran was right for them. His statue is still outside the church, and the schools and library that he founded are still named after him. Later on the tour, we visited the first Romanian school, next to a Romanian Orthodox church and learned a bit of the difference. Of course, no tour would be complete without some discussion of Vlad Dracula. I'd previously been exposed to much of the information on the other tours, but one thing I didn't realize was that he didn't make up impalement. When he was being held as tribute insurance against his dad and being educated by the Ottomans, he picked it up. They apparently taught him how to impale. How ironic that he turned that back on them. The other interesting Vlad story I heard was about a fight he had with the German merchants. They had these taxes merchants were supposed to pay, and Vlad didn't want to. He wasn't in charge of Brasov (he's Wallachian and Brasov was under Hungary) and had no authority. That didn't stop him from trying to impale a bunch of them. Their wives captured his mistress and threatened her in return. He gave in. However, the Germans wrote about the incident and his reputation spread. The story grew and grew as rumors are wont to do. He did impale tens of thousands of people, but the rumors were what made the nickname famous outside of Romania. But enough about Vlad Dracula. We hiked to the White tower for a great view of the city at the end of the tour. Tonight, I was determined to eat Romanian food for dinner. I found a place by my hotel called Pilvax that seemed to have a somewhat traditional menu. I got a sparkling drink that tasted like berry. I got homemade pasta with cabbage. It was super simple- oil, thin flat noodles, shredded (possibly slightly pickled) cabbage, and lots of cracked pepper- but it was surprisingly good. I even got the drunken pears with gorgonzola ice cream for dessert. The only thing that put a damper on the meal was that some of the outside smoke kept coming in through the window, even though I sat in the back of the restaurant. After dinner, I headed back to the hostel to plan tomorrow. Apparently not much is open on Mondays in Romania, and Peles castle isn't open Mondays or Tuesdays. I chatted with the other hostel guests, came up with some semblance of a plan, and fell asleep.

Goats on a farm

Goats on a farm


Empty tourist shops

Empty tourist shops


Inside Bran castle

Inside Bran castle


Bran Castle courtyard

Bran Castle courtyard


Haunted house

Haunted house


Food festival

Food festival


Black Church

Black Church


View of Brasov

View of Brasov

Posted by spsadventures 16:00 Archived in Romania

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