Mention the region Transylvania set in central Romania and most people will have images of dark brooding skies, ghostly castles clinging to the top of a ragged mountain side and the macabre image of Dracula coming to mind and although it is possible that you will find all these in Transylvania, you will also discover a charming, beautiful region that seems lost in time. Lush flower meadows and stunning mountains lying alongside villages from a different age, nestling down amongst rolling hills and rugged mountain ranges, creating a pastoral picture that can only be described as breath-taking.
Transylvania translates as ” Land beyond the Forest” and that is what it seems like. The rich forests and mountainous borders give way to medieval towns and Gothic Fortresses and Castles a-plenty that tower up into the Romanian sky and conjure up no end of tales in its visitors minds, this is truly a place to let your imagination run free.
Transylvania makes a fabulous holiday destination, rich in history and culture with picture postcard villages with narrow cobbled streets that look as if they have come straight from a children’s story book and fairy tale castles and if it’s Dracula that you are looking for then this is the right place to go to explore his legends and history. So be prepared to head off to somewhere completely different and to spend some time exploring this beautiful region.
Let’s start with Bran Castle as this is the place that is associated with Dracula and his story. Although Dracula is a work of fiction from the mind of Bram Stoker, the character he is most famous for, is based on a real life person, Vlad III Prince of Wallachia aka Vlad the Impaler. The historical person and fictional character have little in common and the links to Bran Castle are tenuous at best but don’t let that put you off visiting this amazing place.
The castle certainly looks the part in relation to its associations with one of the most famous gothic villans ever to have appeared in fiction. Perched high on a hill-top near Brasov in central Romania, this imposing structure which is 60 meters tall has been here since 1382. It was built by the Saxons of Brasov to defend themselves against the Turks. Although Bram Stoker never visited the castle the image that he created in his most famous work greatly resembles the look and feel of Bran Castle. There are various accounts as to whether Vlad ever spent time in the castle, some say he did other’s deny him ever having visited the place, whatever the truth the Castle really is a sight to behold and well worth a trip to explore it.
From 1920 the Castle had a much more sedate existence and was the home of Queen Marie and was their summer residence right up until 1947 when King Michael was forced to resign. Ever since 1957 it has been a museum with much of the original interiors still remaining.
When visiting the Castle there is also a selection of traditional buildings which are located at the foot of the castle as well as an open air museum. The Castle does draw on its association with the Dracula legend to bring in the visitors and it is one of Romania’s top tourist attractions because of this. Whether the legend is or isn’t true will not effect your visit to this stunning Castle as in its own right it is an amazing tourist attraction the legend just gives an added excitement when visiting.
Brasov is a stunning city to stay in when in Transylvania for its location to some amazing scenery and also because of the city itself. Ringed by the Carpathina Mountains this medieval city is enchanting and bohemian. Brasov is all fairy tale turrets and cobbled streets that send you off in different directions. A great place to walk around and with lots of lively cafe’s to sit and rest while you decide your next move.
There are plenty of interesting things to see and do in Brasov, with the Black Church and St Nicholas’s Cathedral to go and take a look at as well as sitting down in Piata Sfahuli in the cobbled old town and being surrounded by the amazing and colourful baroque style buildings whilst you idle away some time watching the world go by.
Apart from enjoying Brasov itself, it is also the ideal location to go and visit Bran Castle and in the winter months it is the ideal base for skiing in Poiena Brasov. For anyone who likes the great outdoors then it is also ideally situated for trekking in the Piatra Craiului National Park.
Brasov has plenty to offer its visitors and is one of the best placers to stay in Transylvania, the scenery that surrounds the city is stunning and it is dramatically over looked by Mount Tampa and even has a nod to Hollywood with giant white letters spelling out Brasov perched high up in the mountain ranges, reminiscent of the sign in the Hollywood hills.
For anyone wanting to continue the tour of Dracula then an essential place to stop at is Sighisorara. This Saxon fortress town is another place that has developed links to the Dracula legend over the years and has brooding castles, Dracula cafe’s and plenty of tourist shops selling anything related to the caped villain. As well as that, there is also the connection to Vlad the Impaler and a plaque can be seen on the citadel walls with the reference to “Vlad Dracul” as this is the birthplace Vlad Tepes .
It’s not all Dracula and vampires in this arrestingly pretty town though. This is another fairy tale like place with ginger bread roof tops and narrow cobbled streets and colourful houses, a place that seems set way back in time. There are cafe’s galore and so many beautiful buildings to feast your eyes on. If you are planning on going through the Summer months then July is a good time to go as you will be in time for the Medieval Festival of the Arts which is a week-long celebration with much fun, alcohol and entertainment.
There are plenty of things to do here, Casa Dracula, the place where Vlad was born in 1431 is worth a visit as well as the Citadel, the famous clock tower is a must do trip and the Church on the Hill is well worth the climb up to see.
Transylvania – Final Words
Although not the most automatic holiday destination for a lot of people, Transylvania is a place that will stay in your mind for a long time. This is a place for people who are looking for something away from the norm, for anybody who wants to while away some of their time in breathtakingly beautiful medieval towns this is the place for you.
A holiday to this wonderful destination will offer you far more than you could ever have imagined. The picture perfect towns nestled amongst the most stunning natural scenery are just some of the highlights in this enchanting part of the world. For people who like their holidays to be action packed then this place is also for you with walks and climbing in some of the most dramatic landscapes that you could possibly imagine.
The images and notions of Transylvania that you will no doubt of had before you arrive of dark brooding castles and vampires and legends will be replaced almost immediately with bohemian, relaxed towns and lush open countryside and dramatic landscapes. The Transylvania of reality couldn’t be further than the Transylvania of gothic fiction.