Thursday, November 12, 2015

Romania Part I: Dracula

As I've stated before, Halloween is one of my favorite holidays. And what better way to spend Halloween weekend in Europe than driving around Romania touring all of the Dracula sights?? You may or may not know that Bram Stoker, author of Dracula, got his inspiration from a real life person: Vlad Tepes, also known as Vlad III, Prince of Wallachia, and later Vlad the Impaler. Dracul was a name Vlad's father took on after being invested in the Order of the Dragon in 1431. It translates to "the dragon" or "the devil."

I didn't know too much about him besides he impaled a lot of people and lived in Transylvania, but my friend Tom (who planned the trip) had read a few biographies and was quite the expert. We saw Dracula Untold together last year and even then he could tell me which parts were based on historical facts (his wife threw herself off the cliffs from their fortress in the mountains when she was incorrectly informed that he had died in battle and in his teens he was held hostage by the Turks). While the movie was never going to win any oscars, it was entertaining and also has Luke Evans and Dominic Cooper in it (both Brits that I love!) 

Way better looking than Vlad, though maybe I just hold a soft spot for him from the Hobbit movies.... Anyways, like I said before - Tom planned out our trip and it was great, we hit all of the big Dracula hot spots. We flew into Bucharest Friday morning, rented a car, and drove to the Monastery where Vlad is said to be buried. 

The street is named after the Monastery.
The Monastery is on an island and you have to cross
this very attractive metal bridge to get there. 
Walking up the gravel path.
Inside is beautiful. It's covered in frescos of different
biblical scenes.

Standing next to his "grave" though as Tom pointed out,
his actual bones are probably somewhere totally different.
From there we drove to Bran Castle which is right outside of Brasov. Many people think Bram Stoker based Dracula's castle off of Bran Castle. Apparently Vlad also stayed there at some point? We arrived too late to actually take a tour of the castle, but we did get to walk around it. The castle hosted a big Halloween party the following evening on actual Halloween which I'm sure would have been epic - though maybe not as epic as our Halloween night ended up being (deets in a later post)

We stayed in Brasov that night and the following morning made our way to Sighișoara the town where Vlad was born. The old part of the city was all up on a hill which had spectacular views. You had to park at the bottom and walk up a bunch of stairs (prep work for when we visited his fortress in the mountains and had to walk up 7 times the amount of stairs) to enter that part of the city. The house where Vlad was born is now a restaurant so of course we ate lunch there. Most of the tourists there were Americans and I even overheard one of them saying "Of course it's all of us like-minded people who are going to be visiting Dracula's home town on Halloween!" Right you are random-American-person. 

Definitely not going to miss his birth house with that bright
yellow exterior!
3 Stars! 
Definitely pandering to the tourists. 
The clock/watchtower in the town square.
Standing in front of the Vlad statue.
A mural they had on the wall in the restaurant.
Another very large bust of Vlad they had in the room (or room adjacent)
in which he was born. We had to pay 5 RON each to go inside and they had a man
dressed as Dracula in a coffin pop out to scare you. We were hoping for something
more.... historical, but I guess the tourists like to pay for their Dracula! 

"Dracula's Kiss" cocktail.
From Sighișoara we traveled through the mountains to Peonari Castle, Vlad's mountain fortress. (This is where his wife jumped to he death, and as you can see it is waaaay up there.) We arrived at dusk so waited until Sunday morning to climb the 1480 steps to the top. It had some spectacular views.

After traipsing the 1480 steps back down we headed for our last Dracula site before leaving Romania. Târgoviște is where the royal palace was. Now it's just ruins but still pretty cool. Vlad had a large tower built that you could walk to the top of and get some pretty good views. The tower has been kept up well over the years unlike the rest of the palace. We literally just did a fly by, drove there, walked around for 30 minutes, and then headed to the airport, so we didn't get to explore too much, but it was a good place to end our Halloween Dracula weekend! 

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