Visiting Transylvania is one of the trips I would like to make. I imagine it to be a fascinating place, even if it is a bit gloomy and full of legends, so in the last few days, when I was shut up at home, I started looking for ideas for my next trip and among the various articles I came across Fabio La Rosa’s and his Facebook page “La rosa dei Viaggi” and I decided to write the first guest post for our blog, expanding it with information from Dovevado.net.
Transylvania when to go
If you want to accentuate the gloomy and mysterious aspect and enjoy the many colours of nature, the best time to do so is in autumn, when the snow has not yet arrived and the weather is not yet too inclement.
Transylvania is a region located in the central part of Romania north of the capital Bucharest. Transylvania is a Latin expression meaning ‘beyond the forest’ (trans ‘beyond’, silva ‘forest’); the Apuseni Mountains are heavily forested.
It is a region at the foot of the Carpathian Mountains of rare beauty with an incredible landscape and some of the best preserved medieval towns in Europe, such as Brasov.
Among the many medieval castles hidden in the mountains and forests of Transylvania, the most famous is certainly Dracula’s Castle, mysterious and impressive thanks to its Gothic architecture, high towers and white walls, built in the 15th century in a dominant position over the village of Bran.
Visit Transylvania in 3 days
How to spend a splendid three-day weekend in the dark and fascinating Transylvania, a very pleasant region to visit, especially in autumn when the soft colours make a visit to this part of Romania more spectacular and evocative, famous of course for the mysteries linked to the figure of Vladimir the Impaler, better known as Count Dracula.
Romania is, fortunately, still very cheap, which also makes the trip very easy to organise. Imagine that the standard cost per person is 10€ for eating as well as sleeping, i.e. the three of us always spent around 30€ per night in good flats, and even less than that in restaurants.
Throughout its history, Transylvania has also been inhabited by Magyars, Germans and Jews, who have left a strong architectural, cultural and gastronomic legacy.
Among other things, Romanian cuisine is very good, in terms of quality, variety and quantity. Remember that there is zero tolerance for alcohol, so if you drive during the day, don’t drink at lunchtime.
Trip to Transylvania – Day One
We arrived at Bucharest-Otopeni airport with a Ryanair flight in about two hours from Italy, after having rented our car (SEE HOW TO DO IT) we left at the time of our Tour in Transylvania.
The roads are in very good condition. Pick up the car and a little cash (only for some purchases at the markets or for the entrance to the various attractions, the rest you can pay with card. The exchange rate is about 10 lei = a little more than 2 €),
Sinaia and Peles Castle
We immediately headed for Sinaia, where we had lunch in the centre and then went to visit Peles Castle (you can reach it on foot or you can leave your car, for a small fee, at a car park closer to the Palace).
Here you can visit the outside gardens as well as the inside: there is a guided tour in English (we did the one in Romanian for speed) every few minutes. You can choose to visit only the lower part of the palace (as we did) or also the upper floors, at a higher price.
The interior is wonderful, dominated by the Art Nouveau style. Linger over the details of the inlaid woodwork, especially the spiral staircase you will see in one corner of the main hall. Remember that photographs cannot be taken inside. Also take a look from outside at the nearby Palazzo Pelisor.
Brasov and the Black Church
our next stop was Brasov, where you can visit the famous Black Church, so called because its outer walls were blackened by a fire that devastated it, and the main square with the town hall in the middle. Also take a stroll down the pedestrianised boulevard and stop for dinner in one of the many restaurants on the boulevard.
In this area, you could also consider hiking with professional guides to look for wild animals including bears and wolves. You could also get a small wooden shelter and wait for the arrival of bears that eat what is left by the guides.
Transylvania Tour – Day Two
One of the highlights of our trip to Transylvania was a visit to Bran Castle.
The castle of Dracula
In 1897 Bram Stoker chose Transylvania as the birthplace of his famous character, Count Dracula. The extraordinary success of the novel and its numerous derivative works made the region internationally known, but also crystallised it in Stoker’s depiction.
It is often portrayed as a backwater, dotted with small medieval villages terrorized by vampires living in Gothic castles.
Visit to Bran Castle
Dracula’s Castle is located in the village of Bran, in the Transylvanian region, perched on a rock face amidst dense forest. Full of charm and secrets, it was made memorable by the English writer Bram Stoker, who, although he had never seen it, reported it in his famous novel. Over the years it has become so famous that it has become one of the most popular destinations in Romania.
We got up early in the morning to visit Bran Castle before it is stormed by tourists. The castle is half an hour away from Brasov.
After dribbling through the crowds and the stalls selling Dracula-themed knick-knacks, we walked up the steep little street to the castle entrance. A drizzle falling from a gloomy sky helped to create a certain pathos and a guaranteed horror atmosphere!
The entire castle is a labyrinth of doors, alleys and narrow passages that make for a very stimulating atmosphere, without becoming kitschy or a tourist trap.
In one of his passages Stoker quotes:
…. it was dark and not a sound could be heard, even the dark shadows under the full moon seemed pregnant with silence and mystery
After completing the tour of Dracula’s castle in about 1 hour, we headed for the nearby Rasnov fortress, located on top of a rock, right next to the Hollywood-style sign of the same name, just like in Brasov.
The Fortress can be reached on foot or by cable car (perhaps only uphill and then downhill on foot). It is very impressive both from the outside, with its “S” shaped path leading to the two drawbridges, and from the inside, mainly because it has only been secured, since it is otherwise made up of both ruins and houses that are still well maintained.
If Dracula’s castle has a vampire atmosphere, the lesser-known Rasnov fortress has a Tolkien setting that makes you feel like you’re in the middle of ‘Lord of the Rings’.
The fortress, or rather the fortified citadel of Rasnov is built on top of a hill and dominates the surrounding plain. An imposing wall, nine watchtowers, two bastions and a drawbridge have made this place virtually impregnable.
The visit is quick and easy, but take a few minutes at the highest point of the summit to enjoy the view and also head to the main square, where you’ll find local crafts and snoozing cats.
Viscri rural village in Transylvania
After lunch, we set off for Viscri, one of Transylvania’s two main Saxon villages: here, once the asphalt road is finished, you’ll immediately step into the countryside of the 19th century.
Ducks, cows and dogs will pass you by, along the few cobbled streets, along with the villagers, farmers and very simple people living in poor but decent houses.
It is precisely the houses that, especially in the beautiful light of sunset, will surprise you with their pastel colours, but also the trees that draw the shadows of bare branches on the walls of the warehouses, the children along the dusty streets playing with nothing but chasing each other.
Dogs barking at heedless cows, boys carrying firewood on horse-drawn carts…believe me, it’s a real journey through history, the history of land, sweat and simple living.
The next stop on our trip was Sighisoara, where we were able to walk along the river with its beautiful Orthodox church and visit the medieval town in the upper part of the city.
Following a path through an indoor wooden tunnel, after many steps, we reached the highest part of the citadel, where the church, the cemetery and the view of the city will surprise you.
If you have children, don’t miss the restaurant located in the place where Dracula is said to have been born…a chilling surprise will terrify them just enough… After getting lost in the streets of Sighisoara, we got back in the car for our next stop: Sibiu.
The town of Sibiu
We arrived in Sibiu in the late afternoon where we had dinner and slept. Not before we visited the Christmas markets in the central square with an ice skating rink, a Ferris wheel and a huge Christmas tree.
Third Day in Transylvania
On the third day, take at least a couple of hours to visit Sibiu on foot. Its three bastions, the pedestrian street up to the central square, the bridge of lies, the two large churches and the many alleys make this town a pleasant surprise.
With all the Christmas market shopping done, it was time to drive back to Bucharest (about 4 hours from Sibiu). We stopped in Pitesti for a quick lunch (there’s not much to see, unless you’re into the dark Soviet-style atmosphere).
Travel to Transylvania – Practical information
Just two personal notes. As in many other foreign countries, Romania is dominated by a sense of identity and belonging, symbolised by the constant presence of the Romanian flag. An excellent ‘habit’ that we in Italy have lost…
Here is some practical information:
- Total cost of the trip for 3 days for two adults and one child: 620€, of which:
- plane: 120 €
- car and petrol: €100
- hotels: 100€
- meals, attractions and gifts: €300
Kilometres travelled: approximately 700