Every story has a protagonist and while we were on the search of Romania’s leading character — Dracula, here is what we learned on our Travelmaker Bucharest Two-Castles-in-One-Day Tour.
Discover Dracula, the Fairytale Castles and Brasov in 12 Hours
Our morning started early as we departed from the center of Bucharest at 08:00 am in a comfortable and warm minivan. We were a group of seven together with our enthusiastic, friendly and funny guide Valentine who filled us on the history of Romania, its conquests, rulers and all the highlights.
As we headed towards the mountainous town of Sinaia located deep into the Carpathian Mountains, Valentine explained the history of the Royal family of Romania and how Charles of Hohenzollern became Romania’s first king in 1866. Under his ruling in 1877 Romania gained Independence and defeated the Ottoman Empire.
King Carol I of Romania dedicated most of his life to developing Romania by building hospitals, churches and schools. He built all types of churches which gave people the freedom of practicing their religion. In 1869 he married Princess Elisabeth of Wied and they had only one child Maria who unfortunately died of scarlet fever at the age of three years old. The Peles Castle is the place were Princess Maria passed her last days.
Peles Castle: A Beautiful Home Away from Home
The Peles Castle which took 39 years to complete, was finished in 1883 and served as a summer home to King Carol I of Romania and the Royal Family until 1947.
This beautiful alpine villa combines classic European styles, a blend of Italian elegance and German aesthetics with a touch of Renaissance influence.
The Peles Castle was the most modern European castle with a hydroelectric power plant and internal elevator, telephone line, internal plumbing, running water and a flushing toilet.
The castle features 160 rooms many of which are decorated with dedicated themes such as Turkish, French, Imperial among many others.
The rooms are lavishly decorated with expensive wood, leather, stained glass windows, delicate fabrics, tapestries, paintings and statues. Each room is unique with impressive carved ceilings and grand chandeliers.
After our tour inside the Peles Castle we headed outside to the snow covered winter wonderland, the spacious gardens decorated with statues, fountains, guarding lions and marble paths which must look equally magical during the summer months.
Bran Castle: Home of Count Dracula
Have you read Bram Stoker’s Dracula, about the aristocratic vampire that haunts Transylvania? Well I haven’t. If you read it, was it any good? As I said before every great story is planted somewhere, somehow, long ago when myths are told over and over, passing from generation to generation. Valentine warned us, don’t expect to see Dracula, nor his tomb.
As we were making our way towards the famous Medieval Bran Castle a fortress which was built 600 years ago, Valentine spoke about Vlad III who is also referred to as Vlad the Impaler or Vlad Dracula, who became the ruler of Wallachia in 1436.
Vlad and his younger brother Radu were held hostage in the Ottoman Empire and after his father and eldest brother were murdered and as a result of the cruelty encountered from Ottoman Sultan, Mehmed II — in 1462 Vlad broke into Ottoman territory, massacring tens of thousands of Turks and Bulgarians. Perhaps this is the origin of the story of Count Dracula.
There is another famous Romanian mythology relating to the word strigoi which are also known as vampires. These are troubled spirits of the dead which rise from their grave. People with these abilities also quite commonly known as witches are basically blood suckers. It seems that the Romanians are quite superstitious people, but hey I don’t think you will want to risk by visiting Bran Castle at night.
As we arrived to our destination, the climb up in the snow was slightly challenging as we faced the walls of this dominating fortress, it was windy and cold. Spooky? Nah… but there was a mystery to this place, you could feel it.
Initially built as a fortress for the army the facilities of this castle were basic but as Valentine told us this was actually the favourite Royal residence for Queen Marie of Romania where she and her husband King Ferdinand I resided between 1920 to 1957.
They preferred the Bran Castle over the Peles Castle. People do have rather peculiar tastes. Tip: Don’t forget to toss a coin into the well for good luck.
There is a market outside the castle where you can purchase souvenirs and local delicacies. The town is a tourist area with many restaurants. We had a lunch break in one of the restaurants which was great.
Afterwards we headed towards our final stop — Brasov.
Welcome Romania’s Hollywood — Brasov
Yes indeed there is a Hollywood like sign that reads Brasov. Set on the Carpathian Mountains amidst the winter snow, there is was!
A city of Transylvanian region, Brasov with colourful baroque buildings, a beautiful cobblestoned square with cafes and shops. Here you will find an impressive Gothic-style Black Church and the narrowest street in the city.
The return back to Bucharest was approximately three hours and we arrived around 20:00, covering a total of 12 hours. If you do come to Bucharest, I definitely recommend that you take this tour to experience the thrill of learning about the protagonist, Count Dracula and visiting the magnificent castles. Make your own history in Bucharest with the friendly and knowledgeable team of Travel Maker Bucharest Tours.
Price: from 75 Euro per person, meals not included
To book your tour please visit www.travelmakertours.com
*Passion for Hospitality was a guest of TravelMaker Bucharest Tours, all opinions expressed are my own.