“Travel, in the younger sort, is a part of education; in the elder, a part of experience.”
– Francis Bacon –
PRINT & GO
Before your departure, do not forget to check/bring with you:
– Boarding Pass and Hotel Reservation
DAY 1: VISIT BRASOV
No late wake up on day 1! Get up early, have a good breakfast, and go to the station to take the train to Brasov!
Trains leave from the North Station (Gara de Nord). There is more or less one train per hour, I took the one at 8:30 arriving in Brasov at 11:32. Trains in Romania are generally old and quite slow, so as alternative you can also take the intercity buses; I preferred the train because it’s more practical to meet people, and because the train passes through a forest. You will be surrounded by beautiful trees and plants. Besides that, I got the chance to seat in front of an extremely kind old couple who spoke French, and gave me plenty of useful suggestions.
Once arrived in Brasov, you need to take the bus to go to Bran, where Dracula castle is. For this, you need to take a taxi at the station exit and in less than 5mins you will get to Autogara 2, where the bus leave. Buses to Bran run quite often and the journey takes 40mins. In order to be sure you don’t miss the bus stop, just ask the driver or someone in the bus where you need to stop to go to Bran Castle, people are very kind and have a good level of English, they will be glad to assist you.
- Once you get off the bus, the castle is just in front of you. The entrance fee is around 4€. In Bran castle you will see many rooms with historical pieces and documents tracing the history of Dracula. Some historians state that the birthplace of Dracula was in the Bargau Area, on the mountain pass between Transylvania and Moldavia. Anyway, it is certain that, because of the novel, it was created an indestructible connection between Dracula, the Bran Castle and Transylvania.
Dracula is a legendary character inspired by the life of Vlad the Impaler. The Wallachia’s ruler, Vlad the Impaler (1456-1462, 1476) is known as someone brave and fair, benevolent with decent people while ruthless with lawbreakers, and convinced that only strong leadership can maintain internal order.
Thus, Vlad the Impaler resorts to an authoritarian style of leadership by imposing honesty and hard work as virtues to be had; dishonesty (thievery) and sloth were punished harshly by impaling – a practice which was to make him infamous. Gradually, his public image shifts from that of a ruthless ruler to that of a vampire thanks to the novel of the Irish writer Bram Stoker.
After the visit to the castle (the castle closes at 19:00), take the bus back to Brasov, get a taxi to the hotel and after some rest go for a walk in Brasov. This city is Romanians’ winter destination. People go there to ski and enjoy the mountain landscapes. For those who like skiing, the ideal is to go to Poiana Brasov, up in the mountain. For those who just want to enjoy the calm, the ideal is to stay in the city center. Everything is nearby, you don’t need any public transportation to wander in the city.
Some city hotspots:
- Sfatului Square: The Council Square (Piata Sfatului) is the heart of the old medieval Brasov. Lined with beautiful red-roofed merchant houses, the square is one of the finest in the country. The buildings recall the region’s German heritage. In the center of the square lies the Council House, built in 1420. The tower, called the Trumpets Tower, is in fact much older, and was once a watchtower for approaching barbarians before being incorporated into the main building. It was the place where an alarm was sounded when danger menaced the city. Nowadays the building hosts the History Museum of Brasov with rare exhibits and collections.
- Black Church: located in a corner of Platia Sfatului, this largest Gothic was initially dedicated to Virgin Mary. It was Roman-Catholic for more than a century and a half and later, with the reformation sweeping across Europe, it became a Lutheran one. Service is still held nowadays for the small German community from Brasov on Sundays.
- Fortress: Located on the top of the hill from the central park, the Citadel is part of Brasov’s outer fortification system. At first some wooden protective walls were erected here, later, in 1529, destroyed by Petru Rares. On the same spot they built a stone citadel called Cetatuia (1553), destroyed by fire in 1618 and re-built in 1625. It served as a prison for a while.Nowadays the citadel is a restaurant called Cetate. If you visit the restaurant remember to take a tour and admire the collection of Medieval weapons hanged on the walls and to drop a penny in the well (81 m deep) for good luck. In the center of the Citadel is a narrow courtyard displaying shields, lances, a canon and coat of arms.
- Schei: this is the old Romanian district of Brasov, a neighborhood of narrow cobblestone streets and red-tiled 17th century homes. Leave the fortress area of the old city trough Poarta Schei and you’ll find yourself in this picturesque suburb.
DAY 2: VISIT SINAIA
Time to leave Brasov and explore the wonderful Sinaia.
Take the train from Brasov to Sinaia (direction Bucharest). There are trains every hour, but I took one at 8:58 and arrived in Sinaia at 10:04.
Once you arrive in Sinaia’s station, take the main exit and start going the way up for around 2km. You will pass a very interesting road, with an old monastery. Following the road signs to Peles Castle you will enter in a forest. Have a nice walk into the forest, and after 10mins you will arrive to the wonderful Peles Castle.
- Peles Castle is considered one of the most beautiful castles in Europe. It was the final resting place for several Romanian monarchs including King Carol I, who died here in 1914. The castle was inaugurated only on October 7, 1883 and its location was chosen by the German prince Carol I de Hohenzollern, who was to become a king and it draws its name from the neighboring brooks which passes through the courtyard.
Several other buildings, annexed to the castle, were built simultaneously. The castle was built in wood, stone, bricks and marble and comprises more than 160 rooms. The representative style used is German Renaissance, but you can easily discover elements belonging to the Italian Renaissance, Gothic, German Baroque and French Rococo style.
Peles is surrounded by seven terraces decorated with statues (sculptured by the Italian Romanelli), stone-made-wells, ornamental vases and Carrara marble. The architects used an abundance of wooden decoration, both for the exterior and for the interior of the castle, which confers a very special quality to the building. Quite outstanding are the Big Armory Room, the small Armory Room, the Florentine Room, the Reception Room (where paintings and wooden sculptures depicting 16 castles of the Hohenzollerns are exhibited), the Moresque Room, The French Room, the Turkish Room, the Council Room, the Concert Room as well as the Imperial Suite.
Almost adjacent to Peles Castle is Pelisor (“Little Peles”). King Ferdinand, who succeeded Carol I, intended to use Peles Castle as a summer residence. Supposedly he found Peles too big and overwhelming, so he commissioned the smaller, art-nouveau style, Pelisor Castle. Pelisor’s 70 rooms feature a unique collection of turn-of-the century Viennese furniture and Tiffany and Lalique glassware. You can have a tour inside those wonderful buildings, but unfortunately cameras are not allowed.
After this great visit, go back to the station and take the train back to Bucharest. I caught the train at 16:57, and I was in Bucharest at 19:00.
DAY 3: VISIT BUCHAREST
After 2 days of early wake up, it is time to rest a bit, have a late wake up, and take your time to explore Bucharest.
Most of the Bucharest attractions are nearby, so you can do everything on foot.
The city is a big paradox: you can find big streets, massive historical buildings (actually, they wanted to design the city based on Paris), and at the same time old and half-destroyed buildings.
Some places to see in Bucharest:
- Parliament: located near Piaţa Unirii, this is world’s second largest building (after the US Pentagon), formerly named “Casa Poporului” (People’s House). The building, which was built in 1984 by Nicolae Ceauşescu, comprises 3100 rooms and covers over 330,000 sqm. There are 30 minutes tours every half hour which lead through the building’s vast collection of marble rooms and culminates in an impressive view from Nicolae Ceauşescu’s balcony. The marble and all the original decorations are 100% from Romania. The tourist entrance is on the north side of the building.
- Piata Revolutiei: The square gained worldwide notoriety when TV stations around the globe broadcasted Nicolae Ceausescu’s final moments in power on December 21, 1989. It was here, at the balcony of the former Communist Party Headquarters, that Ceausescu stared in disbelief as the people gathered in the square below turned on him. He fled the angry crowd in his white helicopter, only to be captured outside of the city a few hours later. The square’s importance stretches back long before the dramatic events of the 1989 Revolution. On the far side of the square stands the former Royal Palace, now home to the National Art Museum, the Romanian Athenaeum and the historic Athenee Palace Hotel. At the south end of the square, you can visit the Kretzulescu Church.
- Arcul de Triumf : initially built of wood in 1922 to honor the bravery of Romanian soldiers who fought in World War I, Bucharest’s very own Arc de Triomphe was finished in Deva granite in 1936. Designed by the architect, Petre Antonescu, the Arc has an interior staircase that allows visitors to climb to the top for a panoramic view of the city. The sculptures decorating the structure were created by leading Romanian artists.
And for my entire trip in Bucharest I had the best local guides ever, 2 of my great friends who I had not seen for 5 years.
DAY 4: SHOPPING IN BUCHAREST
If you have time in day 4 take advantage of the Romanian currency and have some shopping in the several stores and mall that the city offers.
Afterwards go back to Platia Unirii and take the bus back to the airport.