When most people hear about Transylvania they think vampires and count Dracula. Not to disappoint, there is a restaurant in Brașov called Dracula but it caters mainly to tourists. Brașov is on the edge of the Carpathian Mountains and a great gateway to ski resorts and hiking trails nearby. The city has been around since medieval times and it boasts architectural landmarks in many different styles. We spent a few days in the city and around.
From Brașov we did a day trip to the nearby ski resort town of Sinaia. It’s only forty minutes away from Brașov by train. Sinaia is not a part of Transylvania but Wallachia. Getting on the train was easy but figuring out where to get off was tricky. The train conductors do not announce train stations and station names are not clearly marked. Naturally we missed our stop and got off at the next stop in Comarnic. Once there we were contemplating going to visit some salt mines we found out were in the area. We asked a couple of locals but it turned out that getting there was more complicated than we thought so we decided to get back on the train and go to Sinaia as intended. We got back on the train to find out that this time Sinaia was not the next stop as we thought but four stops later. We scratched our heads in confusion and counted four stops to our destination.
Once in Sinaia we headed for Peleș Castle (Castelul Peleș) built by Romania’s first king, Carol I, as a summer resort. Directions to the landmarked were not marked but we got around to finding it quite easily. The setup is incredible. The German inspired castle stands surrounded by spectacular mountain views. The inside of the castle is one of the most ornate I have ever seen with rooms inspired by Arabic, Turkish, French and German decor.
Afterwards we took the cable car up Bucegi Mountains to 2000 meters above sea level. There was still snow on the peaks and locals were making their way up for a day of skiing.
We didn’t ski but spent a few hours hiking some of the peaks. The hills were steep and icy and at times we even climbed on all fours. Beautiful views from the mountain top!
Our second day trip from Brașov was a little more impromptu. We headed to Poiana Brașov to do a hike but decided against it because the trails were not clearly marked and the ground was still muddy. We didn’t leave before having a few mititei (ground meat rolls) with mustard, french fries and the local beer Bucegi.
The day was still young so we found a taxi driver to take us to the nearby city of Râșnov to visit a citadel. The citadel’s exterior was intact but few structures stood standing inside. Our guide-book mentioned a hill-side staircase that would take us down to the city centre. We started our decent only to realize half way through that it had been closed due to construction for a cable car. There was no turning back so we continued down pushing away branches and slipping on dry leafs. As we got to the bottom, we realized that we were landing in someone’s backyard and numerous guard dogs were barking at us furiously. I thought we were going to be shred to pieces but managed to exit unto the street through the open cable car station.
Standing at the bus station we got approached by a local who offered to drive us back to Brașov for 4 lei each (less than $2) and that’s what we did folks.
Brașov was probably my favourite stop in Romania because it combined my love of history and the outdoors. Also we found the restaurant Casa Românească where we dined on Romanian food and wine for only $20 for two people. The only draw back was that smoking is permitted in all restaurants in Romania and this one was no different.