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Thursday, September 22, 2016

Transylvania and the Real Dracula

Mention Romania and people immediately think of Dracula and a mid-evil country. But this beautiful country is quickly becoming the hidden jewel of Eastern Europe.


Transylvania is the largest region of Romania and probably the best known one. The meaning of the word "Transylvania" is the land beyond the forest. The region is a place with abundant history and multicultural convergence. Transylvania is rich in myth and misty medieval sites: there about 100 castles and fortresses and about 70 fortified churches. Romania's greatest and best preserved castles
and fortresses are to be found here. But for the more curious traveler, there are many small villages with old houses and fortified churches.

As Transylvania is circled by the Carpathian mountains there are a lot of mountain forests and hiking or climbing possibilities. All over the Carpathians there are great national parks. In the center of Transylvania there are green hills and rivers. Most big cities are very western Europe like, and the infrastructure is generally good, making it easy for travelers.

Transylvania was first referred to in a Medieval Latin document dating from 1075. The ruins of Sarmizegetusa Regia – the capital of Dacia (present-day Romania) prior to the wars with
the Roman Empire – are located in Hunedoara county - central Transylvania.

Travel to Transylvania by train or bus

There are several daily trains and buses from/to Bucharest and other major cities in Romania to Transylvania region. 

Main train stations in Transylvania:
Alba Iulia
, Bistrita, Brasov, Cluj Napoca, Medias, Miercurea Ciuc, Sebes,
Sfantu Gheorghe, Sibiu, Sighisoara, Targu Mures

Transylvania is home to some of Europe’s best-preserved medieval towns, most notably Brasov, featuring Old Saxon architecture and citadel ruins; Sibiu with its cobblestone streets and pastel-colored houses, and Sighisoara, adorned with a hilltop citadel, secret passageways and a 14th century clock tower. Tiny shops offer antiques and fine hand-made products by local artisans and artists.
Bran Castle

Visitors to Transylvania will also encounter stunning castles such Bran, near Brasov, - a Gothic fairy-tale structure, often associated with Vlad Dracula, the inspiration for Bram Stoker’s Dracula. In close proximity to Brasov and Bran are the fortified churches at Harman, with its massive 13th Saxon towers, and Prejmer, the largest fortified church in Southeastern Europe.

The 15th-century Corvinilor Castle, the most beautiful in Transylvania, located nearby Hunedoara, has a sumptuous Knights Hall – that can be used for functions or parties, as well as towers and buttresses reminiscent of the medieval times.

Vlad Țepeș: "Vlad the Impaler" AKA (Vlad) Dracula.

The real Dracula, Vlad Tepes, nicknamed (Vlad the Impaler) was a Romanian prince and military leader. He fought bravely against the invading Turkish army in the mid 1400's. Vlad was born in Sighișoara in the winter of 1431.

Reputation for cruelty

Vlad Tepes - 1560
As the cognomen "The Impaler" suggests, his practice of impaling his enemies is part of his historical reputation. During his lifetime, his reputation for excessive cruelty spread abroad, to Germany and elsewhere in Europe. The name of the vampire Count Dracula in Bram Stoker's 1897 novel Dracula was inspired by
Vlad's patronymic and reputation.

Cruelty was common in the Middle Ages, but Vlad's ways were the ultimate. He would decapitate people and post heads along roads like sign posts and would boil people alive.
His deeds were reported in popular pamphlets in Germany, reprinted from the 1480s until the 1560s, and to a lesser extent in Tsarist Russia. A typical German pamphlet from 1521 gives numerous examples of lurid incidents, such as the following:

 He roasted children, whom he fed to their mothers. And he cut off the breasts of women, and forced their husbands to eat them. After that, he had them all impaled.

Impalement was Vlad's preferred method of torture and execution. Here he would insert a wooden stake into the rectum up to the shoulder blade painstakingly to avoid all major organs. Slowly these poor souls would writhe in pain until death some 48 hours later.

Hundreds were impaled at a time and posted looking like a forest of humans on a stick. It was physiological warfare at its best as it drove fear into the hearts of all his enemies.

Contrary to the novel, he was bloodthirsty, but not a vampire. Rumors spread that he drank blood and ate human organs. This led to led to the fictional idea of vampirism. Vlad died at age 40. No one is sure how or where his headless body is buried. 

Transylvanian Cities to Visit:


Brasov is located in the hilly terrain of Transylvania and is a good place to visit. Located in the center of the country, Brasov is surrounded by the Carpathian Mountains. The city is a resounding example of old world Romania with an ancient center city square and little cafes throughout.

The real appeal of Brasov is the surrounding land. Unspoiled, the mountains surrounding Brasov are full of little villages and surrounding forests. In this area, you’ll find bears, wolves and other threatened animals roaming freely. On top of this, the land is ripe with outdoor activity opportunities such as skiing, hiking, camping, hunting, rock climbing and parachuting. While all of this exists in other travel destinations, there is no tourist trap feel in Brasov.


Sibiu was the largest and wealthiest of the seven walled citadels* built in the 12th century by German settlers known as Transylvanian Saxons. The riches amassed by its guilds paid for the construction of both impressive buildings and the fortifications required to protect them.
Sibiu’s Old Town retains the grandeur of its earlier days when rich and powerful guilds dominated regional trade. Like Sighisoara and Brasov, it has a distinctly Germanic feeling. Sections of the medieval wall still
guard the historic area, where narrow streets pass steep-roofed 17th century buildings with gable overhangs before opening into vast, church-dominated squares such as Great Square and Little Square.
Sibiu is a pedestrian-friendly city with two easily accessible levels: the Upper town, home to most of Sibiu's historic sights, and the Lower town, lined with colorful houses on cobblestone streets and bounded by imposing city walls and defense towers overlooking the river Cibin.


Birth Home of Vlad Dracula
Founded by Transylvanian Saxons during the 12th century, Sighisoara still stands as one of the most beautiful and best-preserved medieval towns in Europe. Designated as a World Heritage Site by UNESCO, this perfectly intact 16th century gem with nine towers, cobbled streets, burgher houses and ornate churches rivals the historic streets of Old Prague or Vienna for atmospheric magic.

It is also the birthplace of Vlad Dracula, also known as Vlad Tepes (Vlad the Impaler), ruler of the province of Walachia from 1456 to 1462. It was he who inspired Bram Stoker's fictional creation, Count Dracula.

If you visit Sighișoara and you're hungry you can actually eat food at the place where Vlad Dracula was born. The Vlad Dracul Restaurant is located in the heart of the Sighisoara near the Clock Tower. The restaurant has a capacity of 120 guests and 70 seats on the terrace. Besides international cuisine, you can also enjoy traditional Romanian cuisine, such as “Prince Dracula Food” with Transilvanian palinka drink.

Vlad Dracula Restaurant
Vlad Dracula's house is just one of the many attractions here. Others include the Church on the Hill with its 500-year-old frescoes, the 13th century Venetian House and the Church of the Dominican Monastery, known for its Transylvanian renaissance carved altarpiece, baroque pulpit, Oriental carpets and 17th century organ.

Places to explore in Transylvania
  • Some of Europe’s best-preserved medieval towns: Brasov, Sibiu, Sighisoara
  • Bran Castle (also known as Dracula’s Castle), built in 1377
  • Rasnov Fortress – built in the 1300s by the Teutonic Knights to protect Transylvania against the Tartars and the Turks
  • The Saxon fortified churches at Biertan, Calnic, Harman, Darjiu,
    Prejmer, Saschiz, Valea Viilor, and Viscri  - all designated by UNESCO
    as World Heritage sites
  • Transylvania’s finest art museum – the Bruckenthal Palace in Sibiu
  • Marginimea Sibiului, an area northwest of Sibiu home to more than
    18 traditional villages
  • The Museum of Glass-Painted Icons in Sibiel, the largest of its kind in Europe
  • The city of Hunedoara with its 14th-century Gothic Corvinilor Castle
  • The Dacian Fortresses at Sarmisegetuza (UNESCO World Heritage List)
  • The Moti Land (Tara Motilor) on the Ariesi Valley - moţi is the name given to the inhabitants of this region. They live in scattered villages at altitudes up to about 4,265 feet and have preserved their century-old traditions and lifestyle.
  • The Apuseni Mountains with Scarisoara and Focul Viu glaciers, Chiscau Bears’ Cave and Vartop Cave as well as other 400 caves.

Bran Castle

Bran Castle - Also called Dracula's Castle is in a town called Bran, at 20 km near Braşov. The best ways to get there are by bus or by car on the European Road 574 (E574). The bus for Bran leaves from the Autogara 2 (Bus terminal 2) about every half hour for the whole day. You have to buy the ticket on board and it costs 7 RON each way (as of 05.12.2011). You can arrive to the Autogara 2 from the centre if you take the bus number 12 from Livada Poştei or the Teatrul Dramatic stations (departs every half hour), or from the train station if you take one of the buses 23 or dashed 23 (23 barat or 23B; it has a 23 written on in, with an oblique dash on the number). Note that buses 23 and dashed 23 are not stopping at the main terminal located in front of the train station. In order to take them, you need to walk to the boulevard in front, through the right as you're exiting the train station, where you'll see the bus sign and other people waiting for their buses. After you get on, descend at the fourth stop, which is right next to the football stadium. Once you are in Bran follow the tourists through a street full of stands selling things for tourists. The castle is now a museum open to tourists, displaying art and furniture collected by Queen Marie. Tourists can see the interior individually or by a guided tour. At the bottom of the hill is a small open air museum park exhibiting traditional Romanian peasant structures (cottages, barns, etc.) from across the country. As of May 2013, the entrance fee was 25 lei (€5.5) for an adult, non-professional photo fee included in the ticket. From the top of the fortress you can see the mountains in a superb panorama.

Carpathian Mountains

The Carpathian Mountains are visually stunning. While there are attractions throughout the mountains, such as Bran Castle, don’t try to simply visit a particular place. Instead, rent a car in Brasov or hire a driver and just go for a ride. The scenery is so overwhelming it is hard to describe. You’ll drive down and up into gorges that seem endless, see rivers bombing down mountain sides and see animals only found in National Geographic documentaries. Go for this drive and I guarantee you will be blabbering about it for at least five days.

Traditional food

Transylvania's cuisine displays a variety of flavors with dishes spiced with thyme, red pepper or tarragon.  Meats, such as pork, mutton, veal, are among the most popular ingredient in Transylvania’s cuisine. The soups, to which sour cream and egg yolk are ofted added, also include flour dumplings or homemade pasta.
Romania is one the world’s leading producers of cabbage (varza).  Make sure you don’t leave the region without trying the delicious “Varza a la Cluj” – the Romanian version of lasagna - prepared from several layers of finely shredded cabbage (fresh or sour) and minced pork or veal mixed with rice and bacon and baked in the oven.

Despite the many things written about this part of Romania, Transylvania is one of the most romantic regions in the country, so if you plan to travel with your partner, you will discover firsthand why it is a special place for couples.

Transylvania offers the visitor interesting attractions such as ski resorts hiking trails, parks, museums and medieval towns each with their own unique story. But if you're looking to celebrate Halloween in a special place in Europe, Transylvania is definitely that place to be. You don’t even need to wear garlic.

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