Transylvania. Just a mere mention of it conjures up images of vampires, castles and of course the legendary Count Dracula. However, Transylvania (and really all of Romania) is filled with a rich and detailed history, with plenty of places to see amazing castles, beautiful country sides, and yes, plenty of spooky spots as well. So hop on a plane and prepare for a scary (and history-filled) visit to Transylvania, Romania, and the land of Bram Stoker’s Dracula.
So the main stop on your trip has got to be Bran Castle, the home of Vlad The Impaler. However, let’s first take a look at just who Vlad the Impaler really was. Vlad Draculea III, Prince of Wallachia was a member of the house of Draculesti -where the name “Dracula” is derived. Born in the region called Transylvania, Vlad was summoned south to Wallachia where his father ruled. During the mid 1400s, Vlad ascended to power in Wallachia (southern part of present-day Romania) and gained a reputation as a wretched tyrant. Vlad’s dark legend and legacy as a demonic leader grew over the centuries through tales of him impaling his enemies. And in 1897, Irish author Bram Stoker cemented Vlad the Impaler’s legacy. It is suggested that the “Dracula” is a fictional representation of what Bram Stoker thought Vlad the Impaler to be. According to Alex Priscu, P.R. and Marketing Manager for Bran Castle in Transylvania, Stoker’s view of Vlad may have been influenced by 15th Century texts that describe him as a monster, a vampire who drinks man’s blood and a cruel devourer.
So maybe Vlad was vampire, or maybe he was just a hated man with a dark reign, but no matter what he was, you can visit his former haunt, Bran Castle in Romania and see just how the ruler lived, and even see some of his actual clothing. Ask about the secret staircase that connects the first and third floors!
If you are going to be traveling around Romania looking for the story of Vlad, then a stop in Sighisoara is a must. Sighisoara is a city located in the region of Transylvania, and is reportedly the birthplace of Vlad himself. Vlad Dracul II, the father of Vlad the Impaler, lived in exile in the town of Sighisoara, and was the first to document the town’s name in 1435. A visit to the town of Sighisoara will showcase the charm and beauty of the region today, with plenty of sights to see and lots of small-town charm.
Another fascinating place in Romania to visit is the beautiful Carpathian Mountains, which cover over one third of Romania’s territory and have many charming little towns and villages. The Carpathian Mountains are a popular destination for hiking, climbing, camping and kayaking and you are sure to be moved by their quiet beauty. In the spring, a visit to the Negrasi Daffodil Meadows will certainly quell any unfounded fear for Romania as you gaze at the green meadow, blanketed in white, blooming daffodils. Travel carefully, however, as the mountains are home to a large population of bears and wolves, so while many locals have no fear of the mountains, it wouldn’t hurt to be on the look out.
Hidden underneath the vast forests of the Carpathian Mountains near the Transylvanian town of Gradistea de Munte lays Europe’s Machu Picchu, ironically nick-named because this civilization actually predates the Incas by 1,000 years. The remaining ruins of the Dacian empire’s capital city, Sarmizegetusa, are all that remains of the cultural and military epicenter for a civilization that spanned from modern-day Slovakia to the Black Sea. Preserved today as a UNESCO World Heritage site, tourists can explore the ruins of six ancient citadels perched atop a 3,937-foot bluff.
As a tourist in Europe, Transylvania is a must see destination. There are plenty of trains to take, and it may be easier to rent a car to get around within the city, though hitchhiking is a popular and even preferred form of transportation. The good news is that, if you get lost, people in the area are notoriously friendly, so don’t worry about stopping to ask for directions. Chances are, if you do stop, you won’t run into any vampires. However, it wouldn’t be a bad idea to keep some garlic on you, just in case.