When I used to think of Transylvania, it would be the latter – Dracula! So what better way to spend Simon’s 30th birthday which happens to fall on Halloween, than a Dracula tour around Transylvania! Oh yes, we spent our time being driven around in a pimped up Dracula bus complete with red and black leather walls, red velvet curtains and blacked out windows – fabulous!
For our Dracula tour, we found the perfect trip with Transylvania Live which included a visit to Bran Castle, the towns of Sibiu and Sighișoara and the highlight... a fancy dress Halloween party in the birthplace of Vlad Dracul... the inspiration for the Dracula genre.
As a ruler, to the people of Transylvania he wasn’t considered memorable; he wasn’t particular good, and although it cannot be denied that he was pretty evil and tortuous to other humans, he wasn’t unordinarily cruel for that particular period of time in history. He also didn’t reign for very long so our tour guide and other locals cannot understand the fascination with him ... they just know that his name brings in plenty of tourists!
From Cluj, we headed south towards Alba Iulia, the largest Citadel in Romania also referred to as “the other capital”. We strolled around Coronation Cathedral, a charming Roman Orthodox cathedral built October 1922 to mark the coronation of King Ferdinand and Queen Maria. The architecture is “Romanian National Style”, modern yet impressive with huge expansive vaults and arches, surrounded by a lovely courtyard. This cathedral is considered an important historical place for Romanians because it symbolises the National Unity of the Romanian Nation.
Pub 13 was our lunch stop, an authentic medieval restaurant built into the wall of the Citadel at the fortress entrance. It was actually used as the Armoury for the fortress back in the day. If you want to step back in time, you will be in your element here! The walls and ceilings are decorated with weapons and armour and the food was delicious; we ordered a delicious slap up meal of meat and potatoes – good old fashioned, traditional Romanian grub!
We arrived in Sibiu when it was dark and oh my, what a splendid place it is! In the Old Town where we were staying, the streets are delicately lit with old fashioned street lamps which cast an orange, romantic glow over its cobbled streets. I loved it! I thought it was a photographers’ paradise, but that’s just my opinion. There are plenty of secluded lanes and the buildings are all well preserved.
On 31st October – Halloween and Sy’s Birthday – we visited Bran Castle ( http://www.bran-castle.com/ ) This impressive gothic, fairy-tale structure known tenuously as Castle Dracula was built in 1377 and is situated on the border between Transylvania and Wallachia.
“. . . on the very edge of a terrific precipice . . . with occasionally a deep rift where there is a chasm [with] silver threads where the rivers wind in deep gorges through the forests.”
When you walk towards the castle, put aside the whole “Dracula” theme because there is much more to this historic place than a blood-sucking villain who lives in our imagination! It’s a beautiful castle with large turrets, winding stone corridors leading to small rooms and open walkways which look out onto magnificent views of the surrounding forest.
The surrounding village is full of little shops and locals selling souvenirs from quaint stalls, it really is a lovely area that feels like a step back in time.
Sighisoara – the birthplace of Vlad Tepes!
Right then, so if you are a Dracula lover, Sighisoara is at the heart of this story and, it could be said, where it all began! Vlad Tepes III was born here in 1431 and lived for just four years with his father before moving.
A wrought iron dragon hangs above the entrance symbolising “the order of the Dragon”, a title given to selected nobility and in this case, to Vlad Tepes II who spent his youth at the royal court later distinguishing himself as a brave knight in the fight against the Ottoman Empire. The ocher-colored building is now a restaurant and is situated in the Citadel Square close to the Clock Tower.
In truth, Vlad is just a tiny part of Sighisoara and there is so much more to this Saxon citadel than the Dracula connection. It is considered to be the most beautiful and best preserved medieval town in Europe! Its quaint streets are made up of brightly decorated buildings and cobbled stones.
Built in the 12th century, this town was then known as Castrum Sex (Fort Six), the name of Sighisoara was first noted in a written document issued by Vlad Dracul II, Vlad the Impaler's father, in 1431.
And so the ultimate birthday party begins … in the medieval citadel of Sighisoria.
But first, we have to drive there .. and so the celebrations begin on the party bus!
Paintings … made out of spider webs!
Our final stop on this fascinating tour en-route from Sigisoria back to Cluj was in Medias – at Emil Muresan shop to be precise. He is an original artist who has entered the Guinness Book of Records for his unusual art; he “draws” using spider webs! Oh yes, you read that correctly! The sticky stuff you usually brush off your face in the morning as you walk past a bush to your car is actually used by this gentleman to create what some consider as art. I was captivated by this eclectic and eccentric mix of drawings and couldn’t resist purchasing one for home!
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