Romania is a country that took me completely by surprise. While it was tales of Vlad the Impaler, spooky castles and a general curiosity that initially led to me adding Brasov to my travels, I left with a new appreciation for the culture, history and amazingly friendly locals.
How to visit Dracula’s Castle (Bran Castle)
Brasov is the best place to base yourself in order to visit ‘Dracula’s Castle’ (Bran Castle). While it is possible to rent a car to visit Bran Castle, I wanted to learn about the region we were visiting from a local perspective. Consequently, we decided to book a day tour which also covered other attractions in the area (like Rasnov Fortress). I got to Brasov by catching a train directly from Budapest in Hungary. Alternatively you could fly into the Romanian capital Bucharest and catch a train to Brasov from there.
Transylvania Discovery Tours is the most informative and friendly day tour I have ever done. Alex the tour guide offers private tours and you pay per person according to how many people will be on the tour. Because there were three of us traveling together it only cost us 15 Euros per person. This is cheaper than renting a car and extremely affordable considering the wealth of knowledge Alex has to share.
What to expect on your Transylvania Discovery Tour
Alex arrived at our hostel at 9am to pick us up for the day of activities. The day included Bran Castle, Rasnov Fortress and the local Bear Sanctuary. Alex is incredibly friendly and knew the ins and outs of each of the attractions. His enthusiasm and passion for Romania was absolutely contagious! Alex was extremely professional and was able to answer the array of questions we had throughout the day. He also gave us some great recommendations for where to eat and go out in Brasov. We arrived back in Brasov at approximately 5pm. This gave us enough time to grab our bags and hop back on the train to Budapest that night.
To give you an example of how kind Alex is, at this stage of my travels (May 2015) I had never seen snow before! Upon hearing this, at the end of the tour Alex drove us up a mountain specifically so I could go and play in the snow! This was so much fun and I was very grateful that he went out of his way to give me that experience 🙂
Bran Castle (Dracula’s Castle)
Bran Castle is where Vlad the Impaler, also known as Dracula, was arrested and imprisoned. Despite common belief, he never owned or lived in the castle. So why is it known as Dracula’s Castle?
Quick History Lesson!
Dracula (the vampire) is a fictional character created by Irish writer Bram Stoker in the 1897 novel “Dracula”. The reason why Bran Castle is known as Dracula’s Castle is because it is the only castle in Transylvania that fits Stoker’s description of Dracula’s Castle.Stoker named his infamous character after Vlad III, Prince of Wallachia or as he is better known, Vlad the Impaler. This 15th century Transylvanian Prince was given the morbid nickname of ‘Impaler’ due to the legendary tales of how he would kill his enemies. Vlad is credited with impaling thousands of Ottomans and his victories were celebrated throughout Europe. It was really interesting to find out that Vlad III is a positive character in Romanian history. He is reputed to have been a just, though a very harsh, ruler.
Dracula’s Castle was more than a beautiful place to explore, there was lots to read and learn throughout the castle. My favourite aspect was the secret staircase that was only discovered relatively recently.
Rasnov Fortress is the best preserved peasant fortification in Transylvania. The citadel was built between 1211 and 1225 as part of a defense system for the villages exposed to outside invasions. Alex had a wa wonderful ‘legend’ to share about the riverling villages in the region!
Walking through the streets of the fortress was like stepping back in time and the eerie fog that had started to settle added to the atmosphere of the fortress.
The final attraction we visited was a local bear sanctuary. Unfortunately Eastern Europe has a history of bear exploitation for entertainment. The bear sanctuary takes in victims of this exploitation and attempts to rehabilitate them. For example, one of the bears came from a circus where he had only been fed fast food. He was consequently malnourished and dependant on humans. Another bear had difficulties walking as she had been tortured into riding a bike for hours at a time. As a consequence her legs were permanently misshapen. The work they do at this non-for-profit organisation is very beneficial to the animals and you can tell they are passionate about the cause.
Luna the wolf was rejected from her pack so they took her in at the sanctuary.
Booking the Bran Castle & Rasnov Fortress Tour
The specific tour I participated in was the Bran Castle & Rasnov Fortress Tour.
There are a vast range of tours available however. Be sure to check out the other options on the website to see what suits your itinerary best. I only had two days in Brasov but if I had longer I would have definitely liked to see more of the area.
You can contact Bogdan Alex Ghenoiu (Alex) on:
Phone: 0040 747 758976
Romania was an amazing introduction to Eastern Europe and I cannot wait to see more of this region. As a side note, on the day we arrived in Brasov we did a Walkabout Free Walking Tour. This was an informative way to learn more about the city of Brasov and a perfect activity for the day before we embarked on our Transylvanian Discovery Tour.
If you have any questions feel free to comment below ?
Suitcase And I was not commissioned to write this article. As always, the opinions in this review are my own.