Transylvania without Vampires    

Image for Entry 1210440431 Green-- lots of green-- fields, trees, mountains, along the side of the train. There are also flashes of red poppies dotting the green. Other more subtle flowers, yellow and purple, also add splashes of color.

Occasionally we get glimpses of local people walking along the road near the tracks or working in the fields.

We arrived in Brasov late in the evening, something Rowshan and I generally try to avoid. I was hoping to be greeted by a room tout but unfortunately, there wasn't a single one. Instead we took a bus to the center and got a room in a Lonely Planet listed hotel whose prices have gone up from 16 Euros to about 24. We weren't going to bother trying other places since it was late.

Transylvania in spring is anything but spooky and ominous. It's kind of funny that Dracula has given the place a permanent reputation for being the land of Gothic horror. Right now everything is green except in the tops of the large mountains which are streaked with the last snows.

The other mountains, non-threatening and rounded, look more like hills and suggest gnomes rather than vampires. This fact is further emphasized by the profuse amount of garden gnomes occupying the yards and gardens of many houses. In the city, the buildings are bright, clean and well restored and the parks are decorated with red, yellow and purple tulips.

Brasov has grown since the last time I was there, which of course is expected. The area of the old town which has been restored has also grown.

The town is at the foot of some hills.

It is a pretty city with the pastel painted restored old town, some of the remaining stone walls, parks and open plazas.

This morning we set off for Bran castle. Bran, the town, has gotten larger as well. Sprawling out from the castle are tourist complexes and lots of new houses.

The castle is nice though all the souvenir stalls at the base are a bit overwhelming. The castle was packed. Though the souvenirs sold at its base tout the "Dracula's Castle" bit, there is no mention of Dracula in the castle. In fact, the only connection is that Vlad Tepes ("Dracula") may have been imprisoned there for a couple days by the Ottomans. Inside are mostly pieces that had belonged to Queen Marie and Princess Ileana.

There were many photos of the queen (and princess) on the walls and I immediately adored her. She was a queen straight out of an Art Nouveau fairy tale. Photos showed her standing in a long robe, hair gently curled around her face, a long necklace and an otherworldly expression on her face. I don't know her background but she looked more like a fairy queen than Queen of Romania. (a bit of quick Google research showed that she was born the Princess of Edinburgh).

We took a walk around the castle grounds which revealed an interesting house at the base as well, as a secret door. Apparently there is a secret passage leading from the well in the courtyard of the castle to the base of the castle (though I'm not sure if this is actually the exit door).

After that, Deena and I walked up a road where we saw a man with a horse drawn carriage selling hand-made brooms and carved wooden rakes and pitchforks. We saw some cute sheep who peered out of the windows of their barn.

I've been dreaming of the little bakeries which used to be everywhere, where I could buy ridiculously cheap but delicious cakes and sit at an outside table, drinking coffee and eating pastries. There are lots of tables on the square but they are all for restaurants and bars and I so far haven't seen a single bakery with that tempting selection of cakes and tortes. A tragic loss indeed.

My sweet tooth was saved, however, by a little window selling gogosi, deep fried dough filled with various fillings, one of which was melted dark chocolate. They were sprinkled with sugar and were delicious. We did eventually find a bakery that had yummy looking cakes but they were bigger and more expensive: not the type of thing you could order 3 of.

Meanwhile, Rowshan hiked up to the fortress/town of Rasnov.

There were no tourists, the view was stunning and he thoroughly enjoyed himself.

One of the interesting sites was a well that had been dug 146 meters from the top of the hill to the water level by 2 Turkish prisoners, who had been promised freedom upon finishing. It took them 17 years to dig the well.

Back in town, he took in the sights of Brasov at night. Even then, I don't think they look very spooky.

Rowshan took a photo of a woman with a bouquet of flowers. When he later returned and gave her a print of it, she was delighted by it and gave Rowshan a big hug.

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