Transylvania has always been linked to Count Dracula and his castle, playing the role of a dark and terrifying region in the common imagination! In reality, it’s a small jewel made up of medieval villages surrounded by woods, forests and castles, scenic roads and mountains.
Basic information before visiting Transylvania
Transylvania is in the central and northwestern part of Romania. Its name has Latin origins and means “beyond the forest”. The best time to organize a trip to Transylvania is Summer, from July to September. January is the coldest month and roads sometimes made impassable due to snow. But Autumn gives Transylvania its typical atmosphere: foggy, ghostly, rainy, but absolutely fascinating.
4 or 5 days will be enough to discover Count Dracula’s land, renting a car and following a circular itinerary with departure and arrival in Bucharest. Once past Wallachia’s villages, a spectacular scenery opens up along the Transfăgărășan road, considered one of the most beautiful in the world, which crosses the Carpathians and leads, in about 4 hours, to Sibiu. The Transfăgărășan is open from June to October because during the rest of the year the pass is covered in snow. In fact, there is also another way to reach Sibiu.
Sibiu: a perfectly preserved open-air museum in Transylvania
The center of Sibiu is a perfectly preserved open-air museum. The Clock Tower characterizes the profile of the town, full of towers and defensive bastions. Each tower bears the name of the guild of artisans who had the task of defending and maintaining it. Sibiu is also famous for a peculiarity: the small windows positioned on the roofs of the buildings in the historic center resemble many eyes that observe those who pass!
Furthermore there is the bridge of lies! According to legend, the bridge generates noises or is capable of crumbling every time a lie is spoken while passing over it!
In about 2 hours from Sibiu you can reach this medieval village surrounded by walls. A plaque placed on an ancient building indicates that Vlad, Count Dracula, was born there in 1431! A very suggestive way to visit the city is to take part in a candlelight tour.
Viscri, Bran and Brasov
Viscri is a little gem of 400 souls in the heart of Transylvania. People work in the fields, among the farmyard animals and horse-drawn carriages. In fact, the community is self-sustaining and lives in a sustainable way, still practicing ancient folk traditions.
Bram Stoker chose Transylvania as the backdrop for his masterpiece whose protagonist was Dracula, a count who lived in a castle near the Carpathians. Stoker never visited Romania, but his detailed description of the landscapes and the castle created an association with Bran Castle in the minds of readers. The story of Count Dracula was not written starting from a real count but was probably inspired by Vlad III, prince of Wallachia who actually never lived in this castle perched on the hill!
Draculea’s name came from his father, Vlad II, a member of the Order of the Dragon, a Christian order similar to the crusaders who fought against the Ottoman Empire. Vlad II called himself “Vlad Drago” in Latin “draco”, very similar to the Romanian term “dracu”, devil.
Bran Castle is about 2 hours from Viscri.
Brasov, surrounded by forests and mountains in Transylvania
In about 40 minutes by car from Bran Castle you reach Brasov, surrounded by forests and mountains. On the external facade of the Gothic Black Church, there is a statue of a child about to fall. Legend tells that the child was killed by the workers who built the church. To check whether the wall was straight, they threw it out the window. Then regretting the gesture, they created the statue in honor of him. The Black Church owes its name to the fact that the walls took on this color following the fire of 1689.
The center is surrounded by walls and the streets are cobbled. Brasov is full of restaurants where you can taste traditional Romanian and local specialties.
Let’s open a parenthesis on the local cuisine, at the base of which there is meat in different ways: stews, goulash, soups, accompanied by polenta. The soup is the “ciorba” and its main ingredients are tripe or smoked pork. In poorer countries the soup is based on vegetables. All soups are accompanied by “franzela” bread, a soft loaf. Another specialty are “mici”, pork or sheep sausages flavored with black pepper and cooked on the grill. Papanasi, on the other hand, is a very particular dessert, fried with fresh cheese and sour cream inside.
And to drink?! Palinka, a brandy made from plums, cherries, apples or other fruits. Locals drink it on an empty stomach as an appetizer. It is traditionally produced in every village.
The Gothic style church is a jewel. It is protected by a circular wall four meters thick around which 300 buildings were built to house the inhabitants and to store food in the event of a prolonged siege.
The building was the outpost of enemy attacks, more frequently under siege than most other strongholds in the region.
Sinaia, among the mountains of Transylvania, houses Peles Castle, the most beautiful in the whole region, an unmissable destination in Transylvania, especially on Halloween!
Towards the end of the 19th century, the first king of Romania had his summer residence built here. It has 160 rooms for 3000 m2 of surface area and its peculiarity is given by the mix of decorative styles.
Are you ready to leave for a scary Halloween?!