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Published: June 22nd 2013
We probably should have had another day for sightseeing in Bucharest as there were some places we didn’t get to but we don’t think we could have put up with the excuse for a bed that we had at Hotel Ancor.The room was large and all the other facilities were excellent but the bed was a shocker with absolutely no give in it. Upon inspection we discovered it was in reality a bed base and a thin topper pad made from material which gave hardly any softness to the surface we slept on. The bed was voted ‘first equal worst’ with the one we had in Sarajevo and will be reported as such in our Trip Advisor review. We should have complained after the first night and so it was really our own fault to put up with it for a second night.
Being Sunday and we thought there probably wouldn’t be much available in the way of food supplies in Bran, our next destination, we called in at the large mall nearby the hotel as we left. We have a shared kitchen at the Pension we are booked into so can prepare our own meal tonight. At 10am it
was early for the locals to be out and about and we got the best of what was available at Carrefour including two delicious looking pieces of cooked smoked salmon for dinner which we will accompany with a salad.
The road north, the E60/1, from Bucharest was a good one of double lanes in each direction to drive on and the traffic volume was relatively light being a Sunday of course.
Near the industrial city of Ploiesti, as the road diverted away from going through the city itself, we came across a situation that we hadn’t encountered before on the V2, or at least as we can recall, and that was where a railway line went across a main 2 lane highway. Our experience had been that with traffic whizzing along at 100kph the road would go up and over the railway by way of a bridge.
Not here though and we came to a stop in a long queue of traffic not initially knowing why. Then from the left appeared a railcar travelling at little more than 20kph and passed before the queue of traffic and emerged out to our right and went on its way.
With the large volume of traffic that had had to stop we wouldn’t want to see what happened on a weekday when trains trundled across such a busy road.
The road started to head more north west and we left the flat plains that we have been on for the past couple of days and into low hills initially which grew higher as the kilometres past by and we wound our way up a river valley ever gaining in altitude.
The houses in the small towns now had a distinctly different look about them with colours, turrets and shapes that were unique to Transylvania and we had reached what always to us seemed a rather mystical place, conjuring up thoughts of witches, gypsies and Dracula!
It seemed like the whole of Romania had gone to the charming ski town of Sinaia with people out enjoying the warm sunshine amid the colourful summer flowers in hanging pots that seemed to be strung from almost every building. Here a road diversion looked like it was going to take us up to the highest point in the town and we wondered where our wandering would end and we would be
back on the open road again.
By the time we reached Predeal the road had reached 1000 metres above sea level and we changed onto the R73a which took us over a pass and then down a zigzag to the wide open alpine valley that Bran is located in.
It was all very picture postcard stuff except for the rural village of Rasnov which had houses that looked as though they had been left behind in the modernisation of the country.
Just before Bran we started to notice cars sitting in meadows with families or groups of people sitting out having a picnic and some camping, next to a small stream. They were dotted here, there and everywhere as the road travelled on its way down the valley. How some of the cars managed to get into some of the paddocks was interesting as the access from the main road often didn’t look that easy. It was a scene we would normally associate with the seaside at home in NZ but of course we were in the middle of Romania, now several hundred kilometres from the sea and this was the way people here enjoy the outdoors
Bran was crowded with people and they were all here for one reason, the castle that supposedly one of the world’s most published books, Dracula, was set around.
There has been a fortification or castle on the site since 1212 although the first written evidence of a castle was in 1377 guarding the Bran Pass which had been used as a through road for traders between Transylvania and Wallachia since though early days.It was also of course a great place to collect taxes from those using the road!
The castle has a very commanding position on a rocky promontory above the small town which was a line of houses down both sides of the main road and a very large number of stalls selling everything you could ever want relating to Transylvania and Dracula. This town clearly had been put on the world map by Bram Stokers book from 1897.It is reported that Stoker never actually visited the castle or even Romania for that matter, but had read about it from a journal in a library in London while he was preparing to write the novel. The rest, including all the movies that followed, as
they say, was history.
We booked ourselves in to the Pension which was a short 10 minute walk back to the castle and then thinking that with the time at close to 4pm most of the crowds who had come to Bran for the day would have headed home.
It was as we were walking along the road with the help of a footpath here and there that Gretchen suddenly noticed that Murray (our NZ lamb mascot and always attached firmly to her shoulder bag) had gone! Before I knew it she was off like a little wound up toy retracing our steps back to the Pension to see if Murray had fallen off for some reason or someone from the several groups of people we had squeezed by on our walk to the castle had snatched him off her bag. I followed her back and after getting back to the place she had stopped to take a photo of the castle from the road I found Murray lying prone on the road. Gretchen in her angst and hurry had passed right over the top of him as she desperately searched. Needless to say that Murray has now
been attached with everything we have at our disposal including a couple of metres of dental floss!
With Murray located it was back to visiting the castle and although the crowds were less there was still enough people to make the confined spaces congested. So we held back after noticing a group of Asians and let them overtake us so we could look at the exhibits and study a bit more about the castle and to understand its history.
We wandered through the various rooms and chambers open to the public,most of them filled with period furniture that were original to the castle.As we went along we read the history of the castle from information on the wall of each room.
Vlad the Impaler(the person that Dracula is loosely based upon)never actually lived in he castle although probably passed through the area in his position as a Wallachian leader.He is revered by Romanians as one who drove the urks out and in history he is reported to have killed over 100,000 by impaling them.That sounds like a bit of a tall story for one man to have achieved despite how fearful a warrior he might have been!
More modern history of the castle was that in 1920 it became a residence for the Kingdom of Romania and occupied by the royal family with links to Queen Victoria.In 1948 it was seized by the communist leaders of the day and the royal family expelled.The castle then fell into some disrepair.In 2005 it came back to the decendants of the royal family and restored in 2009 to become a very popular tourist attraction.
It had been a worthwhile hour and a half spent climbing and descending the various rooms of the castle and we came away much more informed about the Dracula connection.
It had been another full day and after a late dinner it was time for sleep as tomorrow we have what could prove to be an exhilarating drive over the 2000 metre Transfagaras Mountain Pass, a road normally only open from late June until October but this year opened earlier than usual with the removal of snow build-up completed and a relatively mild spring.
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