Brasov and Bran Castle

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December 27th 2008
Published: December 30th 2008
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 Video Playlist:

1: View from Cable Car 9 secs
2: View from Mount Tampa 10 secs
When I first arrived in Brasov, I was on my way to Moldova and it was early in the morning and snowy. I was in search of Autogara 2 (Bus station 2). Given the amount of tourist traffic that this city gets, I would not have expected that it was that difficult to get directions to this bus station. Granted, I don't speak Romanian, but really, "Autogara Doi?" shouldn't elicit a 'deer in the headlights' response from a couple dozen locals at the main station. I asked the information clerk at the train station about a bus to Chisinau, and she gave me that classic Eastern bloc 'I don't get paid enough to fulfill my existing responsibilities look' before barking that "no bus, just train here. Take bus 23". And she pointed west. Heck, the first piece of good intel at the station, I'll take it. Even though I didn't know how far I needed to go with said bus, it was a really good start. I saw a sign for were I needed to buy my ticket, and I was on my way. Once the bus came, I decided to try the local in front of me, and asked that ever helpful redundant question "Autogara Doi?" while pointing down at the bus. Bingo! He understood. Counted down the stops on his hand, and indicated that he would tell me when we got there. Good thing, I would have missed it. Once I got to the station, I was greeted with a huge sign showing departures to Chisinau at 12 and 19 hours. I was expecting a 9am departure, but, oh well. I asked at the "Casa Billet" or something like that (ticket booth). They said that I buy ticket from the "little hut of bus". There was a little hut of sorts, so I sat down in the refrigerator of a waiting room. After spending a cold several hours waiting for the noon departure, 12 came and went without a bus. When I asked again, they said that there was no bus. No shit Sherlock. Oh well, they did seem pretty sure that there was a bus at 19:00. Works for me. I decided to head into town and check out what Brasov had to offer. As I was already preserved via refrigeration, my first order of business was to de-thaw.

Bus 12 deposited me right downtown, and I was able to find the main pedestrian walkway Street Republicil and take in the really cool old town core. By now it had really started to snow, and realized that even if I had not lost feeling in my hands and feet, a cafe would be a good idea. Enter La Republique, a great little cafe with shockingly good coffee. Maybe the orphanage coffee had started to get to me, but this stuff was really good. As I sat there cupping my coffee in order to restore proper circulation to my most vulnerable appendages, I was thinking about how this trip was going to be documented. I had been unable to charge my camera for several weeks now, and Christmas time at the orphanage had lead to a photo stream that bleed every bit of battery. With a burned out adapter, I had been unable to shave, use my laptop, charge the camera or charge the toothbrush. Oh well, it was snowing too heavily to take any good pics anyway. I ducked into the city guild museum after warming up, and realized just how 'off season my trip was'. They had to turn the exhibit lights on for me. At first I thought that the $2 admission was a ripoff, because it looked like the museum was just a few small rooms. Once I got going, I realized that it was rather expansive, and covered two floors. Not the most interesting collection of stuff I had seen, but I had a lot of time to kill and it did have a good selection of crafts that had made the town a powerful trading hub. I found out that if a staircase was blocked off by a red rope, I was supposed to take it. But if the rope was down, that is a no no. No Entree. The museum staff assumed that this was intrinsically obvious. I decided to leave instruction of 'Contemporary Museum Traffic Control 101' to a future traveler and just played the dumb tourist. "Oh, I see, I may not take the unblocked staircase. I must take the staircase with the red rope blocking the entry. Stupid me." A little chuckle and reflection that maybe this country did in fact enter the EU a little too soon and I was on my way. Without further delay, I was off to Moldova.

Upon my return from Moldova, having been delayed by a nice 4 hours due to mechanical issues, I was deposited at the train station instead of the bus station. I checked inside, and there was no cheap 'stop train' until 4pm. Since it was about 8:30am, I realized that I had a nice long day of sightseeing in the city. No problems. It was a beautiful sunny day, and now with a charged camera, I could document it. I wanted to start with Bran castle, about 1 hour from Autagara 2. Ha, I knew how to get there. Like clockwork, I purchased the bus ticket, got on bus 23, pulled up to the bus station and saw that the bus to Bran was already boarding. Yey, no frozen waiting room! I watched the clock and the road signs, and hopped off in front of the castle. It was the weekend, and the place was certainly a tourist trap. But it looked like a cool sight. At the ticket booth, I overheard someone buy tickets for 4 adults and 6 children in a definitive American accent. I toured the castle with two families from Cluj. They were there working on a contract for a highway, and were touring for the weekend. It was nice to have some American company, and the castle was a nice stop. As soon as I walked out of the entrance to the castle park, I saw the exact bus I took come around the corner. This worked out better than a taxi. Hop on and back to Brasov. The bus there, bus back and admission worked out to be about 5 Euro.

Back in Brasov, I walked through the old town again and took all the pics I was unable to last time. I noticed the cable car, and decided to see how much it was. 6 Lie, about $2. Deal, done. I was going up Mt. Tampa. It didn't look that high from the bottom, but once I got to the top, I realized that this was a must see sight in town. I got to see all over the valley, the snow pack up top was great, and the view over the old town was spectacular. In Brasov, I read that you can hire a helicopter for 400 Euro an hour tour. For the same view, Save 398.5 and take the cable car. After another cup of coffee at La Republique, it was time to head back to the station to catch the Baile Tusnad train.

Additional photos below
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