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Published: January 30th 2012
Central Bucharest in winter
A beautiful building in the Old Town.
The historical figure Vlad the Impaler was a prince from Wallachia in the 15th century, and gained a reputation as the stuff of nightmares for his hideous method of executions. He was the inspiration for Bram Stoker's famous novel Dracula set in Transylvania. The book features terrifying creatures of the night, and continues to fascinate readers and moviegoers all over the world. In fact, the very thought of a vampire swooping down to sink their fangs into the tender skin of my neck leaves me close to panic. So it was with some degree of trepidation that our hostel group headed out to Transylvania, a mere two and a half hours on the train from Bucharest. We drew some comfort from the fact we were travelling during the day, but a fierce snowstorm meant a night creature could still be out on a merciless quest for blood without fear of the sun. In order to ward off evil we armed ourselves with garlic, crucifixes and wooden stakes, and weren't of a mind to brook any nonsense from blood sucking transylvanian vampires!
As I quiver in mortal terror, constant reader, the journal still continues from where we left off in Bucharest.
Bran castle, Brasov
The home of the legend of Dracula.
Transylvania is the most famous region in Romania, and set in beautiful mountain country with excellent conditions for ski bunnies. I was in the company of my English friend and an Australian girl from our hostel in Bucharest, and we dragged ourselves out of bed early one morning to catch the train to the beautiful Transylvanian city of Brasov. The search for vampires had begun, but the storm was playing havoc with the train schedule. We had to wait an hour and a half before the train even departed the platform. The journey, however, was pleasant and the scenery in Transylvania is absolutely stunning. Brasov is famous for the beauty of it's old town, and is a gorgeous city with a more relaxed feel than Bucharest. The city features an impressive castle and fort, and we trudged around happily in the heavy snow grateful for the fluffy stuff falling vertically, as opposed to horizontally in the midst of the storm back in Bucharest.
The main attraction for tourists is Bran castle, which is thirty kilometres out of town. The castle was the residence of the former royals in Romania, and is also the focal point for the legend of
Bran castle, Brasov
Perched on top of a hill, and the former home of Romanian royalty.
Dracula. It was a great experience to visit the castle, and there's plenty of information to devour about Vlad lll, the author Bram Stoker, and of course his wonderful creation the blood curdling vampires. Dracula was the second book ever to be published after the bible, and a work of creative genius that continues to captivate and inspire. We had a terrific visit to the castle in the snow, and after a fortifying glass of wine took a taxi back to gorgeous Brasov to do some more exploring. The day was getting away from us, and unfortunately a visit to the spectacular Peles castle in the town of Sinaia was out of the question.
We arrived back at the hostel quite late, only to find a group of travellers planned to head out to a club despite the dreadful weather, so we decided to join in the fun. For once the dance floor wasn't packed, and we all boogied on down to the groovy music, baby! Our taxi driver was happy to wait for us while we got a 3:00am kebab, and then continued the drive back to the hostel while we ate in his car. Now that's what
I call a good taxi service! A major issue in Bucharest are the countless dogs that roam around the capital, and they can be a real worry at night when the streets are deserted. Early on in my visit I was walking home late with my English friend, and dogs were approaching us in packs with malicious intent. That really scared me, so I clapped my hands and shouted out to keep them at bay. The next night I asked my friend if we could walk back the main way, and an amazing incident occurred. Two dogs adopted us very close to the city centre, and walked us all the way home. When other dogs barked or began to approach they charged at them in a tight phalanx while barking fiercely, like some canine version of a praetorian guard. Our dogs roused off every other dog that came to challenge us that night and saw us safely home! I found the behaviour of the dogs extraordinary, but even with their protective instincts it's been cabs only to get safely home for the remainder of my visit. Coincidentally an American soldier on leave from Afghanistan was chased by a dog just
Aussie, Aussie, Aussie
My Australian travelling companion in the Old Town of Bucharest.
last night, as he was coming back to the hostel at 10:00pm. Unfortunately the situation is out of control here in Bucharest, and I'm told laws are being drafted to have these unregistered dogs euthanized.
The final three days of my trip provided a stark reminder of the potency of northern hemisphere winters. We tried to catch a train for a further day of sightseeing in Sinaia, but they were all cancelled due to the blizzard. It has dropped to minus thirteen degrees in Bucharest today with heavy snow. At least the owners of the hostel will be happy, as we farewelled them a few days ago for a snowboarding holiday. It's the first time I've seen off the hostel owners as they head off when I'm still at a hostel, it's meant to be the other way around! Anyways, this hostel has been fantastic, and the staff and guests have made my visit a memorable experience. It was one of those special occasions where a random group of travellers arrived at a top quality hostel around the same time, and we decided this would be our base while we recharged the batteries. The owners invite locals to sample
the exotic teas every night, and the atmosphere at Doors Hostel is one of the coolest I've enjoyed during my years of travel. The hostel felt like home with minimal turnover of guests, and the super friendly staff will do anything for you. My long stay in Bucharest has been just the tonic to finish off an unforgettable adventure in the Balkans where, basically all of you should be here now!
Those are my principles, and if you don't like them... well, I have others." Groucho Marx
It's home time so until next time, I'm signing off for now
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