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The Dracula Tour - Romania

One of the many benefits of living in Bulgaria is its close proximity to many interesting nations like Romania.

Peoples thirst for travel and knowledge often sends them on journeys to other cultures and besides exploring the country that you live in many exciting tours are available if you reside in Bulgaria by just a drive away. Quest takes a visit to Transylvania, homeland of the infamous Count Dracula.

If you have kids and they are obsessed with all things ghoulish, especially Vampires. Their fiendish interest is not just confined to Halloween; they are fascinated by the paranormal, this is the place to visit.

 

Transylvania is situated in central Romania. It is surrounded by the Carpathian Mountains and steeped in history. There are many things of interest to see there and the scenery is breathtaking. It is very easy to reach from Bulgaria. Cross the border at Durankulak and why not combine your trip with a short stays on Romania's Black Sea coast.

The Real Count

The real Count Dracula was Vlad Tepes alias Vlad the Impaler. He was a ruler of Wallachia, a province of Romania from 1456 - 1462 and was renowned for impaling criminals and enemies and raising them aloft in the town square for all to see. Almost any crime, from lying and stealing to killing, could be punished by impalement. His father was inducted into the Order of the Dragon, a kind of a semi-military and religious society similar to the Teutonic Order of Knights. Their main aim was to protect the interests of Christianity and to crusade against the Turks. Many associated the dragon with the devil and decided to call Vlad's father "Dracul" which means "Devil" in Romanian; "Dracula" is a diminutive, which means "the son of the Devil."

The legend of a Vampire Count was forged by the novelist Bram Stoker in his 1897 novel. Bram Stoker built his fictional character solely based on the research that he conducted in libraries in London, but much historical fact about Vlad Tepes had been distorted to portray him as a sinister and evil ruler.

There are many organised Dracula tours, but it's just as easy to make up your own Dracula itinerary. Take in the spooky town where he was born, his castle and his grave. Most visitors are pleasantly surprised at how little the Dracula legend is exploited by the Romanian people and this may make the trip more magical because you are not bombarded by souvenir stalls. Many of the old people are dressed in their black clothes with heads covered, and horse and carts were still in abundance a scene that resembles a step back in time.

Dracula's Birthplace

Sighisoara with its medieval setting is the ultimate in Vampire horror. It consists of many old ramshackle, still habited, coloured houses, cobble streets and several Lutheran churches.

There is much to see and do in this unusual old city. A visit to the Museum of Torture, which houses displays and diagrams of torture methods, but failed to contain some of the more horrific objects of torture, like a guillotine. The Alchemy Bar located in the house where Vlad Tepes (the real Count Dracula), was born in 1433, serve many alcoholic potions in test-tubes. A must is the ancient Clock Tower which contains intricately carved figures who perform a dance on the hour. The tower provides an excellent panoramic view of both the old and new city.

Dracula's Castle

The next leg of the journey took us to the town of Bran, allegedly the home of Count Dracula's Castle, although the link to the real Dracula is tenuous in that he might have stayed here. Dracula purists would argue that the ancient ruins at Curtea de Arges constitute the real Castle.

The castle is spooky, dark and stands majestically on a hill surrounded by awe-inspiring mountain scenery, easily rivalling that of Austria and Switzerland. In the morning and early evening it is often shrouded in mist adding to the Vampire feel.
The castle was formerly one of the residences of Queen Marie of Romania and much of the furniture, paintings and so forth link to her life there.

In Bran there is the child-friendly Vila Bran, a complex of chalets, with hotel facilities, situated on a working farm. Whilst the rooms are basic, the hotel organised a host of free activities, including zip - lining on a cord between two valleys and riding with the farmer in a real horse and cart. The Vila Bran complex allows parents to savour the scenery over a cappuccino, whilst the children entertain themselves picking fruit, tending to the huge stag and a baby "Bambi" who also reside there, stroking rabbits, playing tennis and milking cows.

The historical citadel of Rasnov, close to Bran is well worth a visit. Whilst it is not associated with Dracula it provides an interesting look at medieval life. It was created as a refuge and defence fortress in the 13th century by the inhabitants of the town to protect them against both the Turkish and Tartar invasions and the trespasses of the feudal noblemen. Over time it was reinforced so that it was one of the most solid fortresses in the 15th century.

The Final Resting Place

Our final resting place and that of Vlad Dracula, was Lake Snagov, 45 km from Bucharest. It is here that Vlad the Impaler is buried in a church situated on a peaceful island in the middle of this calm and picturesque lake. We stayed at Complex Astoria, a rather grand old Communist retreat right on the lake.

Our trip across the lake and visit to The Count's grave was the most memorable part of our holiday. A strapping local oarsman rowed us across the calm waters where we glimpsed former dictator, Nicolae Ceausescu's spectacular summer residence. The church is absolutely stunning. Every inch of plaster on the walls is painted with iconic murals. Restoration work here has been going on since 1991 and it still isn't finished.

Dracula's headless torso is buried beneath the alter for all to admire. In this country Count Dracula was a hero who left a long and positive impression on the Romanian people. The priest invited us to sign the visitor's book. Its pages were littered with autographs and comments from famous politicians and ambassadors to Michael Jackson, who made his visit at midnight in 1991.

This adventure would suit any age group you could take things at your own pace, read a chapter of a child friendly version of the Dracula story every night if you have younger children who may become bored with the historical stories. Ensure that they have plenty of time to run around and play with the many friendly local children that you will encounter in each town. Make time to relax over a cappuccino at one of the many pavement cafes where you can watch the world go buy in traffic free areas. Romania is slightly more expensive than Bulgaria, but like Bulgaria, its inhabitants are extremely hospitable and it's history fascinating.