Sinaia, Bran, and Risnov

Trip Start Sep 09, 2006
Trip End Ongoing

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Wednesday, September 27, 2006

Today we were picked up by our personal guide, Florin, whom Jon and I hired to give us an educated but rousing day of sightseeing. We were playing the part of the supertourists, and the goal was to minimize stress to the most minute extent.
Right now I am staying at a hostel run by two brothers, Florin and Gabriel. Florin is a nice, very honest but slightly melancholy man. He is a historian with a degree in Romanian history, a lawyer, and he helps his brother run the hostel business.
For 30 Euros each (ouch!) Florin offered to take Jon and I in his car and be our personal chauffer to the areas' biggest attractions, Sinaia, Bran, and Risnov. We graciously accepted, as we figured we could do the trip ourselves for about the same price, but it would take two days using public transportation.
So at 9 this morning we struck out with Florin, as well as two Swiss hitchhikers Jon and I let tag along on our trip. Our first stop was the highway side and an encounter with the Romanian police as Florin was giving us history lessons and accidentally ran a red light. He was very upset about the whole ordeal and was convinced he did not run the light. I, being the only one who saw the red light (as well as the one who screamed when the car in the other lane almost hit us), cried out when the instance occured, but I did not have the heart to tell him that he was at fault. I hope he never reads this.
48 kilometers later we arrived in Sinaia, which was the town where the royal family of Romania live. I saw "was" because they currently live abroad, as far as I know.
The royal residence was posh, to say the least. Peles (pronounced "pel-esh") palace was, quite simply, one of the most ornate and beautiful structures I have seen. Guided tours are forced on you, and it is easy to see why. We were shown through about fifteen on the palace's 160 rooms, and each room was made of wood, and each section was more ornate than the next. Construction began in 1883 and took 400 artisans working daily for 39 years to complete it. The palace was built with electricity and central heating, with an elevator being added in 1901. When I heard this I thought back on the cabin and all of my family's stories about using outhouses, freezing in the cold, and being unable to get hot water. Oh to be royalty, eh?
So anyway, from room to room the palace imitated the great palaces of its day, with rooms modeled after great German, Italian, Spanish, and Turkish palace rooms, often surpassing the originals. The place was a picture of cultural and religious integration and acceptance.
The next stop was Bran castle, notorious for being the castle brought to life in Bram Stoker's Dracula. This place is the epitome of a tourist trap, and although it is neat because it is a castle, and has all sorts of Transylvanian and Dracula memorabilia in the market outside, there is also something else to keep in mind: Vlad Tepis, Vlad the Impaler, Dracular, never set foot here. It was not his castle. That was Bram Stoker's invention.
Bran was neat, but Risnov Fortress was where it was at. It overlooks the entire valley, and although it was raining on us the whole time, Jon and I romped around like two little kids in a Hardees color ball room (does that room have a name?). We took pictures with reckless abandon, with no heed for our cameras in the weather, and then jumped in the car with our guide for a 17 kilometer ride back to Brasov.
What a day.
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