'Dracula's castle??!'

Trip Start Aug 29, 2005
Trip End Aug 01, 2006

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Flag of Romania  ,
Monday, March 13, 2006

After eating at Dracula's home, we pushed on and arrived in Brașov where we met up, by chance, with Christi and his cousin Gabriel - both mentioned in the lonely planet as extremely helpful 'tour' guides and accommodation providers. And somewhat surprisingly for Lonely Planet, it is true. We were trying to get to a village called Fundata - nestled in the mountains - but March storms hit unexpectedly everywhere (this winter has been especially hard on Europe) and there was just no way we could get there with the snowfall. So, Christi became our interim guide and took us to Bran - touted as Dracula's castle (1378), but likely he never stepped foot in it) - but the castle was well worth the look. We spent two days playing in the vast amounts of snow and stayed in a swiss chalet style B&B. The owner was marvelously friendly - plying us with chicken soup and dumplings, bread, mild soft cheeses, thick slices of 'fat' with paprika (??slaleena), 'fresh from the cow' milk. A big difference in the wealth of this area compared with the north west of the country (definitely more of a tourist destination, but also landscape wise). Due to snow, snow, low cloud, snow, we did not see the impressive Carpathian mountains at all in this first week we spent in Romania - lucky for us, we returned after Bulgaria and saw their splendor, or else this entry would be entitled 'how to spend almost 2 weeks in Romania and not see the mountains'!
From Bran we visited the 13th century Râșnov fortress ruins - the site of a long siege between the Hungarians and Ottomans..... Now perhaps it will get some of its fame for being the site for some of the movie filming of Cold Mountain!

16 March - well it had to happen - train mishaps - and on our long day of travel - some electrical problem would delay our train from Brașov to Bucuresti which would then delay our travel into Bulgaria. But once again Christi came to our aid and we made it to Bucuresti. The little we saw of Bucuresti was that it appeared to be a large city with LARGE estates that have been abandoned or really let run down. Lots of evidence of prior communist regime. Arrived at the train station and had an instant mistrust of the officials - asking for money just to get through to the platform where we could buy tickets, ask for information etc. Of course this mistrust was helped by Christi's prior warnings - 'Bucuresti is all run by the mafia - taxi city', always having to pay (in beer or lei currency) the local taxi drivers to be allowed to park in any spot, 'don't pay anyone who says you have to', 'watch your bags', ....and this coming from a native Romanian - he should know something. In any case, we were not in the mood to explore a large city with this reputation (although am sure there are good things to be seen). But interesting that the handful of Romanians we met all said the same thing - avoid Bucuresti!
On the train to Bulgaria - a rapid one - we felt we were going maybe about 70km/hr (and judging from the distance and time it took). Even the train slowed at times to go through a section where the tracks sloped...hmmm. Lots of evident poverty, prairie lands, and +++ oil drilling en route to Giugiu at the border between Romania and Bulgaria. (50mins at this border and then 1 hour on the Bulgarian side in Ruse) Buying the train tickets in Bucuresti for Bulgaria, the Romanian ticket agent kindly told us that she had 'fixed' it on the tickets so that the Bulgarian conductors could not ask us for more money as they tended to do with tourists. ????? Hungarians told us to watch the Romanian officials...what will the Bulgarians tell us? Border crossings are ALWAYS interesting no matter where you are.
No blue Danube seen here at the Giurgiu/Ruse crossing - quite wide and very high - major spring runoff so muddy looking. Number of side channels going into the Danube Delta east of here where bird watching is supposed to be fantastic. All done by boat from what we gather.

Leaving Transylvania, knowing we would return ....(in 7 days actually), Romania certainly had a hold on us.
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semiquaver on

Love the photography
Found you log whilst browsing. I would just like to say how much I enjoyed your photos.

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