We often associate Transylvania with spooky mountains, weird necktie/cape combos, and exsanguination. So far, the city of Brasov is a total disappointment. The mountains are pleasantly wooded with the occasional bear attack, I haven’t seen a single cape, and I swear I’m just naturally pale!
The city itself has two personalities. There’s a newer section with the usual banks and industry and apartment blocks. Mostly people focus on the older part with a big, ancient church, the university of silviculture, and lots of pubs and restaurants.
This part of town really is lovely; the aforementioned pleasantly wooded mountains surround it on three sides. There’s even a nice children’s park on one side. No bear attacks in the park, either.
There is a nice little zoo, a water park, and an adventure park in the new city along with shopping malls and grocery stores. We went to the zoo because our kids are too short for the adventure park and they can’t swim.
Right at the zoo entrance they had a nice little raptor and owl display, and the kids got to fight over the bear and the lion ticket all day. They both wanted the lion.
Brown bears (of which grizzlies are a sub-species) are fairly common in Romania, so they have many at the zoo. At least one cub and around 8 adults.
There are lots of birds, including ostriches, swans, peacocks (we saw so many in Sri Lanka, but the kids are still impressed) and various raptors.
One of my university buddies is Romanian and is now working in Switzerland. He just happened to be in Romania visiting friends and family while we’re here, so we re-connected in Brasov. Razvan showed up after a long drive and we made him climb a mountain with the Little Fella in tow.
Mount Tampa has a variety of trails up the side, and Vero and I had been taking turns running up it early in the morning. The trails are well maintained and mostly switchback up the front side. There’s a beauty marked with a blue plus sign that requires a 3 km run through Old Brasov (from our apartment). It’s worth it for the winding ascent that ends up in an alpine-feeling meadow near the top.
Back in the old days, they planted some contrasting trees to spell out “Stalin” on the mountainside. I’m not sure if they cut those trees down or if Nature herself just re-absorbed it. Now there’s a 10 m high “Brasov” sign with a cable-car to ferry (lazy) people up and down the mountain.
Technically it’s not really Dracula’s castle. Bran castle was one of Vlad the Impaler’s homes. Vlad was the inspiration for Bram Stoker’s Dracula. He was pretty awful by anyone’s standards. There are no spikes on display at the castle in Bran, but spikes were integral to Vlad’s preferred method of revenge.
The castle is quite compact (small) with narrow, winding staircases and lots of Harry Potter-esque rooms under stairs. Many of the rooms are decorated with furniture, artwork, tapestries, and suits of armor.
The one thing that really surprised us was the crowds. The line-up for tickets was 15 m long. Our wonderfully helpful Airbnb hosts George and Monica said they’d never seen it so busy. Most of our visit to the castle we were restricted to shuffling along behind the masses of other tourists.
Even the outdoor areas were packed, with no balcony left empty. We managed to find an empty corner to sit and watch the people throw money into the 1.5 m deep well, and watch other people try to fish it out.
Bonus Tractor Pic
We’re now in a tiny village called Sarata-Colun. We found it via the WWOOF network, and are trading some cleaning and renovations for free accommodation. It’s a nice, quiet change from the city.