Day Trip to Brasov and Bran Castle with Visit Transilvania Travel
Second part of our trip to Romania was based around the town of Sinaia. This winter I wanted to introduce my daughter to skiing. The location of Sinaia is great, as it is only 1.5 hours on the train from Bucharest and the town itself has a few sites, if you don’t want to go skiing every day.
One of the days we planned to go to the city of Brasov, which can be combined with a visit to Bran Castle as it is not very far. Our tour was organised by Visit Transilvania Travel and Nicu helpfully showed us the sights.
Visit Transilvania Travel organises a variety of tours , you can choose from a day option or an extended tour over a few days. They are conveniently located in the centre of Brasov, if you are staying in the area or everything can be arranged in advance via email.
Our day started from a short drive to Bran Castle and an extensive introduction to Romanian history from Nicu. Nicu, being an excellent story teller himself, also leads a course for local guides, passing on his wisdom and knowledge acquired over the years. He has been taking tours all over Romania for many years together with his colleagues from Visit Transilvania Travel . There is no risk that you will end up with a guide, who only brings you to places. Then you book your trip with Visit Transilvania Travel, you will be exposed to a lot of knowledge from a guide , who knows Romanian history as the back of their hand.
I enjoyed learning all about the history of Romania, starting with tribes, feaudal fights and about Vlad the Impaler himself. Nicu was very clear that there was no connection between the fictional character of Dracula and the Bran Castle. In fact, writer Bram Stoker, who invented Dracula as a character, have never even been to Romania in his lifetime. Yet thematic development of the exhibition related to torture devices and a fictional character of Dracula in the Bran Castle, over the years has created the industry around the castle, which now feeds the tourist trade.
My advice is to come to the castle as early as possible, that way you would be able to avoid the crowds. We came there around 10am and it was not very busy yet, but I imagine that in the summer months earlier arrival would be even better. Bran castle is open from 9am.
Inside the castle you will have an opportunity to see some interior rooms, but they are not particularly interesting. The main drawing point is a variety of torture devices used in throughout the human history. Some of the devices have very graphic pictures next to them, showing how the device was used. I felt slightly horrified at the whole range of things used to torture people. It is quite frightening what a human mind is capable of.
I loved the galleries circling the castle on upper floors as we had brilliant views of the surrounding countryside as well as a bird’s eye view of the inner courtyard.
Nicu also shared with us that Bran Castle was used as a summer residence for the Royal Family of Romania and Queen Marie used to spend considerable amount of time here. She asked for her heart to be buried in Bulgaria, but it was later brought to a church, which had a similar design to the church in Bulgaria, where the heart was originally located. Consequently, the heart was brough to National History Museum in Bucharest and found its final resting place at Pelisor Castle, near the town of Sinaia. You can still see the small church from one of the terraces in the Bran Castle.
Kids would love exploring the hidden staircase, small alleyways and stairs in the castle. Around the castle grounds there is plenty of room for running or walking and there is a lovely lake with a cafe in the summer months.
Our next stop was a charming town of Brasov, where we first had traditional lunch. This was our free time and Nicu recommended a great local place with lots of Romanian dishes to try.
After lunch we met up with Nicu again and he took us on a walking tour around Brasov. We saw Black Church, it is currently being cleaned and quickly becoming very white. The name came after the church burned in the 17th centtury and as the walls were covered with soot, the people of Brasov started calling it Black Church , so the name has remained. Inside the church we loved hearing about German community, the order that people would be seated in the church and how the church was built.
We walked to the main square, went to the narrowest street in Europe and listened to silence in some cute courtyards. As with all touristy places, do not hesitate to step off the main squares and main streets. You will find quieter streets, with small cafes, no queues and lots of space and quirky places to explore for yourself.
On the way back to Sinaia we stopped off and saw the local goodies. There was plenty of fruit syrups, honey, jams and home made cheese. Nicu was translating and we happily chatted about different things that a local lady was selling and how they can be used. We even had a little taste of the pine syrup, which apparently is great for the throat and general immunity.
The time has come for us to say goodbye to Nicu. We had a wonderful day, exploring Romanian history and two iconic places. I would not hesitate to recommend Visit Transilvania Travel. If you are planning to go to Romania, have a look at their website, as there is so much inspiration in the types of tours that they offer. When I asked Nicu what was his favourite area in Romania, he suggested Painted Monasteries. I think this will be where I will be heading next.
Disclaimer: We were hosted by Visit Transilvania Travel, but all opinions are my own.