Beyond Brasov: Castles of Romania

Venturing beyond Brasov we travel deeper into Transylvania with an intimate tour group where we explore Bran’s Castle, Rasnov’s Fortress, and Peles Castle. Along the way we traverse the gorgeous Romanian countryside.

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Castle Dracula (Bran Castle)

Strategically located on the border of Transylvania and Wallachia Bran’s Castle overlooks one of the most important mediaeval trading routes in this part of Europe.

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Constructed in 1377 it is said to have been Bram Stoker’s model for Dracula’s castle in his 1897 novel. However this castle has no real connection to Stoker, or Vlad Tepes (The Impaler) who was Stoker’s inspiration for his Dracula novel. 

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The castle was meant to serve a purpose, guard the mountain pass and to levy a tax on all merchants passing through. In 1921 it was offered as a summer residence to Romania’s Queen Marie who planted flower gardens, and apple trees. 

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Because Bran’s Castle is the only castle in Transylvania that fit Stoker’s description for his blood thirsty vampire, it became known as Dracula’s castle by association only. Too many tourists want to believe the fictional story of Dracula is true, but Stoker never visited Romania or Bran’s castle. There are a LOT of tourists!

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Aaaaggghhh! Tourist hordes!

The amount of tourists waiting in line to enter Bran Castle was disorganized chaos. Fortunately our tour guide already bought our tickets and we were able to whisk by the endless line at the front gate. Inside the castle it was quite cramped with a constant flow of people which made enjoying the rooms as they were decorated difficult. However the lovely courtyard at the end of the tour was a welcomed treat. 

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Rasnov Fortress

Built on top of a mountain that towers over the city of Rasnov the current fortress sits atop the remains of a Dacian fortress. On this particular day it was much less crowded than Bran’s castle. Horse rides are offered as a quick ride to the top but we choose to walk the slow and windy path. 

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The defenses include 9 towers, 2 bastions and a drawbridge. Inside the remains are crumbling but you can clearly see the outlines of a working city inside these walls. The view from the fortress is fantastic. 

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On the walk back we hit up a local vender for some corn on the cob. It wasn’t quite the same as our farm fresh Iowa sweet corn, however buttered and salted this Transylvanian corn did the trick in a pinch to fill our grumbling belly’s.

Peles Castle

One of Romania’s most famous royal residences is Peles Castle built between 1875 and 1883. King Carol I fell in love with the wild and picturesque landscape. Tucked into the forest hills we followed a beautiful cobble stone drive up to this gem of a castle. The exterior style shows German influences from German architect Wilhem Dodderer who drew up the plans for the construction.

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Visitors are not allowed to browse the interior without a guided escort so we signed up for a tour, and wandered the gardens until it was time. The gardens were neatly manicured and adorned with stone statues, fountains and Carrara marble decorative pots.  

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Inside there are 170 rooms but only 10 can be viewed by visitors and they are worth the look. The Entrance Hall features detailed wood carvings out of walnut wood. Climb the stairs and look towards the heavens to marvel at the incredible glass ceiling. The ceiling is movable. It opens electronically or manually allowing the Royal family to marvel at the clouds or the stars from the interior of the Entrance Hall.

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The insane electronically-opening stained glass ceiling.

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The inner courtyard is surrounded by stunning handmade wooden artwork.

Just when you thought that was the highlight of the whole castle, more treasures were uncovered in each additional room. The Playhouse seats 60 and includes its own royal box seat. The dinning room features some very valuable silver pieces and can host service for 24. 

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The Royal library collection includes an assortment of rare books with leather bound covers and golden engraved letters, and even boasts its very own secret passage way. In the Turkish Parlor resides a collection of Turkish and Persian brass pots. Most of the stained glass found throughout the castle was brought from Switzerland and Germany dating from the 15th and 17th centuries. 

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Library with secret passage.
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The Turkish room

After Bran’s castle Peles is considered the second most visited castle. In contrast this castle tour was well organized. Timed entrances with a guide allow you to easily enjoy and learn about the interior.

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The weapons room
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Commemoration of the Battle of Nicopolis: the 4th Crusade against Turkish invaders in 1396.

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The importance of the contents inside the castle are underlined by military guards, supervisors, and video cameras. Pictures are allowed with no flash with the purchase of a special additional sticker. If you forget you’ll be sure to receive a tap on the shoulder by one of the room supervisors.

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