Magnificent Transylvania will take you through what was once the wild edges of Europe
“Magnificent Transylvania will take you through what was once the wild edges of Europe” – Chris Garnet – Daily Mirror, UK
A journalist of the British daily tabloid „The Mirror“ is really impressed by the beauty of Transylvania, but also by Bucharest, after a trip he made in our country.
Chris Garnet dedicates to Transylvania an ample article, after a voyage through Romania, were he visited the capital and some of the cities and villages in the center of the country among the Carpathian Mountains. You can read his article bellow.
“Follow in the footsteps of Vlad the Impaler on a road trip through Romania’s magnificent Transylvania, with medieval towns straight from a fairytale
Transylvania: The medieval Old Town of Sighisoara
I wandered through cobblestone streets, dazzled by the colourful medieval and renaissance architecture, the citadels on the hillsides looking down, picture-perfectly framed by the forested mountain standing tall behind.
It could have been Germany’s Rhineland or Bavaria – but I was in Romania and this was Transylvania.
Nestled amongst the peaks and plains of the Carpathian Mountains, Transylvania was once on the wild edges of Europe.
For over 900 years it was under the rule of the Hungarians and Austrians, colonized by Germans, settled by Roma gypsies, and only unifying with Romania after the First World War.
I finally got the chance to visit this fascinating country on a road trip with my father and son which began in Bucharest.
The Romanian capital had been a revelation.
Despite Ceausescu’s best efforts to bulldoze in massive Soviet monuments, the historic old town is still filled with crumbling French buildings – many of them now bars, or spaces for outdoor raves on hot weekends.
The whole city is bursting with energy – outdoor barbecues rub shoulders with new shopping centers, ancient churches, empty 1970s blocks, and tiny bars in courtyards.
Restaurant in Old City Downtown
We went from 20-something drinking beers under the spread of a tree, to see bullet-pockmarked walls by the Communist Party Headquarters.
Setting off in our generic Dacia rental car on a beautiful morning, it didn’t take long to reach the flat countryside of the province of Wallachia, with its tin-roofed villages, garden wells, and ubiquitous horse and carts – the rural scenes for which Romania is famous.
Scenic: Carpathian Mountains
An hour-and-a-half later, we were high up in Sinaia, a Carpathian resort near the border of Transylvania.
We visited the magnificently ornate Pelesh Castle. Built between 1873 and 1914, it has been the summer residence of the Romanian Royal family and is now the country’s the most visited museum.
Stopping only to stretch our legs on the mountainside populated with bears and wolves, we drove on, descending with dusk into Transylvania and the Saxon town of Brasov and then on to the smaller Sighishoara.
Transylvania’s Dracula connection is of course thanks to Bram Stoker, the Irish author of the original novel, who never even visited Transylvania.
His character’s origins are just loosely based on the 15th century local ruler, Vlad Dracul.
Vlad is better known by his nickname, Vlad The Impaler.
He wasn’t a vampire, but his nickname describes how he dispensed with his enemies, in particular, the Turkish invaders.
His notoriety has echoed down through the ages, yet (in tourist shops at least) his persona has intertwined with the fictional Dracula’s, the two becoming a mustachioed one.
The 14th century Bran Castle – touted as “Dracula’s Castle” – has been serving for ages as a military fortress controlling the entry route to Transylvania and best known through its association with Dracula’s myth.
The region was heavily influenced by German colonists.
Grand: Bran castle in Romania
Invited over by the Hungarian kings to protect their frontier, they ended up staying for over eight centuries (in the process they were somehow wrongly labeled as Saxons) and built many impressive towns and villages, of which
Brasov is a fine example.
The Germans have virtually all gone now, but their legacy remains.
Along with the magnificent architecture, they kindly left behind a culture of fine beer and wine.
We enjoyed a supper of sausage and sauerkraut, followed by an excellent apple strudel.
The next morning, we left Brasov and dropped onto the Tarnave plateau motoring past rolling fields and woodland.
The region is famous for its medieval ‘Saxon’ villages, their orderly Germanic hearts incongruous to their ramshackle Romanian outskirts.
We came off the main road to visit another beautiful village, Viscri, where Prince Charles owns property.
After driving slowly to the end of a long dirt track, we were greeted by a sign declaring its Unesco World Heritage status.
There are seven Unesco-protected villages in the region, my favourite being The Vineyards’ Valley (Valea Viilor), with a rickety bell tower that got my knees wobbling as I climbed its precarious staircase.
We stopped at Sighishoara, with its splendid fortified old town clustered on a hillside.
Its beauty is staggering – one of the only living medieval citadels in Europe, with winding streets studded with towers.
Climb up them, and you can see out to the countryside. The Clock Tower had a great view, and a decent museum.
Just next door was Vlad the Impaler’s supposed birthplace.
History: Behind the walls of old Brasov
And on we continued, driving through the surreal rural back roads, through lost villages with wood-fires burning. Past Protestant, Orthodox and Catholic spires.
There were wild villages, peasants with scythes and hoes, giant stork nests atop lamp posts – and everywhere the EU flag proudly flying.
Last stopover was Sibiu, with a main square imperious enough to grace the grandest of cities.
The houses there had eyes, making it feel even more like a fantasy land.
We returned full circle to the giant Carpathians then crossed back via the pine forests, before finally leaving Transylvania and the fairytale behind.
When to go: March to November is best for road-tripping. Autumn is drier than high summer.
December to March is wonderful for ski season. Summer is great on the Black Sea.
Top tip: Take a satnav (GPS) if you’re driving. Signs are few and far between.
Get packing: Bring warm clothes for those mountain nights.
Do try: Stop at road- side stalls where old folk sell homemade wares.
They’ll have jams and plum brandy – which can be amazingly strong (up to 70 per cent!).
Getting there: Ryanair daily flights from Stansted to Bucharest with fares from £25.99 one way. ryanair.com”
Article by Chris Garnet, Daily Mirror, UK