Romania – A Journey Filled with Heartfelt Memories
December 5 – Sibiu – Biertan – Sighisoara – Brasov
Today was a wonderful one. We spent time at the birthplace and hometown of Dracula – dating back to the 12th Century. We dined in his home! Later we sipped Romanian brandies in a 500 year old cellar – a “Travel With Bradley” surprise!
This mornings drive through Transylvania was very scenic – valleys, hilly lands and picturesque villages.
We drove through a Gypsy (Roma) community (3-4% of the Romanian population) and saw a massive home which is being built for a Gypsy King. This Gypsy town was filled with partially built homes – the Gypsy’s are movers and have probably deserted this community but they may eventually return. Gypsy’s typically have 5 children so once the European borders opened many moved to countries like Germany where the the social programs are much better than Romania.
Our first stop was at a town known for its fortified church (Biertan) which has been designated a UNESCO site. It’s construction is so unique – the alter is the biggest in Transylvania and the door lock on the church treasury uses one key to open 15 locks! The church is known for the “divorce house” – many years ago it was forbidden to divorce so if a couple came to a bishop wanting a divorce he would tell them that they needed to spend 14 days in this small house and after that time if they still wanted to divorce it would be granted. Over 300 years couples were ordered to that house but just 1 couple ended up divorcing.
Only 4 towns in Europe are listed with UNESCO designation and Romania has one (Sighisoara) – everything in town is a monument. This delightful place has preserved its medieval atmosphere.
This very well known town is the home of Vlad the Impaler (Count DRACULA). As with every legend, there is a historical background. We visited the house where Dracula was born and the room where he lived until he was 6. “Dracula” was laying in a coffin – he did a great job scaring some of my passengers espewhen we moved. As a tour highlight we dined in Dracula’s home.
We then climbed to the top of the towns famous clocktower and admired a stunning view over this community and the surrounding countryside.
As a special treat we sipped 5 types of award (even in Canada) wining Romanian brandy’s in a 500 year old cellar. The overall favourite was the mixed fruit variety – many of my passengers are bringing some home.
Romania proudly has the most UNESCO Heritage sites per habitats in the world – there are currently 36 and 16 more are on the waiting list – a formality and they will then be registered.
Our home for 2 nights is the 5 star, Cromwell in Brasov. This is a state-of-the-art modern 5 star hotel catering to an international, business crowd. I could move into my room – really like its design and colour scheme – my passengers are chatting about the square toilet in their rooms – something different!
December 6 – Brasov – Bran – Brasov
Today we visited Bran Castle, was made famous by the Dracula fable. This castle attracts over 1 million visitors a year and is the #1 attraction in Romania. Tourists flock here from all over the world. When our guide recently explained to a large group of Japanese tourists that Dracula is a story which has put Romania on the map, 2 of the Japanese passengers started to cry as they believed Dracula was real. The castle is hidden in the hilly forest of Bran and is surrounded by an aura of mystery and legend. It was built by the German Saxons in the 14th century.
It was an uphill gradual climb to reach the castle but all of my passengers conquered it and loved the Dracula castle experience. Luckily this time of year we have to contend with no crowds – often the wait times to enter the castle reach 2 hours.
After touring the castle we had time to visit the local tourist market stalls.
Our private luncheon was in the upscale tea house at the base of the castle. The Tudor interior was attractive and warm – very professional run operation.
During the drive over the Carpathian Mountains we passed through a large ski resort area. The winter ski season will start in a few days.
We visited the 2nd most visited attraction in Romania – the Black Church, located in the Old Town area of Brashov. Unfortunately no pictures are allowed inside. This is a massive structure that was originally built as a Catholic Church but later became Lutheran.
We stayed long enough to see the twinkling lights of the Old Town Market. It’s beautifully decorated real Christmas Tree is humongous. It towers over the square. The stores in the downtown offer Romanian branded clothing and shoes – different qualities. It’s downtown shopping mall is unique – an open space with no walls but a variety of stores.
Dinner was back at our hotel in a private space. The well presented cuisine and service has been top notch here.
December 7- Brasov – Sinaia – Bucharest
Sinaia is the pearl of the Carpathian Mountains. Castle Peles put Sinaia on the map. Although not as famous as the Bran Dracula Castle, the interior of this castle is much more spectacular. It took our breath away. This castle served as the summer residence of the royal family until 1947.
The adjacent monastery, built by Prince Cantacuzino in 1695 was impressive too. We were able to take pictures in the older Orthodox Church as its not used for services anymore. Surrounding it is monks quarters. We saw a number of the 20 monks walking the grounds.
Our private luncheon was in another impressive castle (Cantacuzino) which is currently leased to a famous Russian ballerina. The chef and restaurant has earned a Michelin Star – this meal was of the upmost quality. What a wonderful culinary experience.
Our overnight was back in Bucharest at the 5 star Radisson Blu. After check in we ventured to Old Town and visited the Bucharest Christmas Market which is the largest in Romania. Each of the Christmas Markets we visited were unique. This one was the busiest – a Saturday night.
Our farewell, delicious dinner was held at the Radisson Blu. I changed the location of this banquet as I felt everyone would be more relaxed dining at the hotel as we have an early morning departure to Amsterdam.
This Mystery Journey featured the best Romania has to offer – attractions, hotels and restaurants.
I think my passengers would agree – Romania offered an excellent travel experience. The perfect weather was appreciated and we had no crowds to contend with anywhere (other than last nights Christmas Market).
Our local guide, Apollo used the phrase, “In Bradley We Trust”. I’d like to thank my passengers for “trusting in Bradley” when they decided to book this International Mystery Tour. We quickly were one big family the mixed and mingled with everyone. I’d also like to thank our local guide and coach driver – so professional.
I look forward to bringing more groups to Romania – its an amazing destination – filled with surprises – amazing attractions and welcoming people.