We will be starting our 8 hour tour with a drive to Sinaia to visit the royal Peles Castle. From there we’ll drive to Bran Castle (aka Dracula’s Castle) followed by a drive into the beautiful surrounding hills and villages and finally will visit the partially restored Rasnov Fortress on the way back as well as the pretty mountain resort of Poiana Brasov.You will discover a few centuries of history as we twice cross the former border between Transylvania and Tara Romaneasca (Walachia ) and you get to sample architectural styles ranging from Neo-Renaissance at Peles Castle to medieval architecture at Bran Castle and Rasnov Fortress separated by 700 years in time and by 40km of forests and one of the most impressive mountains in Romania. So apart from loads of information about history and culture of this land you will also discover the natural beauty of this area.
While visiting the them we will most likely come across a number of other tourists as these castles are the top most visited tourist attractions in Romania no matter the season We plan on taking you to visit them using alternative routes so you get to enjoy and experience this marvelous area while also breathing in its famous fresh mountain air.
On our tour we’ll talk about how the geographical setup influenced the people and how the people, in turn, influenced history. This area was for centuries the border between the western European world and the Orient and the two mountain passes you get to see were the primary ways for goods to be moved between those worlds, thus creating the premises for all the drama you would expect from those turbulent times.
Talking about East meets West you will also get to sample the famous Covrigi: a little treat and some carbohydrates (as we’re going to need them later): this is the most typical, traditional Romanian street food/snack. They look like a German Pretzel but the dough is actually one of a Turkish simit. A perfect symbol for Romania, really. A land right between east and west and also very fitting to Brasov itself : a city situated pretty much at this border: between the Austro-Hungarian empire and Wallachia, the land once belonging to the Ottoman Empire.
We will drive through Predeal which at 1000m is the the highest town in Romania and a popular mountain resort
Is the former home of the Romanian Royal family. Built by the first Romanian king, Carol I it was used as a summer residence . The plans and decorations were prepared by German architects hence the similarity to German castles. Peles Castle is a unique construction and an important monument of its kind from 19th century Europe. Besides an impressive array of decorations covering many styles Peles Castle at its inauguration in 1914 was the first European palace with its own micro power plant and central heating and also implemented a modern centralized vacuum cleaning system.
Bran Castle (aka Dracula’s castle):
In the early Middle Ages, Transylvania was overwhelmed by waves of migration coming from the immense Asian steppes and this area was often raided by migratory people such as the Cumans from the other side of the Carpathians. At that time the Magyar state which extended its political influence to these lands appears to have invited the Teutonic Knights in the South-eastern region of Transylvania to ensure the enforcement of Magyar policies and offer protection and defense.
The period between the mid-14th century and the mid-16th century saw the development of a vast network of fortifications for military purposes, especially in the southern regions of Transylvania. The Bran Fortress was completed in 1377 and its location ensured that it dominated the Bran Gorge controlling one of the most important entry routes to Transylvania. The Bran garrison was composed of mercenaries whose primary mission was to block the enemy in front of the Fortress until help arrived from the towns od Rasnov and Brasov.
The connection with Vlad the Impaler the character who inspired Bram Stoker’s Dracula and Bran Castle was one of conflict as during his reign of Wallachia he crossed the gorge a number of times to fight and punish the German merchants of Brasov who constantly supported various other contenders to the throne of the Walachia. It appears however that he was held as prisoner in Bran Castle for two months in the fall of 1462 prior to being imprisoned in the Visegrad Fortress near Budapest.
Bram Stoker never visited Romania but he depicted the imaginary Dracula’s castle based upon a description of Bran Castle hence the association.
You will also have the opportunity to buy some souvenirs before the entrance gates in the Bran Castle as well as tasting some of the famous local Hungarian/Transylvanian called Kurtos Kalacs. (be warned: they are addictive)
Magura and Pestera villages:
We will next take a drive through a couple of the villages perked up into the hills surrounding Bran Gorge. This area is nestled between two of the most dramatic mountains and national parks in Romania, Bucegi Mountains and Piatra Craiului. The views are spectacular regardless of the season, weather or time of day. So make sure you bring you photo A game.
Time and weather permitting we will stop in the hills in a scenic location for a picnic sampling some simple Romanian finger food and some of the local brandy called “palinca”. If the weather is bad we will stop for a short meal in one of the local restaurants.
Our last historical point of interest will be the impressively located Rasnov Fortress. This was initially built by Teutonic Knights as protection against invading Tatars and was later extended by the local Saxon population. It was first mentioned in 1331. It occupies a highly strategic point on top of a 500feet hill above the commercial route linking the provinces of Transylvania and Walachia, and just like unlike other similar Saxon fortresses built in this area this was designed as a place of refuge for extended periods of time, thus had space for at least 30 houses, school, chapel and other.
Our drive back to Brasov will take us through the most famous Romanian mountain resort of Poiana Brasov. Time permitting we will take a quick tour to point to you the start of some of the mountain paths which you may decide to take for some mountain treks you may decide to take the following days. Poiana Brasov offers you many of the facilites and activities you would expect from a mountain resort from snowsports in the winter to mountain biking, trail running, horse riding in the summer or paragliding, swimming, spas, etc all year around.
Aproximate no. of KM driven: 200