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Day 1 | Day 2 | Day 3 | Day 4 | Day 5 | Day 6 | Day 7 | Map

HauntedIllinois.com - Haunted Illinois goes on a Dracula Tour in Transylvania - Romania

Day 2:

The day started bright and early before 7am, thanks to the portable alarm clock that I brought along with me on the trip. Keep in mind that if you take a trip like this, hotels in Romania don’t have alarm clocks. The hotels did, however, provide wake-up calls for those guests who wanted them. Throughout the week we stuck to a pretty tight schedule, every day traveling to a new city and checking into a new hotel. I made sure to give myself some extra time in the morning to pack up, to make sure I didn’t leave anything behind. After checking out of the hotel, the group walked across the street to “Banca Transilvania” so we could exchange our American dollars for Romanian Lei. The exchange rate was about 2.8 Lei per American dollar or 2,800 Lei per dollar, depending on which currency you used. Romania is in the process of converting their currency (from old Lei to new Lei) and during my stay, I found that you could use either one. For example, a shopkeeper could ask you to pay either 3 Lei or 3,000 Lei for a bottle of water, depending on which currency (old or new) he was asking for. How confusing! After exchanging our money and receiving a souvenir Banca Transilvania receipt, we all climbed aboard the bus and headed out of Bucharest. 

Our first stop was at Snagov Monastery, which is the location of Vlad Dracula’s tomb. Snagov Monastery is located on an island and is not accessible by road. The only way to get there is by row boat. Taking only a few of us at a time, the monk’s helpers loaded us into small boats and took us across the lake. The monastery was only a short walk from the dock. The outside of the monastery was a sight to behold and the inside was even more amazing. Every inch of the inside walls were painted with colorful characters and icons of religious significance. Radu explained, in depth, the history of the monastery and its connection to the infamous Vlad the Impaler. I tried to take as many pictures as I could, but pictures really don’t do it justice. To get the full impact and absorb the significance of it all, you really had to be there. Vlad’s resting place was marked by candles arranged on a concrete slab on the floor, with a likeness of him as the centerpiece. While it is reported that Vlad’s body was actually buried there, that point could easily be debated, as there is no real proof to back up that claim. Satisfied with our tour thus far, we all headed back to the boats and eventually met up at the tour bus, to travel to our next destination. 

Snagov Monastery
(Click on any of the pictures below to enlarge)
Outdoor market on the way to Snagov Inside our tour bus
The boat ride to the island The boat ride to the island The boat ride to the island
This is where Vlad was buried
Front view of the monastery

The next leg of our journey would take us to Castle Bran, which most people erroneously refer to as Dracula’s Castle. It wasn’t ever his castle and no one in his family ever owned it. In fact, the only real connection between Vlad and this structure are reports of him being held there as a prisoner for a short period of time. The misconception that it is his castle is probably due to the style of the architecture of the structure, which resembles the type of castle people believe Vlad might have lived in. Castle Bran was one of the more commercialized Dracula-related locales that we visited. In addition to charging general admission, they also made you pay a “picture taking fee”, if you wanted to snap any photos or shoot video while you were inside the castle. I think it definitely had the most “touristy” feel of all our stops on the Dracula Tour. To help preserve the original hardwood floors, they requested that all visitors put slippers on over their shoes. Upon entering the castle, Radu led us to a very narrow, stone-walled cell. He explained that this cell was very similar to the one that Vlad Tepes was held in, in the mid 1400’s. As the tour continued, we passed through Queen Maria’s sleeping quarters, the council room, trophy room, music room, library and other areas of the castle. In each room, Radu talked about its history and shared some interesting facts. One of my favorite features of the castle was the secret staircase. Having the appearance of a catacomb, this staircase connected the first and third floors in the East tower. There was an amazing view from the balcony. Since the castle was built on top of a hill, occupants of the castle could easily see enemies approaching from as far as six hours away. Throughout the castle the original hardwood floors, woodwork and furnishings were very well preserved, considering their age. After the tour was over, we were given some time to shop at the bazaar that was next to the castle. There was definitely a lot to choose from including printed T-shirts, homemade clothing, post cards, crafts and other Dracula-related souvenirs. When everyone had finished shopping, we returned to the bus.

Castle Bran - Near Brasov, Romania
(Click on any of the pictures below to enlarge)
Gypsy village on the way to Bran Castle Gypsy village on the way to Bran Castle Bazaar outside of Bran Castle Bazaar outside of Bran Castle
They made everyone put on slippers before entering the castle
Small jail cell like the one Vlad was held in The secret staircase
Balcony gave them a six hour view
To defend the castle, they would shoot arrows out of this opening

Little did we know, but they had a surprise planned for us. In between our planned stops, the bus came to a halt seemingly in the middle of nowhere. Following Radu’s instructions, we all filed off the bus only to see three horse drawn carts sitting along the side of the road. The big surprise was a carriage ride through the scenic countryside. This was a welcome change, after having ridden in the bus for so long. Moving along at such a leisurely pace and being out in the open air gave everyone the opportunity to soak-in their surroundings. As we rolled along, with the sloping mountains on either side of us, we saw some beautiful scenery. The view was amazing! The pictures on this site don’t do it justice, I assure you. After about ten minutes, the horses came to a stop across from a small restaurant where we would have dinner. Upon entering, we were all handed a small glass of plum brandy. That is some really strong stuff! It was so strong, in fact, that some of the members of our tour group couldn’t finish theirs. After a nice filling meal, the bus picked us up and we continued on toward Brasov. 

Horse Drawn Cart / Arrival in Brasov, Romania
(Click on any of the pictures below to enlarge)
View overlooking Brasov View overlooking Brasov
The Black Church

Shortly after arriving in Brasov, we checked into the ARO Palace Hotel. It was a bit more rustic than the last place we stayed at. It didn’t have air conditioning, but the evening breeze was enough to bring the room to a comfortable temperature. Not too exhausted from the day’s events, a few of us decided to go out and absorb some of the night life of Brasov. Interestingly enough, we found an “Irish Pub” that had American retro 80’s music playing. Not only was that an odd combination, but it reminded me more of back home than it did Romania. Instead of having traditional Romanian cuisine, the menu was filled with everything from burritos to french fries. After staying there a while, we headed back to the hotel for some much needed rest.

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