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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 3: 

The day began early, as I decided to get up well before we all had to leave. I needed to exchange more money and get some stamps for the postcards I had purchased the day before at the Bran Castle bazaar. The exchange rate at Banca Transilvania was 2.75 Lei per dollar, which seemed to be about the typical exchange rate throughout the entire trip. Finishing my transaction was easy; all I had to do was hand them my passport and US currency, and they took care of the rest. My experience at the post office, however, was not as easy. When I walked in, there were about ten windows, with a different sign above each one. Not speaking Romanian made it quite a challenge. I had to make a  guess and picked a window that had a sign with a word on it that looked similar to “postage”. When I got up to the window, the language barrier was quite a problem. After a minute or so of trying to explain what I needed, with no success, I thought that there was no way that I would get the stamps that I needed. Noticing that I needed some help, a man behind me in line stepped forward. He spoke both Romanian and English, so he was able to translate for me. In the end, I paid only 3.1 Lei per stamp (~ $1 US), which wasn’t too bad, considering the postcards would have to make quite a long journey in order to reach my friends and family in the US. After leaving the post office, there was still about a half hour left before I had to meet up with the tour group, so I decided to explore a little bit. The city was an interesting combination of old and new. For example, many of the buildings were very old, yet there was a McDonalds down one of the main streets. I got a kick out of the name of the sporting goods store, “Sport Virus”. Perhaps something was lost in the translation? After walking around for about twenty minutes, I returned to the hotel. 

After everyone assembled in the hotel lobby, Radu took us on a walking tour of the main square. This was the same place where Vlad Tepes had reportedly impaled thousands of people on hundreds of spikes in the mid 1400’s. Off to the one side of the square stood one of the most famous landmarks in the area, the “Black Church”. Built in the late 14th century, it was one of the few buildings that survived the massive fire of 1689. Originally called “St. Mary’s Church”, it was renamed the “Black Church” because of its charred exterior after the fire. Inside the church is an organ with more than 4,000 pipes. It also has the heaviest bell of any church in Romania (6 tons). It was a bit disappointing that we weren’t allowed to take pictures inside the church, but at least their gift shop offered a wide variety of postcards, which featured pictures of the inside of the church, taken at various angles. After leaving the church, we all went our separate ways to do some shopping in the square. 

Brasov, Romania
(Click on any of the pictures below to enlarge)
The Post Office in Brasov
The Black Church The Black Church Clock tower of the Black Church
Street performers in the town square of Brasov

About a half hour later we headed back to the tour bus. Our next destination was Sighisoara, the birthplace of Vlad Tepes. Along the way, we saw some small gypsy villages, each consisting of 50-75 structures, most of which didn’t appear to be very solidly built. While most of the larger Romanian cities had an abundance of automobiles, I didn’t see any in the gypsy villages. Horse-drawn carriages seemed to be their only means of transportation. I saw many of these villages, spread out sparingly between larger Romanian cities. 

After about 1 ½ hours of travel, we arrived in Sighisoara. Considering that most of the buildings in this city were built in the 14th-16th centuries, they still were in pretty decent shape. Sighisoara was the city where Vlad Dracula was born. The building where he and his father lived for a number of years is now a Dracula themed restaurant. The outside of the building is adorned with a plaque that states (in Romanian) that it was Vlad Dracul’s residence from 1431-1435. The city also had some interesting museums that featured torture chambers, with old weapons from Vlad’s era. The most impressive structure was the clock tower, which overlooked the city. Built in the late 14th century, it was at one time the main gate to the citadel, as well as the meeting place for the town council. The view from the tower's balcony was amazing! To get up there, we had to climb 118 stairs (we counted). Walking up and down all of those stairs did wonders for our appetite, so afterward we looked for a place to eat. A few of us found a nice Italian café near the center of town. It was nice weather, so we decided to eat outside on the patio. Soon after we ate, the weather changed very quickly. Dark clouds loomed over us and we could hear thunder in the distance. It started to rain, so we took cover under the table umbrellas for a while. When it didn’t stop raining after a few minutes, we went off in search of our tour guide. Radu had arranged a special treat for all of us. Local performers were going to act out a witch trial, but with all of the rain we feared that it was going to be canceled. Luckily there was a covered walkway near the tower (which is where they decided to perform), so we were able to see the witch trial and stay dry at the same time. Although I didn’t understand a word during the performance (they were all speaking Romanian), I got the general idea of what was going on. By the end of the performance, the rain had subsided and we all made our way back to the tour bus. 

Sighisoara, Romania - Vlad's Birthplace
(Click on any of the pictures below to enlarge)
Gypsy village on the way to Sighisoara Gypsy village on the way to Sighisoara
Vlads birthplace is now a restaurant
Vlads birthplace is now a restaurant Vlads birthplace is now a restaurant Torture Chamber View from the tower
View from the tower Performers who acted out the witch trial for our tour group
On our way out of Sighisoara we found that cows have the right of way in Romania

 Bistrita was our next destination. While all of this had been fun, it had been a long day and we still had a couple hours of travel left. When we arrived in Bistrita, we checked into the Coroana De Aur Hotel.  After we got the luggage up to our rooms, we all met down in the hotel restaurant, appropriately named the “Jonathan Harker Salon”. It was named after the fictional character Jonathan Harker in Bram Stoker’s novel “Dracula”. According to the book, our tour group was in the same area where Jonathan Harker had stopped for a meal, on his way to Dracula’s castle. Upon entering the restaurant, we were greeted by a costumed waitress who gave us a glass of plum brandy. The restaurant was themed in red and had paintings of Dracula hanging on the walls. After having a filling dinner, we returned to our rooms for some much needed rest.

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