Saturday, July 2, 2011

Sinania, Bran, and Brasov Oh My It's Vampire Hunting Day!

Sinania Monastery 
Today was the big day of the 12 hour Carpathian 360 tour with Tony our guide for the day.  Luckily I took notes because the day was such a blur I don't know if I would remember much right now. Our first stop was a 2 hour drive to the foot of the Carpathian Mountains through thick pine forests. It looked like a wolf or bear would jump our of the forest at any second and onto the windy rain- covered roads. Today was vampire hunting day! Our first stop was the Sinania Monastery. Like the other monastery we saw yesterday it was painted floor to ceiling, and have I mentioned that it is so COLD here! It's July and I'm wearing a sweater and a jacket. And it's raining; such a  beautiful day for a tour.  We stayed for just enough time to see the old church and the museum, and then we were off up the mountain again through winding roads and past chalet style houses and hotels.
Peles Castle Grounds
Inside of Peles Castle

Next stop, Peles Castle where we had to wear special slippers over our shoes in order to take the tour. This is where things got a bit confusing because there was a tour guide who seemed to speak English, but I only understood a small fraction of what he said. I did manage to figure out that it was home to Queen Elizabeth of Romania also known in the literary world as Carmen Sylva. She was a writer, painter, musician, and spoke 6 languages. Such and inspiration! The inside of the castle was beautiful though with all sorts of carved wood and an eclectic mix of various styles from around Europe. As we walked through each room it had some sort of theme whether it was the artillery room with suits of armor and swords on the walls or music room complete with harpsichord, piano, and harp. Some other highlights included a secret passage in the library behind a shelf of fake books that led to the royal sleeping quarters.  This royal castle was also the first castle in the world to be fully operated by electricity. This includes an elevator and a central vacuuming system.

Besides being rainy and cold, the grounds around the castle were beautiful. There were statues and fountains all around with beautiful views of the mountains. Soon it was back in the car to go to a traditional Romanian restaurant for lunch.

Yummy Lunch!
Having our Romanian friend Tony there to guide us in our culinary choices proved to be very necessary. I decided on stewed pork with polenta, egg, and cheese or tocanite cu mamaliga oua si branza. It was a heaping plate of lovely comfort food. 

Outside of Bran Castle

After lunch, getting to Bran castle was a relatively short walk through a market and up a steep hill.  This castle is known by many visitors to be Dracula's Castle, and there are even many souvenirs with Vlad the Impaler's face on them. Even the Romanians get into the folklore even if it is for a couple extra leu. 

Path to Dracula's Lair?
The interesting thing about all of this though is that Bran Castle has absolutely nothing to do with Vlad Tepes AKA Vlad the Impaler AKA Dracula. One of the main reasons it gets confused is because of its location and what it looks like.  For more information check out The Bran Castle Website! 

The inside was much different than Peles Castle. This one was originally built for defense purposes as a medieval fortress then as a royal summer home, and now a place for the imagination to run wild with thoughts of vampires and secret passages. I, of course, was no exception and I promptly found a "secret staircase" that was appropriately labeled as such. It looked like I was entering Dracula's lair, but turned out to lead to a very open sitting area complete with bear skin rug.  The views were great, and the gardens surrounding, beautiful. After the trek down the steep hill, we stopped at the market to haggle with some locals. I got a lovely scarf for only 20 leu which is about 7 dollars. 
Trying out doors that are probably off limits

Next stop, Brasov, but it is about 12:30 am here as I write this, so I am going to take a break and write about the lovely city of Brasov (pronounced Bra shov) tomorrow.