Probably the only reason people outside of Romania hear of Brașov is because it is a starting point to get to Bram’s castle. This is quite a shame as it is a cute little town in the middle of Transylvania, but alas, being small, there is not much to do there, especially during the cold months. We spent 2 days in total in Brașov, one of which was spent going to Dracula’s castle and stopping at Râșnov, an even smaller town (or so it seemed) with a castle at the top of the hill.
We took the train from Bucharest to Brașov. The tickets were bought on the day at the train station and we somehow managed to find our platform; we almost got on a wrong train, but the amount of rural Romanians on board made us double check if we were on the right platform. The train was very neat and even had stable and fast WiFi. Just to point out here, I use the train every day to commute to London and the WiFi on broad (if any) only allows you to browse the company’s website and your own mobile data is patchy at best. I have better signal on the slowest train in Croatia going from the capital to my home town through the forest areas and tiny villages than in UK! I managed to get a window seat and I must tell you, the nature of Romania is absolutely astounding. It was a mixture of autumn colours and snowfall on the highest peaks; the rail track were mostly surrounded by hills and mountains. Most of our trip was spent with our faces stuck to the window looking like children drooling over candy. Or like this husky
Getting off the train made me whimper with cold. It was absolutely FREEZING! Luckily, there was an H&M literally right next to the station so I bought nice, thick leggings that were my best friends for those two days. Seriously people, if you’re going in late autumn and winter months, dress warmly. Once we got to our hostel, we still had the evening left so we went exploring the town in its dusky splendour. We found this cafe called Biblioteque in the town centre. As the name suggest, it had the old bookstore look. However, we were not impressed with the service as it took forever to order anything and the place was not even that busy. We did not linger long in town due to the cold and the fact that we planned to leave earlyish the next day to get to Bram’s castle.
Morning came, we had our breakfast (breakfast in Romanian hostels’ are, unfortunately, not worth mentioning :|) and went to the bus station. The hostel staff was very helpful telling us where to go and which bus to take. There is no bus specifically going to Bram castle, you just need to take the usual public transport bus going to towns and villages in the area and make sure you get off on the correct stop. The driver will usually emphasise the stop, adding the castle at the end to make sure you get off, but still ask the correct name so you do not miss it. It is not a bus station, it is only a small stop by the market in front of the castle. The market is a fun place to get some souvenirs, just be careful, some merchants might overcharge. It is still quite affordable though and there are some unique items up for grabs.
The ticket to the castle can be bought at the entrance to the castle grounds. Once again, if you have a student’s card, take it with you and use it. The castle mainly focuses on its own history and the noble families that resided within. However, it does have some connection to the inspiration for Dracula, Vlad the Impaler. To read more about the history of the castle, check here. The curators also added some facts about the legend of the vampires. If you really want to get into the whole vampire mood for this trip, give Brian Lumley’s Necroscope and Vampire World series a go 😀 The castle might not have been THE Dracula castle but it is very well preserved and it looks like you could actually still live there. I would definitely recommend squeezing it into your schedule (time permitting).
On our way back we spontaneously got of at the Râșnov stop because we had plenty of daylight left and the old fortress on the top of the hill looked perfect for exploring. We took the stairs all the way up the steep hill. There is a small transport you can take, kinda looks like a tractor pulling a trailer but it was on the other side and we decided more walking would do us good. We were wrong. So wrong… we stopped twice for a minute or two just to catch a small break. However, climbing up from that side and seeing the view in front of us made it all worth it ten fold. The sunlight was playing on red mountain peaks covered in bits of snow. The air was cold and crisp. There were only tiny wisps of clouds, just enough to break up the boring cloudless blue sky. The fortress itself had a few things to do; there was a tower with information on the First World War and each countries contributions (I believe the numbers of dead were there as well), there were several gift shop and an axe throwing opportunity (my favourite), I think there was also an option to see a smaller museum that was there but cannot be too sure anymore, several gift shops with what looked like handmade items, and kittens, kittens galore frolicking everywhere around the grounds. After a photoshoot and beating the husband in axe throwing, we went back down, on foot again, but now we followed the road used by the tractor. For all of you with kids, there a sort of a small adventure park there, dinosaur themed. Please check for other information on internet if interested, as I know nothing else.
Once we got to the bus, we had a bit of a surprise; even though we had a ticket from Bran to Brașov, because we got off at Râșnov, we had to buy another ticket -.- As our daily adventures were all more or less close by, we had quite some time left in the evening. We spent it walking around the main square decorated for Halloween (PUMPKINS!!!) and got some yummy hot chocolate to warm up. It was kinda do it yourself one, you get hot milk and a chocolate of your choice on a stick to melt it in the said hot milk. The rest of the evening we spent drinking cheap beer and hanging around with the people in the hostel. They had a big Mona Lisa puzzle and we all had a blast trying to put it together. Our train back to Bucharest the next day was in the early afternoon so we spent the rest of the morning seeing Brașov in the daylight. We decided on the cheaper train ticket so our trip was somewhat longer giving us more time to enjoy the landscape and rural wildness of this country.
Romania might not have been high on our “to visit” list, but I am so happy that we went; it just proves to show that sometimes what you need is not a famous holiday destination you can see all over Instagram or any other social media, but a country unfairly forgotten by the majority of the tourist population, a country where you can still see the “main” attractions without feeling it has all been seen before, a country where there is still chance you won’t be able to completely communicate in English and will have to go back to hands, feet and pigeon English ❤