Last fall, my husband and I did a whirlwind tour of Turkey, Bulgaria, and Romania. Reflecting on that trip, I think it’s safe to say our favorite day of the trip by far was spent in Brasov, Romania. The Carpathian region of Romania is breathtakingly beautiful and filled with tons of authentic medieval towns. The incredibly low prices found in this up-and-coming treasure, and make it a traveler’s dream location. We could have spent several days in the region without ever getting bored, but due to our truncated timeline, were only allowed one unforgettable day in Brasov, Romania.
A Perfect Day In Brasov, Romania
The day began with breakfast at our hotel, Bella Muzica, which has a fairly well-renowned restaurant. We walked out to the town square to meet our tour guide for the day. A gorgeous way to start the day—old, ornate buildings surrounded by the mountains, sun shining. My husband and I typically travel independently but sometimes schedule day tours when we’re not renting cars or are visiting regions off the usual train or bus routes. I highly recommend Viator; they sometimes run deals where you can get 15% off for liking them on Facebook or 10% off for signing up for their newsletters. They’ve been incredibly reliable over the years for us, and we’ve never been disappointed.
As it would happen, we were the only people on our tour! Works for us because we’re rather impatient sightseers and can move at our own pace. We immediately pegged our guide as a walking Romanian encyclopedia. He knew everything there is to know about this country. No, seriously. Not a single question all day went unanswered. He is originally from Brasov and said he was very proud to be from there. He was heading up a brown bear tour after ours. Romania has the largest brown bear population of any country in Europe—almost 6,000! They drive into a national park at dusk and put food out. By feeding the beers, it helps keep them out of neighboring towns, which was happening often for a time. If we had more time, this would be on my list of to-dos for sure.
Our first stop was the infamous Castle Bran, home of Vlad the Impaler and, of course, Bram Stoker’s Dracula is based on the location. Warning: the village of Bran is way commercialized. On our way down the main drag, a man dressed in a black cloak with a werewolf mask jumped out in front of us and scared the living daylights out of me. It was absolutely hilarious. Only moments later, the werewolf jumped in front of two ladies behind us and we heard surprised yelps and laughter.
The castle is amazing and displays tons of German influence (much of the area architecture does). An English queen, by arranged marriage, came to live at Castle Bran and decorated the interior. The furniture was pretty startling—tons of detailed, carved dark wood. Actually, really cozy… minus the torture chair with spikes in it. Our guide said Vlad the Impaler only lived there for 24 hours, but one source on the internet says he never did at all. It is assumed that he was born in a neighboring town and, as we know, he would dine under his impaled victims. My husband stated that it’s one thing to impale people for the purposes of sending a message, but to dine under their organ-less, staked bodies just means you’ve got issues. Agreed.
From there, we went on an optional tour addition to Peles Castle, a summer home for a royal family. The palace is set even higher in the mountains and is surrounded by the most charming town ever, Sinai (“see-nigh-a”). Several auxiliary homes are built outside the castle, all of which look like giant German mansions. I, for one, would be perfectly happy living in one of the “auxiliary” homes. The palace is beyond ornate and they make you wear little plastic slippers. The genius that I am, I pulled slippers for all three of us from the used slippers bin. Worked all the same. The wood carving and painting is breathtaking. Every room has a different theme—Italian, Turkish, Arabic. It even had an elementary form of central air installed. After roaming the gardens, we had coffee and pastries at the cafe overlooking the grounds.
On the way to our third and final stop in Brasov, Romania, we drove through a traditional Romani neighborhood. People were literally riding on a horse cart as we entered the town, handkerchiefs tied over the head and all. Our guide said the Romanis tended to not want to integrate into society much… and then we saw a little kid pitch a rock across the street dangerously close to a little old man. It was a good sized rock. We’ll just let them have their space, shall we?
Our last stop was Rasnov Fortress and we took a little tram to the top of a hill. My husband and I questioned the name of the tram while our guide was purchasing tickets… “Tschu Tschu.” He attempted the pronunciation “t-shoo t-shoo” and I noted that the “t” probably wasn’t separate based on other Romanian pronunciations. When we asked our guide how to say it, he looked quizzically at us and replied, “choo choo”… to which we all burst out laughing. Missed that one entirely. The fortress was built in 1335, the oldest structure we’d seen yet. Pretty well in tact. Offered a terrific 360 view.
We were dropped off at the square and headed to a traditional restaurant our tour guide recommended, Sergiana. I really, really wanted to try Romanian goulash, which is supposed to be spicier than Hungarian, but the schnitzel was calling my name. I can’t get enough schnitzel. If the goulash was a starter and not an entree, I would’ve ordered it, too. Did I mention our entire dinner, drinks and taxes and tip included, was only $19.90 total? Yes. Perfect!
If you’re looking for a delightful and affordable trip, Brasov, Romania is the place to visit.
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