The hostel I was at did a good deal on a day-trip which would save me quite a bit of time and some money. Rather than getting the bus / train / fire-breathing horse-drawn carriage to Rasov and Bran, then going to Sinaia on the way to Bucharest I could do all three in one day for the very reasonable price of 65 RON including a guide. Smart stuff.
So up I got at a reasonable hour and joined my little group for the drive. We started at Sinaia, which was usually the end of the trip. The driver was new, Sinaia the furthest, and our guide wanted to make sure we didn’t miss the castle there as it’s also the one which closes the earliest!
Peles (the “s” should have a cedilla underneath, but I don’t believe there’s an HTML code for it) Castle is more like a palace, and is another reason our tour guide usually prefers to save it for last. The turrets look like something from a fairytale and it’s set in some beautiful gardens. A tour is compulsory as the building is mainly constructed of wood and has some incredibly expensive and rare decor. Having said that, the price was reasonable (especially as our own tour guide had a handful of spare student IDs to get us in cheap) and the Castle guide both interesting and loaded with information.
The tour took around 45 minutes and encompassed the lower floor of the building. Access to the upper is only available on the last Sunday of month in the off-season (September to May). This is to restrict numbers and potential damage to the building. With three to five thousand tourists a day during the peak season, the stress would tell on the timber structure all too quickly.
Next up was Bran and a lunch stop where we argued for ages over where to eat and couldn’t pick one overpriced tourist trap from the other. The shops round here all sell Dracula souvenirs as this is the castle featured in the Bram Stoker’s Dracula film – very briefly. The castle itself is imposing, looming over a cliff edge, but the interior is a little bit disappointing. It’s mainly been reconstructed with smooth, white plaster walls and some mildly interesting knick-knacks of the period. The stories about Vlad are more interesting than the building itself, but the exterior’s nice.
And on to Rasnov (another missing cedilla – wake up W3C), with another different “castle” up high on a hill. This is a set of ruins and somewhat more interesting, though not as pretty, as Bran. Included in the nominal entry fee is a nice little museum with some old gidgets and stuff, and there’s an archery range towards the back that I didn’t get to see. The view from the un-refurbed collapsed ruins at the top is rather nice – mainly as you can’t see the wretched Hollywood-style “Rasnov” sign that’s plastered in front of the Fortress.
After a good hour or so there, we headed back to Brasov where I wandered back into town and gorged myself on my obligatory Romanian KFC. As I re-returned to the hostel, some of my companions from the previous night were heading out for dinner so I joined them and topped up my carbs with some rather fine jam pancakes from the same place we’d dined at the previous evening.
Yes, Brasov is a nice place for a couple of days.