It has always been a childhood dream of mine to travel to Transylvania. For as long as I can remember I have wanted to visit Dracula’s castle and explore the surrounding region. It was actually planted in my mind when I was thirteen years old and travelled internationally for the first time in my life. On this trip I travelled to Hong Kong to perform in part of a children’s choir at the Hong Kong premiere of Les Choristes. The initial plan had been to travel to Hong Kong and Romania, however due to a lack of funding the trip was cut short to just a 9 day itinerary in Hong Kong (still incredible!).
So when I found myself stepping off the train in Transylvania after catching the overnight train from Budapest to Brasov, to say I was just a little excited would be a severe understatement.
I was lucky enough to be travelling to Transylvania with my friend Laura, which made my first time in Romania a much smoother ride (and much more enjoyable, we were in fits of laughter the whole time). We arrived at 10.30am in the morning without any plans – no hotel booked for the night, no map with directions, nothing. It was quite refreshing!
We asked at the information booth how to make our way to the centre and the man inside – Claudio – offered to take us into the city centre free of charge and drop us off to a hotel within our budget. He seemed nice and sincere, so we thought why not (one of the benefits of having another traveller with me, I was much less concerned). Claudio took us to a hotel that was priced at a moderate 120 lei per night ($40) and we arranged a time for him to pick us up the next morning to take us on a day tour of both Peles and Bran castle for 260 lei ($90 between the two of us).
On our first day we wandered the streets and made our way to a couple of lookout points to get a good view over the city. That evening we went to the Restaurant Transylvania for dinner – knowing full well it was going to be difficult for us to find a good meal, given we were both long time vegetarians. We ended up with a very basic plate of polenta, sour cream, spinach, and potato chips. We soon learned carbs were just about inescapable in Romania.
The following day we went on a road trip to the nearby castles and despite cutting into our budget with the price of hiring a private driver, it relieved us of a lot of the stress given we would have been driving on the wrong side of the road in Romania… and neither of us spoke a lick of Romanian!
Now that we had ticked off everything we ‘must do’ off our list, we decided to stay an extra two nights in Brasov to comfortably explore the town and enjoy it at a slower pace. We soon learned that Brasov had a complete different vibe during sunlight as it did tour day of arrival – of which was misty and miserable. Over the coming days we hiked up to the Brasov sign, rode bikes through the streets, ate gelati, lived off muesli, had a number of unpleasant encounters with the local men, and marvelled over the lack of customer service and pleasantness in the restaurants.
I can’t recommend Transylvania high enough – if you have considered visiting or are now thinking about it, be sure to do so… it’s a country like no other I have ever visited.