Transylvania has been romanticized in the western world with images of vampires, Gothic architecture and dark, wild woodlands. In fact, some might not even know that this is actually a real place, imagining it to be a fictional setting only. This picture was first painted by Bram Stoker in his eponymous novel Dracula, and while Bran Castle remains one of Transylvania’s top tourist attractions for this reason alone, the region has so much more to offer.
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Bordered on the east by the Carpathian Mountains, most of Transylvania’s charm comes from its quaint feel; it is untouched by the outside world. Nature roams free and wild, punctured sporadically by medieval towns and Gothic architecture. Although you can easily get lost in the escapist beauty of the landscape, before you pack your bags and hop on the next flight it’s important to be prepared for the flipside of its rustic rural charms. You may enjoy the sight of horse-drawn carts pottering along dirt tracks, shepherds tending their flock, and villagers making hay in the sunshine, however the infrastructure is fairly poor. The roads are potholed and the trains operate at a country pace, namely slow. If you want to explore, you’ll definitely need car, hired or your own, and if you want to backpack your way across the region, you’ll be better served by bus than by train.
Located near Bran in the vicinity of Brasov, this national monument and landmark was made famous by Bram Stoker and the novel Dracula. How this came to be is mired in mystery itself, as the links between the castles, the novel, and Vlad the Impaler are tenuous and uncertain. The fact remains that this is one of the most breathtaking castles in the region and it definitely looks the part.
Other Castles & Fortresses
The Transylvanian region is rich in architecture and has managed to maintain, restore, and retain a rich vein of castles, fortresses, and buildings that offer a view into the medieval landscape. Whilst Bran Castle may be the most famous, it’s by no means an uncontested title and any visitor would be doing themselves a disservice if they didn’t also check out Corvin Castle, Fagaras Fortress, Harman Fortified Church, Prejmer Fortified Church, Jidvei Castle and the Calnic Fortified Church. This list is only an introductory guide and you could plan a whole trip travelling from one to the next and never see them all.
Head to Covasna, where visitors can enjoy a mofette, or sauna of post-volcanic gas; it’s said to benefit cardiovascular conditions if you can brave the smell of sulfur for around 20 minutes or so. Inhaling the gas can be fatal, so the trip is best done under strict medical supervision. If you want something a little less risky, Transylvania is home to a number of resort towns famed for their therapeutic waters. Bear Lake in Sovata boasts mineral mud and warm salty waters rumored to cure infertility, while Ocna Sibiului is famous for warm water that is as saline as the Dead Sea and can be a major aid for those suffering from arthritis.
The Transylvanian landscape itself is a picturesque and tranquil environment. Whether sitting back and enjoying the view of the Carpathian Mountains, wading through the delightful flower-speckled meadows, or heading into the wild woods to enjoy some bear watching, any fan of nature and the majestic beauty of Mother Earth will find themselves at the right place here.