A Travellerspoint blog

Romania

The (unsuccessful) Hunt for Count Dracula

sunny 24 °C
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"Where is Dracula’s castle?" - Disappointed tourist.

Foodie moment

One of the well known dishes in Romania is Ciorba, which is a sour soup. It has vegetables and meat in it, and the broth has a souring agent such as lemon juice in it and sour cream. The taste of the broth was delicious, but the quality of the ingredients used (eg, meat) weren't often the best. Be nice to make it ourselves with good quality meat and vegetables.

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Back to our favourite local restaurant, this time we had Roast lamb, Beef Stroganoff and Peasant potatoes. The Stroganoff was a particular favourite of Mark's, but he assures me that it still doesn't compare to the one I make!

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Cultural moment

A common sight throughout Europe are the groups of men gathered in the local parks during the day playing competitive games against each other. In Spain it was Petanque, Bosnia it was chess and in Romania it is backgammon. The parks are set up with appropriate tables (and even equipment in the case of a giant chess set in Sarajevo). There is sometimes up to 15 old men standing around watching the games, sometimes putting their opinion in and being shouted down by the others. Its nice to see that the elderly have such a good facilities and opportunities to socialise and support each other.

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Wow moment

Towering over the town of Brasov is Mount Tampa. It is a great place for hiking and views. We caught the cable car up, and then hiked around the top. Its from up here you can get a view over the old town from next to the Brasov sign, as well as look in the opposite direction over the new town

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Due to time restraints we joined a tour to visit the 3 main tourist attractions around Brasov. The first was Peles Castle in Sinaia. This is an stunning palace set in large gardens. It was a summer residence build by the first king of Romania in 1883. It was an incredibly modern palace for its time with central heating, an elevator and electricity long before they were more common place.

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The next place we visited was the highly anticipated Bran's Castle, otherwise known as Dracula's castle. It was completely overrated! Unfortunately other than the market at the base of the castle selling everything vampire, the links to the myth and reality of 'Dracula' are very, very vague and tentative. Most of the castle is about the family that lived there, not the most interesting bunch, and their left over furniture. Once you get to the top of the castle there are some big slabs of writing outlining the history of Bran Stoker, the author of Dracula. There is also some information about Vlad 'The Impaler' Tepes, who was a sadistic ruler of Transylvania, whom they believe Bran may have based his character of Dracula on. Having said that, he had never been to Bran castle so another weak link to the Dracula title! The only real link was that the story of Dracula says that it is set in Transylvania, and the description of the area and castle somewhat links to that of Bran Castle (having said that, the information panels contradicted this by saying that the setting of Dracula was likely based on Whitby in Yorkshire as Bram spent some time there!). All in all. if they are going to tout the castle as 'Dracula's castle' they really should put some more effort into making that believable, at the very least have some guy with fangs wandering around!!

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Unfortunately our final stop, Rasov fortress, was being used for filming a movie so was closed to the public. We did drive past and got to see their own version of the cheesy 'Hollywood' style sign - strange!

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What we learnt today

Unfortunately Brasov doesn't have any good museums. The ones that are there received poor reviews so we didn't go to them. Its a shame though because I enjoy learning about a countries history and culture while I'm there, and for many people Brasov is the only part of Romania they visit, so there's no chance for learning.

Posted by travellinglise 06:39 Archived in Romania Tagged brasov p brans_castle Comments (0)

Brasov: The (stake in the) Heart of Transylvania

semi-overcast 24 °C
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"I don't need a sign to tell me where I live" - Brasov Citizen

Foodie moment

So it was about time we discovered a decent place to eat on our first day! This time we got some good advice from our hostel host. The restaurant was called Restaurant Sergiana and as you will discover, we became huge fans of their menu over the next 3 days. The first time we went for lunch and ordered the beef stew pie and the roasted lamb chops with 3 Romanian cheeses polenta. Before they came out however, we were treated to some pork (no surprise there) scratchings, also known as crackling, on the house. I love pork crackle, especially when it is free!
The pie was deliciously full of tender meat and gravy (the waiter cut off the pastry top before I got a picture of it) and the lamp chops (which were no longer in the shape of chops) were also amazing, the 3 cheese polenta was extreme in the cheese department to the max!

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The second time we went to Restaurant Sergiana we ordered the Transylvanian stew and the chicken schnitzel stuffed with ham, mushroom and cheese. To my delight, we once again got a free plate of pork scratchings. The stew was as yum as any stew I've ever had, and the stuffed schnitzel looked like something out of a master chef contest and tasted just as great!

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Cultural moment

Set up in Brasov's main outdoor square was a stage that each night held a free concert. Performing was a mixture of different traditional dancers and acts. We got to witness some great cultural traditional music from the local area which ranged from children choirs to big voiced ladies that sang in an almost yodelling style.

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Wow moment

Brasov has a lot of history, and along with it a lot of historical buildings. The entire town is surrounded by an ancient wall that was, like a lot of European cities, built for defensive purposes. Along the wall are several towers, two of which are the White Tower and the Black Tower, both of which are actually grey in colour. We walked up to the base of each, the white one having the best view of the two.

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Another of Brasov's defensive structures is the Fortress Cetatuia, which overlooks the entire town from the top of a steep hill. We actually spotted the Fortress from the other side of town and set ourselves the challenge of reaching the top. It was a bit tricky to find the path that leads up to it, and a tiring hike, but the panoramic view from the top was well worth it.

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What we learnt today

The first thing you can't avoid noticing on arrival in Brasov is the big Hollywood style sign that sits atop the Tampa mountain. It reeks of cheesiness, and most of the citizens agree, one quoted as saying something along the lines of "I don't need a sign to tell me where I live!". The idea came from the council as a way to try and boost tourism. The neighbouring town Rasnov, not to be left out, also has its own sign. Personally, I didn't mind it, and it was actually pretty cool to climb the mountain (as we will describe later) and view the town from behind the humongous letters.

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Posted by travellinglise 11:09 Archived in Romania Tagged brasov Comments (0)

Sibiu - Get Some Pork on Your Fork

sunny 30 °C
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“Our happiest moments as tourists always seem to come when we stumble upon one thing while in pursuit of something else.” — Lawrence Block

Foodie moment

We headed back to the same restaurant (why mess with a good thing!). Mark had been eyeing off a pork knuckle, so we ordered that, and also ordered Beef steak in Whisky Sauce. Once again great food, and once again SO affordable. I have to say that I think the Pork knuckle won the battle against Mark though!

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Cultural moment

In the main square of Sibiu they had set up a huge inflatable movie screen and put out rows of deckchairs. As it got dark they all filled up, plus standing room, and free movies were played. We didn't watch any (they were not in English), only heard them from our restaurant but it was an interesting auditory experience as they were full of a lot of explosions, dogs barking and some adult scenes which may not have been appropriate for the children watching!!

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Wow moment

Today we headed to the biggest tourist attraction in Sibiu (literally), the outdoor living museum. It is a huge parkland where traditional buildings and businesses from different parts of the country have been relocated and refurbished. It covers metal workers, weavers, water mills, hunters and the different styles of traditional architecture. A massive day, its a great way to see a lot without having to travel far, and the weather was lovely!

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The town centre of Sibiu was one of our favourites so far. Made up of 3 massive squares surrounded by churches and restaurants, every turn leads to another photo moment.

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What we learnt today

Although thankfully we never came across hard evidence of this, we get the feeling that many Romanians carry guns. One hint was this sign outside a bank. Another was the big bullet hole (we think!) in the window of our train window! But it is safe here...it really is!!

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Posted by travellinglise 10:16 Archived in Romania Tagged sibiu Comments (0)

Tenacious Timisoara

sunny 28 °C
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"Of course, I grew up in Communist Romania, but I am happy to say that now our country is democratic, and prospering, since the revolution in 1989." - Nadia Comaneci

Foodie moment

No Foodie moment in Timisoara because we weren't there long, but our first dinner at Crama Sibiana in Sibiu made us very excited for our upcoming time in Romania. The funniest part was when we looked at the prices and couldn't work out if it was in Lei or Euro. It seemed WAY too cheap to be Lei, but if it was Euro we were going to be in trouble! Luckily it was Lei, meaning a main course was going to cost us about $5. Our first experience was Pork Fillet with Mustard sauce with Peasant potatoes (potatoes and bacon) and Traditional Pork stew. Yep, with all the pork on the menu it sertainly tells us we're no longer in a Muslim country!

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Cultural moment

Mark had a new insight into the frustrations of travelling by public transport in a country where you don't speak a word of the language. We turned up early for a bus to our next destination, and were told we couldn't buy tickets for the bus, but would have to buy from the driver as it was a different company. So we settled down to wait the couple of hours for the bus. An hour later, Mark popped out for the toilet and came back looking pretty stressed and shaken. Whilst looking for the toilet he had seen that our bus was there, and he went to check out what was going on. He asked the driver about tickets and the driver started asking him something in Romanian which Mark translated as whether we had a reservation. When Mark answered 'No' the driver apparently just lost it! The fact Mark obviously didn't understand didn't deter the driver from continuing to rant, rave and shout at him in Romanian. Another passenger came up to translate and told Mark that the driver was saying the bus was full, and we needed a reservation (I'm sure there was more to the screaming that he didn't translate!). Finally the translator said that we could still get on the bus, but stand until someone got off (potentially a 6 hour journey!). As the driver was still screaming at Mark, this was not an option he was interested in and he made an exit, shaken, back to me sitting obliviously with the bags in the waiting room! Needless to say we had to get to this next town that day or lose our booking (and money) so this led to a sprint across the city with our bags to catch a different bus (which we caught, got seats and got into Sibiu earlier than the other bus would have got us there - so there!). We will definitely steer clear of that company from now on! The company was called Apetrans, and obviously their buses are driven by gorillas!

Wow moment

Timisoara has a beautiful main square with a stunning church up one end, the opera house at the other, and surrounded by restaurants. It looks amazing at night, all lit up. Out the front is a memorial to the uprising in Timisoara.

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What we learnt today

Timisoara is well known in Romania as the town that first stood up against the dictator, Ceauşescu, causing the Romanian Revolution which led to his eventual loss of power and execution. On 16 December 1989 they started a protest in relation to the dictators plans to execute a pastor who had spoken out about human rights violation in Romania. This protest became bigger and bigger over days with many people being killed by the army. The government sent in train loads of workers to help the army defuse the protests, but this backfired as the workers joined the protesters. During a live speech to the nation Ceauşescu tried to convince the population that Timisoara were acting out of Romania's interests and had been taken back under control, but this didn't work because as he spoke the sound of guns and cannons caused panic in his audience and someone on a loud speaker announced the start of the Romanian revolution, all on live TV! As the whole country burst into protest and uprising, Ceauşescu tried to escape by helicopter with his wife, but he was tricked by the director of a technical institute into going into hiding at the college, and instead locked them in a room and handed them over to the police. They were executed by firing squad after a short trial, and were the last persons to be sentenced to death and executed in Romania. Over a thousand people were killed during the protests, and no one has been convicted for any of these deaths.

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Posted by travellinglise 11:05 Archived in Romania Tagged timisoara sibiu crama_sibiana Comments (0)

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