Bucharest, Romania (DoubleTree by Hilton, Unirii Square)
It was a bit of a struggle to pull myself together so I’d be ready when the tour bus arrived at 7:15 a.m. But I did it.
I was the first person the driver picked up. He said it was going to be a full bus. The bus holds 16 people, including the driver and the guide. I sat behind the driver and watched him pick up more people at other hotels.
The guide explained that, after about 90 minutes of driving, we would pull in at a rest stop to use the toilet if need be and stretch our legs. Then we would next stop at Peles Castle, a rural palace used by King Carol I, the first king of Romania, and his family.
As we approached Peles Castle it started to rain. And it wasn’t a sprinkle, it was a good solid rain. A few people had umbrellas and a couple had ponchos, but the rest of us made do with parkas and hats. Except for one guy who was dressed in a t-shirt and shorts. We managed to get to the castle and admire it from outside. Unfortunately it was closed today so all we could see was the outside. Some people grabbed a snack from the nearby cafe and we were off to our next stop, Brasov, a town near to Bran Castle (Dracula or Vlad’s castle).
At Brasov we had a chance to eat lunch and walk around the town. The town has influences by German architecture (Transylvanian Saxons, starting in the 12th century) who immigrated to this location. I couldn’t find a place to eat lunch until I arrived at an Irish pub. The cheeseburger on the menu outside looked interesting so I ordered it. I could have ordered a cheeseburger from the nearby McDonald’s but decided to change things up a bit.
Our group met up again after lunch and our guide took us for a tour around the old part of the town. The large church was Lutheran and there was also a synagogue. Of course the town has Orthodox Catholic churches as well, being the primary religion of Romania.
After the town tour, the rain had let up and we were on our way (finally) to Bran Castle. As expected, the town next to the castle was primarily dedicated to the tourists who visit the castle. Also expected, the castle is built against a nearby hill which required our group to walk up the long hill to reach the entrance. It was not a very easy walk.
We learned that there were several levels to the castle and that we would met up again at the end of the first part of the tour to go through a special section dedicated to torture. The castle was originally completed in 1382 for the purpose of defending the Transylvanian boarder. I’m sure there were alternations made over the years. Though primarily divided into four levels, there were half floors between the main floors, so we were constantly going up on down flights of stairs, through narrow passages, and walking on ancient floors.
We learned any original furniture was removed during World War Two or afterwards by the soviets. Various pieces of furniture have been added to most rooms so you had an idea what it might have looked like. I enjoyed looking out the windows at the countryside. Thankfully, the sun was now out and we had some terrific views.
At last we went through the part of the castle devoted to torture. I wasn’t interested so walked through without looking at much of anything. Most of our group didn’t spend much time there either. I was interested in finding a few souvenirs for friends from one of the many booths that lined the path to and from the castle.
We were at last on our way back to Bucharest. It has been a long day with lots of driving. It took almost three hours of driving each way. By the time I returned to the hotel it was 8:30. I actually was not too tired and eventually fell asleep around midnight.
Tomorrow I leave for Sofia, Bulgaria. Fortunately the plane doesn’t leave until after 12:00 so I can probably sleep in tomorrow.
To see pictures: CLICK HERE