AS the low lying clouds and the fog part, a gothic-style castle is revealed in the distance, perched on a steep rocky cliff. You gaze across at the commanding structure and wonder, who could be inside. Dracula? Edward Cullen? Count Duckula?
Presenting Transylvania. The land of the delicious red liquid (red wine that is), steaks (meaty ones, not wooden Vampire killers) and plenty of fascinating history, scenic beauty and stunning gothic architecture for you to sink your teeth into.
Located in Central Romania, Transylvania is largely renowned for its association with Vampires and the horror genre in general. Transylvania willingly markets this connection, claiming Bran Castle, a gothic style Castle in Brasov, Transylvania, as the setting for the home of Bram Stoker’s Dracula.
Transylvania is a stereotypically perfect setting for Vampire books and films. Think; gothic architecture, mountainous landscapes and low lying mists in the winter. However, if you aren’t into the whole blood sucking, stake driving thing, Transylvania also boast a host of non-vampire related activities for you to enjoy.
A Braşov base
Braşov is one of the largest and most popular cities in Transylvania and it, along with the surrounding areas, feature unforgettable attractions. Visitors can explore stunning churches, hiking in the nearby mountains, and even bear watching.
Braşov’s main landmark is the Black Church, the largest Gothic church between Vienna and Istanbul. Built between 1383 and 1480, its name comes from its appearance after a fire in 1689. It is packed full of history, with statues dating back to when it was first built and some 120 fabulous Turkish rugs hanging from its balconies. The Black Church also features one of the world’s largest pipe organs with 4000-pipes. Even if you are not religious the Black Church is a must visit, even if it is just to top up your holy water (yes – another Vampire reference).
View from above
For those more interested in natural beauty and the great outdoors then a climb up Mount Tâmpa is a must. For those less interested in walking never fear, there is a cable car all the way to the top. Towering above Braşov from the east, Mount Tâmpa offers stunning views, great hiking trails and even Braşov’s own piece of Hollywood; a huge ‘Hollywood’ style sign reading Braşov in giant letters at the top of the mountain.
For the benefit of the bears
Also on the ‘must visit’ list is the Liberty Bear Sanctuary. Set up by a Romanian woman after she witnessed the extreme cruelty and illegal exploitation suffered by of one of Romania’s magnificent native animals, Liberty Bear Sanctuary now helps over 60 bears enjoying a new life.
Watch them climb trees, swim in the pools and forage on the vegetation. These beautiful animals are certainly not camera shy and they know their best angles. Clear your memory cards and be prepared to take lots of flash-less photos.
Finally, after a long day sightseeing I am sure you will be starving. If you love meat and polenta then you are going to love Romanian cuisine. However, in the case that you don’t, or you swiftly get sick of polenta for breakfast, lunch and dinner as I did, perhaps a red wine liquid diet would work best. Romanian red wine is absolutely delicious, VERY inexpensive and good for you.
So whether you are a red wine drinker, a Twilight watcher or a wildlife lover, Transylvania has something for you. Just be sure to eat lots of garlic before you go, just in case.