Saturday, October 15, 2011

Dracula's Castle and More in Romania

Our week in Romania was quiet, beautiful and relaxing (and yes sometimes also a bit boring.)  If Prague reminded us of fairytales then I would say Sinaia reminded me of The Nutcracker - and of course we also were in mind of vampires being so closely located to Transylvania

I know you are sick of hearing this, but our accommodation was fabulous!  Poem Boem is a 4 story house in the mountain village of Sinaia about an hour out of Bucharest.  This area became popular in the late 1800's when then King Carol built his summer palace here (Peles Castle).  Soon all the wealthy Romanian's of the time built summer houses here too, and we are lucky enough to have stayed in one of those.  Of course the Communists took all the fabulous houses away from the wealthy, but now the previous owners are working though the courts to get them back.  Our house was renovated by a wonderful couple named Marius and Ioanna.  Ioanna picked us up a the train station, drove us around town, to the bank and grocery store and pointed out the important sites.  It was a wonderful and warm welcome.  The house, which is beautiful, was filled with fresh cut flowers, crystal chandeliers and fluffy white down comforters.  She also left us with a very good bottle of wine and a tin full of yummy cookies.  We have officially moved from "not roughing it" to spoiled rotten.

Wilder's Room - the Attic

The day we arrived in Sinaia was sunny with a high in the 40's.  Two days later however the high dropped to 20 and we woke up to snow.  This made it sometimes hard to leave the house as it was so warm and cozy inside (with everything we could need) and while we each have a coat, we are not really prepared for weather this cold (hats, mittens etc).  A couple of days I only left the house to fill the pewter pitchers with cold water from the spring fed fountain in the yard (definitely the best tasting water of our trip.)

Still, we found walking up hill warmed us up and so we did manage to get out to see some sites.  Peles castle was built in the late 1800's and so is quite modern for a castle.  It has forced air and radiated heat and no fireplaces.  It is really beautiful though in a completely over the top way.  My biggest complaint about Romania is they have this irritating habit of charging the equivalent of $10 for the privilege of taking pictures inside of places you've already paid to get into.  I didn't pay at Peles and regretted it the whole time.  Every room was different (decorated in a different style) and they were all stunning.  Sorry, you will have to settle for seeing the outside.

Sinaia is a ski resort in the winter.  Mark and the kids were sad we were too early for that, but they did take the cable car to the top for the great views.

To get to Dracula's castle in Transylvania we had to take a train, a bus and then another bus to arrive in the town of Bran.  Of course Dracula is a fictional character, and this castle didn't even belong to the real individual purported to have inspired him (Vlad the Impaler).  The castle certainly does look like Dracula could have lived there though and we enjoyed touring it, reading about it's history (both real and imaginary) and walking around the very pretty grounds.

Slightly sketchy bus

Cool Secret Passageway

On our last day the kid's boycotted any more educational outings and stayed home to play Monopoly.  They missed out because Mark and I went to the Sinaia Monastery.  It had two churches, one built in the 1600's and the other, the "new" church built in the 1800's.  They were both beautiful.  16 monks still live and work there.

Overall I would say we liked Romania.  It is certainly a beautiful country and you can tell that the people are cultured.  The mountains are stunning and the prices very good.  At the vegetable stand the first day I picked out 4 potatoes, 4 cucumbers, 2 tomatoes, an onion and a red bell pepper.  When told the price I tried to pay the equivalent of $10 (32 lei.)  The lady nicely explained to me the cost actually was the equivalent of $1 (3.2 lei.)

Prior to departing Romania we took a train to Bucharest, the capitol of Romania and spent the night.  Below are a few pics from our short 20 odd hours there.

They had perfectly comfortable beds in the next room

Today we take a flight to Athens with a 6 hour layover prior to continuing on to Santorini.  I'm excited to show my family one of my most favorite places from my previous travels.  So-long Eastern Europe.  Hello Greece!

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