When planning my recent trip to Romania every single piece of travel advice I found online recommended a day trip to Transylvania, so naturally I sought out opportunities to visit the region. I was able to find a tour that touched on some of Romania’s most notorious tourist attractions, namely the city of Brasov and Dracula’s Castle. The tour, operated by Unveil Romania, lasted about twelve hours and significantly impacted my experience in Romania.
I spent my 20th birthday wandering Transylvania with my best friend and two of the most interesting people I’ve met in a long time: Unveil Romania’s founders. Armed with a love for travel and a desire to share the beauty of their home country with visitors, Mihai and Olivia founded the company after becoming disillusioned with their jobs in corporate marketing. My friend and I were lucky enough to have them as our private tour guides for the day, though it often felt more like we were amongst old friends.
The day began at eight in the morning in central Bucharest, where we were introduced to our guides and then prepared to embark on a roughly two hour journey to Peles Castle in Sinaia. On the drive my friend and I aired many of our Romania related questions about everything from education and lifestyle to recent protests and the ‘89 revolution. They fielded our questions generously, helping us to create a more concrete sense of place.
The castle, completed in 1914, was home to King Carol, a German man who served as Romania’s leader for over 30 years. Carol had a discerning eye for art, and thus furnished the castle with some of the finest works from central and eastern europe. Today, the palace serves as an art museum, complete with several state-themed rooms, and a monument to one of Romania’s most loved rulers.
Next, we ventured to Bran Castle, located within the Transylvania region. The castle was built as a fortress to guard the region from Ottoman invasion, and later served as a summer residence for Queen Maria, a relative of King Carol I, and her husband. Today it is open as a museum where guests can observe the Queen’s furnishings and learn about the legend of Dracula, for whom the castle is often named. Though there is no evidence that Bram Stoker, who authored the iconic novel, had any knowledge of the castle it does bear a striking resemblance to the castle used in the original 1931 film adaptation. It is believed that Dracula’s character may have been inspired by Vlad the Impaler, whose brutal methods (yes, it is what you think) protected the region from Ottoman invasion for decades.
Lastly, we made our way to Brasov, a typical Transylvanian city located between several mountain ranges (much like Sarajevo, Bosnia & Herzegovina).
Since we had a slight time crunch we weren’t able to explore extensively, but our few hours there were enough for me to develop quite a crush on its medieval streets. Here it is in writing so I have to follow through: I’ll be back soon.
It still amazes me that I have had the opportunity to have these experiences and I can say proudly that I wouldn’t want to spend my 20th birthday any other way; there is no greater gift than learning, travel, and good conversation.