I had rented a private car and driver for this day so that I could stop and go at my own pace without the hindrance of a group. There were two great couples who I befriended on the cruise who were interested in doing this with me so it was simply terrific to share this with them. The driver showed up in a beautiful Mercedes SUV with seating for only 6 so this was perfect. It would be a few hours before we entered Transylvania and to say I was excited was an understatement.
I teased the driver that I was promised I would see a vampire on this tour and he said he would do his best.. lol. Enroute we all talked about legends and vampires and our driver gave us insight into Vlad the Impaler upon which the legend of Dracula was based.
Prince Vlad, or as he was called even in his own time, Dracula (which means "Son of the Dragon") tops the list of Romania's many, many Christian crusaders who, in the transition years between the Middle Ages and the Renaissance, fought to keep the Muslim-faithed Ottoman Turks out of their country. He ruled his military kingdom of Wallachia — southern Romania — with a heavy and blood-soaked fist. To not only the Turks but also to many of his own countrymen he was Vlad The Impaler. During his tenure, he killed by the droves, impaling on a forest of spikes around his castle thousands of subjects who he saw as either traitors, would-be traitors or enemies to the security of Romania and the Roman Catholic Church. Sometimes, he slew merely to show other possible insurgents and criminals just what their fate would be if they became troublesome.
Now I was heading towards this mysterious land where so much history had taken place and each minute seemed like an hour. I was like a child again wanting to ask "are we there yet?" at every turn. Most of the houses we saw along the road were painted in a multitude of colors and some had very strange shapes. We saw locals with donkeys and it made our ride very picturesque indeed and in keeping with my expectations of this medieval land. What seemed to be such peotic justic was that the day was grey and misty and in intervals we had light rain, I thought this was the ferfect setting to enter Transylvania, with mist hovering over the mountains. I felt like I was on a movie set.
FINALLY up ahead was a sign that read "Welcome to Transylvania"....OMG I was here in the land of vampires and counts and medieval castles! It was a dream come true for me to be here. Our guide said that we would stop for lunch prior to heading off to visit the castles. By now we had been driving for a few hours and we were getting hungry.
I wanted a restaurant with typical Transylvanian food and we were not disappointed. Our guide took us to Vila Bran which was perched high on a hill and we had authentic goulash and Transylvania potatos which were awesome! The restaurant was so quaint with wooden furniture and wooden beams on the ceiling. As you walked up towards the entrance we were able to pet a reindeer, another experience not too many people get to do, such fun.
In this area there are two main castles which you should not miss. One is Peles Castle and the other is Bran Castle, better known as Dracula's Castle. The first one on our route was Peles. This castle is quite literally what you would see in a fairytale. It is probably the most beautiful castle I have ever seen in my world travels. Peles Castle is considered by many one of the most beautiful castles in all Europe. It was the final resting place for several Romanian monarchs including King Carol I, who died here in 1914. The building of the castle began in 1873 under the direct order of the Viennese architect Wilhem Doderer and was continued in 1876 by his assistant, Johann Schultz de Lemberg. The castle was built in wood, stone, bricks and marble and comprises more than 160 rooms. The representative style used is German Renaissance, but one can easily discover elements belonging to the Italian Renaissance, Gothic, German Baroque and French Rococo style.
Peles is surrounded by seven terraces decorated with statues (sculptured by the Italian, Romanelli), stone-made-wells, ornamental vases and Carara marble. The architects used an abundance of wooden decoration , both for the exterior and for the interior of the castle, which confers a very special quality to the building. Every conceivable luxury can be found inside, the best woods, crystal chandeliers from Italy, the most expensive Meissen porcelein and unimaginable opulence whereever you eyes roam. There is German stained-glass windows, walls covered with Cordoba leather, ebony and ivory sculptures, as well as an extensive weapon collections. Peles Castle shelters one of the most important and most valuable painting collections in Europe, almost 2000 pieces.
We spent over an hour viewing this great castle and after the obligatory stop at the souvenir shop (did I mention I was a shopoholic?) we were off on our way with my treasured Peles Castle coffee mug and book tucked next to me.
Now we were heading towards the highlight of my day......Bran Castle! The route was misty and very picturesque with colored houses dotting the valley and mist hovering over the mountains. It was truly the image of what I thought this area would look like. Finally I could see Bran's Castle in the distance.