Transylvania - Abbey Travel, Ireland

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Welcome to Transylvania


Transylvania is the most famous part of Romania, thanks to the legend of Dracula, conjuring up images of haunted forests and werewolves, medieval towns, vampires, dramatic mountains and turreted cliff-top castles.

Transylvania is not just about Dracula, however. It has splendid mountain scenery and alpine peaks, some of the country's best hiking and skiing, rural villages and a way of life that remains almost as it was in the 18th century. Historic towns are scattered throughout the region, with their stone medieval streets, defensive towers and fortified churches. The charming town of Sighisoara is the most striking introduction to Transylvania, the birthplace of 'Dracula' (a medieval prince, Vlad Tepes, who led the Romanian resistance against the Turks), along with the impressive castles and churches of Brasov and Sinaia, and the dramatic castle at Bran, also known as Dracula's Castle, that looks every bit a vampire's lair with its soaring turrets and dramatic setting.

The populace is a mixture of different characters and customs that have been shaped by years of colonisation and the coming and going of different groups, and includes Romanians, Gypsies, Hungarians and Germans. Despite the creeping effects of modernisation into the large towns, visitors to this region will be rewarded by its medieval charm and the traditional character of the people. Endearing images will linger, and memories of horse-drawn carts piled high with cabbages, driven by elderly couples with scarf-covered heads and rough hands; lively food markets, quaint cobbled streets, and hilly pastures nestled among the Carpathian Mountains will be the lasting impressions left by the charm of Transylvania.

Information & Facts

Romanian is the official language, but English will be understood in Bucharest and other tourist areas.

The Leu (RON) is the official currency, which is divided into 100 bani. Money may be exchanged at banks, international airports, hotels or authorised exchange offices called 'casa de schimb' or 'birou de schimb valutar'. ATMs are available at large banks, airports and shopping centres in cities. American Express, MasterCard and Visa are accepted in the main cities. Travellers cheques, preferably in Euros, can be cashed in large banks, some hotels and certain exchange offices in Bucharest but commission is high. It is recommended to travel with some Euros in cash in case of difficulty using credit cards or travellers cheques. US Dollars are also accepted fairly widely.

Local time is GMT +2 (GMT +3 between the last Sunday in March to the Saturday before the last Sunday in October).

The fortified medieval Bran Castle is often referred to as Dracula's Castle, looking as a vampire count's abode should look with a forbidding façade, towers and ramparts rising out of the forest, and perched high on a steep cliff face against a dramatic mountain background; however there is little evidence to suggest Vlad Tepes ever stayed there.

Bran Castle was built in 1377 to protect nearby Brasov from invaders, and it later became the favourite summer residence of Queen Marie, offered to her by the people of Brasov who owned it. The rooms and towers surround an inner courtyard with a sculpted stone fountain. A warren of narrow, winding stairs, secret chambers and underground passageways lead between vaulted halls, a prison, watchtowers with sweeping views, and the living area.

The rooms are decorated with a collection of Baroque furniture, elaborately carved four-poster beds, weapons and armour dating from the 14th to 19th centuries. On the grounds below is an open-air ethnographic Village Museum consisting of old local-style architecture with household objects, costumes and furniture on display. At the entrance to the castle grounds is a large handicraft market that aims to distract the bus loads of tourists.

Nestled at the foot of Mount Tâmpa, Brasov is a charming medieval town, and along with Sighisoara is one of the seven fortified towns settled by the Saxons, with a distinct Germanic flavour to its architecture. The Saxons built massive stone walls and seven bastions around the city that are still visible today, as well as ornate churches, elaborately trimmed buildings and a fine central square that is said to be the spot from where the legendary Pied Piper was to have led the children of Hamlin. Lining the square are the red-roofed merchant's houses, now occupied by cafes and shops, and in the centre is the 15th-century Old Town Hall that is home to the History Museum. The town's landmark is the impressive Gothic structure known as the Black Church, so named because a fire blackened its outer walls in 1689. The interior is beautiful, with balconies, stained glass windows, an enormous organ, stone columns and walls adorned with fabulous Turkish carpets. Many people use Brasov as a base for visiting the nearby attractions of Dracula's Castle at Bran, as well as Râsnov Castle and the ski resorts of Sinaia and Poiana Brasov.

Sighisoara is a beautifully preserved medieval town that is renowned as the birthplace of 'Dracula', or Vlad The Impaler. It is also a UNESCO World Heritage Site and one of the seven fortified towns founded by the Saxons in the hills of Transylvania. The hilltop citadel dominates the town with the original medieval settlement enclosed within the fortress walls, surrounded by nine surviving towers.

Within the old town, the narrow cobbled streets and steep alleyways, brightly-painted tiny lopsided houses, ancient churches, stone archways and covered stairways are overlooked by the striking Clock Tower, the control tower of the main gate with magnificent views over the whole town and countryside. At the foot of the Clock Tower is the simple yellow building where Vlad was born and lived with his father, Vlad Dracul, and is marked by a hanging wrought-iron dragon. It now houses a restaurant with medieval furnishings.

The ancient cobblestone street that passes beneath the Clock Tower leads to the lower town, and although shabbier than the citadel, it has some interesting little shops where 'Vampire Wine' and locally made products can be bought. There are also lively markets here and pretty stone squares where townsfolk gather to chat animatedly about daily affairs. Every year in July the town is host to the Sighisoara Medieval Festival, one of Romania's biggest and most popular festivals.

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