There are historic landmarks around every turn here in Transylvania. I picked five in the vicinity of Brasov to see over two days, but ended up visiting them all today!
First up was Bran Castle, with its tenuous claim to have been Dracula’s Castle (Vled Tepes, not the fictional vampire). This is the castle I’ve always heard linked to Transylvania and Romania so I was expecting something special. I was actually quite disappointed with the place. Not particularly impressive externally and the displays inside were pretty lame.
Prejmer Fortified Church
There’s a bunch of these fortified churches in the area, so I picked two that looked interesting. The first of them was Prejmer, the largest fortified church in southeastern Europe and a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Built about 1212, it was subsequently besieged 50 times but was only captured once (in 1611), when the attackers found the secret passageway that was used to get water into the facility.
The walls are 40 feet high and 10-15 feet thick. The raised defensive gallery on the inside has slots for shooting out of as well as spouts for pouring hot fluids down onto the attackers. It is well preserved and visitors can walk the circumference of the defensive gallery.
Each village family had a designated room for shelter in case of attack, and there are 272 rooms within the defensive wall.
The Gothic Triptych on the church’s altar was worked on between 1450-1460 and is reported to be the most ancient double-sided sacral item in Romania.
Harman Fortified Church
The next visit was to the fortified church in the nearby village of Harman. This fortification dates back to the 13th century. It gave the impression of a scaled-down version of the Prejmer fortification.
The Chapel Tower dates back to 1300 and contains remarkably well preserved paintings from the 15th century.
My fourth visit of the day was to the Rasnov Fortress. This medieval fortress dates to the 15th century but was built on the site of earlier fortifications that date back to the Bronze Age. The fortress served as a citadel, protecting villagers who lived inside its walls.
Whilst there are some preserved sections of the fortress, along with some ruins, the whole place has become a souvenir bazaar. Many of the old buildings are now occupied by souvenir shops, so if you want a fridge magnet, a T-shirt, or something similar, you’ll find it here! At least I got some exercise walking up and down the steep hill to get to the place.
I saved the best until last. My fifth visit of the day was to the Peles Castle in Sinaia. It is described online as “one of the most stunning castles in Europe” and I have to say that it has a definite ‘wow factor’ when it first comes into view.
It doesn’t have as much history as the other places, having been commissioned by King Carol I in 1873 and completed in 1883, but it makes up for its relative young age with good looks and a lavish interior. The castle served as the summer residence of the royal family until 1947. Its 160 rooms are adorned with the finest examples of European art as well as one of the best collections of armour and weaponry in the world.
I got there just in time for the final tour at 4.15pm. I am now kicking myself for not paying the extra fee for taking photos on the tour! There were guides all over the place ensuring that we didn’t take photos and it was too late to buy a photo pass once I was on the tour, as the ticket office had closed. If you take this tour – pay extra for photo privileges. You won’t regret it!
The tour includes the armoury collection as well as several of the rooms in the castle. A huge amount of money was spent on this castle – apparently King Carol’s ‘own money’. The place just screams opulence and I wish I had more photos from inside to share (or a better wifi connection to at least share more of the photos that I do have)!
So, it was a pretty hectic day today, getting around to five historical sites. Having been to the five places I selected for this region, I’ll break camp tomorrow and head to a new campsite closer to Sibiu. That will make it easier to visit another castle and two fortresses that I have on my list!
I can only hope that the wifi connection will be better at the next camp also (it has taken me almost three hours to upload the photos in this post).