Let’s pick up where we left off in Brasov, Transylvania.
Brasov is the perfect medieval town.
They do have an Orange shop, a Mcdonalds and their fair share of tower blocks, but the buildings inside and around the walls of the Old Town are still magnificently old fashioned despite the modern purposes those buildings are now used for.
Brasov is the Transylvania from my dreams. It looks how you might imagine Transylvania would look if your only experience with the region is from American horror movies.
It isn’t hard to imagine that vampires (or Strigoi as Romanians, unfortunately, don’t tend to believe in Vampires themselves) are lurking around the corner, but aside from the slightly spooky element, I have to say that I felt pretty safe in Brasov.
You could definitely imagine seeing some vampires walking the streets of Brasov after nightfall, and Brasov is a great place to inspire any writer, but the town itself actually feels really safe.
Brasov is small, but it is incredibly rich in architecture. The black church (so named because there was a fire in it a long time ago and it left a lasting mark on the church) is about as gothic as possible, and if you go during the quieter months you could find yourself virtually alone on the streets so you can take some really cool photographs.
Brasov is pretty small and so you may not want to spend weeks there, but I was in Brasov for three days and I didn’t want to leave. If you’re going to Romania and you want a ‘real’ Transylvania experience then go to Brasov and explore the surrounding areas!
After that epically long train journey, I was pretty out of it and literally could not even think about trying to navigate the buses so I got a taxi to the hostel. They always warn you about taxis in Romania, but Brasov is really pretty safe and the taxi was very reasonably priced (it literally came to about £1).
The hostel I stayed at had a free breakfast from about 7 am till noon, which was perfect for someone like me who can’t just leap out of bread and fancy a big breakfast straight away.
The hostel was pretty close to the old town and very close to the mountain, the staff were really nice and helpful, and there was even a dog who, despite the barking, was really chilled and friendly.
Transylvania is pretty quiet in November, so when I arrived not only was I able to check in straight away but for the first two nights I was the only one in an eight person dorm.
It was slightly creepy in a perfect-set-up-for-a-horror-movie-way, but by this point, I was more than ready to sleep alone for a few days and watch South Park in the evenings. The room was huge too and came with its own table and chairs.
The hostel was full of art, sayings, and proverbs, and it also had a lounge downstairs which no one ever used.
The hostel gives you one free drinks token a night, and you’re also allowed to bring your own food/drinks into the hostel and cook them in the large guest kitchen.
Romania is a really cheap country, which makes it the perfect destination for budget travellers.
The currency isn’t inflated in the same way it is in Prague or Budapest, but something that costs 10 lei comes to just under £2 and the pricing structure is quite similar to Britain so you can buy quite a lot of things for under 10 lei.
My taxi ride, for example, was 11 lei. A big shop may only come to around £5, (around 30 lei, cigarettes (smoking is bad btw) came to around £2-3, and entry to the attractions was normally pretty reasonable (entry to the Black Church comes to under £2).
I hadn’t done much of my own cooking so far, but I started properly in Brasov. If I was only going to give you one money saving travel tip, it would be that you really ought to cook at least some of your own meals.
If you’re spending a few days in one location then even if you end up wasting some groceries it is guaranteed to be cheaper than eating out, plus you get to avoid the awkwardness of eating alone as a solo traveler (which bothers some people more than others) and the hostel kitchen is a great place to meet and bond with fellow travelers.
On my second day in Brasov, I went on the Walkabout free walking tour.
Anyone who goes to a new city should Google free walking tours in the area because they are such a great way for you to learn more about your location, find out about the recent and not so recent history of the city you are visiting, and they also show you where everything is so it’s easier to find your own way around.
Highlights From The Tour
- The Brasov walking tour was led by an awesome Romanian woman who taught us about the history of the buildings in the old town and how they used to kill criminals where the fountain now stands.
- We walked down the third narrowest street in Europe and learned the proper way to impale people.
- We learned that the spikes protruding from one of the prettiest churches outside of the walls were used as a warning because they showed that the church had the power to execute people.
- We learned about the real Dracula and how he was actually the leader of Wallachia (modern-day Bucharest and the surrounding areas) but he did have a mistress in Brasov and he did impale some Germans whilst passing through.
- The reason Dracula is meant to be from Transylvania rather than his actual home town is probably because Transylvania (and Brasov) look more like the type of places you’d expect to see a vampire. Dracula might be less scary if he’s on the sunny side of the country by the beach!
- Apparently, the old town was constructed by Germans and for hundreds of years only Germans could live there whilst the Romanians lived outside the city walls.
- This was because the Hungarians conquered Romania and then they invited the Germans in and it ended up that only Germans could live within the city walls and the actual Romanians had to live outside.
This was definitely one of the best walking tours I’ve ever been on (and I’ve been to a lot!), but what I actually found most interesting was the end when she talked to us about communism in Romania.
I didn’t plan this at all but at least 3/4ths of the places I decided to visit were formally communist states.
Before I went to Romania I didn’t even know they had been a communist country (very ignorant I know) and I didn’t know anything about Nicolae Ceaușescu. I certainly didn’t know he and his wife were shot on Christmas day.
I didn’t know anything about the dictatorship or the 20th-century history of Romania. To be honest, all I actually knew about this country was some mostly fictional stuff about Dracula.
It’s a really interesting part of history because it really wasn’t that long ago and, as the tour guide was saying, her parents lived through it and remember it.
What was most surprising was that apparently at least half of older Romanians are actually quite nostalgic for the old regime and some people actually want communism back in Romania.
Ceaușescu didn’t kill nearly as many people as you’d think a communist leader would. In fact, his regime was going well until he decided to pay off all of Romania’s foreign debts.
He succeeded, but in the process, most of the Romanian people were starved, rationed and over worked and so naturally the tide kind of turned, against him.
I left the tour feeling a lot more knowledgeable about Romania’s distant and not so distant past, and I know I’ll remember it for a long time.