Slept great! Alexandra (the host) brought me tea at 7. I got my things together and left at 8. We communicated the best we could in French, hugged, and off I went. I headed off into the mountains again, on amazing, winding, roads through almost mythically magical dense green forests. You could see why folklore and fairy tales are such a part of the Romanian culture. It’s all around them. Instead of sunshine today, I had drizzle and sprinkles. After a while, I came out into a huge valley. It was just gorgeous.

Speaking of myths, the first stop today was Bran Castle. This castle is famous for being the one that inspired Bram Stoker’s creation of Dracula’s Castle. That said, Vlad the Impaler never lived here. After witnessing the lines yesterday in Busteni, I had a good idea of what this major tourist attraction was going to be like. One of my 3 stops for the day was actually before Bran Castle, but it didn’t open until 10. Bran opened at 9. So I decided to go there first to be there when it opened and beat the lines, then backtrack to the other place. Pulled in to Bran right before 9, easily found a place to park, and was pleased that it was only 4 lei ($1) instead of the 15 lei I’d been paying everywhere yesterday! Walked through a modern day torture device- the souvenir stall gauntlet (insert bloodcurdling scream!). Entry was 40 lei (about $10) with NO camera fee, and….drum roll please…they accepted credit cards!! I walked up the hill to the castle and there was no line to get in. Woo-hoo!

Ok. This is the castle that spawned Dracula. I was expecting spooky, dark, eerie, ancient. But….nothing was further from the truth. All of the interior walls were plastered in white. In places, they left the pieces that showed the original walls- now THOSE walls had character. These walls really made it feel like just a house kind of. The history here is more about the people who lived here (and I totally understand that). There were a couple of rooms with signage discussing vampires, and Vlad, and Stoker, but that was about it. There was way more vampire stuff in the souvenir gauntlet! I’ve been in a ton of castles. Some are super fancy (think Peles from yesterday) and have a museum DO NOT TOUCH quality to them. Some are just in ruins and you have to use your imagination to even recreate it. This one felt like a place where you could live and just have fun running around playing castle!! Not like a royal castle or a defensive castle- just a fun castle! There were a ton of little rooms- nothing massive and majestic and imposing. Lots of staircases- regular and spiral. One was a secret staircase with the original stone walls that was my favorite part of the entire castle! The furnishings were antiques, many original, but not over-the-top luxurious by any means. Just fairly simple, though beautiful, and functional. The views from the top were pretty great, though!

This was the king’s bedroom! So unassuming…

Is this a place I’d bring Brian back to? No. There are a zillion castles in Europe to explore. And lots with more exciting history, or more extravagant with a WOW factor. The draw for this one is Dracula, and frankly, as far as that went it was kind of a let down. I was pleased that I timed it right by getting there early. Here was the line a little after 10am on a Wednesday as I was leaving…

On the road again! To backtrack to the 2nd stop- Valea Cetăţii Cave. This stop was so I could do some cave filming for my Earth Science class. It’s right next to a beautiful little town called Rasnov, which is a pretty strong tourist draw.

I arrived at the cave at about 10:30, and there were only 3 other cars in the parking lot…um, was this open? Signs indicated that I had to walk to the cave entrance, so I took off up a road through an awesome forest. Which was uphill. Then turned into stairs! This was a solid hike! By the time I reached the top, my heart was pumping so hard a vampire would have choked if he had locked into one of my veins! 👹

It cost 15 lei (about $4) cash only to get in. Had to wait about 10 minutes for a guide, along with about 7 other people who had made it there before me. The guide came out, and we had 3 different languages going on in our group- Romanian, English, and something else that sounded eastern European but I didn’t know what it was. Well, the guide did, and he did his talk in all 3 languages. #jealous Unfortunately, the cave itself wasn’t very impressive. It was only one big room with a staircase/walkway that went around it in a loop. We entered to the left, walked around to a platform, there the guide told us about the cave, we took pictures, and exited to the right. Seriously, 15 minutes. I was pretty disappointed. 🙁 Had I known, I wouldn’t have backtracked to here.

Hit the rural back roads, for such a wonderful, peaceful, enjoyable drive. The back roads are very Swiss- like the cheese! Full of holes! You really have to keep an eye on the road. Main roads are in very good condition with a lot of construction going on. But even with the potholes, I prefer the back roads winding through quiet little villages, horse drawn carts for traffic. There are SO MANY things that just make you gasp out loud- they’re that beautiful. But again, practically impossible to ever find a place to pull over and take a picture. You just have to come here and see for yourself! Here are a few of the sites I saw along the way…

Last stop for the day was a mysterious one- the Rupestra Monastery in Sinca-Veche. It’s a series of temples carved into rock that dates back 7000 years!! WOW! And no one knows who built it or why… When I took one of the pictures, I was really shocked to see a star of David carved into one of the niches. This isn’t your typical Christian monastery….these temples far predate that…

The grounds were beautiful, with nicely manicured paths and stairs climbing into the hills through the forest. I started walking around, just exploring the peacefulness of it all. On my way down one trail, some new stairs were being built. I walked down them, and at the bottom was a lone worker, a man about 60, sitting on a bench having lunch. I smiled at him and said hello. He grinned so big and beckoned me over, gesturing to share his lunch. There was one chicken back and a couple of slices of bread. He was so insistent (in the friendliest way imaginable). So I tore off a piece of chicken and a piece of bread, ate it, and declared it to be delicious! He was so pleased! He hugged and kissed me on the cheek, and I continued down the trail. Now, he didn’t have much of a lunch, and there were a few dozen people milling around back here. Why he chose me to share lunch with, I have no idea. But what a lovely, unexpected gesture!

And that was the last adventure for the day. Drove into Sighișoara, and found my Airbnb for the next 2 nights (and it’s AWESOME!! Private apartment, large, modern, clean, great wifi, free parking, walking distance to the city…$34 a night!).

CONTINUE TO DAY 5

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