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Transylvania – More Than Just Dracula

Whenever Transylvania is mentioned, the name Dracula springs to mind. Whether for better or for worse, that’s the way it is. Bram Stoker couldn’t have suspected what he was about to unleash when he wrote Dracula, a novel that would go down in history, inspired by the figure of Vlad Tepes. Neither would he have imagined he was going to turn Transylvania – where part of the story unfolds – into a tourist destination for vampire enthusiasts, particularly since his writing was based on literary sources, as he never actually visited the region.

However, when considering a trip to Transylvania, we need to lift the Gothic veil from our eyes and look further afield. Granted, reminders of Vlad Tepes are present, but there are also magnificent landscapes awaiting us, as well as medieval towns with priceless coloured houses, friendly people and the odd medieval castle, which would only conjure up horror stories with a concerted flight of the imagination.

Brasov

Transylvania is famed for having the best preserved medieval towns in Europe, so make sure you visit the historic town of Brasov, packed with charming spots. A major landmark is the Old Town Square (Piata Sfatului), where you can visit the History Museum, housed in the old Town Hall. Another must-see is the Biserica Neagră or Black Church, so called on account of the blackened walls caused by a fire there in 1689. This huge Gothic church, one of the largest in south-eastern Europe, houses an important collection of Turkish rugs hanging from its galleries.

The Fortified Church of Prejmer

This original monument, listed as a World Heritage Site by UNESCO, lies some 18 km from Brasov in Prejmer, a place marked by protracted wars during the Middle Ages, owing to its proximity to the border. The fortified church, dating from the 13th century, attests to the turmoil of those times. It has 4-metre-thick walls rising 12 metres, rendering it impregnable to the 50 times it was besieged. The precinct provided shelter for the townsfolk during military assaults, with rooms to lodge in and defensive towers which also acted as storage areas for provisions.

Bran Castle

In the mountains of Bucegi and Piatra Craiului, some 30 km from Brasov, stands one of the most visited landmarks in Transylvania. This castle is usually associated with the figure of Vlad Tepes, and it was mistakenly said to be his place of residence. We owe this confusion to Bram Stoker, who turned it into Dracula’s residence in his novel. That is why it is popularly thought to be Dracula’s castle. Aside from the world of vampires, this castle, built by the Saxons in 1382, is well worth the visit, with much of its splendour remaining intact.

Poenari Castle

Those who wish to see the true place of residence of Vlad the Impaler should visit this castle. It was built in the early-13th century and abandoned in the mid-17th. Unlike the previous castle, this one lies partly in ruins and access is rather more difficult, as you have walk up no less than 1,500 stairs! However, once at the top, the spectacular view of the Carpathian Mountains more than makes up for the effort.

Sighisoara

Situated in the centre of Romania, in the Transylvanian Carpathians, this is a popular tourist resort, and not only for being the birthplace of Vlad Tepes. Sighisoara has a well preserved, fortified medieval citadel, which has deservedly earned its designation as a World Heritage site. Fourteen of the original fortified towers are still standing. You should also visit the Clocktower, and go up to the top to see the view over the town. And, needless to say, those in search of the gruesome past can visit what is believed to be the house where Vlad the Impaler was born.

Sibiu

Founded by Saxon settlers in the 12th century, it is one of Transylvania’s major economic and cultural hubs. Sited on the banks of the river Cibin, it has an Old Town redolent with cobbled streets, medieval houses, large squares, cafés and remains of the original fortified wall. Sibiu is divided into the Upper Town and Lower Town, the latter featuring the most interesting landmarks. Make sure you visit the Piaţa Mare or Great Square, housing one of Romania’s paramount Baroque monuments, the Brukenthal Palace. Other sights include the Piaţa Mică or Small Square, and the Huet Square, surrounded by mainly Gothic buildings, most notably the Lutheran Evangelical Cathedral.

Ready to visit the other face of Transylvania? Book your Vueling here!

Text by ISABELYLUIS Comunicación

Images by Dennis Jarvis, Camil Ghircoias, Alexandru Panoiu, Daniel Tellman

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