Thursday, August 13, 2015

Brasov, Romania

If you take the overnight train from Budapest to Brasov, be warned, you will be woken up at 3:00am by Hungarian border control. They will bang open the door, flip on the lights and start talking loudly to you in Hungarian. After stamping your passport, they will shut off the lights and say goodnight. 

Thirty minutes later, just after you have fallen asleep again, the lights will fly on again. Someone will be speaking Romanian and asking for your passport. To this end, I suggest having your passport at the ready when you go to sleep. Also be sure to pack an eye mask and ear plugs. It took me a minute to even realize that all of this was happening in our car!

After our harrowing overnight journey through the countryside, we still had another few hours in the train. We finally pulled into the Brasov train station and walked two minutes before locating our hotel. Since we would only be staying in Brasov overnight, we chose to stay at the Kronwell. I'd describe it as a very chic, business hotel. It's about a thirty minute walk from downtown, but it's not a bad walk. Once you get downtown, you can pretend you are in Hollywood!

There are just a few must see things in downtown Brasov. We made sure to walk down the world's narrowest street and took some photos of the Black Church. Outdoor restaurants all sit underneath matching umbrellas and are open seating. See a restaurant you want to eat at? Find an open table, sit down, wave at someone who looks like a server. They'll let you sit and eat until they close. If you want the check you'll have to be proactive.

I'd also recommend the pastry shops in Brasov. I got an amazing raspberry-filled pastry for less than a dollar. You could also get a small bag of cookies or pretzels. They're fresh, locally made and delicious!

FYI - the Black Church isn't too black from the outside. It is apparently called the Black church because it burnt down. Maybe the inside is really charred and black? We visited later in the evening, so it wasn't open. Next time!

You may be asking why we stopped at a small town in the middle of the Romanian countryside. Well, Brasov is just a thirty minute bus ride from Bran, home of Dracula's Castle

There is plenty of history in this building, but Dracula didn't actually live here... Because he isn't real. Why has this castle come to be known as Dracula's castle? The story of Dracula is set in Transylvania. Bran castle is the only castle in Transylvania. Logic tells us therefore that this castle is the one alluded to in the story. Most recently it was home of Romanian Royalty and it's currently decorated in that manner.

Whether or not Bran castle was actually Dracula's castle (it wasn't), it's a lovely castle in a beautiful part of the country. If you can manage to locate the bus station and buy tickets (you buy them on board from the driver) you should definitely head out to Bran for a visit.

After sufficiently wandering through the castle and watching the video that played for two minutes and then unceremoniously cut out and looped back to the beginning, we left to get some lunch. With thirty minutes before the next bus arrived, we grabbed some snacks from the grocery store and had lunch in the cemetery. There was a ceremony happening in the cemetery that day, which even with extensive use of Google we couldn't figure out what war they were remembering.

Back on the bus and back to Brasov. We packed up our stuff and walked back to the train station. We only had train tickets, no seat reservations, so we were able to catch an earlier train to Bucharest. Our last train journey of the vacation was short and sweet. Though any trip would have felt short after the 13 hour trip from the day before!

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