I had two full days in Bucharest before I needed to catch a flight to the western side of Romania for my work training. Before this escapade started, I tried to figure out how I could get the most out of my work trip by seeing all the Romanian hits. I quickly realised that the country is quite large and not super accessible. Apparently, the trains are unreliable and renting a car in the winter isn’t a good idea. I don’t know if this is actually true, but it has to do with the road conditions and the pedal-to-the-metal attitude of the Romanian drivers. That Transfăgărășan road also closes at a certain point due to weather. Also not a shocker- I didn’t want to spend 65€+ on a day tour. In the end, my cheapness guided me like stale bread crumbs to taking public transport.
Then, I had to decide what I could see on a day trip from Bucharest. This post is titled Bran Castle and I didn’t even end up going there. Hear me out. Much like the raisins in Raisin Bran, the castle is on the far outskirts of my bowl. The closest town is Brașov (which I did go to) but getting to Dracula’s shack is a nightmare with public transport, especially on the weekends. The bus goes every hour and it’s a solid 40 min or more ride from there to Bran. The other reason why I chose not to go is that apparently, it isn’t even Dracula’s castle, taking undeserved credit much? (university made me bitter). Also, I heard it was a bit meh compared to Peleș Castle (which I did go to).
So my day trip plan was:
- train to Brașov
- train to Peleș Castle
- train back to Bucharest
You can catch a direct train to Brașov from Bucharest North Station (Gara de Nord). I aimed for 08:04, that’s why I stayed in a hotel near the station. I arrived at the station at 07:45, waited 15 minutes at the ticket counter and then waited another 50 minutes since my train was delayed. Let me just remind you that it was -1 and the station is quite open-aired. Instead of arriving in Brașov at the scheduled time of 10:40, it was more like 11:30. When you arrive at Brașov Station, you need to then walk 40 min to the old town or take bus 4 to the centre. A round-trip ticket is 6 lei and it takes 18 minutes, which I bought from a machine outside near the bus.
I walked to the main square from where the bus dropped me off and got myself one of those wonders of a dessert, the chimney thing (Kürtőskalács). With rum. Since I heard a Romanian in English saying with rum was best. It was. IT WAS THE SIZE OF MY ARM. Eating food the length of my arm is one of my dreams. It’s fire heated so it smokes like a chimney but you can’t see that in my photo since I have no photo skills.
I meandered to the Black Church (Biserica Neagră), then to the towers for a pretty view, and then I went for lunch at Sergiana. I had a cider and goulash for 43 lei. It was good. Good flavours and sauce but it needed more time to simmer so the sauce would soak into the meats. I love when the two tango seamlessly. The restaurant is located at the bottom of these stairs kind of dungeon-y. I have this weird thing where I sometimes get super shy with restaurants when I am alone. So I waited in front of the big doors down the steps for a while before I had the courage to open the door. Super weird, don’t ask me why.
I had to dash out (calm down, I paid) because I realised that there were no 15:00 trains from Brasov to Sinaia, only two at 14:00 and then again at 16:00. This is what they meant by unreliable trains.
I got into Sanaia at 15:25 and hauled ass to the castle. Google said it was about a 35-minute walk, it’s accurate since it’s all uphill. There is a little market thing selling Romanian wares just before the castle but I had no time for tablecloths. At 15:50 I saw the sign saying it was open till 16:15 (in November) so not the 17:00 that was advertised online. They have since updated their website or I just read it wrong initially, which is more likely. I quickened my pace, I choose not to run so it was a brisk walk. It’s 30 lei to enter for adults. You need to wait in line and ring this bell at the big door. After waiting 10 minutes, no one answered and by now I was running out of time to see this castle that I almost had to run for. I ended up going back to the ticket lady and she told me I have to be insistent. Keep ringing the bell. Very unCanadian of me, I did what she said and we finally got let in. You have to put hair nets over our shoes and then we were told we could go in through another door. The guide I paid for, which was included in the ticket price must have been invisible because there was no guide in sight. The castle is lovely inside, with some cool rooms. The fraction of historical descriptions that I heard from a guide that was not mine made it sound really awesome. By the time I got kicked out of my self-paced tour, it was properly dark outside, so I only got a few pictures of the outside of it. You can’t take inside pictures unless you pay.
I couldn’t tell you if Sanaia is an interesting town or not since I saw very little of it. There are quite a few hotels there though, so there must be a ski resort or something near it. I just Googled, and there are ski hills surrounding the town. I was also a bit scattered before catching the train back to Bucharest because this Turkish guy gave me a bag of his dried apricots and I think that meant we were married.
If I went to Bran Castle I wouldn’t have made it to Peles castle so I’m glad I chose what I did. I wish I had more time in Brasov because there are nice hiking trails, or, more realistically, a gondola, which looked good.