Romania: Dracula and beyond
February 7, 2018 | 4:50 PM
by Indranil Chowdhuri

Romania as a country had been in the core of both the World Wars. In the first edition, it went through a crisis as large parts of it were taken up, by the then Soviet Union. But during WW2, under Ion Antonescu it sided with the Axis Powers, participated in the war against USSR, and reclaimed what they had lost to them. But as the war progressed, and the balance shifted in favour of the Allies, King Michael I, usurped power, removed Antonescu, and sided with the Allies and fought against the Wehrmacht alongside the Red Army.

But let’s get over the Dracula bit first.

Poenari Castle – An enriching day tour from Bucharest

Perched high on a hill a 13th century mortar fortress with majestic views, a couple of hours drive from Bucharest stands this fortress. Vlad III Dracula, (also known as Vlad Tepes) son of Vlad Dracul perceiving the position of the fortress of being of vantage location, made it his permanent base. Bram Stoker had been inspired by the name to give his novel the title. But with not much archives, there has been a merry amalgamation of history, legend truth, and fiction. The castle or the fortress is an architectural beauty of its times, and a must visit, to understand the history of Romania.

Bran Castle – On the way to Brasov

It is ironical that Bram Stoker never visited Romania, but based his character on history, myth and whatever description was available to him back in England. It is alleged that he had used the illustration of the Bran Castle, in a book by Charles Boner. The Dracula myth he had then painstakingly built with prevailing folklore. But any serious reader of Dracula would immediately differentiate between the character of Bram Stoker, and the actual reality of the castle. Dracula existed in his fertile imagination, which was given a shape and definition by his writing skills.

The Bran Castle is well known across the entire Transylvanian region and beyond and a national monument of Romania. Unfortunately the castle itself is not spectacular, and possibly overrated, but still it has its own historical importance as a point of defence of the royalty and the kingdom. It has an impressive cobblestone pathway that leads to the many steps one must overcome to reach a castle which is rather cosy, contrary to what other castles are. It is well preserved and period furniture, medieval arms, and interesting arts and history is on display.

An entire room is dedicated to Dracula, with scenes of the movies made, book excerpts, even copies of the books, and pictures of the actors who portrayed the role across years. Guides even are at hand to explain the Dracula legend and some medieval beliefs of black magic and occult. Of course all around the castle there exists an entire souvenir market in rather stretched proportions, where Dracula as merchandise rules supreme.

Brasov – A gem in Romania

A short 2 hours’ drive from Bucharest brings one to the Brasov, the Pearl of the Carpathian. But it would be a pity, if one did not stop en-route at the Peles Castle nestled at the foot of the Besugi Mountains, close to the town of Sinaia. It draws its name from the Peles creek, which flows right through the courtyard. The summer residence of the Royal family, and now the most visited museum in Romania, it is a masterpiece of German new-Renaissance architecture, and was commissioned by King Carol 1. The first European castle to be to lit entirely by electrical current, its 150 plus odd rooms are adorned with the best, that time then, had to offer. Thousands of European and Oriental artefacts adorn the armouries. The furniture in the music room was carved of teak, and presented to King Carol 1, by the Maharaja of Kapurtala in India. Apart that, European art, Murano crystal chandeliers, stained glass windows, decorative frescos by renowned Austrian artists, handmade silk embroideries add to the grandeur of the palace. An interesting trivia is that the first movie projector in Romania happened in the Theatre room of the castle way back in 1906.

Brasov (pronounced BRA-SHOV)a 13th century medieval city, previously known as Kronstadt. It later developed into a trade cross road between the Orient and the Occident. The first thing that strikes one, as Brasov approaches, is the a huge Hollywood style signboard pretty high on the hills, outlining the name of the town strategically structured, so that one can have photo opportunities from below. Brasov is a quaint town with medieval gateways and arches, dotted with churches, pastel shaded cobblestone pedestrian walkways, and a famous black church. Of course Soviet type huge concrete buildings, jostle with Gothic spheres, with all converging to their main square, Piata Sfatului.

Popular folklore states, that Pied Piper re-emerged in Brasov. It boasts of Strada Sforii,— Rope Street which is a 4 feet wide street, the second narrowest road in Europe. A couple of days are required to soak in Brasov and walk about the town. The love becomes infectious. Brasov acts also as a base for innumerable hikes, or trekking in the Piatra Craiului National park or even skiing in Poiana Brasov.


The capital of the country, not exactly a charming idyllic city, but an exciting place to spend a couple of days. It follows a pattern like most East European cities. Unmistakable shades of Soviet influence, along with ancient buildings and medieval constructions, communal parks, art galleries, chaotic traffic, monumentally ugly communist architecture. The beauty of old Bucharest was marred by Nicolae Ceauşescu’s redevelopment program the ‘80s, where large portions of the historic places of interest along with monasteries and churches were demolished to give way to a concrete jungle. A monstrous new palace was made for Nicolae, which has been re christened as the Palace of the parliament, which has evolved as the main tourist attraction in the city.

The colossal Palace of Parliament known as Palatul Parlamentului, is supposedly the second largest administrative building in the world. (after the Pentagon in US) It was a flagship construction of the last dictator that Romania had witnessed, who made the building his crown jewel. To house the offices of the Communist party, high functionaries, and the main ministries. With twelve storeys, four underground levels, a nuclear bunker included, 1100 odd rooms and an unending lobby. Close to 5000 chandeliers light up the palace, which is exquisitely decorated with marble with gold inlays.

Entry is restricted and official tours only walk around a dozen or so of the main halls. Of them one is the Unification Hall known as Sara Unirii, with its glass ceiling and stained windows. So dazzling was it that in 1996, the Romanian gymnast Nadia Comaneci, chose it to get married. The tour ends with the Alexandru Ioan Cuza room, the balcony of which offers spectacular views of the capital. Of course there are quite a few other museums and places of historical interest that dot the city and can be well covered within a day and half. But one should not miss the Piaţa Revoluţiei known as the Square of Revolution. It was an oddly shaped square to design a protective circumference around the Royal Palace, in case of a Revolution. But in 1989, Nicolae Ceauşescu along with his wife Elena were forced to flee, when the swirling crowds attacked the building which housed the Headquarters of the Communist Party. Bucharest has an active nightlife, with top grade restaurants, catering to all tastes.


This is for hard core tennis aficionados. Snagov a small little town ubiquitous and non-descript. At 20 miles from Bucharest, it has a beautiful lake and a small monastery. The difficulty in accessing it, did not stop the world press to congregate at theCãldãşani Monastery in 1980, for media coverage of the marriage of Bjorn Borg to Maria Simionescu. So, unless one is an adventure sports enthusiast, a week long Romanian holiday would be enough to satisfy the soul and the senses. —[email protected]

Indranil Chowdhuri is based in Oman and an avid traveller who has completed foot printing in more than 100 countries.

Subscribe to our newsletter and be the first to know all the latest news