We got off to an early start today as we wanted to visit Bran Castle before setting off for our next planned stop Sibiu. Some one in the past did a great job of marketing for Bran Castle and it is now a must stop for tourists visiting Transylvania. It is not historically tied to the person who many believe Bram Stoker based the fictional character on Vlad the Impaler who lived in another part of Transylvania. The fictional work Dracula written by Bram Stoker that is the source for all of the American movies about Dracula is not set in or near the castle or the town of Bran. Despite that it has become linked with Dracula by the tour companies that take tourists thru Romania and is therefore a must see stop for visitors.
Having said all of the cynical stuff implying that the castle is a tourist trap, our Romanian friends did say it was a pretty cool castle and we should check it out. So we were on the road bright and early to try to beat the Saturday crowds to the castle.
There has been a fortification on the site of the castle since the 1200’s as the position it occupies controls an important mountain pass on a trade route between western Europe and Byzantium/the Ottoman Empire. The fortification has been called a castle for a long time, but did not get the towers and buttresses that give it its current look until the redesign commissioned by Queen Marie of Romania in the 1920’s when it became the royal families summer residence.
She was a very popular Queen who was instrumental in convincing the King to have Romania join the allies in WWI despite his German heritage. She was known as the warrior queen and would visit the trenches of the Romanian army in uniform to raise morale. She also acted as a volunteer nurse to the army during the war.
During the communist era it was confiscated by the government and the royal family fled, with the Queens daughter ending up living in the US. After the fall of communism the Hapsburg heirs living in the US regained ownership and developed it into the attraction it is today.
We were some of the first people to arrive for the day so we had time to explore the rooms and get nice pictures without a lot of people in the way. By the time we left at about 10 am the line to get into the castle was growing fast, so our timing was good.
We had about 180 km’s to cover to get to Sibiu, and it happened without incident until the end. As we were motoring along Ton saw one of her new favorite grocery stores called Kaufland. We have not seen these until we arrived in Bulgaria and Romania. It is a German chain and here and Bulgaria they are almost always located adjacent to a Lidl which is Tons old favorite chain. We ran in to stock up on some Romanian food and to get a bit of a stretch. We are now well prepared with food (and wine and beer) for the next few days.
Our only adventure for the day was going to the campground I had picked out. When I checked on Sibiu about a week ago it showed one place with good reviews but about 10km’s from town. Last night when I went on our go to website for campgrounds to get the location I saw a brand new campground listed that was much closer to town. I decided to put the coordinates in for that one instead figuring it was brand new and we would give it a try.
When we were about 1.5km’s from the site Greta told us to turn down the dirt road. It is not unusual to have to go down dirt roads for a few hundred yards/meters so I did not sweat it too much, but this particular road was one lane wide. It was pretty rough and the area did not look particularly enticing but we carried on and when Greta stated we had arrived there was nothing that looked like it would be a campground, or a sign pointing at a campground. There were some small farms with homes but they were all fenced in. At this point I decided to get out and investigate the area on foot.
We have a standing rule that if either of us is uncomfortable with a place we move on. I could tell Ton was very skeptical and after a short walk down a side road and having 3 or 4 dogs come running up to the fences aggressively I decided it was time to try the well reviewed campground instead.
Half an hour later we arrived at our second choice campground which is in a nice village a little bit out of town. For the first time on the trip the campground is near capacity. I guess shoulder season is winding down.