You can’t go to Romania without visiting castles. Or that’s what I’ve been told.
So, after finding ourselves randomly in Romania, as you do, we came across a sign for a bicycle and tour company in Bucharest. I took this photo so I’d have the link for the company to ask them about a tour to the castles.
I wasn’t sure if the castles would be open yet, as most things were still closed at the beginning of June, but we were lucky. Bran Castle, located in the Romanian region of Transylvania, opened on 5th June, and after contacting the tour company, we decided to go there on 10th June.
Apparently, usually they pick you up at about 7.30am, to get to the castles at a reasonable time. It’s a full day excursion and the drive to the castles is a couple of hours, or longer, depending on the traffic.
And here we were lucky again. Due to the fact that life was still ‘on hold’ for most people, there would be a lot less cars on the road so we were able to leave later than they usually did.
At 9am our guide picked us up from home and we started the drive out of Bucharest.
Our guide was a very friendly guy, who was extremely happy to have tourists again. He hadn’t worked since March, as you can imagine with everything closed, and lock down. He said it was so unusual that there were almost no cars on the road.
The car was really comfortable, and while it seemed that he wanted to chat, I told him not to be offended if we dozed off (we’re not used to getting up so ‘early’ now that we’re out of work and we were a bit tired).
So we shared info about ourselves with our guide. He told us to call him ‘The Highlander’ because his real name is hard for foreigners to pronounce. It’s true, and I’ve forgotten his real name anyway, so The Highlander it is.
We stopped once for coffee/tea at a service station and then continued on our way. We passed villages, a small aerodrome, beautiful old houses lined the streets in some places, and the amazing Carpathian Mountains loomed in the distance.
The Highlander told us about an enormous cross which stands at the top of one of the mountains. It’s a monument to the railway heroes who died in World War I. It’s at an elevation of more than 2000m and stands 36m high. I caught a glimpse of it on the way back to Bucharest – amazing! It’s the tallest summit cross in the world at this altitude.
The trip there seemed quite long. I don’t remember how long it took us, 2 or 3 hours.
Finally we arrived. The car park was almost empty. The Highlander couldn’t believe his eyes. He’d never seen such an empty car park at the castle before!
Then we walked a short distance to a souvenir market which was at the start of the path up to the castle. There weren’t any tourists except for us, but the market was open. The castle was just there, up a sloping walkway. We were there!
After buying tickets for us, The Highlander proceeded to give us a short history on the residents of Bran Castle and then we started to move through the rooms.
What can I say? It was incredible to be in such a wonderful and historical building!
You know, I’m Australian, and we don’t have castles in Australia. At least I don’t think we do. Castles are what little Australian girls’ fairy tales are made of!
As we walked through the rooms of the castle, we learned more about the history, the owners, the dramas and the beauty of this place.
There are many interesting artefacts in the castle, and most of the rooms we went through were decorated with authentic furniture and decorations.
There were ‘attendants’ in each room, women mostly, who are on duty to make sure that everything’s going ok and that tourists aren’t misbehaving or playing with the exhibits. Or something. I’m not really sure what their exact job title is (please let me know if you know).
They heard our guide talking to us in English about the history of the castle and they said that they were so shocked that there was actually a guided tour so soon after opening! We were the first guided tour since March!
And there were only a few other people visiting the castle at the same time as us – less than 10.
The Highlander told us that he was so surprised about the wooden floors in the castle, he’d never seen them so clean! I guess it was one of the best times to go there – no groups of tourists to get in the way of photos. We had the castle almost to ourselves.
The history is really interesting but indepth, so I’m not going to tell you all about the history of Bran Castle here. If you’re interested, you can read about the history here.
The only thing that you need to remember is that Count Dracula didn’t live here.
I loved all the different light fixtures!
There’s even a small secret staircase leading from Queen Marie’s bedroom which we used to get to another part of the castle, feeling like we were stepping back in time.
The view from the top of the castle was lovely, partly due to the very beautiful weather we had that day.
We were also treated to some armour, weapons, and clothes, as well as photos and original doors with ornate designs.
A quick walk through the very small Torture Chamber (some of the objects we saw are below) and we were back outside the castle.
Our visit to Bran Castle was over.
Then the obligatory photo with the castle as a backdrop, and we’re on our way to Peles Castle for the second part of the excursion.
Peles Castle is more like a Palace. It’s incredibly beautiful inside and out.
Peles Castle is in the Carpathian Mountains. It’s inauguration was in 1883, which makes it a lot newer than Bran Castle, but it’s definitely just as impressive, if not more.
We arrived once again to an almost empty carpark. Which meant that we had this castle almost to ourselves, too.
The Highlander bought our tickets, and I paid some extra to buy a pass which allowed me to take photos there.
While doing a little research at home before going, I saw on their website that it’s strictly prohibited to publish photos from the inside of the castle online and on any social media – punishable by law.
It says that I need written permission to publish any photos I take. So I wrote to them asking for permission to post my photos here on my blog and they approved for me only to share photos of the exterior of the castle. I’m not allowed to share any photos from inside, and I’m really sorry about that because it’s absolutely incredible.
It was so beautiful inside! So many delicate wood carvings, statues, chandeliers, paintings, windows, furniture, ceilings, carpets, and much, much more. There’s a very small selection of artefacts on their website, but nothing compared to what you can see if you visit the castle yourself.
While Bran Castle is also very beautiful, Peles Castle is unbelievably rich and majestic.
The outside of Peles Castle, which I’m allowed to show you, consisted of a small garden with some statues, including this lion with strange eyes.
Here are some views of the exterior of the castle and grounds.
Then we went back to the car for a pleasant drive back to Bucharest, during which The Highlander told us many interesting stories about the life of Vlad the Impaler. We arrived home at 7pm, so a 10 hour day, and very much worth the effort.
The whole tour, including entry into the castles (but not the photo pass I bought at Peles Castle) cost us 85 euro each, which doesn’t correspond to any prices on the tour company’s website but that’s what we paid.
I have to agree, now that I’ve been to these two castles, that you can’t go to Romania without visiting castles.
Have you been to Bran or Peles Castles? Or maybe you’ve been to some other castles in different countries. Tell me about your castle experiences in the comments.