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BRAN AND COUNT DRACULA

The valley between the mountains, one of the most picturesque mountainous sites in Romania, the place which will most definitely charm you with the murmur of its waters, the richness of its forests, colored clearings and delightful scenery. In brief, this is how we can describe the Bran-Moeciu region, situated at the feet of the Bucegi and Piatra Craiului Mountains. We recommend this destination if you desire a truly relaxing vacation, where you can enjoy the serenity of the green hills and deep valleys, as well as the harmony of the villages where ancient traditions and handicrafts have sacredly been preserved. If you are an active person, you should know that you can ski or snowboard here, as there are specially laid out tracks for both beginners and advanced sportsmen. If you are into extreme sports, there are zip-line, rappel, escalading or paragliding areas set up for those eager to feel the taste of adrenaline.

Independent of whether you find lodgings closer to Moeciu or to Bran, both locations will provide an unforgettable experience. All you need to recharge your batteries is a few days enjoying the calmness of mountain villages and the pleasure of backpacking. What can be more energizing than the fresh air of fir forests ?

Dambovicioara

 

Magura

The Rucăr - Bran Pass

Between Rucar and Bran a genuine dreamland stretches out, one dotted with rural dwellings and sheepfolds, where shepherds prepare delicious dairy products. The Pass connecting the two villages is a path of access between the regions of Transylvania and Muntenia, known since the time of the Getae-Dacians. Its route reveals unique destinations and attractions, creating an exceptional display of colors and shapes.

The journey up to the Dambovicioara Cave twists and turns among rocks, as the imposing Piatra Craiului massif dominates the surroundings, dressing them into a veil of mystery. Here and there, a clear and boisterous waterfall swiftly springs out from the calcareous walls, carrying with it the roar of the heights. Situated on the left bank of the Dambovicioara River, the grotto was formed as a result of limestone erosion, becoming the biggest cave in this region. It consists of a unique gallery, where the first half is illuminated and decorated, while the second is closed to protect the bat population. Inside you will be able to admire uncommon geological formations shaped like a bear’s paw, a golden eagle’s wing, a snake head or a tiger skin. Throughout time, Dambovicioara Cave served as a hiding place for the locals, later became a dwelling for an ascetic, a shelter for some bandits, or a bear’s den.

According to the legends, during the First World War, two famous outlaws lived in the cave, namely Fulga and Budac. Hiding in one of the galleries leading to the peak of the mountain, they used to rob the wealthy who came to visit the cave. All that they gathered they would give away to the poor, thus befriending them. However, the bandits were betrayed and after fighting the gendarmes, Budac was killed and Fulga sent to prison. What determined the locals to disclose their benefactors’ identity to the officials ? Maybe you will find out by visiting the cave.

Between the Moeciu de Sus and Moeciu de Jos villages, on the bank of the Turcu brook and in a place of rare beauty, one can admire the Chisatoarea Waterfall.  You will see how the vegetation here is all of a sudden replaced by a rocky wall, from which two streams of water spring out, pouring down as 15 to 20 meter waterfalls. This karstic phenomenon is favored by the calcium carbonate deposits and it is unique in the area. For this reason, the waterfall has been declared a bio-geological reservation. In summer, nearby meadows turn into camping areas, while in winter, the waterfalls form colored ice columns. In any season, the small paradise at Moeciu enchants the eye with its fairy-like scenery.

In the same area, a spectacular, wild setting is given by the Gradistei and Moeciului Gorges. The rocky formations and the slow running springs which bathe them, the lofty mountains and wide plateaus, they all make up the perfect environment for a relaxing vacation, away from the everyday stressful routine. In your hikes, don’t hesitate to go through Pestera village in order to see the Bat Grotto. The latter is the only easily accessible active gallery, decorated with stalagmites and stalactites. As the name indicates, the cave shelters rare bat species and that is why the location is not set up for tourists and there is no guide.  However, you can visit it if you have slip resistant shoes and frontal lanterns. You will discover how nature can carve out images unimaginable to man!

Rucar Bran

 

Gradistei Gorges

Bran Castle

Bran Castle is the main attraction of the area, a place which harmoniously blends nature’s charm and the legends’ mystery. Hidden among the branches of the trees, the fairytale-like silhouette of the castle enhances your curiosity and eagerness to learn about its history. Stepping into the yard, you are immediately drawn into a medieval atmosphere where you become the witness of secular events. Although the castle is associated with the Romanian voivode Vlad the Impaler, the first to raise a fortification here were the Teutonic Knights, in the 13th century. The first documentary attestation of the edifice was done in 1377 however, when the people of Brasov received the privilege of building a stronghold on this site, at their expense and effort, while in return, Louis I of Hungary, descendant of the house of Anjou, exempted them from paying taxes and contributions.

Later on, the stronghold was annexed to Wallachia, under the rule of Mircea the Elder, playing an important military and commercial role. At the beginning of the 20th century, the citizens of Brasov decided to offer the beautiful castle to Queen Marie of Romania, as a sign of gratitude for the Royal Family’s contribution to The Great Union in 1918. Thus, after hundreds of years in which it served as fortress against the invaders, Bran Castle became one of the Queen’s favorite residences. During the restoration times, the Tea House was built, a cottage for welcoming and entertaining guests or holding receptions, while the castle’s utilities came to include running water and electricity. Later on, the palace was turned into a museum of medieval history and is now the property of Dominic of Hapsburg, successor of Princess Ileana of Romania.

Bran Castle is without a doubt one of the most valuable monuments of medieval architecture in Romania. At the basis of the mighty rock on which the castle lies, the order and quietness of a park prevails, with birds chirping their song among the branches. Inside the rigorously decorated, sober interior, the white painting of the walls and the mahogany brown of the wooden beams create a simple contrast. In the numerous rooms of the castle, one can admire decorations and pieces of furniture of different styles – soldierly, medieval, baroque or romantic. We invite you to discover the secret corners of the castle and to enjoy the amazing views from its balconies.

Castelul Bran

 

Dracula

For more than three decades Bran Castle has been associated with Dracula, the legendary character from the novel of the Irish writer, Bram Stoker. At Bran, foreign tourists have found a palace resembling the one described by Stoker and named it 'Dracula’s Castle'. By reading Stoker’s Dracula, a literary work of worldwide popularity, you will meet a diabolical count, endowed with supernatural powers. At night, he turns into a vampire, bites his victims by the throat and sucks out their blood. In reality however, the Romanian voivode Vlad Tepes, known by the name of Dracula, spent only two months at Bran, being imprisoned in the time of Matthias Corvinus.

At its core, the myth of Dracula has some historical references that emphasize the darker side of the ruler. It is known that his favorite type of execution was the impaling, with which he reigned order and terror in the hearts of his followers. It is also said that the bloody spikes holding the corpses in the air formed a horrifying forest in front of which Tepes used to hold feasts. Bram Stoker amplified the cruelty of his character, making him look like a monster, a blood thirsty tyrant, a fan of savagery who only feasts himself with the blood of the living. There's still mystery surrounding Bran, a place where many tourists expect to find a scary, gloomy, ghost - haunted castle. You can find out for yourself the true face of this castle by visiting it.

Nearby the castle you can visit the Bran Village Museum, placed in an outdoor arrangement, where you will get accustomed to the locals’ lifestyle and the traditions of the area. Here you will find rural households, sheepfolds, carriages, pieces of wooden furniture and tools used by the villagers. The museum has a life of its own, giving you the feeling that at any moment you could see a peasant working in a courtyard or going out in the alley to chat with his neighbors.

Bran Castle

 

Bran Castle

 

Bran Castle

'Queen Marie’s Heart' Chapel

At a small distance from Bran Castle, after crossing the bridge over a river and going through a small glade, you will find a strange monument hidden among rocks and trees. In a hollow mountain area, there is a stone chest placed inside what is called 'Queen Marie’s Heart' Chapel. Five years before her passing, Her Highness mentioned in her will that after her death she wished to be buried at Curtea de Arges, next to the other members of the Royal Family, and that her heart should rest at the Stella Maris Chapel in Balchik. The Queen’s will was fulfilled, and her heart was placed in a silver case, decorated with precious stones. In 1940 however, Romania lost the Cadrilater (Southern Dobrogea region) to Bulgaria, and the precious chest was moved to Bran, in a halidom identical to the one in Balchik, close to the castle. During the communist regime, the citizens of Brasov witnessed the desecration of the little chapel. The cases containing the Queen’s heart were also confiscated, as they were declared part of the national patrimony. Ever since, Queen Marie’s Heart has been kept at the Bucharest National History Museum, instead of other places that Her Highness would have preferred, like Balchik or Bran. Nevertheless, the citizens did not cease to commemorate the commendable actions of 'The Mother of the Wounded' during the First World War.

Discover the Bran - Moeciu Region

There is simply no way to get bored at Bran or at Moeciu – the scenery revitalizes and urges you to go backpacking and further discover the beauty of these places. The amazing sights, the places infused with history, the houses perched on mountain tops or the sheepfolds with their genuine, true-born and hospitable shepherds – all of these aspects will determine you to come back each time you miss the serenity and the fresh mountain air. If you are passionate about extreme winter sports, at Zanoaga you will have guaranteed entertainment. The ski track has a nocturne lighting system, a chairlift and an equipment renting center. All you have to do is come in good spirits. If you are more into longer hiking trips in the forest, here are some routes we recommend, starting from either Moeciu or Bran:

Bângăleasa Valley - Seciu Valley - GuÅ£anu Glade - Gaura Sheepfold Route (3 hrs)

Bran - Åžimon - Saua Strunga Route (4- 5 hrs).

Bran - Poarta - Ciubotea - Omu Cabin Route (4½- 5 hrs).

Bran - Poarta - Culmea Clincea - Muchia Tiganesti - Hornul Scarii - Scara Peek - Saua Hornurilor - Mount Omu Route  (7hrs, not recommended during wintertime).

Bran - Ciubotea Valley - Scara Peek - Mount Omu Route (7hrs, difficult to travel through during wintertime).

Bran - Şimon - Plaiul lui Lom - Guţanu Glade - Saua Strunga - Padina Cabin Route (7h, not recommended during winter).

Bran Moeciu

 

Bran Moeciu

There are annual festivals promoting local traditions and customs at Bran, a series of events inviting the tourist to learn more about the specifics of the area. With the October  pastoral holiday called ‘The Return of the Sheep' (in October) you will learn about the common activities taking place at a sheepfold and with Sumedru’s Fire holiday you can discover what superstitions still persist in Transylvania. Therefore, visit the Bran-Moeciu Region to find out the myth of Dracula, to admire the landscapes of the Gradistei Gorges, or to relax in a natural, idyllic environment. 

[An article written by Andreea Bertea]