Brasov, Romania: A Transylvanian Christmas on a Vampire Weekend

Greetings from Transylvania! Enamoured by the myth of Count Dracula, I had a Vampire Weekend in Romania.

Inspiration for this trip came by way of an Uber driver by the name of Norbert. As he ferried me from the fathomless depths of South London to back to Shoreditch, he took me to his homeland of Romania with his tales of: vampire tourism and Vlad the Impaler's fearsome reputation versus the truth (no less bloody than the vampire stories). So enchanted was I by Norbert's spiel that I hardly noticed the hour long journey in rush hour London traffic. Suitably convinced, the moment I got home I booked flights to Romania for a long weekend. 

On Friday afternoon I arrived in Bucharest where I stayed for a night. The next morning I set off on a rickety train (above) to Brasov county in Transylvania, where I've set up base in search of the truth and origin behind the myth of Dracula, and explore this beautiful country which to even seasoned travellers remain off the beaten track thanks in part to communism in Eastern Europe. I stayed the night in Bucharest, which interestingly enough was nicknamed 'Little Paris' during the 1900s for the sophistication of its elite and the city's elegant architecture modelled after the original City of Light. Indeed, Bucharest has its own Arc de Triomph and the train station is also named  Gara Du Nord. It was from Gara Du Nord that I took a train from the capital to Brasov, where many 'vampire tourists' start as a base to explore the region of Transylvania. The train fare for the two and a half journey (second class, don't bother with first, the only difference is the price) was a mere 50.50 Romanian Lei (RON) which at a favourable exchange rate cost just under £9.

Brașov Council Square (Piața Sfatului), the focal point of medieval Brasov is rich with history and folklore. Tradition holds that the children sent underground by the Pied Piper of Hamelin appeared near this quare. Around the main square is a collection of medieval buildings in different architectural styles including the Black Church, an Orthodox Cathedral, and the picturesque pedestrian-only Republicii street where I set up camp. 

The behemoth Christmas tree in the town square was looking decidedly festive, and loudspeakers blared Mariah Carey festive songs that was heard clearly even from four hundred metres away in Mount Tampa. 

Black Church (Biserica Neagră) looking less black thanks to a vigorous scrub following the fire of 1689. This Gothic monument stands as the largest and one of the most important Lutheran (Evangelical Church of Augustan Confession in Romania) places of worship in the region. Thwarted by the slippery black ice around the church, I barely made it to the front door and so skipped a visit to this most recognisable and revered landmark. 

Tâmpa Hill on the southern side of Brasov, where I took a cable car up to the top of Mount Tâmpa.

But first I checked into Casa Albert, a boutique hotel concealed in the heart of historical Brasov, just off the medieval pedestrian street down a charming red-bricked arched alleyway. I picked a suite (sweet!). There were two suites, Red Room and Blue Room, and up till we arrived I had no idea which one I'd get. I was secretly hoping for the soothing and refreshing tones of Blue Room so I was delighted when I was opened the door to my humble abode!

The room is furnished in reconditioned furniture for a vintage feel and the walls are painted with murals representing famous historical monuments of Brasov, giving me a glimpse into the city's history. I climbed our brick stairs up to our suite, careful not to hit the top of my head on the low, arched ceilings, to my very own brick-walled reception which opened up the soothing blue walls of our abode. Below is the view of my reception area, the door to my suite, and a glimpse of my living room just past the bed.

The view from the living room.

I took a stroll around the historical city (nearly slipping on slush and black ice about a hundred times) and climbed the arduous walk up Tâmpa Hill to board a cable car to the top of Mount Tâmpa for an elevated view of Brasov.

Upon arriving at the cable car station I bemoaned my choice of footwear (Stuart Weitzman 5050s weren't made for climbing icy mountains with steep drops) but then saw a glamourous Romanian yummy mummy, child in tow, strutting defiantly through the ice in her four-inch high heeled boots so  I shut up. Although that did nothing to quell the fear that I would slip and fall four hundred feet to my death. But it was all worth it in the end. When I finally reached the look out point of Mount Tâmpa (just beside its Hollywood-style sign) I was rewarded with this incomparable view of Brasov and Transylvania:

It took my breath away. Literally, because my foot slipped on ice and I nearly went plunging downward. 

Even from up there I could hear the Christmas music wafting from the town square.

I didn't choose the hood life. The hood life chose me. 

I descended Mount Tampa for a very late lunch, or early dinner, in an Italian restaurant just off the town square. I can't quite remember which one, but you can't miss it, it's a giant glass box that looks just like a greenhouse. The food was quite good, certainly the pasta made a welcome change from the fat-saturated pork knuckle I had for dinner in Bucharest the night before (but that is another story).

After a much needed nap and refreshment back at the hotel I woke up and stumbled out of the sheltered courtyard of Casa Albert, down the arched alleyway to find that Republicii street was twinkling with Christmas lights. The street was heaving with hordes of people (not pictured, this photo was taken at the end of the night) I mean a stampede not unlike the wildebeests in The Lion King, I was literally Simba calling out for help. The crowds were out in droves to see the Christmas fireworks but I wriggled away into the relative peace of the side streets in search of this charming bistro frequented by locals. Yes, more food...

Bistro de l'Arte is tucked away in a little courtyard moments away from the hustle and bustle of Brasov square. With the pianist tinkling away to the atmospheric lighting, the place certainly was cozy and intimate. Having decided, sadly, that Romanian food was not for me, the French offerings were very welcome. I had escargots and calamari, a Romanian potato stew, and nibbled delicately at my croque madame before eschewing all properness by tearing into a pistachio cheese cake before washing it all down with a sort of creamy Kahlua cocktail spiced with pepper.

I ended my night in Brasov with a walk around the town square, enjoying the Christmas lights so much now once the crowd had dispersed. Today I'm visiting Bran Castle (Dracula Castle!) and Peles Castle. Wish me luck and that I don't get bitten by a vampire bat.


Posh, Broke, & Bored. Theme by STS.