2012 Tour Report

by Jessica Monning
See below for second report



     When I first met my husband Brian, we were sitting in his bedroom conversing when he showed me a brochure for the Dracula tour to Romania. He said, "This here is my dream vacation. I'm a huge Dracula fan, of both the historical figure and Bram Stoker's character." I thought, well it certainly looks interesting, definitely not in our budget right now though.
     It took 8 years, but my husband and I finally took that journey, of which I will now enlighten you through the following words.

     Our journey began on a beautiful mid-summer day in the early morning hours of July 15th. Brian and I packed up the car and drove about 7 hours to JFK airport. Once in the airport we took a seat and waited for signs of our fellow travelers. We saw a small group gathering and we were greeted by Charles himself, who helpfully guided us through the ticket lines to our departing plane. Fast forward a few long flights later we finally arrived in Bucharest, only to find out our luggage had been left behind in Paris! Not to fear, our wonderful tour guide Radu, whom we would all come to know and love, had everything under control and we went to bed that night with all our belongings safe and sound! Before we could rest, though, we headed out into the town for our first experience in Romania.
     Our walking tour of the streets of Romania included views of a city that was beheld by Vlad Tepes and others of his time. We sat down in a gorgeous outdoor restaurant for a well deserved drink. The streets were very much alive that night. Exhausted from our travels we soon retired for the night.
     The following day we headed out of Bucharest and into the countryside to the site of Dracula's tomb. Snagov monastery lies in a quiet area isolated by water and surrounded by beautiful gardens. Although his body is long lost, the building which holds the monument to Vlad contains breathtaking paintings of a time past and is nothing short of amazing.
Credit: (photo by Jessica Monning)

     From there we continued on to Bran castle. The walk up to the castle is lines with merchants selling silly little souvenirs. If you look closely many of them carried the same exact merchandise, nothing spectacular to be found there. Radu informed us that the castle was recently purchased by Disney, a scary thought indeed, so the future of Bran castle lies uncertain in their hands. Presently, though, the castle remains in very good condition, many rooms have been set up with décor to reflect a working household. Brian and I are both quite fascinated by these ancient buildings, and although Vlad himself likely never stepped foot in the castle, it was interesting all the same. The view from the top of the castle, like most other places in Romania, was absolutely awe inspiring.
Credit: (photo by Jessica Monning)

     We were fortunate to have the most amazing weather for our entire trip. That evening we took up camp in Brasov, a beautiful European adventure in itself. We had dinner in a restaurant across from the hotel where I discovered what pork crackling was. The waiter, using broken English, did not give the best description of this appetizer. If I had understood him thoroughly, I likely would not have experimented with feasting on pork fat. It was tolerable for the first few pieces, but I'll stick with bacon in the future!
Credit: (photo by Jessica Monning)

     We started the next day with a short walk to a cemetery in which Radu described Romanian burial traditions to us. We moved on to the Black church which has been around for roughly 600 years. It features an immense pipe organ, murals and impressive architecture. The church still holds service to this day and therefore we could not take any pictures inside the church. We continued on with a little side trip to the Rasnov citadel. Not on the original itinerary and having nothing to do with Dracula this was a request by one of our tour mates that Radu was kind enough to oblige. I would encourage any future travelers to also request to see this amazing historical site! The view of the mountains from the citadel was truly one of the most memorable moments of our lives.
Credit: (photo by Jessica Monning)

     Walking amongst the ruins of the fortress and seeing the towns below make one feel like you have truly jumped into the past for a short time. We were joined on our journey by a stray dog that looked exactly like one we had seen at Bran castle. Not sure if the dog was able to follow us; perhaps the pup was a ghost of a time long past ;) Onward we went to the town of Sighisoara, the birthplace of Vlad Dracula.
     The town itself is a citadel and is bursting with ancient beauty. We were treated to a recreation of a witch trial performed by the village inhabitants. The street merchants sold some very creative and interesting items that reflected the Romanian culture. We could have easily spent a few days in this quaint village, but our travels required us to move on. The hotel we stayed in was the supposed hotel that Jonathan Harker stayed at prior to making his journey up the Borgo pass to Dracula's castle. We dined on "robbers steak", bacon, cheeses and lots of wine. After our formal dinner a few of us went out to a bar to continue our indulgence. Good times with good new friends.

Credit: (photo by Jessica Monning)

     Another day of travel ahead of us we continued on to Hotel Castle Dracula.
     We had lunch on the balcony in the hot sun. I played it safe this meal with a dish of macaroni and cheese, though the menu had many different options for the daring foodie. After perusing the shops that were placed downwind of the hotel we took a short nap and then prepared for the costume party. Upon going down stairs we were greeted by a small group of strolling gypsy musicians.
Credit: (photo by Jessica Monning)

     The night was warm and pleasant, Radu encouraging everyone with a glass of plum brandy to start the evening off. A bonfire was built and together we cooked some meat in the moonlight. After our little appetizer we proceeded into the depths of the castle where an elegantly decorated dining table and a DJ playing music awaited us. Although we were a small group we thoroughly enjoyed some delicious food and a fun trip down into the dungeon to experience a "burial" of sorts within Dracula's tomb. After some "dancing" and much drinking we turned in for the night, a good time had by all.
     We now continue onward to Sibiu to continue our history lesson. Our journey then brought us to the long and winding road to Poenari castle, 1480 steps up onto the mountain. Not much remains of Dracula's fortress but what is there is an awesome sight. It's truly amazing to think about the ground on which you are walking and how it has been shared by Vlad the Impaler himself. Not to mention the glorious view from atop the mountain.
Credit: (photo by Jessica Monning)

     By the time we reached the bottom of the mountain our legs were shaky and tired but it was well worth the effort. Dinner that evening was served at Club Dracula. A little creepy and a little cheesy, it was a fun way to end the day. Our meal of dead "rat" was sufficient and interesting to say the least.
     Overall, our trip to Romania was unforgettable and one that we both hope to enjoy again. There is so much to see and do and all without the hassle of many other tourists. The past is a brilliant thing which needs to be preserved and appreciated. It was a breath of fresh air to see a landscape so well preserved and untainted by the advertising world as what we see in America in our every day lives. Romania is like a hidden treasure that not many people today get to experience. We are glad to say that we have had this opportunity and hope for many more to do the same.
     And so with that we bid farewell.

2012 TOUR REPORT #2 by Jocelyn Miller
     From beginning to end, the Summer Dracula Tour with Tours of Terror was a fabulous journey. Having no prior knowledge of Transylvania or Romania, aside from the gypsy and vampire legends, I didn't know exactly what to expect, but just reading the brochure brought out the wanderlust in this traveler; I was most assuredly bitten.
     Charles impressed our group of anxious and excited travelers by meeting us personally at the airport with our goody bags in hand. He sent us off to the land less traveled with great anticipation of what was to come. We were assured that a knowledgeable and fun tour guide by the name of Radu was waiting for us upon our arrival in Bucharest, and he did not lie! Radu not only lived up to the rumor, but surpassed it. Not only was he incredibly knowledgeable of every aspect of a complex history, but was a tremendous amount of fun, as well. What Charles didn't mention, was what a wonderful bus driver was waiting at the other end of our air flight. Addy was most considerate to all of us, helping with suitcases without being asked and always available for a helping hand.
     I wish I had the words to express my own awe and amazement at the fabulously interesting, beautiful places and sites we visited on our journey through the countryside of Transylvania. The mountains, the valleys, Snagov Monastery, the medieval cities, gypsy villages and more all pop to my mind in vivid, colorful, memory. The fields of sunflowers- a family haying the field- gypsies in a horse-drawn caravan- all kept my camera on active duty. The Prince Vlad Dracula story was fascinating, as were the many stops we made along the way in connection with the Tepes family. The incredible climb to Poenari Castle was an experience not soon forgotten, and the view spectacular!
     Most memorable, as if from a storybook, was our costume party at Dracula Castle in the Carpathian Mountains. The night was crystal clear, the sky full of stars and we travelers, decked out in our spooky best attire, were led by two charming musicians and a creepily costumed torch bearing fellow down a pathway to a bonfire on a hill overlooking a valley. There, we roasted cubed meat over a fire, while partaking in wine, music, and the sheer magic of such a night. After the 'cocktail' hour, we were led again (by the fine musicians and the torch-bearing fellow) to a fabulously (and eerily) set table in the basement of the hotel. We dined, danced, laughed, and then followed our heralded leader, Radu, into the deep chambers of the castle to a muraled (with vampires, of course) room complete with coffin. With much merry-making, we took photos of each other in 'Dracula's' coffin, and laughed ourselves silly. It was a splendid, magical, mystical night as anyone could hope for! The hotel was very 'vampirish' and fun, not to mention comfortable. The view and surrounding countryside were beyond compare and the company very pleasurable.
     Of course there is much more to this tour than vampires and silliness. It is a journey into a country barely known to those of us in the west. It has much to offer in its versatility and history. Its beauty is bountiful, its history fascinating, its people friendly and its food interesting to the western palate. I could not recommend this DraculaTour with more adoration than I have in my heart for the fabulous time my traveling companion and I experienced. It is a country I would like to return to, and if for one moment I thought I could repeat the magic of the summer Dracula Tour 2012 --- I would be there in a flash!
     Thank you Tours of Terror for such a fabulous and well-worth-it vacation!
     

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