Travel Journal Overview: Would castle Dracula live up to all my expectations? Was Romania? So far Brasov as a mixed bag, but there was something about the place. In my book this part of the journey marks a significant turning point in the search for home.
By 10am the next day I had shuffled out of the Kismet hostel and made my way to the Hungarian pension. A single solitary room, in a converted bathroom. Still, tonight I should sleep well. I so wanted to be out of the European backpackers circuit now. The chances of meeting another actual traveler was very slim it seemed, all hostels seemed to cater for nowadays were 18-24 Americans and Australians on a drunken rampage of European cities. Expensive city tours, pub crawls, and hours of hair gel and make up in the bathroom, where were the explorers gone? The die hards not wanting to pay for anything other than a kebab? Same clothes for over a week? Wanting tor see things not often seen? I feared they had become extinct in Europe.
Showered, I began to bandage up the 2nd degree friction burns on my thighs, quite a site to see I would imagine. Legs spread in the air on the side of the bed, cream, bandages and surgical tape flowing everywhere. It was then I realized I had not locked the door to my room, but thankfully the old Hungarians were not that nosy! Brasov was a nice little “Touristy” Town, a big town center circled the town hall that now housed the not so interesting museum. Everything was painted yellow tones, and in peaking out of one corner of the square was the infamous 14 century black church, named for a color it got after a fire. Lush green mountains appeared on either side, one tarnished with the bright Hollywood style sign a the top “BRASOV” in big bold white capitals. It spoiled the landscape to me. As did the cable car ride cutting a straight line up through the pine forest on the same mountain.
Still the view from the top should be good. It would be an easy day, time for healing and rest. I took the cable car up, my first such ride, and so exciting. But my lack of faith in Romanian engineering did make the thing that much better. I made my way along the path to the back of the giant sign, and looked down at the old fortified city, Carpathians in the distant background. I wrenched my left calf going up some steps, what was happening I was falling to bits. Photos taken it was time to head down and make my way over to the Black tower, a small structure on the opposite mountain, I had gone slowly today and it was already sunset time. Actually I missed the sunset, one needed to be there I figured by about 4.30 to take the golden photo of the little town. Not to worry I was to be here for quite a few days, so plenty of time.
I decided it was time to eat a traditional Romanian meal tonight, so I made my way to another LP recommended restaurant. There was a Romanian wedding anniversary just kicking off, so I sat in a far table and looked on as I ordered plenty. I dined on Romanian Beef soup followed by cabbage and beef rolls. The party goers began to dance in circles, and I cringed as the 80’s music blared out. Strangely enough this all had the feeling of a Karaoke festival, complete with woman in corner singing Whitney Houston’s “ I wanna dance with somebody”, I had a feeling I knew a silly person who would be very happy here. Nonetheless the food was seriously good, 4 course meal for only 8 Euro??!! I headed make to my lone room and fell asleep.
I woke up too early, but stayed in bed listening to two full hours of people making use of the toilets next to my room. Either mama Hungarian was letting her toilet out to the neighborhood, or taken on quite a few guests. After a traditional breakfast at KFC, I headed off to Castle Bran, that infamous place.
The bus out there was full, a mix of old locals and young tourists, all sweating in the heat. 40 minutes later and we were there. Well I thought we were there. Where was the giant castle standing on the jagged outcrop of rock that inspired movie makers with vampirific visuals? All I saw was a steep mountain, a church and as I turned the corner another steep mountain. Tourists littered the streets, hawkers selling everything from Dracula t shirts to little cheap Chinese wooden boxes. I looked at the church between the mountains and clicked, this must have been it?? I felt the heavy hand of depression push down on me. I walked around the area, yes the church was indeed castle Bran, identified my the rocky outcrop that stretched up its left flank.
With little to do I pushed past the tourists and street vendors, and paid the 12Lei entrance, refusing to acknowledge the fact I had a camera, meaning I would have had to pay an additional 20Lie. I walked the gently slope up to the tiny castle, and entered. Briefly I was amused at the slightly erotic sepia photographs of Queen Isabella that lined the walls. One of which were of the bedroom were a clocked figure could be seen. Ho hum. Then on the second floor I got caught up in a tourist bottle neck. Headache forming I made a desperate attempt to escape the true horror of this place and made my way outside. Maybe Vlad the implaylor had felt the same way about the place.
I circled the small castle from the outside again, still hoping for that classic view point for a photo. I followed not so well worn path and stumbled upon a circle of seats surrounding an old Stone cauldron, and at the read a coffin shaped stone seat. Something at least. I continued down the path, and heard the techno blasts of a local festival fill the air.
I ended up in a building site where the caretaker was more interested in letting me out to the party than chasing me away. Heading back up I looked at stone mountain and wondered if a photo was possible from the top of it? The pine forested covering would surely not allow for that classic photograph and would my bandaged thighs make it to the top as well? Urged on my a feeling of defiance against all the fakery around me I began the ascent.
Tall pine trees covered the mountain, and a think undergrowth was keeping the tourists at bay. I turned around to see is the castle was viewable, no such luck. My head began to pounded with the increasing headache, and I wondered where it had all gone wrong. I continued up the mountain, the brambles getting thicker, and as I pushed aside some more a clearing appeared from nowhere. And there before me, framed in a blue sky and lush green field were the twisted beaks and jutting outcrops of the Carpathian mountains. The day was saved. The other side of the mountain was more of a giant slope and was indeed a very steep farmers field. Complete with rustic old barn, rickety farmstead, a horse and a little sheep with a bell around its neck. How much more picturesque could it get? I stayed up there for the best part of an hour.
I left Bran with the taste of a bad tourist hamburger in my mouth, and the mental mindset in figuring out what had gone wrong. We passed Rasnov on the ways back, this place looked more promising, but yet another giant Hollywood sign perched onto of the mountain proclaiming its identity. The next day I would piece it together. Another 5 Euro Pizza and I found myself in a Scottish pub having some Usus Beer. I went there to write up this diary. I had started in peace, but of course the place filed with Saturday night revelers. I realized I actually was missing some company at this stage. But was starved of the right kind of company. Some young Americans at the bar broke into my silent corner, they were archeology students so the conversation did at least reach above the latest “Hanson” album. I made a mistake and excepted their invitation to another bar, techno hell. But it was here I noticed something. Even in the company of some of their own friend, they seemed bored. Night after night of clubs and beer were not doing it for them anymore, yet they did not have much of a choice. Peer pressure, rights of passage and a desperation to see a different night made them a bored as me. My bladder full I used it as an excuse to leave. Rather ashamedly I relieved myself against the county hall, well there are no public toilets in Brasov! Heading back to the Hungarian homestead I fell asleep, bandages still attached, meaning they would be really painful to remove the next morning!!
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