Posted by: Alex MacGregor | June 17, 2015

Transylvania’s Postcard Attractions

Of course, most people don’t venture to Romania just to check out Brașov, as lovely as it is.

Most people come wanting to see a spooky old castle perched menacingly on top of a rocky crag.


Fortunately for Transylvania’s tourism boosters, it just so happens to have the world’s premier spooky old castle perched menacingly on top of a rocky crag: Bran Castle. (Although Haiti might have a thing or two to say about that.)



The spookiness of the castle largely ends at the front door, unfortunately. But that hasn’t caused the castle, for little factual reason, to be known as “Dracula’s Castle”, even though it’s not thought that Bram Stoker had this castle in mind when he wrote the book, nor did Vlad the Impaler actually live here (Vlad didn’t even rule Transylvania; he ruled Walachia, where modern-day Bucharest sits, but lowlying plains make for less of a spooky setting than mountainous Transylvania).


Nonetheless, it’s a fun castle to wander around. Every bit of it is handmade and designed to accommodate the strange topography.


The castle is a labyrinth of small corridors and stairways. If you were to wander around aimlessly, you would get completely lost.



Notably, the castle was the residence of the Romanian royal family between the two World Wars (communism was to put an end to that shortly thereafter).


A replica “scale of justice”, where the accused was weighed against a rock, and would be deemed innocent only if she or he was the heavier of the two.


Outside, the Dracula kitsch is in full force.




This scene reminded me strangely of the gingerbread architecture for which Haiti is known.


Next was a side-trip to the most heartbreaking of diversions: LiBEARty Bear Sanctuary.


Romania has a massive brown bear population (due to the former dictator banning hunting), and many bears were quickly trapped and used for commercial novelty purposes after communism ended. Now mostly banished, the practice has left many bears unable to fend for themselves in the wild, so this sanctuary cares for them.


This bear was blinded by his owner to make him more docile. So sad!


LiBEARty’s logo, which I’m kicking myself for not taking a close-up picture of (this is from the website), is of a bear dressed as the Statue of Liberty.


Next up on the postcard-tour of Transylvania, Peleș Castle.


The obscenely opulent home of King Carol I of Romania at the turn of the 20th Century, the castle is richly decorated at every corner.





The King’s incredible weapons collection, with thousands of items. It has to be among the best in the world.


The courtyard.


Moving on, many tourists visit Rașnov Castle, atop a mountain not far from Brașov.



To me, the castle’s mountaintop setting is the most attractive feature.




A row of unrestored houses.


Incredible views!


Unfortunately, the ambiance is damaged by the fact that most of the restored houses are tourist shops, and mobs of schoolchildren pulse through the place every day!

To have a little less-intense medieval castle experience, you need to venture off the beaten trail a little more, out of the postcard circuit. So, the next day, that’s exactly what I decided to do!


  1. Peles Castle looks insane. Wow. Also, those poor bears. Sheesh.

  2. […] resembles strongly Rașnov Castle–a startlingly similar circular citadel on top of a lonely […]

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