Rain? What rain?
The sun was pouring through the skylight this morning, causing us to get up fairly early. It must have been at least 9:00. Looking outside it was still fairly overcast, but there was hope. The sun was trying after all.
Getting ready we were told to take two umbrellas by our host, even though we would only need one, and we had the raincoats. To top off the ensemble, we had our jackets on. Although the rain was not yet falling, we didn’t trust it. Anyway it was still fairly cool outside.
Walking down town someone had come up to us asking if we needed help, and on explaining what we wanted he directed us to a different bus than what we had expected. We took the advice on board and continued on. Reaching the bus stop we tried to catch 12, this is the right bus, but only seems to leave on the hour, so we continued on after working this out. Making it a street or two further, we caught bus 5. This was the one that was recommended to us earlier. Taking us to a street near the station we walked the last bit. Timing was not too bad, and we only had to wait for about 20 minutes for the bus to Bran.
Bran as a town is pretty much the same as any other village, but at the centre there are a few restaurants and a lot of tourist stalls. These seem to be interchangeable across Romania. They all sell the same wooden spoons, plates (good looking ones though), toy crossbows, traditional clothing, vampire cups, and then everything imported from china designed to be sold for no other purpose than being sold. Maybe to give to family members at Christmas that you don’t like.
We had caught a couple of glimpses of the castle as we approached, and now were at the base of the hill getting our tickets. After the gate there is a small garden. Mostly grass, but a small pond and trees. There was a house down here that has a fantastic moss covered roof. Not sure how good it is against the rain and snow, but I would be proud to have a roof like that!
Passing the tourists on their way back down, we made our way up the short steep path to the entrance of the castle. I had elected to go for the Audio Guide, and picked it up inside. One point on the Audio Guide – Don’t bother. It only relays the information that is also in English on each room. There are no stories or anecdotes about the castle, or people that lived there, and was very dry and uninteresting (probably because we were reading the info at the same time).
It piked our interest at the end, mentioning a mysterious fountain, and that it had been turned into an elevator shaft. There is a mystery here, but that is all they said. The elevator shaft finishes at ground level, so where does it go?
Back to the castle. Everything was remodelled in the 1930’s by the new Romanian King. The complex on the outside is quite castle-ish, but inside could be compared to a country manor. The decorations that are there are all from this time period. The path you have to take winds around much of the castle, through a secret staircase that is now not so secret, well, actually it is no longer covered at all. Some of the rooms and chambers were closed off, and considering Bran has sold itself (erroneously) as Dracula’s castle for so long, there is only one little section referring to it. Most of this was about Bram Stoker anyway, and not the Romanian legends that brought him here in the first place.
That was about it, you can look at the piccies, but the castle is pretty plain and honestly a bit disappointing. There is no information on the history or stories of the castle, other than a basic run down of who was here when. Dry and unmemorable. Going back down, we had done what was expected and seen Bran Castle. It is one of the only things you cannot miss in Romania, and in all honesty, having seen it, well, it ain’t no Spisske Castle in more ways than one, however it was good to see the difference between a living castle and one stuck 500 years ago.
Catching the bus to Rasnov was easy, its the same one, and we had driven through on the way to Bran. At Rasnov you can easily the fortress on top of the hill. Getting there is another matter. We walked around the town before finding a place for lunch. In a courtyard, we found a path leading up the hill, that could take us to the castle, or not. The cafe didn’t sell food, so we continued on. Skipping lunch for now, as we had passed the main part of town with nothing here, and also there was a signpost for a road to the castle/fortress. This took us between the hills and to a parking lot at the bottom of the rear of the hill. We could have caught a tractor up the hill, but decided to walk. The road was not bad, but it is steep. There is no point having a fortress in a valley after all. At the top, you can see the fortified wall and towers, it is impressive. Although heavily reconstructed, it is done well.
Passing a few souvenir stores, getting our tickets and passing under the portcullis we entered the place. There seem to be two sections, a large staging ground within the outer walls, with the stone outline of an old church. Wether the church actually existed or not we don’t know, as it looks as if the stone rubble is quite new.
Going further up the incline, we entered into the old keep. Here the Saxons had built up to 80 houses. The village at some stage was within these walls. Now after passing through another courtyard and portcullis, we can see the remains of these buildings. At the moment the front ones are being used to store garbage or tiles (At first glance they could be garbage as well). Moving along the external wall, you come to the reconstructed part of the fortress. Here you can dress up as a Knight or similar and get your photo taken or be squired by one of the people dressed up themselves.
The majority of the reconstructed buildings are currently souvenir shops. This would not be a problem, if it was different to any of the other shops we have seen extensively around Romania. I have a bit of a gripe here, as the trinkets they were selling is mainly Chinese imported stuff. What does a Spiderman mask have to do with Rosnov Fortress? The Romanians have brilliant masks used during festivals here that can be adapted for kids. Even then it would not be too bad, but it is all set up outside the building so you have to walk past nicely set out crap.
Leaving this section we walked to where the main tower would have been. At the moment it is just a look out point over the region, and taken back to the bare rock.
Going back outside we walked a little way around the exterior wall, through another gatehouse, complete with miniature portcullis. This one was was in pretty bad condition with all the wood rotting away. Still it lead us down a bush path back to town. The place we ended up at the bottom was the same courtyard we had found before!
Going back to the bus stop, we were about 2 blocks away when the bus went past. This is unfortunate, as it can be a long wait until the next one, but as we went around the corner, it was still there! We ran the rest of the way and just made it onto the bus!!
Back to Brasov we thought we would make it a hat-trick and went to the Brasov Fortress. This is now a series of bars and a restaurant in the centre. From the outside, the fortifications have been kept in shape, but not extensively renovated. Inside is fairly clean and crisp with white plaster and dark wood to contrast it. There is not much to see around the place, but still good to visit. The Venetian style of bastions are here, with small guard towers on the tips. The inside building is also set up with the same style. There is a few stairs leading down underground, but they are impassable at the moment, until someone opens them up. Around the side it appears that there is an underground bunker, and we assume that they meet up in some way or another.
Then back down the hill. Too much walking for the day, but at least we achieved something!