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Preview: Romania Road Ways I - TRAVEL - Two on the Loose.

Romania Road Ways. Two on the Loose. No tours, no reservations. Culture. Photos.

Improvised road trip. Vlad Tepes sites: throughout: Snagov, Complex Astoria, Sinaia, Brasov, Bran, Rasnov, Curtea de Arges, Poinari, Transfagarasan Pass, Sibiu, Sighisoara, Targu Mures, Bistrita, Bucovina, Voronet, Putna, Prislop Pass, Sighetu Marmetei,

Updated: 2018-03-08T10:09:19.210-05:00


Bucharest - Music, food -The Dracula Club


(image) Dracula Club, Bucharest, Romania. Knock knock. Who answers.

Bucharest - Some Night Life

The Dracula Club and Other Vlad sites

1.  The Dracula Club in Bucharest is kitsch, plus good food and good fun - see ("Dinner At The Count's")

Go to the front door, knock, and a little tiny door at eye level opens up and you will be examined. Closely. Then the little door will close.

Even if the premises are rented for a private party, ask if you can just slip in for a while.  We did that and had a fine time.

2.  For further Vlad sites in Bucharest, including the "Princely Court," Curtea Veche, being excavated, at

Romania. History of conflicts, seldom peace Life at crossroads.


The history of Romania suggests incessant strife among groups seeking survival or dominance: and larger-than-life leaders, voivodes and princes, all set in a stark and often brutal (as were the ages) narrative relief.  An emergent strong impression is the ongoing courage and tragedy of the conquered, the fighting back, the briefly prevailing, only to be beset upon by another group. And always on the bottom: the Roma, old slave class of imported people, and poverty-ridden serfs, especially in Transylvania.  That site is pay-per-view JSTOR, so find it through the library.To recalibrate from superevents to the more mundane realities that the people have lived through, in all their own variety, read this memoir, history, travelogue: In Europe's Shadow, by Robert D. Kaplan 2016,  review NYT.  The author is a master of the visit-first, write later approach, with the full title including its scope, Europe's Shadow: Two Cold Wars and a Thirty-Year Journey Through Romania and Beyond. It fills in history that mere timelines cannot, because depth requires a narrative of experience, referencing art, movements. The focus on modern times is missed on many tours.1.  For a grounding in Romania, why not just look at a historical timeline?  Why turn to narrative? Do a slow, contemplative read because List Timelines are too fond of late starts, offering a shallow impression of the area.Begin at 1600, says the BBC.  There find Phanariot Greeks, Ottomans, Habsburgs, Michael the Brave, areas of Transylvania, Wallachia, and Moldavia, Russian controls and administration, Romania teaming with Russia in the Russo-Turkish War, crushing peasant revolts, King Carol, Romania siding with Germany against Russia, Nicolai Ceaucescu, and then very modern times. That is a crazy quilt without frame.  Try 1919 to 2012 at the BBC again. Same criticism.The other extreme: Try 8000 BCE to date, at Better, but still just data. Some go so far back as to be dizzying. Find earliest traces in 104,000 BCE, at [104 mil BCE would be million?  apparently not, try mil as thousand, see 2. Concepts in basic Romanian history1,1  Empires:  Byzantine, Ottoman, Habsburg, Russian. Yet the language harks back to Roman times, and the Latinate. Large area, periodic hackings to bits. Romania is a different mix from the Balkans ethnically, and economically. When to stop wars; when to intervene.  Ethnocentric populism movements, see Shadow 75.1.2  Geography:  Carpathian Mountains separate Central from Eastern Europe.  Wallachia is flat -- anyone can invade, Shadow at 81.1.3  Role of Orthodoxy:  Despite the Latinate roots, it is Orthodoxy that appears to dominate, not the Roman Catholic. And what of the Jews, and the Holocaust. A slaughter. Read Gregor von Rezzori's Memoirs of an Anti-Semite.  See Shadow at p.27, for the chasms between epochs.Shadow at 83 for stresses, Catholic and Orthodox. Holocaust, good and evil coexisting,  Shadow at 118 ff. Architecture:  Shadow at 214, "intimacy with wood", the monastic percussion semantron, or toaca, call to vespers for example, hear and see at  Ongoing impact of Communism in the 1950's and after:  an "indigestible" ethnic nation, see Shadow at 29. At 37 -- Communism uprooted traditions so the result is an unmatched kaleidescope. The need grows for impersonal laws, applicable to all, to avoid the intrigue and corruption that comes with weak institutions.1.5  Historic Rulers:Mircea the Old, defeated Turks in Wallachia 1395, and again in 1400.  Shadow at 67. See Romanian  DVD at the Great, Stephen III, Moldavia, 1457-1504. a diplomatic ruler, Shadow at 69. Note that, as with western Catholicism, there are right-believers and there are heretics, here Stephen the Great is a Right Believe[...]

Bucharest, Curtea Veche,The Princely Court - Vlad


(image) Court, Vlad III Tepes, Bucharest, Romania

Curtea Veche,  Princely Court.  Another court, in Targoviste which was the center of the rule first, is also called "Princely Court,". Vlad's court location after moving the political center to Bucharest. See http://

The area is a combination of ruin and structures, but is in process of reconstruction. Its history is given at Excavations are ongoing.


Romania Road Ways Itinerary, Including Vlad III Tepes sites (Vlad the Impaler)


Post dates being put in chronological trip order, with the merger of this Romania Road Ways with the Vlad Tepes sites at Romania Road Ways Vlad Tepes.   Both topics, culture and history and specific Vlad III Tepes are being integrated. Post dates reflect the itinerary, not the dates actually seen. Please be patient with us.Bucharest* Snagov* -- Lake, Monastery burial of Vlad issues, Complex Astoria -- Communist era resort, with rowboats to alleged Vlad burial,SinaiaBrasov and Bran Castle*Rasnov.Curtea de Arges.Poinari CitadelTransfagarasan PassSibiuSighisoara*Targu MuresBistrita*Piatra Fontanele BucovinaVoronet PutnaPrislop PassSighetu MarmeteiMoiseiIeudSighetu Marmetei IasiSapantaCluj NapocaAlba IuliaBaiu MareHunedoara*PetroganiTargu JiuHorezuCalimaneste Rimnicu ViceaTargoviste*MogosoaiaBucharest*...................... * Sites visited, and that have particular reference to Vlad III Tepes.  Those sites, separated at originally at Romania Road Vlad Tepes, are now merged here.See also Romania Road Ways, included at our hub site for all trips to Europe (and other political and cultural commentary and research), at Europe Road Ways. For a fast reference to Vlad topics, see Vlad Tepes, The Historical Dracula, at  Go to the History of Central Europe at Scroll down to the Romania section. This is the most concise but clear and complete accounting we have found so far. [...]

Bucharest, Count Dracula Club, fried rats to eat


(image) The Dracula Club, Bucharest, Romania
The Dracula Club, Bucharest. Excellent for Halloween. Knock, and a little door in the big door opens and a face peers out. This is a reputable fine food supper club-restaurant, not just a come-on. See  This may not be the place for a romantic proposal, but it served all our other purposes.

Enter and find yourself tightly embraced by the hospitality.

(image) Dan Widing meets Dracula, Count Dracula Club, Bucharest, Romania (on Halloween)

Enjoy the decor.  People, or parts of people, emerge from the walls.

Enjoy the fried rats - looked like chicken breast with dark pumpernickel breadcrumb coating, pimento puree within, and long tails and whiskers of something, perhaps fried angel hair pasta? See what else is offered, at§ion=occult

Halloween was dress-up night. Watch for the really good actor who suddenly descends from the ceiling, seeking Mina, Mina, Mina; and grabbing bites where he can.  You may not be studying for an exam on Dracula, but get the overview on Mina at this crib site,

Who else has visited there? Mwah ha ha.  See Dinner At The Count's at>/   Fitting an unfortunate stereotype, there was a group of American tour guides there at our visit.  They were rude and intolerant, barely tasting the fine buffet prepared.  This was not a friendly group at all. One even said aloud, in the face of a lavish and excellent variety of hot and cold foods, that she never ate local food.  I hope she chooses another career.

Bucharest. Current Events. Romania Draft Legislation. Dolphin Personhood. Recognizing Dolphins as Non-Human Persons. Draft Legislation.


What human qualities, if found in a creature not human, shall afford that creature the rights and protections of a human. Remus Cernea, legislator in Romania, the Black Sea area, city of Constanta, has appropriate ideas. He would afford to dolphins the same rights as people. Personhood, so that killing a dolphin, for example, would be subject to a murder analysis.  Would it be reciprocal? For another day.  For now, whether this effort succeeds is not the issue.  The issue is the effect of raising how we exploit creatures to the level of legislative discussion that is more pivotal to the cause of how we coexist with our fellow planet earth residents over time. See  For Mr. Cernea's Statement, Remus Cernea, and text of proposed legislation at the Draft Law, is news in any nation that eats, uses, keeps animals. Dogs have long been excluded from humanitarian considerations in Romania, for example, even when pets. I recall in Romania the hundreds of stray dogs, all breeds, wandering alone or in packs even in unpopulated areas. Dogs forced loose by laws that forbade residents forced out of their homes for governmental purposes from taking their pets with them.  We reminded ourselves, tempted to pet, to talk softly, to coo, hello puppy, to keep hands in pockets, eyes ahead. Our impression was that Romania did not care, or was not allowed to care, about its animals. See So what is changing? Thinking. Thinking as to dolphins, if not dogs. Any nation can boast a politician, a lawmaker, with ground-breaking causes, but this cause should be spread.Romanians are accustomed to Michael the Brave, who in the the tumultuous 16th C ff, managed to unite disparate interests with Polish, Hungarian, Transylvanian groups at each other. No quarter given to those subject to slaughter. He then lost, with betrayals, brutality ensued, Michael returned, prevailed but was assassinated, see Zsigmond Bathori, ,Michael the Brave, and Giorgio Basta article at Scroll down to 1-753.   It is time for Remus the Brave.  Is that so? Or too melodramatic?Michael the Brave, Cluj Napoca, RomaniaFor Remus Cernea, imagine the interests that will rally against his vision. May he, as we say, stay strong and perhaps America can follow.2. Then ask:  On what ground do humans exploit, dominate, use fellow creatures. Because we can?  Because our religion (whose?) translates taking dominion to domination and not leading gently as a god?  See meaning of dominion, from old texts, at Vetting Roots,  Lead gently, as a god.3.  Here, Cernea cites the dolphins' high intelligence, relationships within the pod, with other creatures, personality, but all that is only a start.  With equality of right to a life, even if environmentally different, and without ten digits up and down, killing would be subject to the same analyses as murder. The Black Sea rejoices.Japan is recently in the news for its corralling of dolphins into a killing bay, slaughter of those who cannot escape.  Is it really just a matter of culture, and such deaths not to be reviewed by anyone not of that culture.4.  How does the draft law look?  This cannot be subject to copyright, so here it is:  Let the Romanian legislature address all issues with clarity and vision. And go to the site and order a T-shirt.[...]

Bucharest - Caravanserai


Romania is not a first thought when the old Silk Routes are mentioned.  Still, it was an important stopping point, a gateway into Europe.  Bucharest boasts a fine caravanserai, now offering a restaurant both in the inner courtyard, and in shelter when needed.  The architecture of these structures has remained constant over country boundaries, see AramcoWorld magazine, at  The large square design, two stories on the outer walls, large usually single gate entry, tall and wide to accommodate loaded camels, a well, areas for a mosque, rooms all around, and accommodations for royal travelers as well as those on pilgrimage.
These took money and organization to sustain:  unending need for fresh straw, filled ewers of liquids, even wines for the European trader heading east?  There would be a scribe at the entry, recording your identity, your goods, your route, how many livestock.

The idea dates, probably, from the 5th Century BC, although there are references in Middle Eastern tales, such as Gilgamesh, to a traveler finding accommodation, an inn, 3000 BCE.  Inns, rather ramshackle, called "pandochions" accepted all comers as well, and the Good Samaritan of Bible Story, left the wounded traveler at one of those.  Then came a more refined Arabic "funduq".

In Romania today, there are the spaced hostels, pensions, the "cazare" everywhere (see; and hotelier complexes that recall the huge enterprises of the old days.

 History of Romania's invaders, influences ethnic groups, see

Bucharest - Ghencea Military Cemetery (Ceaucesu); Museum of the Romanian Peasant; Mogosoia Palace (Lenin)


Ghencea Military Cemetery

We save the capital city for the end of the trip. We aim right out of the airport into the great beyond, wherever that is.  Then, we are not rushed on our way back; or, if we are, it is easier to come back to a major city if we can. City traffic upon first landing is not a good introduction to any country.  Get out of it.

Bucharest is a cosmopolitan city, see

1.  Propellers as markers. Romania honors its war dead in unique ways.

For the air force, those who served are buried with a propeller instead of a headstone.

(image) Ghencea Military Cemetery, Propeller Grave Markers, Bucharest, Romania

The custom of propellers marking graves of pilots is found elsewhere in Romania. For locating well-known graves, go online.  Visit Find A Grave, at

2.  Others who died in the political realm are not so revered, at least in public.  See Lenin statue, toppled, Mogosoaia Palace, near Bucharest.  Lenin's statue is discarded behind the kitchens at Mogosoaia Palace outside Bucharest.

At the Communist Exhibition at the Museum of the Romanian Peasant in Bucharest, however, there is a lower level, creep down in search of the Ladies, and find reverential exhibits, complete with altars, for Lenin and the Ceaucescu, and others.

3.  Nicolai Ceaucescu is buried here, but at the civil side of the cemetery.

(image) Grave, Nicolai Ceaucescu, Ghencea Civil Cemetery, Bucharest, Romania

The Ceaucescus are buried separately at the Ghencea Civil Cemetery in Bucharest, but are some aisles apart.

We looked for a long time before finding either grave, and were carefully watched by guards.

I believe the concern was simple vandalism, and we were not hindered in any way as we looked. Nonetheless, we were watched, watched. Guns ready.
We are not used to that. All we wanted was a look, and a picture. Got them. Got out.

There are tributes on the graves. Candles, objects, even a beer bottle.

Bucharest area. Current Events: Buzescu and Roma, Tsigani, Gypsies


We found several towns where the Roma arriving for an evening's entertainment, perhaps a casino, as in Sighisoara, were in limousines, in beautiful, lavish clothing.  Here, however, is the first article we found affirming that population's presence elsewhere:  National Geographic, September 2012.  Buzescu is south of Bucharest. We did not get there. Is it instead Buzescu Sidonia, near Pitest; or Buzescu HM, farther south from Pitest.

Of special interest is nomenclature.  We understand that "Gypsy" is often seen as derogatory, with a cultural preference for "Roma" instead.  Yet, both may well be needed for more direct communication with those of us on the outside, who are not familiar with Roma as different from Rome, etc. 

Here, we learn that some Roma in Buzescu, Romania, prefer to be called Gypsies or Tsigani.   

Lake Snagov. Quiet Resort; Development Pending?.


Vlad Tepes (Vlad III Tepes) Burial, or to what extent, on island in Lake Snagov
(image) Lake Snagov, Romania. Dockside view, from Complex Astoria resort.

 Snagov is not only a resort area, but also the lake where Vlad's burial on an island monastery, is located, so they say. Fine estates line parts of the shore. As you are rowed out to the island and the monastery, you will also see Ceaucescu's palace, and isolated rocking boats of fishermen, and so quiet.  Visit fast. Development coming.

Lake Snagov area and Roma. Literature, Politics


Awareness of minority issues.
Obvious poverty among Roma. 
Amelioration route:  less clear.

1.  Lake Snagov area and Roma.

 There are Roma villages up the dirt roads. Taking out a camera seemed rude, turning people into objects, so we took none in the actual villages. The Roma villages we drove through were stark in their poverty.  Villages sometimes were of light-skinned people, peasants; others were the darker-skinned Rom or Gypsy, but in some cases we could not differentiate. The most isolated villages appeared Rom.  Along the road: old women bent double under firewood, gaunt faces in doorways. We could not be sure at that early time in our visit.  Everyone was helpful, pointed the way.  See FN 1

  • There were no other cars out there in the country where we were, dirt and dust, dirt houses, dirt everywhere, no amenities, even so close to Bucharest. There were deep ruts from the wagon wheels, and horses. Horse carts. That has probably changed by now, with the funding coming in from the EU membership. Has it?

2.  Literature and Roma

Colum McCann wrote a novel, Zoli, in 2007 and based roughly on the life of a Slovakian Roma poet, Branislawa Wajs, see Gypsies, Roma, Romani, and Zoli  He followed it with a current events opinion Gypsies Put Europe To The Test: The Roma of Romania and Bulgaria, at the International Herald Tribune.  A trip to Romania means daily contact with the larger Gypsy or Roma issue, and unanswered questions about what can help the poverty without destroying the culture, and can or will the European Union and other Roma places (the US) tolerate difference  -

The issue is how Romania, Bulgaria, and other countries regarding the European Union, will deal with their minority populations.

3.  Awareness.  Photo gallery of Roma, done by Leafpile -  A problem with photography is it must be paid for. Learn that and be prepared. Children will pose, and adults, but then the hands come out, more arrive. It is a culture issue.  Come up with the coins, even a bill, and more arrive.

  • Look past the crowd at the doorways.  There usually is an adult there. Signal no more, the universal palms flat down, and slicing laterally, and glare, even ceremonially add more coins, and then point to the car, act out driving, and usually the adult will call the others back.  We were not comfortable taking pictures of Roma, looks like our over-concern for people's sense of privacy was off base. Do look at these.
  • Further update, on the poor vs. progress. This is 3/3/08: Read the 2001 On the Margins: Roma and Public Services in Romania, Bulgaria, and Macedonia, With a Supplement on Housing in the Czech Republic, by Ina Zoon, Open Society Institute press 2001. See   The report covers denials of health care, lack of adequate housing, and recommendations.

    Lake Snagov, Snagov Monastery - Vlad Tepes island burial? Complex Astoria


    Lake Snagov, Snagov Monastery, Burial, Possible once,  Vlad III TepesComplex AstoriaApproach Romania with a view to history that can be corroborated, and history-stories that cannot, but carry weight.  Then find that the parts that cannot be corroborated, take on an independent fictional existence. Enjoy them all, but vet.  With so many images of Vlad III Tepes, Vlad the Impaler, it takes conscious effort to approach his biography with detachment, see Vlad III Tepes, see See  1.  Lake Snagov.  Is, or was, all or part of Vlad III Tepes buried here.  Row out, from the summer hub, Complex Astoria, to find out.  That is the only access.  Early morning is lovely..Lake Snagov, Romania. Row to monastery from Complex AstoriaComplex Astoria is a traditional resort area now, and about 18 miles from Bucharest, and built during the communist era for the elite. It looked like a perfect first destination from the guidebook, but it did not mention that closes well before we were to arrive in the area, in October  There were caretakers about, and others, so we were given a nice room.  See FN 1  2.  Snagov Monastery:The only way to get to the island monastery, and the alleged burial place of Vlad;s body (the claim) is by rowboat. Strong young men at Astoria will do the rowing. Leave plenty of time. Transport to the island is by rowboat. Go fast, before all this changes to motor launches and noise. See it at, Lake Snagov, perhaps burial place of Vlad III Tepes, Vlad the ImpalerIt was built in the 1300's, see Bones were found at a doorway and elsewhere here, some human and some elegant fabric, but there can be established no connection to Vlad, and some apparently there also were animal (chicken) bones.  Apparently he is not there any more.  The story tells that he was moved (his body - the head was decapitated during battle) to the outside, by the door, to protect it. Then, when places were dug up to find him, there was no sign -- only chicken or other animal bones.  Was the head taken elsewhere..There are records that he had once been buried in the church.There was a printing press here in the 1700's, but then the place became disused, then used as a prison, and eventually, renovations began sporadically, up to 1995 or so.  Snagov Monastery, Lake Snagov, Romania. Interior. Alleged Vlad burial.At the small church on the island, it is pay to play.  A priest takes entry tickets to the interior spot in front of the altar where Vlad is said to be buried. See  This site looks like a Romanian offering an overview, to be preferred over the tourism sites, see  The interior is lovely, even if set for tourists. One novel, "The Historian," by Elizabeth Kostova, see focuses at one point on where the head might have gone, then the body, and by whom, and what happened to the parts next. Are all reunitings good things? See and speculate about the stories at - Vlad tales..One novel, "The Historian," by Elizabeth Kostova, see focuses at one point on where the head might have gone, then the body, and by whom, and what happened to the parts next. Are all reunitings good things? See and speculate about the stories at http://www.c[...]

    Travel tips. Cash for the Road. Complex Astoria. Dog Precautions; Eating



    1.  Take some cash.

    Do not assume that there will be ATM's immediately outside the main city where you land.  Use the airport rather than wait.  For more speed, take some cash in the local currency with you, despite the cost of doing that in the US, just in case.  Heading north toward Snagov, we were suddenly beyond urbanity, and there was no immediately visible place and no banks outside Bucharest for
    ATM's that we could see.

    Cash was vital.  The next largest town, Brasov, of course had ATM's, but we needed our ready cash for eating and spending the first night.

    We got to the Snagov area in late afternoon, got ourselves well lost among little, poverty-overwhelmed villages and dirt-rutted roads. When we found the Complex Astoria to spend the night, we found out why the signs were down. It was closed for the season.  They opened a room for us, and luckily we had cash to pay. No credit card option there.\

    2.  Pocket your hands. Stray dogs.

    Hand safety can be an issue for the careless, walking around.  Ask before being friendly with dogs, and if noone is around, pocket your hands.  There are homeless dogs everywhere, in packs, and by themselves.

    Why? We understand that Ceaucescu would not let people take their pets when they were moved wholesale in Bucharest and elsewhere out of neighborhoods that were then razed for big government buildings and boulevards, into high rises.  This is a huge issue, not only for humane treatment of all living, but for public safety.  See   Puppies, show dogs, all were set loose. Thousands upon thousands are out there now.

    These are often identifiable specific breeds, cockers covered in burrs, little doggies, even still.  New parliament buildings were needed.  Was that necessary, to forbid the pets, given the public health and other nuisance now?  By way of update, see

    We were told to keep our hands in our pockets, so we did. The dogs trot along with you, just don't pet. Others not so friendly. We were told not to experiment.

    3.  Food when there are no restaurants

    Dinner when there is no dinner.  Magazin Mixt.
    Magazin Mixt means convenience store. At Lake Snagov, we had a fine meal from a general deli (dried sausage, rolls, cheese), a kind of bodega, at a village. People and especially children came around to stare, but we felt welcome and safe.

      Brasov, Bran Castle


      Bran Castle is part of the Vlad Tepes collection of sites, in detail at

      Bran Castle, a rainy look-back.

      Our route:  Airport at Bucharest, head immediately north to Lake Snagov where Vlad Tepes may or may not be buried or have been buried all or in part, see Sinaia and Peles Castle, and then on to Brasov.

      Find Bran Castle and the other Vlad Tepes sites in detail and with photos at  Romania Road Ways II, Vlad Tepes, site, at

      We integrate them here as a place holder.  How to see where we went, if we totally separate out Vlad Tepes?

      Bran Castle:  obvious from the roadway, go there.

      Brasov: Bran Castle - Popular tradition for Vlad. Not really Vlad.


       Brasov, Bran CastleThis looks "Dracula" but was he ever here? Probably not. .Bran Castle, Brasov, Romania1.  Bran Castle, in Brasov, is about 70 miles north of Snagov Lake, where the island monastery claims to hold Vlad remains, or did. Bran is about 87 miles north of Bucharest.  Brasov gets tourists because Bran Castle looks good, is indeed a real and very historic castle, see, and is not far Bucharest's airport.  It is located in a confluence of trade and military routes, defending against the Ottomans, and became wealthy with customs and other fees and duties. .2.  Vlad's armies also attacked Brasov, but that did not relate particularly to Bran Castle. See the Draculas Info site.  The Bran Fortress is pivotal to Romanian history in its own right:  the incursion of Vlad tourists thinking this is pivotal Vlad does the castle a disservice, diminishing interest in real history. .Bran Castle, Brasov, Romania.The guides at the castle will tell you that Vlad was only there as a guest once in a while, if even that, or was imprisoned there. It is lovely, well restored, but tenuous in any significant connection or any connection at all to the historic Vlad Tepes..Tours do hype the factoid that Vlad lived there. But it makes a buck - or lei, or the new leu.  For the claims, see, for example.Claim:  Bran castle was a residence of Vlad. See  Vlad used this castle as home base for his incursions from Wallachia, the southern part of Romania where he ruled from time to time, into the northern section, Transylvania. See A recent TV show (this is an update 2/2/07) showed Bran Castle and the town of Brasov, as one of the walled towns that Vlad used in anchoring his rule, especially against the Ottoman invasion. There was no hint of that when we were there, but we see now that he had other connections to Brasov.  He was arrested near Brasov by Matthias Corvinus; and he later, for other reasons, led an assault on the town and impaled many on a nearby hill.  It was a successful commercial town, with many influential Saxon merchants.  Vlad led an assault on Brasov (no mention of Bran) to break the hold of the Saxons.  Credibility of all the accounts historically is questionable, but they clinched his reputation. See overview account at  Vlad the Impaler and "Impalement"Impalement:  this was also a means of "crucifixion", see Crucifixion, history, uses, variations for etymology and more information than you want to know.  The point is that the method was common. Did Vlad do more than most? Probably, or not? Takes more research than merely looking at woodcuts with agendas, making a point. .4.  Return of property..I read that the government is giving the castle back to the heirs, so it may or may not remain open as a tourist destination. Vlad or not, it is lovely..5.  Comparing history with legend.Some sites do a fine job of comparing the legends with the historical reality, as far as that is known or debated now. We took time to read the exhibits.[...]

      Rasnov Citadel


      Romania was on the routes to the Crusades in the Holy Land, and this castle fortress was built by German knights, the Teutonic Knights. The citadel dates from the 1200's. Find the Teutonic Knights and their incarnation in many places, especially in the Baltic area as Malbork, see  Poland Road Ways.  Rasnov is known in German as Rosenau. With so much fallen into ruin, it was being reconstructed when we were there.  There was no restriction on access, up and down staircases, parapets.  This is the area known as Burzenland, see  Tartar invasions stopped its development as a monastery.  Little houses within the walls served to protect refugees from the invasions below.

      It was under construction, renovation, when we were there.  See it now (update 2014) at 

      Teutonic Knights and Crusades.  After the crusades failed, the Teutonic Knights, then unemployed, regrouped as mercenaries in the Slavic countries, here, Poland, at their castle at Malbork.  Once militarily trained, and ideologically set, the context for activities is mutable.

      There is a lovely video on Romania that includes the fortress, at  Visit and find signs not to a hotel, but to a pensione. Follow the rutted road, around and around, and within a wall is a fine, hospitable place to stay.  

      The coloring in the video is closer to the real -- camera flaw on my part here. Some photos come out purple.

      Rasnov area. Cows of the household


      Village at Rasnov Castle
      Rasnov: Highly domesticated cows 

      (image) Rasnov area, Romania. Cows of the household

      Evening is a good time to arrive in an area near Rasnov.  The cows coming down from pasture in the evening walk quietly in single file, or double, and on their own, coming through the village. Each weaves off at the home street, then lumbers and sways down the center or the side, and stops at the gate of its household, and waits for someone to open the gate.

      Be watchful. As Dan took a picture of something else, near our pensione (rooms), a tan cow softly padded up from behind.  It was not on a lead, but soon was met by the owner and a soft lead.  Other cows stopped at their own front doors. Much surprise, no harm, no threat. 

      Enjoy the idea of a partnership with one's cows, part of the family, a different angle on the circle of life. Nowhere nearby was a western-style downer-torturing feed lot.

      Sinaia - Peles Castle


      (image) Sinaia, Peles Castle, Romania

      Arrive at Bucharest, drive north, see Lake Snagov where Vlad Tepes was said to be buried in part at the monastery there; and then Sinaia. Peles Castle.

      Sinaia. It is a prime ski area, great resort, and there is a splendid castle.  A fine video of Peles is at  For photos and surroundings at

      Beware of claims to a Vlad Tepes connection.   The castle, Peles, has no connection to Vlad that I can find, but this site suggests by its name that it does -

      Peles was built, instead, by King Carol I during a period centuries after, in the 19th Century, 1873-1883. See Still, it is magnificent, and the photos at the infotravel site include other castles - worth a look.  See also

      Carol I, King Charles I.

      The town has all the shops and cafes you would expect. We don't shop, we people-watch and this was excellent for that.

      Curtea de Arges, Monastery, Church


      (image) Curtea de Arges, Monastery, Romania

      Curtea de Arges, Monastery 1517.

      This Church was built by Voivode (designation for a warlord?)  Neagoe Basarab.  The name Basarab dates from far earlier, Basarab I ruling from 1325-1352, and it was this earlier Basarab who had unified much of the Romanian land from the Danube River to the Carpathian mountains, and conflicted with Hungarian ruler plans for those areas. See

      Orthodox or Catholic?  SeeÎntemeietorul/ The best sites require clicking on the translate.

      Th Curtea de Arges structure has origins in legend and fact.. One story claims that the Master craftsmen were killed, stranded on the roof until they died, so they could not create such beauty again. See

      The Legend of Manolo.  Another names a Master, one Manole, who dreamed the building would be flawless if he walled his wife in the walls. So he did.  The building was beautiful, indeed. And it was then that the ruler herded the Masters to the roof, and Manolo tried to escape like Icarus by flying with wings. He leaped and did not survive. See

      Another story adds details to the walled-in wife.  The ruler declared something like this: the first of the workers' wives to arrive with food for that day would be killed. The workers all told their wives to stay away, except for one.  His wife duly arrived, and was killed.  See http:/

      The blogsite by Laivindur does not mention those.  Are they, then, unreliable?

      Travel tip:  At Curtea, there will be a sign as you begin the road north to the Carpathians and to the Transfagarasan Pass, where Vlad III Tepes (the Impaler) had his castle, now a ruin at Poinari Citadel. The sign says whether the pass is open or not. We went without seeing the sign, but fortunately all was open, and there are places to stay if you are stuck. Just don't drive after sunset if you can help it - there are few markers to the next stopping point, and gas can run out.

      Transfagarasan Pass, Carpathian Alps, Poienari Citadel


      Transfagarasan Pass, Poinari Citadel

      A main historian-tourist objective is seeing what corroborates events in the life of Vlad III Tepes.  Poinari Citadel is the mountaintop (a manageable walk with mild switchbacks up from the road) castle where, it is said, the Turks were threatening, and Vlad's wife so feared being taken that she hurled herself off the parapet to her death. 

      Poienari Citadel. Vlad escaped from Poinari Citadel, and went to another castle at Targoviste. See; and the more tourist-oriented version for the story at

      This fortress was built in the 1300's and became the main defense point for the Basarab rulers. See


      Poinari Citadel, Path to ruin of castle of Vlad III Tepes (Transfagarasan Pass)


      Poienari Citadel, Poienari Citadel.Castle Ruin, Vlad Tepes1.  The path to Poienari citadel.  Vlad's real fortress is 1480 steps up a steep walkway from the road and parking area below.  Just leave the car.  No guards.  So?Spellings change: Poienari, Poinari, Poenari. See Widing climbs path to Poenari Citadel, Castle, Vlad Tepes, Romania. . The path is safe, with a pipe-type railing to keep you on track. A group of tourist teenagers behind us dubbed this the Great Wall of Romania. Laughs all about, including from Romanian tourist teens from a different bus above us.  With the switchbacks, conversations carried.  There was no steady stream of tourists this late in October, just us and the bracketing other groups.View from Poenari Citadel, Castle ruin, Vlad Tepes, Romania2.  Guides..Guides are not really needed, because there are signs and pathways, but expect someone to join you and expect a payment. We did that, and I only regret not giving more.  Sometimes, however, with a larger tip, there is more intrusion as the guide wants to be sure you get your money's worth.Dan Widing with guide at Poienari Citadel, Vlad Fortress, Romania.Our guide appeared when we were just about at the top, from a little house up there. Do carry some dollars for people who are especially helpful. They really want them, and deserve to be compensated. I tended to tip in Romanian currency, however. Dollars: There is a midground to caution. I do wish I had been more generous with other individuals, like older women sitting asking for money at the monastery gates..3.  Arefu - the village that spirited Vlad away. Vlad escaped with the help of villagers at Arefu nearby. I understand that the villagers still identify with that event and can name the individuals and their descendants.Vlad rewarded them with land, an unusual step for peasants. For an account of places and his life, see the Vlad sites at  Someone slept out up there. See[...]

      Arefu: Reward from Vlad for the Ages


      Arefu:  This village enabled the escape of Vlad III Tepes from the invading Ottomans in 1462.  Vlad's wife, fearing the worst if she were captured, had already thrown herself from the parapets of the fortress Poinari Citadel, now a ruin.

      Drive through the village and find deeply rutted dirt roads, a poor place, but proud. Villagers even today trace their background to Vlad's time, and those loyal to Vlad Tepes. See  Did Vlad bequeath to them their lands in posterity, in thanks?  I am looking for that reference.

      We did not stay here because we were headed further through the mountains. Luckily we found a cabana, a government hotel, before it became dark. Better, looking back, if we had simply stopped. Pensiones were fine, clean, safe. But Dan would say, let's go on a bit. And we would.  Vlad Tepes: a complex leader, a violent era, as ours, in our way, spend time looking for history. See

      Transfagarasan Pass - Hike. Carpathian Alps - Route from Wallachia to Transylvania


      Transfagarasan PassCarpathian MountainsCarpathian Mountains, Transfagarasan Pass, Romania1.  Blasting open the PassThe Fagaras Mountains, are part of the Carpathian Range.  Wallachia is on one side. Vlad III Tepes was Wallachian.  Transylvania is on the other. At the northern end of the pass are the cities of Sighisoara, the birthplace of Vlad III Tepes, and Sibiu; entry to the painted monastery areas, and much more. There is a history of hardship and labor deaths here, from blasting a way across and through a tunnel, for vehicles. See Pass was built as a way to move troops and ammunition to defend against a feared Soviet invasion in 1968. The Transfagarasan Pass, through and over the Transfagarasan Mountains, is more easily remembered by the name of the town at the north side, Fagaras. See AccessibilityThe Pass in these mountains is open as weather and season permit. This was the end of October - lovely for leaves, views, but beginning risky for weather.  With snow the tunnels and high switchbacks are closed.  Check at Curtea de Arges before launching out in this direction.  There will be a sign, not big, affirming whether the pass is open. On maps, the road will look as though it stops.  Instead, that open bracket symbol means tunnels. Cabanas is the magic word. There are hotel-type places for sleeping, called Cabanas. Are they government-run? Not sure.  Just don't let it get dark on you. Stop in time. For an overview of the mountains in Romania, see "Romania's Road to Heaven," at the way, we knew there would be "cabanas" or small hotels, but did not expect the distances between. Don't wait too long in the day to stop. You need all the visibility you can get - not all vehicles have good headlights, and animals may wander in the road. We were just about to turn back, when one appeared. Do not expect signs to tell you when the next will emerge.3.  Stop the car, park and trust, and hike.Transfagarasan Pass, midday hike, RomaniaStop along the way and take a hike. If you are a worrier about leaving the car, you will miss out. We never had a problem. Look closely:  There is half of the Car-Dan Tour Company, snapped by the other half, as we crossed a boulder-strewn creek bed with no particular destination in mind. The car was indeed there when we returned.Other attractions: See[...]

      Sibiu: Naver or Tradesmen; Saxons of Transylvania


      Saxons of Transylvania 

      (image) Naver, tradesmen, Sibiu, Romania

      Sibiu, Romania. We had believed these men to be Roma, but now learn that the dress is that of traveling tradesmen, or "naver".  There are many Roma, of rank and ethnicity from the poorest, to well-to-do.  There is a casino in Sibiu that drew many with means, and in elegant dress.

      1.  The Naver are of Saxon heritage.  This group is common mainly in the north central parts of Romania. They have a long tradition of education and skill. Traveling tradesmen, with knowledge seen by outsiders as secret, and with connections to Teutonic Knights.

      This relationship, to Germany, relates back to at least.. The Old Holy Roman Empire where the boundary between Slavic and Germanic lands held for centuries, but with flexibility, blending and fighting.

      In Romania, German peoples were invited in during the medieval era, to help with mining and agriculture in Slavic lands, and then stayed, see  A Germanic tradition here in Sibiu is just a part of the larger Germanic culture in Romania. There are the German - Saxon walled churches located in the region.

      2.  Relationship of Naver to Teutonic Knights. Occupation, skillsets. The Teutonic Knights were a medieval monastic military order that fought in the crusades, see

      A search for Naver - a quick one - shows more information about the tradesmen and Templar influence.
      The Templars were not only fighters and guardians of travelers and pilgrims, and highly successful bankers holding scrip and property until the bearer might or might not return to claim his property; but also keepers, the tales tell, of mysteries taken from the Holy Land. Now we learn that the Templars were also part of an information/skills network between the East and to the West; that the Templars brought building skills and implements to the West, giving rise to the Masonic tradition and its symbols. And the Naver arose from that tradition. And that those connections enabled the building of the ever-more elaborate Gothic cathedrals. More info see

      Sighisoara, Vlad Tepes Birthplace; World Heritage site


      Sighisoara: Birthplace of Vlad Tepes
      Vlad's family home is now a Restaurant

      (image) Sighisoara, birthplace of Vlad Tepes, Romania
      Sighisoara was established by the Saxons of Transylvania.

      1.  Birthplace: The big yellow house.

      The home where Vlad Tepes was born in 1431 is now a restaurant. Expect and get generous portions of good basic food. Sauces and frills are few, so the atmosphere seems authentically Romanian.

      The town is in excellent medieval condition, never bombed, or overrun. See the photo gallery at he ruled Wallachia for periods in a brief timespan, 1456-1462, his reputation suggests a far longer domination.

      2.  Monuments and The Novel, Dracula.

      There are references to Vlad Dracula in many places, and they often refer to the novel, Dracula, by Bram Stoker, even though it is far removed from the life.  Reread the Stoker novel at Dracula,

      As in other Romanian cities with ties to Vlad Tepes, there are excellent descriptive plaques in Sishisoara. They separate out the kitsch, and offer historical information particularly where Bram Stoker made other fictional claims. The result is to interest people who want to know what really is known, or reasonably so; as well as those who want to follow in Bram Stoker's characters' steps without critique.

      Entire tours are devoted to Vlad, but the distances between real sites is great, and there is too much to see in between to focus only on Vlad.. The Romanian Tourist Bureau provides an overview of his life as told in legend. See

      3.  World Heritage

      Sighisoara is a World Heritage site. See The full list of places on the Romanian World Heritage honor roll is at Fine photos: at this Unesco site --