Transylvania is not a legend. It’s a land with deep roots in European history surrounded by mountains covered with forests as in its Latin name. Besides the many German towns build around fortified churches, maybe about 150 of them, the Saxons main cities were the “Siebenbuergen“, the seven cities, that became the name Transylvania was known at the time. One of these cities was Kronstadt, the current Brasov where we landed after a drive from Buzau region. The first impression was that I arrived in Germany. Long pedestrian streets full of interesting stores and restaurants crisscross the center of town congregating in the main square dominated by the old city hall. A traditional market was spread in the square. In the city center people stop at the restaurants or cafes that take their tables onto the pedestrian streets or prefer the indoor Viennese atmosphere of Kronstadt Cafe.
Close by, the Black Church, the largest Gothic church in SouthEastern Europe, has organ concerts played on a collection of three organs, old as the church. The church was converted from Roman-Catholic to Lutheran during the Reformation by the efforts of Jonannes Honterus, a humanist who was born in Brasov and educated all over Europe, extremely influential in the cultural development of the city.
Bran Castle is a short ride out of Brasov. I found the usually sleepy town energized by the new developments that happened in its famous castle. The castle, a residence of the kings of Romania before the war, was repossessed by an inheritor of the family who lives in New York. In a typical American style, the new owner renovated and furnished the entire castle and promoted it as a major attraction, the largest private castle/museum in Romania. The alley that goes to its entrance is now a zoo of stores that sell traditional wares, food and clothing, all of a good quality and taste. An arcade of the vampires with portraits of King Vlad the Impaler, Dracula and related things is part of this promenade. There are now two large paid parking sites in a place that before saw so few cars. The entrance is literally swamped by tourists who wait in line for half an hour to get a ticket, a sort of throttle that limit the number of visitors inside.
Beside the king, queen and princess apartments there are rooms that tell the history of the place, Transylvania, the Teutonic knights, Bram Stoker, Dracula, Vlad the Impaler, ghosts and vampires no matter that the Castle has little in common with the infamous Dracula. But the idea sells successfully.
Bran Castle was built as a border fortress between Transylvania and Wallachia, the southern part of today’s Romania. On its place was originally built a wooden fortress by the Teutonic Knights in 1212, the current castle’s construction starting in the 14th century.