Does hearing the name ‘Transylvania’ send shivers down your spine? This diverse Romanian region was the setting of Bram Stoker’s renowned Dracula novel and has been famed for its close connection with bloodthirsty vampires, mysterious woodlands, howling werewolves and haunted medieval hamlets ever since.

And truth be told, this fictional image is somewhat accurate. Transylvanian scenery is as dramatic as can be, with a hauntingly mysterious look about the dark, foreboding forests. Plus, the area is rich in myth and legend, brimming with majestic castles, medieval fortresses and ancient churches, putting it high on any historian’s travel bucket list.

But when you’ve had enough of bloodsucking vampires, Transylvania has loads more to offer. In fact, it’s pretty captivating. Surrounded by misty mountains and alpine meadows, it’s home to an abundance of incredible wildlife and beautiful flora, with the largest concentration of bears in Europe. And we could go on – with nature reserves, quaint Saxon villages, volcanic lakes, delicious local food, UNESCO sites and more, Transylvania is an all-round extraordinary holiday destination.

Today, we’ll be focusing on the region’s blood-tingling vampire links and discussing what you should do on your trip Transylvania –all things vampire! Read on, if you dare…

VISIT A CREEPY CASTLE

You can’t take a vampire-inspired trip to Transylvania without visiting Bran Castle or ‘Dracula’s Castle’ – the castle which features in the Dracula novel. The imposing fortress dates all the way back to 1212 and has over 50 ghostly rooms connected by narrow halls and twisting staircases. Our favourite part has got to be exploring the ghostly underground passages which house weapons and armour from the 14th century or taking a glass elevator up to Dracula’s ‘escape room’ – eek!

And we can’t forget Poenari Castle, which some call the ‘real’ Dracula castle. Vlad III Dracula, the real-life ‘Impaler’ whose name inspired Bram Stoker’s novel, lived in Poenari Castle in the 15th-century, inspired by its potential as a stronghold. According to legend, Vlad’s first wife jumped from one of the towers at Poenari and into the river below. There are loads of eerie tales to be told at (arguably) the home of Dracula – well worth a visit.

EXPLORE VLAD DRACULA’S HOMETOWN

Sighisoara is a beautiful 16th-century town with UNESCO World Heritage Site status. It’s one of the best-preserved medieval towns in Europe with cobbled streets, charming ornate churches and towers – there’s something truly magical about this unique Transylvanian city.

As well as being a lovely town to visit in its own right, people flock here because it’s the birthplace of Vlad Dracula (the Impaler) himself. And the city embraces its dark past – you can visit the Weapons Collection at Vlad’s house or the chilling Torture Museum for your vampire fix!

Oh, and while you’re there…

EAT VAMPIRE-STYLE AT A DRACULA RESTAURANT

Where else would you eat in Dracula’s hometown other than Restaurant Casa Vlad Dracula? This vampire-inspired restaurant can’t quite serve Dracula’s favourite meal but what it does do, is serve a vampire-themed everything.

And we mean everything – Dracula stew, Dracula chicken, Dracula cocktails, Dracula shrimp – all of which is served with a bright red sauce. Yep, slightly creepy, but still entertaining nonetheless! Oh, and after you’ve satisfied your appetite, head upstairs and pay a small fee to visit the room where Vlad was born.

ROAM A HAUNTED FOREST

Not so much vampire-themed, but still equally as spine-tingling, is Hoia-Baciu Forest. It’s believed to be one of the most haunted sitesin the world – some locals are so fearful of the forest, that they believe they won’t ever return if they dare enter. The eerie forest is named after a legendary shepherd who disappeared in the forest along with his 200 sheep, never to be seen again.

Visitors have reported mysterious light orbs, distant voices and giggling, feelings of anxiety and even burn marks and scratches – all with no explanation. What’s even creepier, is that the plants and vegetation in the area show severe signs of dehydration and burns, with no apparent cause. Good luck!

So that brings our vampire-themed Transylvania travel guide to an end – hopefully, it will help you to follow in the footsteps of Dracula himself and discover the myths and legend of Romania’s dark history. And after all, there’s nothing to be scared of… or is there?

Are you thinking about visiting the Europe, Romania in the next year? United Europe is one of South Africa’s established Travel Companies that specialises in travel to Europe – we know what we are doing.

Please do not hesitate to contact us and we can assist you with options and travel itineraries to help you plan for the occasion!

October 2018

Mark Buck is the Managing Director of United Europe Travel Services (Pty) Ltd, an online and offline travel services company based in South Africa

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