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Two Years & Twice Around the World...  

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November 11.  BRASOV "Touring Dracula's Castle"  The main sights to see around Brasov are the Rasnov and Bran castles, some distance outside of town.  We thought we would just take public transport but when we woke up and found it snowing outside we wimped out.  The evening before we had been wearing all of our warmest clothes and were still freezing so a day of waiting for buses seemed like a bad idea.  The hostel had a deal where they would arrange a car and driver which was reasonable enough so we went with Lesley and the three of us had a car to ourselves.   After stuffing ourselves with a nourishing breakfast of bread, we were ready to go.  Our driver turned out to be the snotty tout and he showed up looking rather sheepish at having to deal with us all day.  He made another gesture of apology and we just told him to forget it.   

Even in the dreary weather the Romanian countryside didn't disappoint.  It was beautiful landscape.  We saw a couple of sheepherders moving their herds along.  One herders wore a fantastic cape made out of sheepskin that came most of the way down his back and one of the tall black Romanian hats.  It made him look dignified and rugged at the same time.  I would have liked to photograph him but our testosterone ridden driver was going as warp speed and before I could even think about asking to stop the herder was only a speck on the horizon.

Our first stop was at the ruins of the 13th century Rasnov castle which clung precipitously over the end of a high ridge above a small town.  It was a fortress like castle with an extensive outer wall and a small village inside.  A deep well had been dug in the center of the village and our guide (the driver) lit a piece of paper and dropped it down the well so we could see how far it fell.  The one time shops of Rasnov were now little cafes and restaurants for the tourists and a section had been converted into a small museum, including the prison chambers which were below ground level like basement holes beneath the floor.  A skeleton was displayed in one .  There weren't any large structures inside the walls but walking up the back slope, where some restoration work was still going on, we could see out over the walls and across the town below and over the mountains nearby.  A  beautifully carved large wooden Jesus on the cross hung on the outside of one building and seemed to be looking over the walled complex.  

Bran Castle was farther down the valley and much less imposing in its location than Rasnov.  It was situated on a steep rock outcrop but wasn't really very far up from the highway.  Perhaps at one time, before the highway was built, it would have hung higher up from the valley floor but now it looks almost within arms reach.  The building, however, was much more solid and foreboding than anything left at Rasnov.  It wasn't large, as far as castles go, but was a dense stone structure with high sheer walls and would have been difficult to penetrate.  A short trail led to the one exposed entrance which faced the mountain for protection.  

The interior had been coated in white plaster some time in the early 1900's and looked more like a summer retreat than the wicked castle that inspired the lair of Bram Stoker's Dracula.  It almost had a cozy feel with the white walls, dark wooden beams, ornate wooden furniture, and the vine trellised courtyard.  But stripping away all of the softness I could still imagine what it might have been a couple of centuries earlier.  It may have been small but had a secret staircase within its walls, small nooks and crannies for hiding in the shadows, unexpected turns and twists, large fireplaces, and a far enough drop from its high windows to make it a difficult escape.  Those could have been the sheer outer walls that Jonathan Harker looked out over from a high secluded window and watched the Count slither down like a lizard to go make his nightly kill.  But, there is actually no record that Vlad Tepes ever stayed at Bran castle so it was just Bram Stoker's wild and vivid imagination that put the two together.  

We grabbed hot dogs by the souvenir stalls outside the castle entrance.  A group of giddy strays got the benefit of our left over buns.  We headed back to Brasov around 2:00 and had our driver let us off downtown so we could buy train tickets for the following day.  We had considered an extra day in Brasov to visit the castle at Sinaia but learned that it was closed for cleaning and with the cold weather we just ready to move on to Bulgaria.  We canceled our hotel reservation since we had an early train the next morning and it would be easier for all of us to take a taxi together.  

Still hungry we stopped at a good Italian restaurant near the town square that Dave had recommended.  With the cold weather we seemed to be burning calories quickly and some pasta and wine were perfect for warming us up again.  After our meal we took Lesley to our cafe for a coffee and some reading before we headed back to the hostel.  We each had two hours of Internet access racked up so we decided to use it.  The Internet place was filled with smoke, kids playing games, and men looking at porn.  Fortunately Lesley was thinking ahead and booked us a hostel for Sofia the following night.  We would be getting in late so it was good idea.  

It was another mellow evening at the hostel and this time we were all just chatting and the TV was turned off.  But, that didn't stop the hostel staff from coming in and turning the TV up loudly so they could watch it from the back of the room, over our conversations.  We really weren't going to miss the place one bit.  Before we went to bed we ordered some sandwiches to be delivered.  We knew that breakfast in the morning would be pathetic and we had to leave before sunrise so any other options were out.   It made sense not to go to bed hungry. 

SLOVENIA Ljubljana Oct 7-8 Piran Oct 9-12

CROATIA Istra Peninsula Oct 13 Split Oct 14-15 Hvar Oct 16-18 Korcula Oct 19 Dubrovnik Oct 20-29


BOSNIA Sarajevo Oct 30 Oct 30 Nov 1

SERBIA Belgrade Nov 2-3

ROMANIA Bucharest Nov 4 Suceava Nov 5 Nov 6 Cluj Napoca Nov 7 Sighisoara Nov 8-9 Brasov Nov 10 Nov 11

BULGARIA Sofia Nov 12 Nov 13 Nov 14

MACEDONIA Lake Ohrid Nov 15 Nov 16-17

KOSOVO Prishtine Nov 18 Nov 19 Nov 20 Nov 21

GREECE Thessaloniki Nov 22 Athens Nov 23 Nov 24