Central Europe - day 1
Bucharest, Peles Castle, Brasov, Bran Castle
The first hours in a new country are usually less than spectacular. Airports are functional, utilitarian facilities placed away from centers of culture and commerce. However, from time to time there are surprises in the mundane, such as a huge IKEA store, strategically placed to help us feel at home.
Bucharest was a beautiful city 'back in the day'. Decades of neglect has left a mere shadow of its former glory. However, the basic structure is still there and I expect, given a period of political stability and financial prosperity it will reclaim its title as the Paris of the East.
- Airport to hotel...
We arrived, tired from traveling nearly half way around the world, anticipating a very busy schedule. After a too short night of sleep we hopped on the bus and headed toward the mountains of Transylvania. I had little idea of what lay in store for us. It started with the Castelul Peleș, a late 19th century castle in the town of Sinaia.
- Peleș Castle Exterior - we had a long wait to get in, hence, lots of pictures!
- Peleș Castle Interior 1 - Interior 2 - there's a photography fee for taking pictures inside the castle. Therefore, I felt obligated to get my money's worth, hence, lots of pictures! Lighting inside was terrible, hence lots of mediocre pictures...(actually, Gordon paid the fee because we were being rushed into the castle and it was taking me more than a moment to get oriented to my foreign currency organization scheme...)
From there we proceeded on north to the bustling city of Brașov. The old town district is quite picturesque and in reasonably good condition. The huge "Black Church" (Biserica Neagră) hangs over the city like a giant cloud. Work began on the church in the late 1300s. We stopped for lunch in a restaurant on the square that featured a Romanian staple mămăligă on the menu.
Bran Castle is only a few minutes drive from Brașov. The site has been occupied by castle buildings since the early 1200s, and its most famous resident, Vlad the Impaler, resided there during the late 1400s. Yes, this is the castle used as the setting for Bram Stoker's famous 'Dracula' novel. While Vlad may not have actually been a vampire, he certainly had his anti-social quirks.
Transylvania is really beautiful country - rolling hills in the lowlands, craggy mountain peaks where the Carpathian Mountains cut through between Bucharest and Brașov. Unfortunately, we had to cover a lot of miles from our base in Bucharest, so there was little opportunity for general scenic photography. Shooting out the window of a moving bus with an iPhone on narrow, rough roads yields less than stellar results. I hope these picture give at least an impression of the beauty of Romania.
On to Budapest...