Category Archives: Romania

Dare To Enter The Creepiest Place in Romania: The World’s Most Haunted Forest

adventure born

I woke up restless throughout the night at Ermeline’s flat, a bit disturbed from a trilogy of nightmares I had.

It’s always the same. A man wearing a void white mask (he creeps me out so much that I don’t even want to mention his name on here) chases me around where ever my brain decides the hellish dream will take place: a restaurant, at school, my house, your house, McDonald’s—it doesn’t matter, he’s always there stalking me and chasing me around. Three nightmares in a row though?! I read that a sudden abundance of nightmares, among other oddities, are an omen to those who dare to enter Hoia-Baciu Forest. It just so happened that I felt adventurous enough to brave that forest the next day and it also just so happened that I had a weird assortment of murderous nightmares the night prior. However, I believed it was just a mere coincidence because anything can trigger a nightmare for me personally. I have them fairly often, actually.

I’ve never heard of Hoia-Baciu Forest, let alone know how to pronounce it correctly. Ermeline casually mentioned it to me a couple of days ago, when I asked her what there was to do in her city of Cluj. I knew this was something that I needed to explore. Fortunately, I wouldn’t be going alone. Clay was on board to check out the forest as well. Would I have done it by myself? If I’m being honest, probably not. I’m no fool.

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We could have gone there during the early daylight hours, but I thought it would add to the experience, if we explored the forest a couple of hours just before the sun began to set. That way, to instill somewhat of a time limit or else we’d be lost in the darkness FOREVER! In reality, I was doubting this place was going to be even remotely spooky. It’s just a forest, after all.

Hours prior to our endeavor, I came across some interesting tidbits on the internet, rather superstitious reports of people who claimed to witness the strange and the unnatural while inside Hoia-Baciu Forest and from those who claim to know about the forest all too well. They say that the forest is sometimes referred to as the Bermuda Triangle of Romania. Those who enter too deep, especially during the darkness of the night, become lost for days upon days. The forest is known for severe paranormal activity. Cellular reception stops working and navigational equipment (GPS, compasses, etc) begin to malfunction and go haywire. Some people say they beckon intense feelings as if they were being watched the entire time in the forest. Some say they heard unsettling shrieks of female voices and giggling. Some even call it a portal to another dimension.

Strange paranormal phenomena has been recorded for more than 50 years in Hoia-Baciu Forest. Everything from leering green eyes that gaze at trespassers through the bush, figments of ghostly figures, poltergeists, and heavy black fog have been observed. People have said they would gradually feel feverish, find unexplainable rashes, scratches, burns, and develop nausea.

Of course, I don’t believe any of it.

Oddly enough though, I wanted to. I wanted my iPhone to go berserk in the forest. I wanted to feel as though someone was watching me. I wanted to see the green eyes and hear the voices. I wanted to experience all of it (minus the lost forever in the darkness part). I doubted any of this would happen but in the least I wanted SOMETHING strange to occur. Otherwise this would make for a pretty boring blog post.

Clay, Ermeline, and I spent most of the early day sight-seeing Cluj. Ermeline took us to a botanical garden near the university before we tried our fix with some local restaurants somewhere off. From there, Clay and I discussed what would be the best way to get into Hoia-Baciu Forest. The forest itself is situated just outside of Cluj and covers an area of over 250 hectares. We decided the cheapest and most direct option would be to summon an Uber. We told Ermeline we would meet her back in her flat by dusk, while Clay and I hopped into our Uber that drove us the distance.

I’m not sure how I was feeling. Anxious but incorruptible; I kept my hopes low. What a story it would be if we actually found or experienced something on the supernatural side of things! Our Uber driver never questioned our destination or why on Earth we would be going to this forest outside of Cluj. The road up the hill became less of a road and more of an obstacle course. He couldn’t drop us off at our destination pinpoint, because that pinpoint wasn’t very ideal for driving, so we stepped out once we were close enough and happily walked on foot the rest of the way. We didn’t have an Uber or any other sort of transportation for the ride back. Neither of us have any service in Romania. We’ll cross that bridge when we get to it.

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I readied my camera and found that before we entered the forest, we had to cross an empty field of grass, which looked to be stretch about 300 yards or so before we even came to a tree.

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The weather, by the way, was calm and emotionless. Not hot nor cold. Faint wind and barely a hint of sunshine. Just a mute, gray-scale sky. The perfect setting for something like this, if you ask me.

And so we entered.

I guess my biggest concern (besides not seeing anything in the realm of abnormality) would be getting lost. According to my Google map, this forest was fairly large. And if by chance, our electronics did malfunction, we needed to keep our wits about our direction and pay attention to standout landmarks that we passed. If that didn’t work, then just go straight. We’d be bound to hit something, but then it’d be dark.

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The forest itself was lifeless. No birds or small animals in sight. There were many scrawny trees scattered about, all bent irregularly at their base. Some say it was some form of dark energy that bent those trees. Science, please explain them to me. Why are they bent like this?

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As we walked deeper into the woods, Clay and I came to a small, wooden…I don’t know what it was. A shack? A shrine? There was hay collected at the bottom of it. Maybe it’s a framework built for horses or mules to eat hay? Whatever it was, it was isolated in the middle of nothingness, inside the gloomy glint of the “world’s most haunted” forest that surrounded it.

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We checked our phones. Yup, they still work. And no, I didn’t feel like I was being watched. We’re not deep enough. We pressed on and on. We split up but kept each other in visible view.

I looked up, down, and all around for anything strange and peculiar. Really ANYTHING that seemed out of the ordinary. No rashes, bruises, or scratches on my body. The only thing that achieved even the slightest thought was this tree or large branch, that was missing its bottom half. I didn’t mind it much.

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I felt like I needed to explore fully and intently until I found SOMETHING that would keep me satisfied, but I was mindful of Clay. I’m sure he didn’t want to be walking around in this monotonous forest for too long, especially since he had a late train to catch back to his Peace Corp obligations in neighboring Moldova in just a few late hours.

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I wish I could report something interesting for you readers or stretch this story on a bit, but there was NOTHING about that forest that seemed haunted besides the oddly shaped trees, which I’m sure Mother Nature has an explanation for. Perhaps I didn’t go deep enough? Maybe it’s after sunset when the weirdness begins. That has to be it. The forest was so large in fact, we barely scratched the surface of it. The World’s Most Boring Forest, would be more appropriate.

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We did get a little misplaced on the way back but nothing to cause a fluster over. We eventually emerged back onto the plain, empty field. There were two random vehicles on opposite ends, that had no business being there. Like a splotch of blood in the middle of a snowfield. Possibly a fling of secret romances among the wheels? Or maybe people who were as curious as I was about Hoia-Baciu Forest. Hopefully they find more than I did.

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Since Clay and I didn’t have any service, we decided just to walk back to Ermeline’s. It took an hour and then some, but we really had no choice. When we met up with her, she asked if we saw anything. Clay and I pretended that we would rather not talk about it, to chalk it up a bit. She’s so gullible. We kept it going for a bit until we came clean. We saw absolutely nothing.

I should mention, on the way through and out of the forest, I randomly snapped dozens and dozens of photos of everything nearby: the trees, the ground, more trees, without ever looking through the viewfinder. My hopes are to one day revisit those random photos and look at each individual one intently with the hopes of spotting something strange. A shadowy figure lurking between the trees? A creepy child that appeared out of nowhere that I wasn’t aware of before? A huff of black smoke shaped like a ghost? Anything unexplainable.

I have yet to look through them and I will wait a while until I do so.

Because if I did see anything chilling in the slightest, then I would have to go back to that forest immediately to find out more.

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Dare To Enter The Creepiest Place in Romania: The World's Most Haunted Forest

adventure born

I woke up restless throughout the night at Ermeline’s flat, a bit disturbed from a trilogy of nightmares I had.

It’s always the same. A man wearing a void white mask (he creeps me out so much that I don’t even want to mention his name on here) chases me around where ever my brain decides the hellish dream will take place: a restaurant, at school, my house, your house, McDonald’s—it doesn’t matter, he’s always there stalking me and chasing me around. Three nightmares in a row though?! I read that a sudden abundance of nightmares, among other oddities, are an omen to those who dare to enter Hoia-Baciu Forest. It just so happened that I felt adventurous enough to brave that forest the next day and it also just so happened that I had a weird assortment of murderous nightmares the night prior. However, I believed it was just a mere coincidence because anything can trigger a nightmare for me personally. I have them fairly often, actually.

I’ve never heard of Hoia-Baciu Forest, let alone know how to pronounce it correctly. Ermeline casually mentioned it to me a couple of days ago, when I asked her what there was to do in her city of Cluj. I knew this was something that I needed to explore. Fortunately, I wouldn’t be going alone. Clay was on board to check out the forest as well. Would I have done it by myself? If I’m being honest, probably not. I’m no fool.

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We could have gone there during the early daylight hours, but I thought it would add to the experience, if we explored the forest a couple of hours just before the sun began to set. That way, to instill somewhat of a time limit or else we’d be lost in the darkness FOREVER! In reality, I was doubting this place was going to be even remotely spooky. It’s just a forest, after all.

Hours prior to our endeavor, I came across some interesting tidbits on the internet, rather superstitious reports of people who claimed to witness the strange and the unnatural while inside Hoia-Baciu Forest and from those who claim to know about the forest all too well. They say that the forest is sometimes referred to as the Bermuda Triangle of Romania. Those who enter too deep, especially during the darkness of the night, become lost for days upon days. The forest is known for severe paranormal activity. Cellular reception stops working and navigational equipment (GPS, compasses, etc) begin to malfunction and go haywire. Some people say they beckon intense feelings as if they were being watched the entire time in the forest. Some say they heard unsettling shrieks of female voices and giggling. Some even call it a portal to another dimension.

Strange paranormal phenomena has been recorded for more than 50 years in Hoia-Baciu Forest. Everything from leering green eyes that gaze at trespassers through the bush, figments of ghostly figures, poltergeists, and heavy black fog have been observed. People have said they would gradually feel feverish, find unexplainable rashes, scratches, burns, and develop nausea.

Of course, I don’t believe any of it.

Oddly enough though, I wanted to. I wanted my iPhone to go berserk in the forest. I wanted to feel as though someone was watching me. I wanted to see the green eyes and hear the voices. I wanted to experience all of it (minus the lost forever in the darkness part). I doubted any of this would happen but in the least I wanted SOMETHING strange to occur. Otherwise this would make for a pretty boring blog post.

Clay, Ermeline, and I spent most of the early day sight-seeing Cluj. Ermeline took us to a botanical garden near the university before we tried our fix with some local restaurants somewhere off. From there, Clay and I discussed what would be the best way to get into Hoia-Baciu Forest. The forest itself is situated just outside of Cluj and covers an area of over 250 hectares. We decided the cheapest and most direct option would be to summon an Uber. We told Ermeline we would meet her back in her flat by dusk, while Clay and I hopped into our Uber that drove us the distance.

I’m not sure how I was feeling. Anxious but incorruptible; I kept my hopes low. What a story it would be if we actually found or experienced something on the supernatural side of things! Our Uber driver never questioned our destination or why on Earth we would be going to this forest outside of Cluj. The road up the hill became less of a road and more of an obstacle course. He couldn’t drop us off at our destination pinpoint, because that pinpoint wasn’t very ideal for driving, so we stepped out once we were close enough and happily walked on foot the rest of the way. We didn’t have an Uber or any other sort of transportation for the ride back. Neither of us have any service in Romania. We’ll cross that bridge when we get to it.

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I readied my camera and found that before we entered the forest, we had to cross an empty field of grass, which looked to be stretch about 300 yards or so before we even came to a tree.

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The weather, by the way, was calm and emotionless. Not hot nor cold. Faint wind and barely a hint of sunshine. Just a mute, gray-scale sky. The perfect setting for something like this, if you ask me.

And so we entered.

I guess my biggest concern (besides not seeing anything in the realm of abnormality) would be getting lost. According to my Google map, this forest was fairly large. And if by chance, our electronics did malfunction, we needed to keep our wits about our direction and pay attention to standout landmarks that we passed. If that didn’t work, then just go straight. We’d be bound to hit something, but then it’d be dark.

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The forest itself was lifeless. No birds or small animals in sight. There were many scrawny trees scattered about, all bent irregularly at their base. Some say it was some form of dark energy that bent those trees. Science, please explain them to me. Why are they bent like this?

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As we walked deeper into the woods, Clay and I came to a small, wooden…I don’t know what it was. A shack? A shrine? There was hay collected at the bottom of it. Maybe it’s a framework built for horses or mules to eat hay? Whatever it was, it was isolated in the middle of nothingness, inside the gloomy glint of the “world’s most haunted” forest that surrounded it.

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We checked our phones. Yup, they still work. And no, I didn’t feel like I was being watched. We’re not deep enough. We pressed on and on. We split up but kept each other in visible view.

I looked up, down, and all around for anything strange and peculiar. Really ANYTHING that seemed out of the ordinary. No rashes, bruises, or scratches on my body. The only thing that achieved even the slightest thought was this tree or large branch, that was missing its bottom half. I didn’t mind it much.

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I felt like I needed to explore fully and intently until I found SOMETHING that would keep me satisfied, but I was mindful of Clay. I’m sure he didn’t want to be walking around in this monotonous forest for too long, especially since he had a late train to catch back to his Peace Corp obligations in neighboring Moldova in just a few late hours.

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I wish I could report something interesting for you readers or stretch this story on a bit, but there was NOTHING about that forest that seemed haunted besides the oddly shaped trees, which I’m sure Mother Nature has an explanation for. Perhaps I didn’t go deep enough? Maybe it’s after sunset when the weirdness begins. That has to be it. The forest was so large in fact, we barely scratched the surface of it. The World’s Most Boring Forest, would be more appropriate.

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We did get a little misplaced on the way back but nothing to cause a fluster over. We eventually emerged back onto the plain, empty field. There were two random vehicles on opposite ends, that had no business being there. Like a splotch of blood in the middle of a snowfield. Possibly a fling of secret romances among the wheels? Or maybe people who were as curious as I was about Hoia-Baciu Forest. Hopefully they find more than I did.

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Since Clay and I didn’t have any service, we decided just to walk back to Ermeline’s. It took an hour and then some, but we really had no choice. When we met up with her, she asked if we saw anything. Clay and I pretended that we would rather not talk about it, to chalk it up a bit. She’s so gullible. We kept it going for a bit until we came clean. We saw absolutely nothing.

I should mention, on the way through and out of the forest, I randomly snapped dozens and dozens of photos of everything nearby: the trees, the ground, more trees, without ever looking through the viewfinder. My hopes are to one day revisit those random photos and look at each individual one intently with the hopes of spotting something strange. A shadowy figure lurking between the trees? A creepy child that appeared out of nowhere that I wasn’t aware of before? A huff of black smoke shaped like a ghost? Anything unexplainable.

I have yet to look through them and I will wait a while until I do so.

Because if I did see anything chilling in the slightest, then I would have to go back to that forest immediately to find out more.

Exploration: Transylvania!

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I’ve never been as clueless backpacking through a foreign country as I was in Romania.

I don’t ever recommend going somewhere without knowing at least a little something, although not knowing anything about anything was exciting. I was all for it! If I were completely on my own, sure…I would have researched a bit, but since I had American Clay and French Ermeline as my new companions, I felt content with just going with their flow. Eastern Europe is definitely not my area of expertise.

I could have stayed longer in Brașov. That place was magical. I felt like I could have dove deeper into the world of Count Dracula, but there were two other cities of interest: Sighișoara and Sibiu. What’s there? No freakin’ idea. I heard from backpackers in Brașov that they were worth a visit. Good enough for me. Usually word-of-mouth is the best suggestions I get while traveling.

The three of us took a rather long train from Brașov to Sighișoara. Once we arrived, we met another backpacker by the name of Laurențiu (Belgium). We found our hostel, one of the only ones in town, within the confines of what was essentially a giant fortress.

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While walking inside the fort, it felt as if we were transported back a few centuries in time, except all the people had on modern-day clothing. Tall towers with humongous dome bells at their height boomed echoes inside the fort. Neatly stoned roads ran through the colorful hues of shops, inns, and old churches of ministry. There were many pubs and cafe’s, some even catered and themed around the legendary tales of Dracula and Vlad the Impaler. There were tourists around, mostly older chaps from surrounding countries. And not very many of them.

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We seized the day and explored the whole fort. We began at a cemetery, just opposite our hostel, that overlooked the city beyond the walls.

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Cemeteries generally give off an unsettling vibe, but this one…this one was strangely peaceful. May have had to do with the positioning of the sun at those given moments. The sun was transitioning into the short period of time before setting.

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We were led to the ledges of the fort, that gave us a view of the impressive scene on the outskirts of the city center.

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We traced back to a random pub somewhere, almost stumbled upon, where we met with Laurențiu and put back a few brews before we went off to find actual food, which proved to be a difficult task because everything closed early as heck!

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We only stayed in Sighișoara for one night before we took another train to Sibiu. Sibiu was like Brașov, except much bigger. Here, we checked into our hostel, where Ermeline and I met another backpacker from the US. She was on her own solo wander around Eastern Europe. After I expressed my less-than pleased infatuation with Bran Castle, she told me of an even grander castle just about an hours drive west. It’s called Corvin Castle and it turns out that the best and most convenient option would be to rent a car and drive ourselves there. And so that’s what we did!

There were four of us total to split the ride as I drove us to Hunedoara, the home setting for Corvin Castle. Just from the looks of it, this castle was much more impressive than Bran Castle.

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Corvin is one of the largest castles in Europe and one of the seven wonders of Romania. I’ve seen this familiar castle before…somewhere featured in some form of media, be it movies, television, or books. It was humongous, surrounded by an empty moat and a long bridge that crossed it. The palace wings along the castle were built with turrets that overlooked into Hunedoara. We paid a minimal fee to enter the castle and began our exploration in the inner court and straight into the Knight’s Hall.

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According to descriptions scattered about, this castle is said to be where Vlad the Impaler was held prisoner by Hungary’s military leader. This castle is also said to be a source of inspiration for Bram Stoker’s imaginative Dracula’s castle. Who knows?

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The castle featured several interesting rooms, such as the throne hall, a tomb site, the Matthias Loggia, a dungeon filled with torture equipment, and a trophy room, just to name a few. What I appreciated about Corvin Castle was that everything was still intact, unlike Bran Castle which felt more like a museum rather than medieval architecture.

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On to the Food 🙂

I didn’t really get full on to the Romanian delicacy until I arrived in Sibiu. The food was great, but I was particularly fond of their desserts, especially their papanași.

This is a version of papanași I demolished in Sibiu…

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Papanași is a Romanian traditional fried or boiled pastry resembling a small sphere, usually filled with a soft cheese such as urdă and any kind of sour jam. This is according to Dexonline. It was absolutely delicious and I had it again the next day.

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I also had one of these…

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Sorry guys. I was so into eating this that I forgot to jot down what this was called. Let me describe it as best as I can from what I can remember. Muddled raspberries wrapped in lightly fried crepes, stacked on top of each other. Then drizzled with an easy layer of a yogurt sauce and then topped with shaved milk chocolate. Just as tasty as the papanași. Oddly enough, I believe this dish is Moldovan inspired.

Eventually, I also tried this.

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This was also a taste of heaven and it’s called goulash. Goulash is basically a stew with the essential components of some type of meat (usually beef), onions and paprika. This version used potatoes and other ingredients. However, as tasty as it is, the goulash dish is actually Hungarian inspired, but it’s popularity soared here in Romania.

Sibiu treated us to spectacular nights and lots of rain.

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Where to next? A major city called Cluj-Napoca or just Cluj for short. Ermeline studies there and she invited Clay and I to come and visit her. Of course we will!

“What’s so special about Cluj?” I asked Ermeline because I’ve never heard of the place until she mentioned it.

She explained many things about it to me. It has a nice botanical garden, lots of restaurants, museums, interesting architecture, and that it’s a student city.

But, there was one thing in particular about it she mentioned that completely won me over.

“Cluj also has the most haunted forest in the world.” she said, almost as an uninteresting side note.

“The most haunted forest in the world?! I basically shouted. “I must go there!”

 

 

The Man Behind Dracula! My Romanian Investigation

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My main draw for coming to Romania?

The lore of Count Dracula in Transylvania!

Who is the man that one of the world’s most classic horror villains is based upon? What makes Transylvania synonymous with the name ‘Dracula’? What’s his castle like? And why am I so intrigued?? It’s my opportunity to investigate and explore the mythos surrounding everything about the Count. But first, I must find a way to travel there–to the populous nearest Dracula’s castle; a city called Brașov.

I took an empty train from Bucharest, just a few hours slightly northwest into the Transylvania region and soon found myself in Brașov . Navigation towards the city center was simple and I was fascinated as soon as I saw the modern-medieval inspired square. These days, cities are far and few between that actually impress me, but this one captured me almost instantly. I was diggin’ the old-timey, yet simplistic feel.

 

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I checked into Centrum Hostel, a comfy accommodation in the middle of the square, equipped with the fastest wifi I’ve encountered so far on this Quest to the Seven Continents. On a side-note, did you know that Romania has some of the fastest internet speeds in the world? Anyway, while there I looked into ways of getting to Dracula’s castle which I found out is actually called Bran Castle, which is in the immediate vicinity of Braşov. Upon further research, I discovered that Bran Castle is more closely associated with a historical figure referred to as Vlad the Impaler. It’s suggested that Bran Castle was the setting for Bram Stoker’s famous Dracula novel. Still, I needed to see the legendary castle for myself. Also, how does this Vlad guy relate to the dreaded Count himself?

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I asked the receptionists at the front desk of the hostel about Bran Castle and if they offered anyway to get there. It just so happened that there were three people before me who booked a private transfer there for tomorrow morning. They had space for one more if I were interested. I was very interested.

During the day, I met two other backpackers: Clay, a peace corp volunteer from the US, here in Romania for a short holiday and Ermeline, a student from France who was studying abroad in Cluj, also here in Braşov on a holiday. We became buddies and acquainted ourselves during the day. It was during that time we realized that we were all going to Dracula’s Castle on the same private transfer. It was fate!

The morning was brisk. A light snow fell as I met the others in the reception lobby. The weather was not in our favor. I didn’t expect it to be so cold, but then again I didn’t expect to be here in Romania in the first place. I was unprepared because I left most of my warm clothes back in Nepal at Yam’s place. No worries. Our driver arrived and escorted us to his vehicle and off we went!

I wasn’t quite sure what to expect. I knew with experiences like these, they never are truly what I would expect. Everything is so touristy nowadays that it’s almost impossible to have that complete bona fide experience. I imagined a giant, lone castle shrouded in a dim forest. The outside of the castle would appear striking and postcard worthy, but the inside would bring about a sense of something ominous. Creaking doors, hidden chambers, and cobwebs in every corner and it would only be us inside to investigate and explore. This was what I wanted, but I knew that real-life would present me with something drastically different. We drove up to the outer gates of Bran Castle, with about an hour to spare before we had to rendezvous back with our friendly driver.

Snow continued to mellow down as we made our way up towards the gate entrance. I couldn’t see the castle yet, but I definitely saw lots of tourists lined up to purchase their entry tickets. For a few extra Romanian leu’s, you could opt for a guided tour. Psshh! We decided not to, as to explore on our own accord. I will admit that the amount of tourists I saw was discouraging. This was about to be touristy as all heck.

We walked up the stone path towards Bran’s Castle, until eventually you could see it in all its glory, as well as a third of it covered from being under construction. Not as menacing as I had imagined, but still a cool looking piece of architecture.

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Before I dive into what I found inside the castle, I should mention that I have recently read Bram Stoker’s original novel Dracula, so I feel that I am completely familiar with aspects of the story and the description of the castle from the book. I’m aware that the author has never been to this castle, or Transylvania in general, but some would declare that he used Bran Castle as the home of Dracula, based upon the author’s extensive research of Romania. What I didn’t know at the time was whether Dracula was real or not. Now of course he wasn’t a vampire, but I wasn’t sure if the actual lore was based on anything factual? Because why else is Dracula so synonymous with Transylvania? I should soon find out.

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The interior was a lot smaller than I expected. As a matter of fact, the inside of the castle didn’t feel like a castle at all. No stone walls or stone floors. Instead, white-washed walls and wooden floors, done up to feel more like a museum, with artifacts here, decrees of narratives and descriptions there, and many notions toward that Vlad the Impaler character I mentioned earlier. Who is this guy?

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Based on what I got out of it, the character of Dracula is loosely based on the nonfictional figure Vlad III. He was the prince of Wallachia during the mid 1400’s who had a knack for impaling his prisoners on giant wooden stakes. A thirst for bloody satisfaction, he earned the nickname “The Impaler”. The name “Dracula” came from his father Vlad Dracul. The former would even sign letters as “Dragulya” or “Drakulya”. According to Vlad III Dracula: The Life and Times of the Historical Dracula by Kurt W. Treptow, Dracula is the Slavonic genitive form of Dracul, meaning “the son of Dracul (or the Dragon)”. In modern Romanian, dracul means “the devil”, which contributed to Vlad’s bad reputation. Rumors began to swirl through the empire that Vlad’s terror of torture likened him to sometimes drink his victims blood. Pretty horrific, but it explains where the whole Dracula inspiration came from.

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We left the museum castle a little less than enthused, back into the flurries of the late winter. Bran Castle is nothing how I imagined. Still cool though. If only I could explore it on my own, maybe with Clay and Ermeline, at dusk during a thunderstorm. If only…

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The day wasn’t over yet, however. Our driver took us a few minutes drive to the Râșnov Citadel, which is also in the immediate vicinity of Brașov.

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The Citadel, which I knew nothing about, had more of that genuine feel that I was looking for. An entire ragtag village, a very small one, surrounded by high walls on a hill and and a mythical well in the center. You could see Brașov from a distance when standing on the highest point of the hill. The Citadel was cool! Bran Castle, meh. Still I had hopes for my Transylvanian exploration because apparently the lore of Count Dracula and also Vlad The Impaler, is dispersed throughout Transylvania; in other castles, towns, and villages.

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As for Brașov itself, Clay, Ermeline and I made an effort to make the best of our stay, explore a bit and cook our own dinner. They cooked while I supplied the wine and cheese.

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Both Clay and Ermeline were independently backpacking through the country and had plans to travel westward towards popular towns and cities. Since I had no plans, I decided to join them through several stops in Transylvania, all the way up to Cluj. And just like that, they became my travel companions for Romania. What else does this country have to offer? I was eager to find out!

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The Demonic Electronics of Bucharest, Romania

Some man/woman hybrid thing who looked like Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson dressed in drag asked me if I wanted ‘sex’ as I walked past the train station in Bucharest.

That there folks, is how I was welcomed into the “The Paris of the East”, or more properly Bucharest, Romania.

Btw, I Speedy Gonzalez’d past The Rock’s ugly cousin and straight to my hostel I booked called Friend’s Hostel. A girl, who appeared to be in her very early 20’s, checked me in and gave me the scoop on the hostel and said if I had any questions, then to let her know. I had lots of questions particularly because I came into Romania with next to no prior knowledge of the country and mostly because I wanted to hear her voice. She had a captivating ‘Dracula’ accent that made her sound like a character straight out of a Transylvanian horror flick. I didn’t think I’d be so enthralled.

Here I was–officially in Europe! Continent number four of my Quest to the Seven Continents and country number ten of this trip, Romania. Out of all the countries I’ve been to so far, I knew the least about Romania. With that, I went against my usual mode of exploration and opted for a free walking tour offered from my hostel, to acquaint myself with Bucharest and a little bit of its history.

Back at the hostel, as I was lounging in the upstairs area, I met a backpacker by the name of Jasper (Poland), who was strumming away at a guitar by his lonesome. Jasper spoke English, but very slowly, so listening to him required all of my attention. He mentioned that later in the evening he wanted to go into the city to find food and explore. I decided to tag along. It would be good to see what Bucharest was like during the night shift.

We took a a cheap subway towards the city and popped up into the ‘happenin’ area of the city called the Old Town. This area was lined up with bars, clubs, cafe’s, and lots of neat restaurants in between. It actually reminded me of Amsterdam, sans canals.

We ate a delicious meal at a vegetarian restaurant he suggested and afterwards we met up a few of his friends for a few beers nearby. They were neat people and I was content on just enjoying the rest of the night there, but Jasper had hardy plans to visit an “electronic concert” somewhere in the city. He just wasn’t sure exactly where it was.

Jasper told me he loves music of all varieties and studies it back home. He saw on an online ad that there was an electronic music concert somewhere in the Old Town that he was interested in attending that began at midnight.

“Are you sure it’s a concert?” I asked him. From the way he was describing it, it sounded like a club that just played electronic music; not so much as a ‘concert’.

He wasn’t sure. I was marginally interested to see what it was and so I went with him. Why? I don’t know, I had nothing better to do. Electronic music is not really my thing but then again I was invited to an electronic music festival in Mexico a while ago and had a ton of fun. It was mainly the beer though.

He navigated on Google Maps and I followed him about the streets at night. We went around in a circle before we found a giant warehouse that was converted into a bar/club kinda deal. It actually looked pretty decent inside. We paid an entrance fee which was also a ticket for the live show. It was well past midnight, but we found that the show hadn’t started yet.

I’d say the size of the show room was comparable to the inside of a 7-Eleven; so not too big. The stage was set for a more intimate experience. When we first arrived, the floor was practically empty as a DJ played tunes that sounded like nothing I’ve heard before–a random mix of sound bytes against a repetitive monotone beat. Jasper and I got a beer from the bar and sat in one of the booths near the back wall. Conversation was almost nonexistent because the music was too loud. Jasper did express his excitement for the main event, which should have started by now.

1:30am came and went. 2am was long gone. It was nearly 3am. How late do places like these stay open for? Gradually, the floor started to fill with a crowd and so Jasper and I made our way to the front. The show was finally about to begin. At this point, it was so late, I just wanted my bed.

The room suddenly turned red. A smoke machine filled the air with fog. Two girls who looked like hipster teenagers walked onto the stage to the DJ mixer/turntable and began pressing buttons and adjusting tabs and switches. Then things just got weird from there.

 

A simple, yet eerie sounding beat began to play, loud as heck. People began to bob their heads as if they were in a trance. Jasper disappeared into the middle of the crowd. The music began to blend into a more sinister rhythm. The red lights of the room intensified. I looked over to Jasper who was dancing around as if he were possessed by a ghost.  As for myself, I really did try to enjoy it. I even had a couple more drinks but that didn’t help. This wasn’t any kind of music I’ve ever heard.

 

 

I stood near the wall by myself while everyone else seemed to enjoy it. I’m pretty open to most genres of music but this particular genre sounded like the DJ’s were trying to summon a hipster demon and we were all about to be its sacrifice. THIS is the concert people paid to come to? This was definitely not my cup of tea. I needed to get out of there.

Jasper was in a complete trance when I went up to him. “I’m gonna get out of here,” I said to him. “I’m falling asleep!” Thankfully, he agreed to come as well. If he wanted to stay, then I would have no problem leaving him behind.

I returned to the hostel and spoke to the girl who spoke like Dracula. She informed me that the who lore of Vlad the Impaler, more famously known as Dracula, is in a town called Brasov.

That’s where I’ll go! Bucharest was cool. The people were friendly, but that demon summoning, electro concert thing was a little much. I wasn’t able to say goodbye to Jasper; he disappeared without a trace.

Perhaps he was taken by one of those demons.