Fun fact- I am obsessed with ghost shows. I could watch hours and hours of “ghost hunting” on TV. My favorite being Ghost Adventures. I’m not even convinced I believe in Ghosts, but it is my guilty pleasure. A couple of years ago they did a special in Romania where they followed the footsteps of Vlad Tepes, sometimes known as Dracula. I have been disappointed in Romania to find out the there is really no reason why Vlad Tepes has been called Dracula…he didn’t drink the blood of his enemies or sleep in a coffin. He did kill people in cruel and unusual ways, his favorite being impaling, but it was medieval times- everyone was killing everyone! Bram Stoker, the author of Dracula never even visited Transylvania!
Anyway, Ghost Adventures visited sights all over Romania that were reported haunted or had to do with the backstory of ‘Dracula’. Sam and I knew we had to visit some of these locations for ourselves and see if we found anything spooky. We are based in Brasov, nearly in the dead center of the country. Everything we wanted to visit was west of us. Romania does have train travel and it is cheap…but it takes about 3 times as long. A 2 hour car ride will be a 5 hour train ride. We only have our weekends to travel because we work weekdays, so 5 hours train rides won’t work!
We decided to rent a car and embark on a road trip from Brasov —> Hudedoara —> Sibiu —> Sighișoara. I had never rented a car before and I was quite excited to do so because that is the “exciting” thing you can do when you turn 25, right? But being the lazy American I am…I don’t know how to drive a manual car. Why hasn’t the rest of the world adopted automatic cars?? They are so much easier, and you can eat while driving! There are slim pickings for automatic car rentals here… and all of my choices were about 80 Euro a day! On top of that many companies had a million extra charges, like picking up the car on a Saturday or returning it after 5 pm. After emailing many companies, Sam found a company called Rentissimo Rent a Car. The man I contacted was named Christian, I would highly recommend this company! He was professional, flexible and spoke English well. This rental company is based out of the Opel Dealership (Strada Hărmanului 49A, Brașov 500250). And the car was only 90 Euro for the whole weekend, Friday-Sunday! Sooo much cheaper than anywhere else we found!
On Saturday morning we were off to our first destination, Corvin Castle in Hunedoara. On Ghost Adventures they believe they made contact with the spirit of Vlad Tepes. Vlad the Impaler was rumored to have been kept prisoner in this castle. Our trip there took about 4 hours. The car drove great, the roads were empty and it was a gorgeous day! Driving into Hunedoara was a bit of a disappointment. We expected it to be a medieval town but instead you just feel a communist hangover. We only drove through the city, never properly explored it but after seeing it we didn’t have a desire to. Then, all of a sudden..there is is. The incredibly impressive Corvin Castle. It looks very Hogwarts like. I have been to many castles but I must say this is the most gorgeous one I’ve seen. The only way in is by a long bridge and it is surrounded by green hills.
We arrived at about 11 am and it was dead! There were maybe 5 or 6 other couples or families there. Even we we went into the castle there was no one in the ticket counter to take our money! This was great for photo opportunities, we felt like we had a private viewing! The best parts of the castle in my option are the stained glass windows. The sun was shining through them and the bright colors illuminated the halls. The hallways gave us major Game of Thrones vibes. Sam loved the seeing the old style weapons and armor on display. Then there is the torture room….there are some graphic depictions and mannequins in the room. Nail chairs, wheels on which a person is tied to and slowly rolled through a fire with, body stretching… Yes it was gruesome, but did we see or feel anything paranormal? No! Pretty bummed out not to even feel like it was spooky. The sun was shining, birds were chirping and it was perfectly lovely. Maybe ghosts only come out at night, like on the show 😉
By the time we left there were huge groups coming in and children running around. I’m happy to be a morning person, the earlier you can get somewhere the more likely you are to beat crowds of tourists.
Corvin Castle Travel Tips
- The parking lot costs 7.5 Lei to park in. We arrived very early and no one else was around so we went ahead and parked there. When we came out we saw people had just parked along the street for free.
- Get there early! If you want a picture without people in it on the bridge you’ll need to get there before the crowds do.
- Bring a picnic. Walking through will take about 2 hours, and there are no restaurants. It was so nice to bring a picnic and sit on the benches in front of the castle for lunch.
After Corvin Castle we headed straight to Sibiu.The drive there is mostly freeway, but part of the drive feels like stepping back in time. You’ll see fields with flocks of sheep and shepherds, sleepy little village, gypsy caravans and elaborate churches. I’ve never had to swerve out of the way to avoid a horse carriage before! It was beautiful and I love seeing life away from the city!
We made it to Sibiu by 3 pm and to be honest I was worried about parking. I come from the mindset of parking in America, meaning expensive and hard to find. This is the opposite of parking in Sibiu! We found a spot literally right outside out hostel and parking for the weekend cost a total of 20 cents (it is free after 6 pm and on Sundays). We stayed at Smart Hostel in the historic center, as it was cheap for a private room and in a great location!
The old town of Sibiu is so picturesque! There are two big squares lined with brightly colored buildings shops, cafes and restaurants. Our first stop was to get a coffee and we were recommended to Donuterie. The cappuccino was just fine but the donuts are amazing! They had marshmallow topped, Kinder Bueno topped, and Nutella stuffed! We even tried to go again in the morning but it didn’t open until 10.
We walked along the streets and in the squares for the rest of the afternoon. It is a lively city and there are market stalls all over selling street foods and souvenirs. As we were heading to dinner to stumbled into the Orthodox Church on Strada Mitropoliei . We stood in the doorway staring in awe at the gorgeous interior and listened to the chanting for about 10 minutes. It is one of the most beautiful and colorful cathedrals I have seen, definitely do not miss it.
For dinner we went to Cafe Wien, which is set up to look like a traditional Viennese cafe. The food there is AMAZING, my chicken schnitzel was better than I have even had in Austria! For desert we had bread baked with apples, brie and cranberries on top. So good. And they serve Bernard beer, our favorite! We also went back in the morning for coffee, as it was so close to our hostel. They have a lot of outdoor seating where I would spend a lot of time on a sunny day!
For beers at night we went to Music pub. It has a very unassuming entrance but once you get downstairs it is a huge bar and restaurant that plays music almost inappropriately loud. It was so crowded that we couldn’t even get a table, we had to steal someones reserved table until they showed up! The beer selection was standard and they had a lot of cocktails. Also the servers kept walking by with MASSIVE pizzas, if we return I will definitely be trying one.
We woke up at 7 am to walk around the city one more time and take some photos, it was a Sunday morning and the city was completely dead! After one last coffee at Cafe Vienna we left to go to our final destination, Sighișoara – The birthplace of Vlad Tepes!
Sibiu Travel Tips
- Make reservations if possible on weekends- tables looked filled up everywhere we went.
- Everything in the historic old town is walkable, don’t worry about public transport.
- Nothing opens until 9 am, if you are a morning person this may annoy you too
The last stop of our mini Transylvania road trip was Sighișoara! I very glad we chose to spend the night in Sibiu rather than Sighișoara, it is a very sleepy little town! It was smaller than we expected, and had a lack of tourists even though it was the weekend (We don’t see many tourists in Romania in general). You don’t need much time to explore this colorful fortified city!
Parking, again, was a breeze to find and free because it was Sunday. We wandered along the cobbled streets which are all surrounded by pastel colored houses then up a steep set of covered stairs to church on the hill. After walking around we went to the place that makes Sighișoara famous- Dracula’s house! The menu has typical Romanian food- we just ordered crepes and a beer. It was cool to experience, but still..no ghosts. You can pay 5 Lei (just a bit over a dollar) to go up to the room where Vlad Tepes was born but we decided to skip it.
It was time to return our beloved rental car back to Brasov. The drive there is only 1 hour and 45 minutes but it is on a windy road that is NOT well maintained. You will be swerving to avoid massive potholes AND gypsy carts AND wild dogs!
We got one final surprise on our way home, the Rupea Citadel. It is located on top of a hill and it looks very impressive from the road! As we drove up there to check it out the landscape is breathtaking, you can see on forever! We just walked around the citadel as we did not have time to go in. I think the entrance fee was 12 Lei.
My conclusion after this trip was, if possible, you should ABSOLUTELY rent a car! It makes traveling so much more flexible and fun. Though traveling by bus and train here is very cheap it was worth the extra money to do exactly what we wanted. Now I’m going to want to rent a car every weekend!
I am sad to say I have no ghost stories after this trip 🙁 Transylvania is absolutely beautiful but does not live up to it’s scary reputation!