Wednesday, 2 June 2010
With the mountains of Transylvania in sight, we headed north.
But not before ensuring our fierce guard bears were suitably armed against unwanted night time visitors. Well you can't be too careful... ;)
First stop, Sinaia, site of King Carol I's holiday palace, Peles,
(with a further 'holiday cottage', Pelisor, in the grounds for his nephew and heir Ferdinand and his wife Marie) before the war of independence in 1877-78 finally liberated Romania from Ottoman rule.
It does seem to be the way of things after the Ottomans: Newly independent from the yoke of an unwelcome occupying power or wanting to be? want a monarchy to celebrate but not got one? Take your pick of one of ours! We have royals of germanic descent to spare!... First a bavarian in Greece, then a prussian here. Just think, when the americans finally leave, Iraq could have Harry or Beatrice... ;)
Sadly neither the main Palace nor the 'Cottage' were open but surprisingly we could get right to the terrace for a good peer round and jolly fine it was too.
Despite this moniker and the now expected urban sprawl of hypermarkets and diy sheds, central Brasov is actually quite nice.
It has a fine café-lined central square,
and, somewhat incongrously, a lit up Hollywood-style sign, high on the slopes of the town's pet mountain, Tampa.
We also found the 14th century St Nicolas church - properly fairytale with its disney spires and full on creeeeakbang heavy door.
The interior of the church is covered with paintings so, in near compliance with EU regulations, 'smokers' are relegated to a dingy hut outside.
And so it was a dark and stormy night as we approached the village of Bran, with the castle looming over inhabitants who were too scared to be out on the streets and approached the castle door which creaked open, moved by unseen hands...
Actually that's a lie, it was a drizzly early afternoon with a watery sun peering through the clouds, the castle is barely visible through the trees, the villagers don't want to leave their stalls in case they miss the opportunity to sell you some tat, disappointingly little of which is Dracula based, and we didn't get near the door, but as it's all downhill from here, I thought I should at least start on a high...
I didn't know that Dracula is loosely based on the actual figure of Vlad Draculea (Draculea meaning 'son of the dragon' after his father Vlad Dracul (dracul = dragon), a knight of the Order of the Dragon) who is one and the same as Vlad the Impala, the ruling prince of Wallachia (1456-62 and 1476-77) who, despite his preferred method of dealing with his enemies being to insert a stake into their bottom slowly and carefully enough for it come out of their mouths without damaging any major organs, therefore ensuring a slow and painful death, was actually a bit of a hero when it came to resisting the onslaught of the Ottoman Empire.
but the view was disappointing - I was expecting spooky pine forests in transylvania not wide open plains and industrial estates! -
and headed back to town where we have cheered ourselves up with a beer and a randomly a flick through our adventures pics so far. We have come along way from our crankshaft on the workbench/van with black eyes beginnings 10 months ago!
Incidentally, on the road yesterday, we crossed the 45th parallel - which we only know as there was a café of that name by the side of the road. So, we have come up from the depths of nearly the 36th in the Mani (which is very nearly as far south as Tarifa) and are back level with where we were in Bordeaux in November (having touched just above that far north briefly in Como and Slovenia).
Only 26 parallels to go to Nordkapp... Blimey, that does put it in perspective!
With love for now from Becky, Will and Jules on Wednesday, June 02, 2010