Danube Delta – the youngest territory of Europe

Danube Delta – the youngest territory of Europe

Danube River is the only flowing water in the world whose distance is measured upstream and not downstream. It is also the second longest river in Europe and the only to cross the continent from East to West.

Since antiquity, the Danube had several names, starting with Istros in Greek ancient writings and continuing with Danubius in the Latin-Roman ones. The name Danubius given by the Romans means ‘God of the Rivers’.

Danube’s source is in the Black Forest Mountains of Germany, being formed by the union of three springs called Breg, Brigacs and Donau Quelle. Until reaching the Black Sea the river runs a total distance of 2860 kilometers (1770 miles), crossing 10 European countries such as Germany, Austria, Slovakia, Hungary, Croatia, Serbia, Bulgaria, Romania, Moldova and Ukraine. The Danube also crosses four country capitals such as Vienna, Bratislava, Budapest and Belgrade, thus being the most cosmopolitan river of Europe.

On Romanian territory the Danube runs 1075 kilometers (670 miles). The river makes its entrance into Romania in a spectacular way, crossing the highest and most impressive gorge. In the south of Romania, it forms a natural border with Bulgaria, then ascends to southeast where it divides into three main channels called Chilia, Sulina and St. George. As a paradox, the Danube begins through three springs and ends also in three channels.

The land of waters formed by canals and lakes is called the Danube Delta, the second largest delta in Europe after Volga’s river delta. The Danube Delta has a total area of 4200 square kilometers (1620 square miles), of which 3450 km on the territory of Romania and 750 km on the territory of Ukraine. It is the best preserved of the European deltas and the only delta of a river in the world declared biosphere reserve.

The richest area in the world in biodiversity is Galapagos islands, followed by the Great Coral Reef, the third biosphere in the world being the Danube Delta. The Danube Delta is also the youngest territory of Europe. Every year the river transports to the mouths 70 million tons of alluviums. This way, the surface of the Danube Delta is enlarged annually with 40 square meters, being the youngest territory of Europe. Also, Sulina, city of Romania, is the most eastern city of the European Union.

The Danube Delta is a magnificent territory of aquatic flora and fauna. Flora includes 2383 species of which: 78% reed and rush, 14% forests, 6% leeches and 2% floating vegetation. Fauna includes 24 species of amphibians and 135 species of fish, including 5 sturgeons. But by far, the fauna wealth of the Danube Delta consists of the 331 bird species with predominance of water birds.

By visiting the Danube Delta in a boat you can have the pleasant surprise to be in the middle of a colony of pelicans, swans and cormorants, the surface of the lake being covered with white and yellow lilies. Last but not least, Danube Delta is a cosmopolitan region with 60% Romanians, 20% Ukrainians, 15% Russians and other nationalities. Following in the first place the invaluable natural values of the Danube Delta, but also the cultural value of the area, a visit in the Danube Delta remains an unforgettable experience.


Article written by Gabriel Florea.

Painted Monasteries of Bucovina

Painted Monasteries of Bucovina

Bucovina ‘The Land of Painted Monasteries’

Bucovina is a region  of Romania that still preserves the old ancient traditions unaltered. The name Bucovina comes from Slavic languages and means ‘The Country of Beech Trees’.

Traditional costumes are still worn by the locals and being a predominantly Orthodox area, the two great religious holidays such as Easter and Christmas are celebrated in a genuine Romanian way, following the ancestral traditions. The people are very warm and welcoming, being always glad to have guests. Not least, local cuisine offers gourmets the opportunity to indulge in the delicacies of traditional Bucovina menus.

Another famous tradition is that of painted eggs, being associated with the celebration of the Easter. This habit of early Christianity consists in painting red eggs, representing the sacrifice of Jesus the Savior. In time, local women raised this tradition to the level of folk art. On a background that can have different colors are drawn and painted a variety of patterns, each having a different meaning inspired by the local folk culture. To keep it for a long time, first it is empty the egg contents with a syringe. Than draw the traditional patterns with a tool having a hole in the thickness of a hair. At the end, each square centimeter of the shell is painted by dipping in color, protecting the rest of the egg surface with a layer of wax. Thus, these masterpieces of folk art can be exhibited and preserved over the years.

Bucovina is also called ‘The Land of Painted Monasteries’. Unique in the world, these churches are painted both inside and outside. Incredible, the exterior frescoes dating back to the first half of the 16th century survived the nature’s hardships to the present. This is why they were listed in the UNESCO heritage (The United Nation Organization for Education, Science and Culture). The walls of the churches are painted using the fresco technique. A wet plaster is applied on the wall, than the painting is carried out while the wall is still wet. The colors were obtained from a mixture of plants, clays and minerals known only by the master painter. Thus, the painted monasteries of Bucovina keep for centuries unique colors, impossible to be reproduced.

Any traveler who visits Bucovina is advised to see at least four pained monasteries. Each has a history, a spiritual patron and a different color code. Voronet Monastery, founded by ruler Stefan the Great was built in 1488, in only 3 weeks and 3 days. The church of the monastery is dedicated to St. George. The fresco was painted in 1547 on a blue background, being called the ‘Sistine Chapel of the Orient’.

Sucevita Monastery, was founded by the Movila brothers in 1584. The church of the monastery is dedicated to Jesus’s resurrection. The fresco was painted in 1595 on a green background.

Moldovita Monastery, was founded by ruler Petru Rares in 1532. The church of the monastery is dedicated to Holy Announcement. The fresco wass painted in 1537 on a yellow background.

Humor Monastery, was founded by the lord Toader Bubuiog in 1535. The church of the monastery is dedicated to Assumption of Virgin Mary. The fresco was painted in 1535 on a red background.  This is the only church that does not have a steeple, the explanation being that it was built by a nobleman and not a ruling king. A fun fact is that one scene painted on the church facade depicts the devil as a woman.

Artistic expression of the Orthodox faith and the refinement for beauty of the Romanian people, the painted monasteries delight the heart and mind of anyone who comes to Bucovina.

Article by Gabriel Florea.

Merry Cemetery – the worlds most cheerful cemetery

Merry Cemetery – the worlds most cheerful cemetery

The Merry Cemetery 

The origin of the Romanian people is found in the pre-Christ period. The Romanians ancestors were the Dacians, related to the great Thracian family, occupying a vast territory in Eastern Europe. This people of warriors believed in a god named Zamolxes. The Dacians believed in the existence of their later life with their god, which offered them even more happiness than earthly life. That is why the Dacians did not consider death as a tragedy, but a transition to a better life. The historical writings tell us, that Dacians smiled at the moment of their death, and the funeral was followed by a party, thus celebrating the passage of the soul to a better life.

Following this ancient belief, a Romanian wood sculptor had the original idea of treating death in a cheerful way, we might even say funny. Wood sculptor and resident of Sapanta village, Stan Ioan Patras made the first painted cross in 1935, being considered the founder of the Merry Cemetery. The tradition consists in making a wooden cross that has a jovial epitaph representing the true description of the deceased’s life.

The material used to make crosses is generally oak as it can withstand weathering for a long time. After sculpting the epitaph, the cross is painted in blue color. Finally, the cross is decorated on the blue background with red and yellow paintings, cheerful colors that are precisely defying death and accepting it joyfully. The folk master created this naive art, knowing in detail the life of the villagers. So, he could accurately describe the story of the departed person in a cheery way, hence the name of the Merry Cemetery.

The origin of the color ‘Blue of Sapanta’ is from the Austro-Hungarian occupation period in Transylvania. At that time the Hungarians painted their houses in green, and the Romanians were forced to paint their houses in blue. The houses painted in green did not pay tax and the houses painted in blue were obliged to pay tax. Because the village Sapanta is now populated by Romanians, the tradition of the blue color is preserved. The master died in 1977, and the house he lived in is now a memorial house in his honor. After the master’s death, his disciple Dumitru Pop who became a master too, continues the tradition of the Merry Cemetery, which encompasses about 800 painted crosses with epitaph. We hope this tradition will continue even after the end of the current master Pop.

There are a few very special crosses, that astound and make you lough at the same time. (See video)


Article written by Gabriel Florea | Tour Guide & History buff

10 Traditional Romanian foods to try

10 Traditional Romanian foods to try

Romanian cuisine is very complex and diverse, with quite a few differences depending of the specific area which you are visiting. Romanian food has been influenced over the centuries by our neighbors, our invaders and colonists. Some have come and gone and some have decided to stick around, but they all have left their prints in the history of Romanian cuisine: Greeks, Turks, Germans, Hungarians, Serbian, Bulgarian and last but not least Ukrainian.

I am going to list the top 10 dishes that any Romanian would recommend you to try and which we all devour 🙂 every year for the holidays:

1. Smoked lard

Did you just make a face? Did you cringe? If you did i totally get it, but if this dish is properly made it is very tasty, feels like smokey meaty, butter-like texture and melts in your mouth. I was always a picky eater and only tasted this lard as a grown-up and loved it. Now guys, this is for small appetizer tastings and not for full meals.

2. Sarmale – Cabbage Rolls

There is nothing more traditional than cabbage rolls. If you were to taste only one dish in Romania, this is it. The Sarmale are made with minced meat, rice and condiments wrapped in cabbage leaves (usually sauerkraut aka pickled cabbage). The rolls usually come with a side dish of polenta and sour-cream.

The Sarmale or Sarma, come from the turks and can be found in different varieties in all the regions that were historically ‘involved’ with Turkey: Bulgaria, Serbia, Macedonia, Palestine, Jordan, Siria, Lebanon, Republic of Moldova. It is believed that the Turks got them from the Greek that have a similar dish called ‘Dolma’, the only difference is that they use vine leaves to make the rolls.

3. Polenta with cheese and sour-cream

Polenta or Mamaliga is a dish made with corn flower, water and salt. Depending on the corn – water ratio, we can make a harder polenta or a softer creamier polenta. If we add cheese and sour-cream we make a very tasty dish. Some people like to add little bits of ham or sausage as well, I like to add boiled egg and mush it in together with the cheese.

4. Romanian Sausages

No tasting is complete until you have tried the Romanian sausages that come in different shapes, sizes and types. Fresh or smoked, grilled or fried, we all love our sausages. Made with minced meat and stuffed in animal intestine, usually condimented with salt, paprika, garlic, cumin and hot pepper.

In the different regions of Romania the ladies have their secret recipes and condiments they use to make their sausages unforgettable. In some areas sausages are made only with pork meat, in others pork is mixed with beef or sheep. In Oltenia and Wallachia they use bone broth for extra flavor, in Transylvania a secret is using thyme, in Bucovina the meat is not minced but cut by hand.

4.1 A special type of sausage is the Blood sausage, similar to black pudding in the UK. The stuffing contains beside the meat and condiments, exactly what you would expect or not – fresh blood – the blood gives moisture and a unique flavor to the sausage.

5. Mici – Little Ones

Although considered a type of sausage, the Mici have to have their own paragraph. They are somewhere between a sausage and a meatball. The legend says they were created in the 1800’s in Bucharest, when a cook in a very popular restaurant remained without skin for the sausages and had to think fast and satisfy a crowd of hungry customers. He shaped the minced meat with his hands and started cooking them on the grill. When customers asked the name of this strange new sausage, he said it was ‘Mici’ literally translated ‘Littles’.

6. Pork Cracklings / Rinds

Cholesterol is not something we think about for the Holidays, so once a year you can try these little crunchy wonders. Pork rinds if you haven’t had tried them before, it is the skin of the pig, cut in small  squares and fried in (of course) lard. The bits shrink in size and  become deliciously crunchy with a bit of fat on one side and a bit of meat on the other. We usually eat them with red onion as a starter for Christmas meals.

 7. Tripe soup

Tripe soup is truly a traditional dish. There are several recipes for this soup but the most popular has a sour-cream, garlic and vinegar base. This soup is actually a beef broth with vegetables and the main ingredient is the beef tripe cut in long think slices.

 8. Bean soup with smoked meat in bread

Another must try dish is the Romanian bean soup in a bread bowl. This soup is thick with lots of beans, vegetables and smoked pork meat. Tasty on it’s own, becomes something special when served in a bread bowl that absorbs some of the liquid, gives the soup an amazing flavor and it is fun to scrape the walls of the bowl.

 9. Cozonac aka Christmas Bread

Making Cozonac is a real  challenge for any housewife. We all know it depends so much on the quality of the flour, the time allocated for kneading and on the love put into the dough. This amazing Christmas bread contains cocoa, nuts, rum, lemon and orange peel and a pinch of cinnamon. I can already smell the freshly baked cozonac on Christmas morning!!!

10. Papanasi aka Romanian Donuts

The Papanasi are the holy graal of Romanian desserts – fried donuts that contain fresh cheese and are served hot with sour-cream and fruit jam (usually blueberry). They are a perfect balance between sour and sweet, making them my favorite Romanian dessert and a must try for any foodie sweet tooth out there. 😉

Corvin Castle of Hunedoara

Corvin Castle of Hunedoara


Withstanding the harsh passing of time and the fierce attacks of it’s enemies, this Gothic Renaissance structure, has been doing it’s duty as Transylvania’s protector since the XV century. The construction of the castle was commissioned by John Hunyadi (Iancu de Hunedoara in Romanian) when he was elected as the regent-governor of the Kingdom of Hungary. ‘You cannot be a great ruler without a proper castle’ and this was exactly what the Hunedoara area, belonging to the principality of Transylvania, was missing.

The castle is a large and imposing dwelling with tall towers, bastions, an inner courtyard with a deep fountain, multi-coloured roofs, and a myriad windows and balconies adorned with stone embroideries. The castle also features a double wall for enhanced fortification and is flanked by both rectangular and circular towers, an architectural innovation for the period’s Transylvanian architecture. Some of the towers (the Capistrano Tower, the Deserted Tower and the Drummers’ Tower) were used as prisons. The ‘Buzdugan’ Tower (Mace Tower) was solely built for defensive purposes and it had its exterior decorated with geometric motifs. The rectangular shaped towers have large openings to accommodate larger weapons.


The castle has 3 large areas: the Knight’s Hall, the Diet Hall and the circular stairway. The halls are rectangular in shape and decorated with marble. The Diet Hall was used for ceremonies or formal receptions whilst the Knight’s Hall was used for feasts. In 1456, John Hunyadi died and work on the castle has stagnated. Starting with 1458, his son Mathias Corvinas became the new king of Hungary and of course rolling prince of Transylvania. New commissions were being undergone to construct the Matia Wing of the castle.

In 1480, work was completely stopped on the castle and it was recognised as being one of the biggest and most impressive buildings in Eastern Europe.

The 16th century did not bring any improvements to the castle, but during the 17th century new additions were made, for aesthetic and military purposes. Aesthetically, the new Large Palace was built facing the town. A two level building, it hosted living chamber and a large living area. For military purposes, two new towers were constructed: the White Tower and the Artillery Tower. Also, the external yard was added, used for administration and storage.


Legends of the Castle

The Raven and the Ring – how it became the family crest

Legend says that John Hunyadi was the barticle-title-895976fb2e8f-333-198-1-85-jpgastard child of King Sigismund de Luxembourg with a beautiful Transylvanian commoner names Elizabeth. As the king loved her dearly and did not want to shame her or her family, he decided to marry her with one of his knights Voicu. The king gave Elizabeth a ring and asked for his son to wear it when he would be older. Years passed and 14 year old John received his ring, one day when he was washing his face in the river he took the ring of and put it next to him. A raven attracted by the shine of the stones, stole the ring from the grass. John quickly lifted his bow and arrow shutting the raven down and getting his beloved ring back.

When the king heard of this great story he decided that their family crest would be the Raven with a ring in his beak.


The Fountain

The fountain that can be found in the castle’s courtyard was dug by three turkish prisoners that John captured during a battle. They were promised freedom if they would dig a well so that the castle would have drinking water. The prisoners animated by the promise of freedom worked day and night for 15 years, digging in the hard rock to obtain water. The well was completed after John’s death and his wife decided not to honor the promise made to the three prisoners. They were so upset they carved on the inside shaft of the well: ‘Water you have but you don’t have a heart’.


Fun fact! One of the coolest places in the castle is the dungeon or torture chamber, where they have these very realistic prisoners. Be careful not to miss it as it is divided in two parts, when you enter the courtyard immediately to the left and to the right.


Prejmer Fortress – Practical Information:

VISITING HOURS: 01.10.2016-31.03.2017

Mondays: 12:00 – 17:00*
Tue – Sun: 09:00 -17:00*
*Last entrance is 45 minutes before closing time (16:15)

Winter Holidays Schedule 2016

30 Nov 2016 –  09:00-17:00*

01 Dec 2016 –  09:00-17:00*

24 Dec 2016 –   10:00-14:00*

25 Dec 2016 –   Closed

26 Dec 2016 –   10:00-17:00*

31 Dec 2016 –   10:00-14:00*

01 Ian 2017 –    Closed

*Last entrance is 45 minutes before closing time


Jan, Feb, Nov, Dec – 20 Lei
Mar, Apr, Sep, Oct – 25 lei
Mai, Jun, Jul, Aug – 30 Lei
Pupils– 5 Lei (based on student ID)
Student – 5 Lei (based on student ID)
Pensioners – 10 Lei (+65 years)
Photo fee – 5 Lei
Video fee – 15 Lei
Guide fee – 30 Lei Romanian, 50 lei Foreign language

Fees for organized groups:
Minimum 30 persons;
Jan, Feb, Nov, Dec – 15 Lei
Mar, Apr, Sep, Oct – 20 lei
Mai, Jun, Jul, Aug – 25 Lei
Pensioners – 8 lei/pers.
– Pupils/students – 4 lei/pers.

Tourist Info Center Hunedoara
Tel/Fax +40.354.880.011

Getting there:

Address: Strada Castelului 1-3, Hunedoara 331141, Romania. See map HERE

Tel: +40 786 048 718

Email: contact@castelulcorvinilor.ro

Here you can find information about trains: http://www.cfrcalatori.ro/

Here you can find information about bus schedules: http://www.autogari.ro/


By Guided Tour from Bucharest (Licensed guide/driver & transportation)





Prejmer Fortified Church

Prejmer Fortified Church

Prejmer Fortified Church is one of my personal favorite fortresses that really makes the past and turbulent history come to life. Only being there inside the fortress, inside the defense corridors, you can catch a glimpse of the gone by eras when every day was a battle for survival.

You might be thinking of what a fortified church means, well the villagers needed a place to hide when their village was under attack so they built a wall around their church, this way they were protecting their religions space and  their own lives. They built almost 300 storage rooms on three or four levels, on the interior side of the wall, in order to keep supplies for times of siege. The fortress-church withheld 50 attacks throughout it’s history without getting conquered. This is an amazing achievement considering it was the peasant’s defense system.

Prejmer Fortified Church

The Evangelical Church and the Peasant Fortress built around it, have been included in the UNESCO World Heritage Sites in 1999. The church was built by Teutonic Nights during the 13th century and fortification around was done by the German colonists living in the area, during the 15th century.

Prejmer Fortified Church

The walls are 12 meters high (39 feet) and 3-5 meters thick (10-16 feet) and they create two defense lines, the gate area and central area built around the church. Having a ring shape, it has a diameter of 80 meters (263 feet) and the defese corridor found at the top of the walls was used by the men to shoot and pour hot tar and boiling oils on the enemies trying to protect their families. The corridor is dark and kind of spooky (btw: I totally love it 😉 and it has small opening to allow the use of weapons.

If you walk all around the defense corridor you will encounter one special opening created to hold multiple gun barrels on both sides, it is called the Organ of Death and it was invented by the locals to shoot multiple times at once and do it continuously, causing the enemy great loss and spreading fear.

Do visit this place if you have the chance, you will love it!

Prejmer Fortress – Practical Information:



Summer Season (01 May – 31 October)

Monday – Friday: 09.00 – 18.00

Saturday: 09.00 – 17.00

Sunday: 11.00 – 17.00

Winter Season (01 November – 30 April)

Monday – Saturday: 09.00 – 16.00

Sunday: 11.00 – 16.00


Adults: 8 LEI 

Children/Students: 4 LEI


Getting there:

Address: 2 Str. Pietei (town center), Prejmer village, Brasov county. See map HERE

Tel: (+4) 0268 36 20 52

There are six trains a day from Brasov to Prejmer (take any train heading for Intorsura Buzaului), the journey taking just 20 minutes. A taxi from Brasov to Prejmer costs approx. 50 lei. Prejmer is also served by minibuses from Autogara Vest (at the far end of Strada Lunga): all minibuses to Sfantu Gheorghe pass through here.

Here you can find information about trains: http://www.cfrcalatori.ro/

Here you can find information about bus schedules: http://www.autogari.ro/


By Guided Tour from Bucharest (Licensed guide/driver & transportation)

UnzipRomania Travel UnzipRomania Travel




9 Dracula sites to Visit in Romania

9 Dracula sites to Visit in Romania

Vlad III the Impaler Dracula, it is quite a name and a legend to live up to. Although it is true that myth and history blend to create the portrait of this infamous prince, we cannot take away the fact that Romanians consider him a hero and the entire world knows of him, one way or another.

Why a hero you might be wondering, well because he was not killing for fame or richness, he was killing to protect his people and his religion. Although somewhat controversial, he is not the worse in history, remember Atilla the Hun, Genghis Khan, Ivan the IV of Russia and the list could go on. He was not special in his ways of battle, that is Hara principatelor romanesti sub Mihai Viteazul 1600how the entire world was like, he was special in his purpose: protecting the Romanians (Wallahs) and their land of being torn apart.

FYI. During his time Romania was divided in three little countries (principalities) that were administrated separately but they all had Romanians on their territories. Although Vlad was born in Transylvania, his family came from Wallachia and this is the territory that he rulled.

Only God and those who lived in those times know the truth. We can only hope that what historians, scribes and story tellers recorded was the truth. 

Neagu Djuvara, Historian

List of sites related to Vlad Dracula that can be visited in Romania:

1.Bucharest Princely Court. 557 years ago Vlad the Impaler founded the fortress of Bucharest in his quest of defeating the Ottoman Turks. Vlad was ruling his country Wallachia which had a direct border with the Turkish Empire, the Danube. Being in need for a nearby fortress to serve for retreat and protection he decided this place should be Bucharest and we all appreciate it very much 🙂

The ruins of Vlad’s fortress were revealed in 1972 by Romanian archaeologists exactly in the heart of Bucharest, the Old Town. Being so conveniently located don’t hesitate to wander on French Street (Strada Franceza) to sneak a peak. You can also visit the neighboring church called the Princely Church where the rulers of Wallachia were being crowned.

Vlad the Impaler court Bucharest
Bucharest Princely Court

2.Targoviste Princely Court. The town of Targoviste was the medieval capital of Wallachia, a location where Vlad ruled following his father and grandfather. It is said to be the first place where Vlad used his trademark torture – the impalement – trying to bring justice after a group of noblemen murdered his father and brother in an attempt to overtake the throne. You can visit here the ruins of Vlad’s mansion, the Great Church which is an exquisite Romanian architectural site decorated with valuable frescoes dating the 16th century, Chindia tower used for defense and also treasury. Do climb the tower which has at each floor an exhibition about Vlad’s journey though life and enjoy a wonderful view of the town from the top.

Targoviste Princely Court
Targoviste Princely Court

3.Poienari Fortress. This amazing stronghold located in the mountains has saved Vlad’s life numerous times. Climb the 1480 steps to explore the fortress while enjoying a spectacular scenery of the Carpathians. Don’t be afraid of the impalees hanging at the entrance or the torture area on the right side, they are just props meant to show a little insight into those crazy medieval days.

Poienari Fortress
Poienari Fortress

4.Replica of Poienari Fortress to be found in Carol Park, Bucharest. Called the Castle of the Impaler (Castelul lui Tepes) this fortress was built in 1906 by Kind Carol I, to celebrate the 40th year of being on the throne of Romania. The architects studied the ruins of the real fortress and this is how they imagined it during it’s glory days. Sadly this site is open for visiting only twice per year: on May 25th for Heroes Day and October 25th for Army Day.

Poienari Fortress, Bucharest
Poienari Fortress, Bucharest

5.Snagov Monastery. This little monastery located on an island in the middle of Snagov lake holds the tomb of Vlad the Impaler. The tiny stone church has  a great history and fabulous Orthodox frescoes are definitely worth a visit. Legend says that Vlad was beheaded in the woods around Bucharest when fighting the Turks. The enemies took the head as a war trophy, after the battle the monks brought his body to the monastery to be buried and finally find peace.

Snagov Monastery
Snagov Monastery

6.Bran Castle aka Dracula’s Castle. Although Vlad never lived in this castle, there is a small connection between the price and this great medieval dwelling: Vlad’s grandfather was castellan of Bran, which was a great honor for the Wallachian ruler. Secondly it is said that Vlad spent a few nights in the castle when fighting the Germans and Hungarians in Transylvania, trying to liberate the territory of foreign control. For the legend or for the history do not miss this castle. Read more HERE

7.Huniady Castle. Another fantastic medieval Transylvanian dwelling that I definitely recommend visiting. Legend says that Vlad the Impaler was imprisoned in the dungeons of this castle after being accused of treason by Matthias Corvinus, King of Hungary.

8.House of Dracula in Sighisoara. Sighisoara is the most medieval town in Transylvania with narrow cobblestone streets and colorful houses, with defense towers and stone walls that make you feel like a time traveler to the 1500. The town is divided in two, lower town with buildings dating the 18th and 19th century and the upper town, the former medieval citadel that is a splendid UNESCO site and gives you a chance to see how people were living in the middle ages between the protective walls of a fortress. Sighisoara is the birth place of Vlad, you can visit the yellow house where he was born in 1431 and where he lived with his family until the age of 4, when his father became ruler of Wallachia and moved to the capital of Targoviste.

House of Dracula, Sighisoara
House of Dracula, Sighisoara

9.Brasov. Vlad lived for some time in Brasov, apparently for economical and political reasons and also to keep an eye on Dan, a pretender to the throne of Wallachia, member of noble family and rival to Vlad. Read more about visiting Brasov HERE

2014-10-19 16.41.28

Mistress of Dracula – Katharina of Brasov

Katharina and Vlad the Impaler
Katharina and Vlad the Impaler

It was Christmas Eve 1455 in the Transylvanian city of Brasov or Kronstadt / Corona as it was called in those days. It was snowing heavily! A few young girls were trying to pull uphill, in the snow, a big sled filled with supplies for the soldiers in the Weavers Bastion. The bastion was located near the house of Vlad the Impaler, who was at that time military governor of Brasov. Being with his officers on the hill, Vlad jumped to help. The gallantry of the prince seemed strange for everybody around, until they noticed he could not take his eyes off the blue-eyed blonde little lady.
Khatarina was the daughter of the Weaver’s guild leader in Brasov. Her relationship with the prince lasted 20 years and resulted in five children: Vladislav (1456), Catherine (1459), Christian (1461), Hanna (1463) and Sigismund (1468). The cruel ruler overwhelmed his young mistress with great tenderness, during the 20 years, she was the only woman for whom he asked the high priest to allow him to get a divorce.

Love story in the Tartler house
When she met the prince, Katharina was 17 and he was 34. She was educated in a Franciscan Monastery and lived her with her father Thomas Siegel and mother Susanna Fronius in the house called Tartler. The building still exists today and can be seen at Str. Poarta Schei No. 14.

Vlad the Impaler often visited Katharina at her house, where she spent most of her time weaving in a room downstairs. Vlad gifter her with the most beautiful dresses of silk and lace from Venice and Flanders.

Until meeting Katharina, Vlad had many loves, including Ursulla from Schassburg / Sighisoara, Erika from Bistrita and Lize from Hermannstad / Sibiu. These affairs of the prince created discontent among the Saxon guilds, families wanting to marry their daughters with someone from their community. Vlad was careful to marry or get engagements for all his mistresses, except Katharina. He could not bear the thought of sharing her with someone else.

The Transylvanian Chronicle from the 18th century tells that the romance of Prince Vlad, military governor, Duke of Fagaras and Amlas with Katharina created great revolt among pretenders to the girl’s hand, three of them coming from rich families of the Saxon community. It is said that his love for Katharina sparked violent crisis: sword throwing, kicking things around or taking revenge on those who were around. The prince’s scenes of jealousy terrified the city of Brasov and during one of them he even wounded a priest.

Bartholomew Massacre and the Golden LocksVlad-The-Impaler-dracula-untold-37680708-854-347

On 2 April 1459 upset with the high taxes imposed by the Saxons in Brasov and their intrigues around the country, Vlad destroyed all their corn crops. He trapped hundreds of townsmen and merchants coming into the city with goods, took near the city slums, in the neighborhood of Bartholomew and started impaling them one by one.

During the Bartholomew massacre, Vlad received the news that the merchants wives had attacked Katharina’s house. They beat her, tied her to the pillory in the Square and cut her long golden locks. Because they cut her locks, the prince threatened to burn entire city. In order to save his beloved, Vlad, freed the other Saxons who were to be killed in Bartholomew.reportaj-katharina-din-schei-marea-iubire-a-lui-vlad-tepes-0
Legend has it that Vlad was able to recover one of the braids of Katharina and then kept it almost religiously. One day surprised that his wife opened the closet where he kept the locks as a sacred object, he became very angry and mistreated her. Vlad the Impaler wanted to take Katharina as his wife, but religion did not allow divorce, even though he had more children with his mistress than with his own wife. He often wrote to the Patriarch and even to Pope Pius II, asking him for a letter of indulgence to have his marriage with Anastasia Holszanska (granddaughter of Queen of Poland) annulled, but he never received approval.
After the death of the prince, Katharina, at the age of 39, returned to the monastery where she was educated as a child. Of the 20 years of love, the only witness that still stands today is the house at Str. Poarta Schei No. 14.

Beautiful Katharina was the only woman who managed to tame the heart of this cruel and feared ruler.

Dracula – The Romanian!

Romania’s national heroVlad-Tepes

When we think of Dracula we almost always think about the made up character, the bloody vampire that always makes a good Halloween story for the kids. But have you ever thought about a brave man, a fighter for Christianity and for the continuity of his nation?

Oh, the legendary count Dracula, the fierce vampire from Transylvania with his sparkly sharp teeth and white pale skin. What if I told you he was not a vampire but a great warrior, not a monster but a hero for his people, the Romanians?

When we think of Dracula we almost always think about the made up character, the bloody vampire that always makes a good Halloween story for the kids. But have you ever thought about a brave man, a fighter for Christianity and for the continuity of his nation?

He is one of Romania’s national heroes, one of the rulers who believed we were worth fighting for and who never chose the easy way to save his own skin at the expense of the masses. He fought together with his grandfather Mircea the Elder, with his cousin Stephan the Great (Stefan cel Mare), with other rulers as Mihai the Brave (Mihai Viteazul), Alexandru the Good, Petru Rares, Iancu of Hunedoara (John Hunyadi) to free the Romanian people, to give them rights, to make them good and honest people.

Throughout this blog I will tell you the story of his life, the battles he fought both with other people and also with himself because even if he was not a demon, he did have his demons. I will also give you scary facts, funny tales, amazing happenings and breathtaking events.

You may wonder why I wrote this article. Well, I sort of feel the need to protect him, to clear his name if I may call it that. I need to speak in his name and tell you this: ‘I am not and never was a monster. I did not enjoy bringing death to others. I only did what I had to do to protect my people and my religion, even if that meant protecting the people from themselves and giving up my religion so that my descendants would freely practice it.’

Do not worry, I never ‘saw’ him and he never ‘spoke’ to me :D. I just feel that on an international level his reputation is stained and that people know the fantasy but don’t know the truth. The real Dracula, the Romanian prince is far more fascinating because he was not a living dead, he did not have superhuman powers and he still managed to become renowned all around the world and to bring fear into the souls of his enemies.

When you are feared and demand for respect, not many will like you, they would hate the power you have over them and try to replace you with someone that can be bought, controlled and easily manipulated. If you are such a force of nature people will gossip, will invent stories about you and will try to make a fool out of you, kind of what happens to celebrities nowadays. People invent stories about them, some very crazy and whimsical, in order to get revenge, public recognition and diminish the power of an individual by publicly humiliating them.

Stand beside me in my mission of protecting Dracula’s reputation (as crazy as that may sound). Join me on a life changing experience, full of unexpected, silly, funny and also creepy events following in the steps of Vlad Dracula  – The Romanian!

Brasov – touristic capital of Transylvania

My dear Brasov, I probably see this town as often as I see my home town Bucharest and I still love it, still like spending my afternoons guiding tourists on it’s old narrow streets painted with color and architectural flavor by spectacular houses from centuries ago.

Why I love it? – you might be wondering, well beside the obvious reasons: great historical value, architecture etc., I love it because it is alive and it makes me happy to be there every time. I enjoy seeing the locals filling the town square with their laughter and energy, I love their seasonal fairs selling anything from home made cakes and jams to jewelry or books. I like having a latte and doing some people watching in between the medieval buildings that give it a special feeling and it’s very interesting how in this town the cafes have outdoor seating even in winter time.

I love the warmth of the people always greeting you with a smile, I really like the food and restaurants in Brasov (found a few gems that I will definitely share with you later on) and last but not least I love the legends that have always made the history of this place come alive in my mind like no other.

What to see in Brasov?

First wander around Council Square just admiring the architecture, make sure you don’t miss the historical Catherine’s Gate, Rope street – one of the narrowest streets in Europe.

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Catherine's Gate Brasov
Catherine’s Gate Brasov

Afterwards pop inside the 15th century Black Church, largest Gothic church in between Saint Sofia in Istanbul and Saint Stephan’s Dome in Vienna.

Black Church Brasov
Black Church Brasov

If you are up for a little hiking and if you like photographing a town from higher grounds go up to the Black Tower for an incredible view over the historical center, the Black church and surrounding area.

 View of Brasov from the Black Tower
View of Brasov from the Black Tower

After all the exploring a nice meal is deserved. Stop at Sergiana for a traditional Transylvanian meal, expect a lot of delicious pork dishes.

Cake and coffee and people watching is a must while in Brasov and German Bakery is the place where I always get my coffee and sugar fix.

Cafe in Brasov
Cafe in Brasov