Transylvania: Land of traditions, charm and untamed nature

Transylvania: Land of traditions, charm and untamed nature

by Jessica Zen
Stripes Europe

As the leaves turn vibrant hues of red, orange and gold and start crunching underfoot, a distinct nip creeps into the air indicating that fall has indeed arrived. For the ultimate fall getaway, consider visiting Transylvania, which translates to “on the other side of the woods.” With its Carpathian Mountains, thick forests, rich cultural history and authentic charm, this Romanian region is sure to keep you captivated for your entire stay.

Bran Castle, Bran

What better place to visit during the fall season to get in the Halloween frame of mind than Dracula’s very own castle? Bran Castle, perched high on a rock formation in the Carpathian Mountains, is surrounded by an aura of mystery. Irish author Bram Stoker certainly did his best to convince readers that this castle was inhabited by a vampire, even though he never once visited Transylvania. To keep the Halloween spirit alive, Bran Castle hosts a party that is sure to spook you until your arm hair stands on end! Nowadays the castle is a museum displaying art and furniture of former royal resident Queen Marie, not the home of the infamous Dracula.

Hoia Baciu Forest, Cluj County

For an even more eerie experience, take a guided tour through the haunted forest known as the Bermuda Triangle of Romania. The Hoia Baciu Forest is rumored to have strange energy readings, bizarre vegetation and paranormal activity. Entering this forest is perfect for anyone looking to be scared straight, whether by actual encounters or personal hype. Visitors are known to feel intense anxiety or like they are being watched by an unseen presence. Local legend is that those who enter may never return, and the brave souls who do enter and return have come to some sort of physical harm. One theory is that the forest is a gateway to another dimension. Try a tour at night and see for yourself, if you dare! Visit www.romanianfriend.com for more information.

Făgăraș Fortress, Făgăraș

If you would prefer to avoid potential ghost encounters, head to Făgăraș Fortress. This well preserved feudal castle was built in 1310 and is surrounded by a deep moat for protection. With three floors and five towers, this castle is truly a sight to behold. The inside is home to the Făgăraș County Museum, which displays Roman artifacts, medieval weapons, traditional folk crafts and a collection of icons painted on glass.

Transfagarasan Highway, southern Carpathian Mountains

Car enthusiasts will love the Transfagarasan Highway, a paved mountain road that snakes through the Carpathian Mountains for over 93 thrilling miles. This is Romania’s most famous and spectacular road, but it is only fully open from June to October.  Find yourself a sports car for this stretch of the road and see what that baby can do!

Balea Lake and Waterfall, Cârțișoara

At the top of the Transfagarasan Highway, often shrouded in mist, rests the magnificent natural wonder of Balea Lake. This glacier lake is carved into the rocks of the Făgăraș Mountains and is the starting point for several hiking trails. The Balea Waterfall is visible at the end of a breathtakingly beautiful hike that is 6.2 miles long. This area serves as the perfect stopping point along your journey.

The Merry Cemetery, Săpânța

 Best known for its colorful tombstones adorned with native paintings, the Merry Cemetery celebrates the lives of those who are laid to rest in this beautiful area. The paintings depict scenes from the lives of the deceased and represent the Dacian culture’s belief that death is to be celebrated, as it brings a better life for the immortal soul. While most gravestones feature the saying “Rest in Peace,” the crosses here sometimes have gruesome stories to tell or humorous anecdotes. Watch out for quips about mother-in-laws and paintings of people being run over by trucks at this truly unique cemetery.  

Alba Carolina Citadel, Alba Iulia

Romania’s largest citadel, shaped like a star, is so large that it has to be separated into six separate tours in order to be able to fully experience the vast history enclosed within its walls. At the center of this medieval citadel, you’ll find the Alba Carolina Fortress, which holds The Union Hall with the National Honour Gallery, The National History Museum of Unification, the Roman Catholic Cathedral and much more. This citadel is a great place to idly wander the streets and take in all the history this fascinating area has to offer.     

Travel Tips

  • The best airport to use is the Sibiu International Airport with direct flights from Memmingen, Munich, Nuremberg and Stuttgart airports.
  • The local currency is the leu or lei (singular). Credit cards are accepted at large hotels, car rentals companies and stores in large cities; however, outside of tourist areas cash is king.
  • For your electronic devices, you will need a standard European dual round-prong plug adaptor, as the local electrical current is 230 V.
  • Public restrooms may be subject to a fee and toilet paper often runs out. Carry a packet of tissues just in case. Restrooms for women will say Femei or Doamne and for men will say Bărbați or Domni. The best place to look for a restroom is at large hotels, department stores or fast-food restaurants.
  • Driving is on the right side of the road, but there are only three main freeways in Transylvania. The other roads are two-way, which means reaching your destination may take some time.

To get a true taste of local traditions and authentic Romanian culture, visit the alluring region of Transylvania. From vampire castles to bizarre cemeteries, this area of the world will leave you with a strong desire to return over and over again. The widespread agriculture will ensure that your food is about as fresh as it can be, and the pleasant locals are only too happy to speak about their traditions. Plan your trip to Transylvania now and expect to have one of the most exciting adventures ever in Europe!

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