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Calendar >  Last Part of Our Trip to Croatia/Slovenia

Last Part of Our Trip to Croatia/Slovenia

By   /  September 28, 2015  /  No Comments

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The Croatia/Slovenia portion of our trip is over. We boarded Air Serbia and took a short flight to  Belgrade Serbia then on to Bucharest. This city is steeped in history, a lot of it based on hard times. You can tell they have struggled to pull themselves out of desperate situations after their fight for freedom from Communist control. The buildings in the center city have a hard, imposing look to them.

Lots of grey stone color here. Many of the buildings have beautiful stone carvings on the facades. Also a typical European city with lots of parks and plazas. There is an Old Center a couple of blocks away from our hotel. A money change for us for a few days. Romania uses Ron or Lei. It runs about 4 lei to 1 US dollar. They have had some tourist issues they have worked hard to clean up. One was unscrupulous taxi drivers. You have to get taxi drivers only from the National taxi stands. Another was the unbelievable amount of stray dogs they had.

As of 2013 over 65,000 stray dogs were in the city. They have worked hard to correct this and we have seen only a few in town. The ones we saw in the country side were sheep working dogs. We had a couple of free days in the city prior to our river cruise so we ventured out on a small bus tour to see a couple of the featured sites in this area.

Our tour took us first to Peles castle (palace) in Sinaia, called the Pearl of the Carpathians. We drove for a couple of hours through the Carpathian mountains. Beautiful country side. Lots of farms and sheep. Sinaia has impressive homes along the hillsides, once the homes of Romanian aristocracy. Peles palace was the summer home of the first King of Romania, King Carol I, built between 1873 – 1914.

There are numerous terraces and statues in front of the massive Neo-Renaissance home. At the time it was buillt it was the 1st palace/castle to be completed powered with electricity. The palace covers 34,000 sq. feet and has 170 rooms. Due to time constraints we were able to only see the first floor of the four story home, but these rooms were magnificent. In the palace there are over 4,000 pieces of armor and weapons on display.

We left this area and drove to the town of Brasov to visit a small medieval church and for a bite to eat. Food was very good but they are in no hurry to serve you. Most of these countries take mid-day breaks that can last 2-4 hours.

We left Braov and drove a short while for the final stop – Bran castle, known as Dracula’s castle or the home of Vlad the Impaler. This castle is on the border of Transylvania and Wallachia. Romania was once divided into 10 regions. The small castle/fortress sits high on a rock about a small “touristy” town filled with souvenier shops. The castle was first built in 1377 as a defense against the Ottaman Empire. It has gone through many hands including Hungarian Kings and in the 1920’s finally taken over by the Romanians. Queen Marie lived in the castle in the 1920’s and her daughter, Princess Ileana lived there afterwards.

Today there is a lot of speculation as to who the castle belongs to Princess Ileana had three children that have some right to the castle, supposidly, but there is even an indication that Prince Charles, of England, has some claim to the castle. If he can prove ownership legally, he will inherit the castle. We were told the castle is for sale for $80 million . But, everyone comes to see this castle because of Vlad the Impaler, known around the world as Count Dracula.

The amazing thing is Vlad only stayed in this castle for three  months, his grandfather Vlad III lived here longer. Vlad the Impaler had two other homes around the area, Poienari Castle Fortress and Hunyad Castle. We didn’t have enough time to see these. Poienari is on top of the drive up the twisty Transfagarasan Highway, featured on the BBC show Top Gear. The name Draccula is part of the Vlad lineage, the house of Draculesti, which dates back through Vlad’s family history. His formal name is Vladislavs Dracula Wallachie Weywooden. His reference as The Impaler comes from a very brutal fighting technique as his armies conquered those they would fight, he would have those he was fighting impaled and lifted high above the ground for all to see. He felt this would drive fear into those he was fighting. His excessive cruelty led to victories over the Ottoman empire in a series of wars.

One story said his armies impaled 20,000 Turks after one victory.  As far as Romania is concerned, Vlad the Impaler is an important revered figure in their countries history. His link to vampires would come from a 1897 novel by Irish writer Bram Stoker. Stoker never visited Bran Castle and only read and heard about Vlad the Impaler. Initially his Gothic horror story was to be set at Mt. Izvorul Calimanuli, at 6,670 feet in the Transylvanian Alps, not in a castle. His main character had another name, not Dracula. But, he changed the name of the main character to Count Dracula and the rest is history. As fate would have it, even his death and burial is a mystery.

There are several stories of how he died and several possible burial sites for Vlad.  Now in the markets below the castle you can purchase t-shirts, shot glasses, coffee mugs, wine and a myriad other items, all with the name Vlad the Impaler or Dracula on them. Next up for us is a city tour of Bucharest then on to our river boat, MS Little Prince (MS Der Kleine Prinz), and the start of a trip down the Danube. On the city tour we will drive by the second largest building in the world, based on square footage, the Palace of Parliament. For those of you trivia buffs, the largest is …….. You tell me and I will let you know if you are right.

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  • Published: 9 years ago on September 28, 2015
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  • Last Modified: October 14, 2015 @ 9:34 am
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