It is already late. Bus from Bucharest stops near my hotel in Curtea de Arges – the tiny town in Transylvania, from where early tomorrow I will start my acquaintance with Vlad the Impaler.
I the morning I woke up very excited about my Transylvanian adventure. The place, where the bus stops to the direction of Poienari castle, was around 1 kilometer away. So I went out in the foggy morning and led myself on the street. Before coming there, I was quite sure that this place should look like a village. But it was more like a villagious town. You could find there quite many things, like, shops, various types of Romanian cafes and restaurants. Speaking about clothing shops, I counted so many of second-hand ones. As well Curtea de Arges has famous Cathedral. Those who are into churches probably should visit it.
Finally I reached the stop, waited a bit and the minibus to the direction of Arefu stopped. The farther we were going, the more everything was getting closer to a village-look-like. When we became nearer the point, I started guessing which will be the mountain, holding up the castle and having such a bloody history.
I heard that some buses can bring you to the Poienari castle, maybe if they don’t have any other passengers. When you are getting in, ask about it. “Ahhh, Dracula”,- with a smile answered my driver when I mentioned Poienari. But the bus was going straight to the main direction and stopped just for a moment at the crossroad before Arefu to let me out.
Secretly I was willing, that the bus will stop down the castle, because there’s around 1,5 km on foot till you reach stairs leading to the fortress. It is not about the distance. It is about possibility to meet stray dogs. I am not sure if I wanted to get this company with me. I even heard stories, that they were following people up to the castle, what is almost 1500 steps to climb. But if what – it needed to be a challenge to meet.
1480 steps – quite a climb
I got out from the minibus and started walking. I passed the Dracula hotel, which looked empty or even not working. After, the idea of trying the hitchhike popped into my head. This road is totally not busy, though I was lucky to stop the first car, which was passing. Some uniformed guys, who seemed like forest guardians, in a few moments took me to the place. On our way I did not see any stray dogs, and I even started believe them existing only in Internet comments but not in reality.
And the challenge of nearly 1500 steps started. After a few hundred of them I was already tired. When I reached the top, I was feeling like after running the marathon in the hot summer day, despite the fact that it was quite cold April. All the steps were quite steep and on the way everywhere around you could see only the forest. Forest full of strange noises and sounds. Of course I was not thinking about meeting the wild bear in the morning, because in Romanian forests there is very high concentration of them, living wild. But your imagination sometimes can get wild, even then when you know that you are all alone in this wilderness. Though only various birds and squirrels where to be seen. Before coming there I read a story how one journalist decided to make an experiment and stay at the Poienari fortress at night. He did that and afterwards wrote very precisely about the wild nature at nigh, bears, wolfs and other fauna, which closeness he experienced. And let’s not forget, again, the imagination, which starts playing, when you know the background of the story of the castle and Vlad Tepes.
When I finally got up on top the only person who I met was a man from the ticket point. And in the fortress I was all alone as well. The castle now is just broken walls. But it is just charming. And all the views around are really breathtaking as the fortress is totally on the high top. Everywhere around slopes are getting down and the views are opening an amazing panoramic of mountains and nature around. Only one mind in the head come, how did they build it here? So this is the castle where Vlad Tepes was really living. Living and enjoying his bloody passion to see others in blood and agony. History is speaking that to build up this castle was really complicated, but people doing that had no right to complain. Are you tired after working too many hours? Are you sick? Good, let’s cut your arm. Maybe it will help you to do work easier. Yes, due to stories Vlad was like that. Or even he could just push the person down from the mountain. As well he enjoyed watching people impaled on the slopes. That’s why today at the fortress are some impaled bloody figures, for trying to create touristy atmosphere.
Lack of touristic infrastructure
This place is definitely nice to visit, but the touristic infrastructure there is totally not existing. I am sure that it will come with time, but today this is really missing. This Fortress has a real history with Vlad the Impaler, not like the questionable Bran castle. However for visiting that, you need time and some planning. But why not to check the real life of Romanians while being a silent observer in villages, using local transport and traveling with locals?
The way down the castle sure was easier. In the area in total I met hitchhiked guys who took me there by car, ticket man, one couple who was on the way to visit Fortress, another old man, who I hitchhiked to come back to the bus stop, dozens of squirrels and birds, and totally no stray dogs. Oh, Vlad the Impaler, could you ever imagine this?
Happy about my first real Transylvanian visit, I came back to the Curtea de Arges, grabbed a bus to Bucharest, had always lovely Cappuccino in McDonald’s and got the train to Brasov – the next Dracula’s spot.