A Disastrous Day Trip to Dracula’s Castle, Romania
I decided to spend a few days in Bucharest, Romania, because it made the journey from Istanbul back to London much cheaper. I went there with no expectations and after spending a few hours in Bucharest, I had already decided it was dull. The walking tour I went on was so uninteresting that I didn’t even hang around til the end.
(Alright, so I found a couple of pretty spots, but trust me – overall, it’s dull!)
Pondering how to fill the next two days there, I decided a day trip was desperately needed. And what better day trip than a visit to Dracula’s castle, right?! Wrong.
I was informed by not one, but two hostel staff that the day trip just required a train to Brashov, then a bus to Bran, and if I fancied it, I’d probably have time to stop off in another town to see more castles. Oh, how wrong they were.
I set off at 9am, aiming for the 10am train from Gara Du Nord; the train station which, as it turns out, is half an hour out of the centre. I hopped on the metro and despite some unhelpful staff, managed to find the station by 9:45am. However…the 10am train was full! The next option was 12:15pm. Knowing that the train takes almost three hours, I was hesitant. I did some quick googling and found that I should (in theory) still be able to get to Bran by 3.45pm, giving me plenty of time to check out the castle and get myself back to Bucharest on the last train at 8.20pm. Again, wrong.
The train arrived around 3pm as promised. I asked a local which bus I needed to get to Bran and he pointed me towards the bus stop, telling me to get on the number 23. When I got on, I found that I’d need to change at the bus station. So I got off the bus when instructed and wandered around aimlessly searching for the bus stop. When I eventually got there, I was told the next bus was in 20 minutes; at 4pm. Doing the maths, I calculated that I would arrive in Bran at 4.45pm; not ideal, but still enough time to see the castle and get myself back.
Nope, wrong again.
Construction on the road meant that the bus didn’t arrive in Bran until 5:45pm.
I checked the return timetable and figured I’d have to get on the next bus, at 6:30, if I wanted to make it back to Bucharest that night.
So: 45 minutes to see the castle.
Five minutes walking to the castle and a five minute queue to get in meant that in reality I had just over half an hour.
Now, don’t get me wrong: the castle was beautiful, and probably full of fascinating history. However, did I have time to read the signs? No. So, sadly, I can’t tell you much about the importance of this castle except that Vlad Dracula, upon whom Bram Stoker’s character Count Dracula was based, once debatably lived there.
There seemed to be about a million people in the castle at the time, and it’s a one-way passage, so trying to rush through it was a bit of a nightmare.
Before I knew it, I was back at the bus stop. Of course, the bus was late but magically, we made it back to Brasov in about an hour. However, the connecting bus I needed never seemed to turn up.
A local guy was also trying to get to the bus station, and notably stressed about getting there in time. After much deliberation, he disappeared and reappeared a few minutes later in a cab, telling me to hop in. Sure, why not?
We got there in record time and he refused to let me pay for any of it. What a gem! See, Romania’s not all bad.
This got me to the train station with fifteen minutes to spare – enough time to get a greasy take away dinner!
Of course, then the train was super late and the temperature dropped to about ten degrees, so I was left shivering in my shorts and t shirt for almost an hour before it arrived.
I finally made it back to the train station in Bucharest in the middle of the night, only to discover that the metro was closed. I didn’t have enough money for a taxi, so the driver offered to take me to an ATM on the way. He ripped me right off when he restarted the meter at our little pit stop. But I was in no mood to argue. Bed was calling.
At last, I made it back to my hostel at about midnight.
So…a 15 hour day, to spend half an hour in a castle? Not entirely sure it was worth it.
Moral of the story: Romania sucks.
At least, that’s what I thought at the time.
In retrospect, I’ve decided that perhaps the real lesson to take away from the day is that sometimes a bit of research and planning is useful. Usually I love winging it, but sometimes (very occasionally) I realise I could benefit from some planning. If I’d done my research on Bucharest, perhaps I wouldn’t have bothered staying there; I could’ve stayed somewhere in the countryside instead. If I’d looked into the public transport, perhaps I’d have known how unreliable it is and hired a car instead.
Thanks to my disastrous day trip, I’ve figured out how I’d go about exploring Romania – should I ever choose to return. I’d hire a car and explore the countryside at my own pace. So there’s still a teeny tiny glimmer of hope for Romania yet.
Have you been to Romania? Perhaps your experience was more positive than mine? I’d love to hear your stories!