Ever since Bram Stoker penned his influential piece of gothic horror fiction in 1897, the name Transylvania has been synonymous with the bloodthirsty count and his unholy machinations. Indeed, for much of the world, this historical district of Romania remains a place of mystery and intrigue; a haunted land of forbidding forests, menacing mountains, and villagers that hiss and recoil in horror whenever you mention your dinner host.
The reality, however, is that Transylvania is one of the friendliest and most welcoming places you’re ever likely to visit, and its spectacular medieval architecture and historical riches make it a must for your trip to Eastern Europe.
The region’s capital, Cluj-Napoca, is a bustling student town with no fewer than nine universities, which, as you can imagine, means that it has a vibrant nightlife with plenty of trendy bars and clubs where you can wet your whistle after a long day of exploring this charming city. (Be sure to try the local Ursus brew, but be forewarned: it’s got a bit of a sting in its tail).
Visit the Old Town, and you’ll find breath-taking Byzantine churches and cathedrals interspersed with cosy coffee shops and restaurants offering the region’s delectable cuisine. Magnificent spires punctuate streets lined with cafes and bistros and superimpose onto this modern cityscape a stark view of historical Cluj.
For those with a thirst (pardon the pun) for legend and lore, the one-time abode of notorious medieval ruler Vlad the Impaler (the name should tip you off as to why he was notorious) – long rumoured to have been the real-life inspiration for OG vampire Dracula – can be found at the auspicious Castle Bran, located in Brasov in the dark heart of the country. And, if bloodthirsty ghouls aren’t your thing, the Carpathian Mountain-ringed city of Brasov with its medieval Saxon walls and Baroque buildings still offer plenty of reasons to spend at least a day strolling the city’s colourful cobblestone streets.
The takeaway? If you’re looking for a travel destination that’s not only off the beaten track, but offers a delicious blend of culture, history and scenery – both natural and man-made – you should make a date with Transylvania right away.
Also, there’s an actual Hotel Transylvania: