Castle Bran, Transylvania - by Tom Fogarty

Tom’s Tourist Guide to Transylvania

I’ve never been much of a traveller; I never caught the travel bug when I was younger – mainly because I was either short of money, or short of time – never seeming to have much of both in tandem (which is still true to this day in fact). The biggest issue for me, however – the thing that has put me off more than anything else – is that travellers are always such massive, fucking dickheads.

Despite this, I have always tried to go abroad for a short trip at least once a year since I was about 21. I’ve been to some of the usual spots – Amsterdam, Paris, Barcelona etcetera – but in recent years, as I’ve got older, I have tried to go to slightly more interesting places. Along the way, I’ve visited Wat Bang Phra and The Killing Fields in Cambodia, crawled through the Cu Chi Tunnels and fired an AK-47 in Ho Chi Minh City – in addition to exploring Stasi Prison and the SS Museum in Berlin. My holiday destinations are often as morbid as my taste in films and books.

This month, I ticked Transylvania off my list – which has been an ambition for a long time, inspired by Bram Stoker’s Dracula novel and the old Hammer horror films that I enjoyed watching in my youth.

This region of Romania is actually massive (I’d expected it to be a small village) – but the scenery is exactly as you’d probably imagine it: dense, green forests, and looming, snow-covered mountains – with the odd scary castle scattered around the place. The people were friendly, but clearly mental, and you dice with death if you set foot inside one of their taxis. They offer plenty of guided tours – but fuck that – we opted instead to brave the public transport system unaided (and somehow managed to not get killed, robbed or raped!).

From my brief time spent there, Romania seems like a country of extreme contrasts; the girls are either young, dark-haired stunners with massive tits, or old fucking hags; the men are either shifty-looking gypsy types, or World Strongest Man contestants. Similarly everyone there either seems to live in a gingerbread house, or simply sleeps in a ditch with a bit of corrugated iron pulled over them for a roof. Nothing in between.

The differences in general day-to-day life can also be quite stark when compared to the UK. Take for example, disembarking from a train. In good old Blighty, we wait for the automatic train doors to open before leaving the station via the exits provided in a timely and (fairly) ordered manner. In Romania they spill out of the doors and windows (or any other available aperture of the carriage), before piling across the tracks, dragging their kids and shopping in tow. Barmy… but brilliant to watch!

We stayed in a town called Brasov, which is about 3 hours by train from Bucharest, and very nice it was too, featuring cobbled streets and higgledy-piggledy slate roofs like in the vampire flicks you see on telly. They even had a big “Brasov” sign on the side of the mountain to announce our arrival, much akin to the glamorous Hollywood Hills (where I have not been), or the seedy, sex-tourist beachfront of Pattaya (where I have been). I feel I should also mention the food here – which mainly consisted of meat, potatoes, cabbage and pickled things – which although looked disgusting, was actually delicious.

Whilst there we visited Bran castle, which was the inspiration for Dracula’s Castle, learnt a lot about Vlad the Impaler and listened to a lot of gypsy music. Perfect holiday really…