Travel Bulletin - - CRUISE REPORT -

Few Euro­pean coun­tries con­jure the dark mys­tery that cloaks Ro­ma­nia, a na­tion rooted in folk­lore as the do­main of wolves, vam­pires and despots.

One word – Tran­syl­va­nia – evokes more im­agery for Ro­ma­nia than any num­ber of travel brochures. Its myr­iad cas­tles, me­dieval towns, Ro­man ru­ins and an­cient Saxon citadels make it one of the most fas­ci­nat­ing places in Europe, yet it’s the vivid im­agery of Bram Stoker’s novel Drac­ula that first comes to mind when any­one men­tions Ro­ma­nia’s most famous re­gion. Bor­dered by the jagged Carpathian Moun­tains and graced with spec­tac­u­lar nat­u­ral land­scapes, Tran­syl­va­nia is just one of sev­eral Ro­ma­nian dis­tricts earn­ing new lev­els of in­ter­est. Hav­ing seem­ingly missed much of the at­ten­tion won by other east­ern Euro­pean coun­tries in the post-com­mu­nist era, Ro­ma­nia has slowly come to earn a place in world tourism be­yond its Black Sea re­sorts. The boom in river cruis­ing has brought trav­ellers down the Danube from the west, ex­plor­ing sec­tions from the stun­ning Iron Gates gorge to the ex­pan­sive wet­lands and rich bio­di­ver­sity of the Danube delta. At the same time, coach tours weave their way from neigh­bour­ing coun­tries like Ser­bia and Bul­garia to visit land­marks like the dra­matic Pe­les Cas­tle. Even the once unloved cap­i­tal of Bucharest – long over­looked against coun­ter­parts like Prague and Bu­dapest – is earn­ing at­ten­tion for its grand boule­vards and belle époque ar­chi­tec­ture, in­stead of its no­to­ri­ous past as the seat of despotic Com­mu­nist leader Ni­co­lae Ceaus­escu. For lovers of wildlife, Ro­ma­nia of­fers per­haps the rich­est nat­u­ral en­vi­ron­ment in Europe, with its moun­tain­ous in­te­rior host­ing species of wolves, brown bears and lynx, long lost in other parts of the con­ti­nent. More re­cently, herds of Euro­pean bi­son have been seen graz­ing in for­est clear­ings af­ter their rein­tro­duc­tion to the south­ern Carpathi­ans. But at the heart of the coun­try there’s a land­mark that will al­ways hold an al­lure like none other in Ro­ma­nia - the fear­some Bran Cas­tle, loosely as­so­ci­ated with 15th cen­tury Prince Vlad “the im­paler” Tepes, said to have in­spired Stoker’s chill­ing vam­pire tale.

Bran Cas­tle

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