Travel with me

Visiting Dracula’s Castle and the REAL fortress of Vlad the Impaler

One of the reasons why I started a blog is because I have so, so many wonderful traveling stories that I want to share! There are so many lovely places that are just waiting to be discovered . Some are famous, some are less famous, and some are completely unknown.

Today I am going to write about our trip at the Bran Castle. I think everyone heard about Vlad the Impaler, also known as Dracula (unless you were living under a rock all these time). We took so many photos that three entire days were needed just to sort them out and decide which ones to post here! Sure, I will not post every single secret and details about what’s inside the castle, a trace of mystery must remain, just to spark your curiosity.

The real Dracula’s Castle

I will not insist with any historical facts or fictions that revolves around the character Dracula and the place. However, I do believe that it is important for everyone to know that the Bran Castle has nothing to do with Vlad Tepes ! The Bran Castle never belonged to Vlad the Impaler! So why is the Bran Castle associated with Dracula? The only reason is because the castle resembles Bram Stoker’s descriptions . And people started to come here in waves from all over the world, so the locals turned the castle into an attraction for the tourists. So where is Vlad’s castle then? Vlad’s only castle is located at about 100 km southwest of Bran, a heavily fortified citadel , called the Poenari Castle. The Poenari Castle is also open for visits but the access is very difficult. One must climb no less than 1.480 stairs . Because of the difficult access and the misinformation, the Poenari Castle is a ruin , as of these days. Sad, isn’t it? But don’t let this piece of truth trick you into believing that Vlad the Impaler’s existence and all of his horrors are fake news too. He was real and cruel, all right.

So, to make myself clear – this post is about Dracula’s Castle, the fictional character , and not about the Castle of the voivod Vlad III Dracula.

The real Queen of the Bran castle

The Bran castle was a gift from the people of Brasov to Queen Marie of Romania, and later her daughter Ileana resided in this castle.

17th August 2019

The Bran Castle is located at about 30 km from Brasov, Romania. I didn’t knew how popular this place was until we got there. At 6 AM the locals were already starting to place their souvenirs and goods on the stands. The August sun was slowly rising but the morning was chill. Surprisingly by 7:30 AM the line was already forming. We drank a coffee at one of the pubs, stroll a bit through the stands, bought a few souvenirs and got in line .By 7 AM the place was already getting crowded.

All kinds of souvenirs : from magnets, postcards, t-shirts and mugs with Dracula to handcrafted pottery, jewelry, carved wooden statues and clothing items. And of course lots of local street food and drinks.

There was also a horror house for your entertainment. We didn’t got in as we were in a hurry to get in line. I think it is worth to mention that there were 3 kinds of tickets available for purchase at the entrance : the basic one (9 euro for adults), The Torture Chamber -where Vlad’s torture instruments are held, plus explanations in details of the instruments and torture methods (2 euros, no kids allowed) and The Time Tunnel ( 5 euros). So you pay 16 euros for the entire deal. The last two were optional but I strongly recommend you to buy all 3 tickets. Worth it.

The line was getting bigger and bigger.

The line in front of us.

And bigger!

The line behind us.

So many people from all over the world! I think I’ve heard all the languages available on this Earth in one day!

After almost 3 hours of waiting in line we were finally inside the castle.

Views from inside the castle

A fountain where people tend to throw in coins and make a wish.

The interior

The music Room and Library of Queen Marie of Romania
The living Room
The Living Room when Queen Marie was the owner of the castle. Before that this room was King Ferdinand I of Romania’s room.
The Armour Room
The Bidermaier Hall
Traditional gown that belonged to Princess Ileana of Romania
Gorgeous white gown that belonged to Princess Ileana of Romania
The Crown and rod of Ferdinand I of Romania

The Torture Chamber

The Torture Chamber all equipped . Vlad’s favorite method and instrument is also included here. Everything is here !! Think Fifty shades of Grey, medieval version.
We got out of the castle 4 hours later and yes, more people were in line, waiting for their turn to enter the castle.

The Time Tunnel

I will not post any photos from the tunnel , I don’t want to spoil things for everyone. But if you have a ticket you get to exit the castle through the Time Tunnel. It is an interactive tunnel with lots of surprises! I recommend you to take that exit….who knows? You might be lucky enough to meet the count himself! And the final stop – from the tunnel you enter the souvenir shop Oculus.

If you don’t have a ticket for the Time Tunnel you can still reach the Oculus gift shop from the back yard.

And yes, more people in line! Crazy, right?
Entrance to Oculus

The village

But , wait! There is more to visit! There is a small village right at the foot of the castle. You can’t really get inside the houses, the doors are locked but the windows were all open so the tourists can take a peek and photos.

Small picturesque houses filled with old rustic traditions and items that belonged to the local farmers.

I sadly I don’t have a clue what this monument is. I’m sure it represents something but there were no signs with information or anyone around that could enlighten us. But it was a blessing to take a break from all the fun and enjoy the warm sun! It is quite cold in the castle.

Stella Maris Chapel

About 1-2 km from the Bran Castle sits this beautiful chapel that was build for Queen Marie in 1929.

The heart of Queen Marie

And our final stop is this place above the hill, not far from the chapel.

In this marble coffin sat the heart of Queen Marie for 27 years after her death.The golden casket is no longer in this marble coffin . Now the heart can be found in the Royal Chapel at the Pelisor Castle.

The souvenirs

These are all the souvenirs I have left. The rest of them I gave them to friends and relatives. A book with all medieval castles and fortifications from Romania (11 euros) and a bat (11 euros) that I got from the inside the gift shop (Oculus). A bat was a must! Post cards and magnets (price range from 1 euro to 3 euros each) are from the outside stands.

I so wanted to get a fancy t-shirt or two , with Dracula, all kind of cool designs, but the prices were crazy! Here is a hint : t-shirt prices varies from 30 euros to 38 in Oculus, 21 euros outside at the stands and – if you’re willing to visit the Rasnov fortress, which is not too far- the exact same shirts , same prints, costs about 10 euros! And, no. I still didn’t got the t-shirt. Instead I drank a Turkish coffee and ate lots of yummies from the stands.

The conclusion

The Bran Castle surely improved a lot since my first visit back in 2001.

The bad

My lately routine

I don’t like to wash my laundry in public, but this is going on for a while… and after all the main reason why I write down is to let it out and maybe get some relief. About 4 months ago we came back home into our rented apartment and one night we woke up because of the horrible noise that was coming from the above apartment – the police and two of the neighbors were breaking down the door. When we first moved in here we were told that the below apartment and the above one are empty (the below one is for sale, and the above one is empty because the lady that lives there works abroad and rarely comes home). We lived in piece and quiet for almost two years, even if for the last year someone moved back in the above apartment – the daughter of the lady that works abroad.

The problem is that this girl (I think she is still underage, maybe 17 years old, or maybe she is a bit over the legal age, maybe she is 18 or 19) keeps bringing… interesting people into her apartment. But we had no real issues with her or them. That night , however, the police was called by the mom because apparently the girl “forgot” to whom she gave the key to the house. I’m not sure what the police was looking for , but they received the order from the mother to bring down the door and see if someone is inside. I was never interested on what the entire story was about…but I do believe that things were a bit serious because there were police men outside too, guarding the windows and making sure that whoever was in the apartment wouldn’t jump and escape from the 3rd floor. All I know is that the apartment was empty at that time. But we also know for sure that someone was in that apartment about 30 minutes before the police arrived, as we heard footsteps and the bathroom being used. The beauty of living in an old unit with thin walls.

Yes, she is a bit of a problematic kid. As far as I know her parents got divorced , her mom comes home once a year, and her dad lives in the next block but he just simply cannot control her. Basically she is free to do whatever she wants in the apartment, without many repercussions. Ever since that wonderful night , our young neighbor keeps blasting music after 11 PM until 1-2 AM or she starts at 1 AM until 3 AM. This has been going on for a while and it got me so exasperated. She has horrible music taste too. I’ve reached that level of stress where just hearing her turning on the portable speaker or hearing her footsteps makes me cringe .

And her and her boyfriend’s impertinence reached a point where last week they blasted that crappy music every night, 5 nights in a row and in the 6th they threw a party until past 5 AM. Which makes me wonder, because in this block there are mostly elders and respectful people , yet no one called the police or knocked at their door. So I called the landlord and complained about the problem. He promised to talk to her father and if things won’t settle down I should consider to call the police. And seems like he is aware that the above apartment is used for …different things when mom is not home. Well, thanks for letting us know….now.

Our landlord happens to be a locally well known political person so I was hoping to solve the problem as he doesn’t like losing money and at this point we are seriously considering to move! Because the only reason why we moved in this apartment in the first place was because we were promised peace and quiet! Well, that didn’t worked as planed. So the next day husband contacted her father via Facebook , who promised to talk to her mom and things will calm down. This week indeed things were quiet..until last night. To top it all, today someone knocked at my door and I saw that there was a girl, which I haven’t seen until today, and two guys. If I’m not mistaken one of them was my neighbor’s boyfriend…I might be wrong though. It’s hard to see clear through a peep whole. What got me off guard was that one of the guys was strategically sitting on the first step,facing my door, with his phone in his hands as he was ready to record me when I open the door. Obviously I did not got out, and yeah, our young neighbor was there too, hiding behind them and only stepped out into the light when she realize that I wasn’t home.

Am I just too paranoid because of the excessive stress? What are the chances to get ambushed , when everyone knows who is the real owner of the apartment? Understandably that they would get into a lot of trouble. They are not too far either. But now I’m living with more stress and fear than ever. Fear to leave the house for too many hours because the apartment might get vandalized . We don’t have much, but what we have are almost brand new and quite valuable. One of the machines that I was writing about in my previous post costs a small fortune…not that they would know the use of it or the real value. Stealing that would make us more harm than stealing our TV,laptop and other appliances.

I’m just fed up and very tired. Every night I’m stressed out of my mind, thinking if I’m able to get some sleep or be awaken up by the music at 1 AM. There. Now I have revealed one of the reason why I’m doing the graveyard shift for almost an entire year. Is it really that hard to respect some basic common sense rules? Why must I be forced to call the police or to try and contact her mother? Cause I’m still not sure if she got the message or not. All I know is that I’m so tired in some days and I’m not able to work and I’m way behind with the orders. I try to get myself back on tracks with my sleeping and eating habits. So far I’m doing OK on some levels….but the stress is the one that’s going to get me killed in the end. We know exactly what we want to achieve for the following year : get out of here and get out own house. Yes, house. I’d rather sleep in the woods in a tent then own an apartment. I don’t need it even if I receive it for free. And I give ourselves one year only to make our wish come true.


Creamy mashed cauliflower with chicken liver sauté (low carb/Keto friendly)

So I took the challenge until Christmas. Trying to also fix my poor eating habits too. Let’s see how this goes. Cauliflower and I aren’t really that good friends but for this challenge I must find better alternatives. Today I tried mashed cauliflower for the first time and I love it! If you’re missing mashed potatoes, definitely try switching to a healthier alternative : cauliflower.

I don’t have the exact quantities . I don’t really like sticking to quantities when I cook, unless there is a complicated recipe that needs to be strictly followed. I choose a small cauliflower, boiled or steam it until it is soft, drain, put it in a food processor or a blender, add butter ( 80% fat), cream cheese, salt, pepper. I also sprinkled a bit of hot paprika on top.

For the chicken liver saute (you can use pork liver instead) I used about 500 gr liver, one yellow bell pepper, one red bell pepper, one onion and a few minced garlic cloves, olive oil, salt, pepper. That’s it!

The bad

Apartment or a house

I grew up in a house and every since I moved into an apartment 3 years ago only made me realize how much I long for that silence, privacy and coziness that only a house can offer. To put it simple – I hate apartments! These tiny concrete boxes that don’t offer much of those feelings. It is not that I’m ungrateful for having a roof over my head, it’s just that living between 4 concrete walls is one of the reason why I got so distressed.

Whoever lives in an apartment or a flat knows very well what I’m talking about and I think one word perfectly sums it all up – neighbors. Sure, moving into an apartment was the best moment decision at that time and we both agreed that it is temporary. It works for a year , maybe two, but no more.

Those who never had the chance to live in a house will never understand the freedom and happiness of it. When I moved out of my parent’s house my heart broke into pieces for leaving behind my gorgeous flower garden. Sure, I can and still go up to my parent’s house and take care of my plants, also all of our fruits and veggies come from there…but it is not the same as drinking your morning coffee in the garden or stay up late on the bench , watching the night sky. …the night sky….I remember the endless nights spend on the balcony , watching the moon and the stars.

One of the many things that I love about Scandinavians is that they seek isolated houses, far. far away from the majority. Those who seek to move far away from the cities, in the middle of nowhere or in villages with just 10-15 inhabitants ; those are my favorite.

So how much is too much? 4 years, maybe? 4 years. I don’t know how it will happen, but I’m making a promise to myself for next year that it will be our last year living in an apartment. I don’t have a clear plan on how it will happen, but I will give all my best and I’m usually very ambitious when my mind gets set on something.

I miss having my flowers, I miss gardening, yes I miss digging my hands in soil! I don’t need a big house, it can be half the size that the one that I grew up in. I need it small but very put together and cozy. I also wish to have few animals around the house. Growing up I was always surrounded by animals. My grandparents and parents always use to keep few animals , like pigs, hens , ducks. Two years ago my parents even had a small farm of rabbits! I miss that! Can’t really say that I grew up in a rural side of the country, but all I know is that I’ve studied in big cities and hated it. Big city life is simply not for me and I’ll take a small house ,somewhere far away, at any time.

In between

Taking risks

Have you ever came across a point in your life when you just wanted to make a big jump into the unknown? It happens to the best of us, like myself. I’m the kind of person who thinks 10 times- 20, if necessary – before making a final decision or before words are leaving my mouth . And even then I have doubts – that I should have thought about it a bit better. But for the last half a year I felt the need to just jump and see where I end. I don’t know what possessed me to just take a big risk for once and see what happens. Maybe I’m just driven by passion . Or maybe craziness do come with age. Or maybe fatigue caught up with me and I started to become numb and care less about the aftermath.

Sure, I continue to learn for the last 3 years or so , but I’m definitely not knowing everything about the domain that I decided to follow! I am perfectly capable of doing it manually, but on a mechanical level? Everything is computerized and is supposed to lower my working effort and give me some free time. but at this point it is only dragging me down and proved that once again I have a long road ahead of me.

It’s been a little over a year since I started to play with a project and in half a year it kind of got out of control and things expanded pretty fast. I’ve never expected to bring one of my passions to this level and I never expected to have so many people interested in my little hobby!

Husband was the only one who knew about it and the first to push me outside my comfort zone, as always. So I jumped. Do I regret it? No, I don’t regret for making the decision to bring this project to the next level , but I’m freaked out for my inability to assimilate all the information faster. Two weeks ago a small fortune was invested in these machines , that were supposed to make my days less miserable , and I can’t seem to be able to figure them out,

Only God knows how many hours I’ve been working, sometimes 24, sometimes over 30 without any sleep, educating myself, practicing, failing and re-starting all over again. A lot of sacrifices were made while I was slowly climbing the success ladder, mainly my health. I just can’t find the middle path, I’m always at the extremes . So what else did I managed to accomplish in this a little over a year? Somehow I managed to gain it’s trust and in the end became best friends with Insomnia. And Insomnia , being a bubbly and hyperactive friend, forced me to work for hours and sleep 3-4 hours per 24 for this entire year.

And of course, as it happens in real life, this best friend of yours also has a best friend, who isn’t necessary you – panic attacks! Oh, how bad things can turn for me when I’m sleep deprived for multiple nights in a row! I haven’t had them in few good years until I ruined my sleeping schedule. And here I am, face to face with my nemesis!

Panic attacks , disguised as something else, forced me to make a few nocturnal trips to the emergency room. And each time I was reassured that I’m not about to die, it is just in my head and I just need to rest. But how can I lay down and close my eyes when each time I was breathless and felt so much pain in my chest, knowing that my heart isn’t necessary working as it should be? At the emergency room I was told that I have intercostal neuralgia and that is what is setting up my panics . And of course the emergency room wasn’t enough so one morning I was desperately seeking to see a cardiologist . This was about 4 months ago. The cardiologist , before I even had my results, gave me the diagnostic that I’m into chronic fatigue and need to slow down. She was right. At least I know that my heart is keeping up with the effort and it isn’t failing me.

Seems like I have a damaged nerve in my spine because of the bad working posture. The lack of sleep and fatigue only adds pressure on it, which causes my neuralgia, which sets up my panic attacks, thinking that my heart is trying to shut me down. The panics makes me hyperventilate, which causes the muscles to contract , therefor my neuralgia pains gets worse and so does my panics. Now that I know what’s going on with me from a medical point of view it is much easier to communicate with my enemy . At least I got rid of the question that was killing me every night ” what’s going to be this time? A heart attack or a brain stroke?”. The answer is “none”. Just the panic attack having a party and waltzing with my damaged spine nerve ,on my self dug grave . I still receive a slap in the face now and then when I get frustrated and upset-my nemesis keeps reminding me of it’s presence , quietly watching me from the shadows.

For the last 2 weeks I’ve been trying to fix my sleeping problems. I’m in bed at 10 PM and I try not to find any excuses to stay awake past my bed time. My damaged spine nerve is causing me headaches in the back of my head each time I lay down and falling asleep is impossible most of the time. The pain stops and my head is clear as soon as I lift it up from the pillow. And of course my intercostal neuralgia is bothering me too in some nights. I’m pretty much learning how to sleep , what position to approach in order to keep my spine aligned correctly. Since a week ago I also started to practice stretching in the morning and especially before bed. The good news is that I fell better and the pain is bearable, enough so I can sleep over the entire night. The bad news is that I feel like I’m loosing my time with my new routine…I should be more productive. That’s how I function . The only reason why I force myself to make things right for my own good is, of course, my husband, who tries to put an end to my self destruction every time I’m off the tracks.

When I work, I work and I completely lose myself, especially if I love what I’m doing. From starving for days to not sleeping and staying locked in my working room for a long period of time. ” Slow down. Breathe. I’m here.” are the words that bring me to reality. I am so grateful for you, my love!

So did 2019 taught me something? Yes! Hard work makes good progress! The moment I feel a bit better I forget all the other lessons. I know I’m setting up a bad example here, but I’m sure that wise people understood and learned from this post what I keep forgetting. I will not disclose the project for now, if everything goes well it will be ready to run from next year. It all depends on me, really, and my ability to learn and work – and that’s driving me nuts. But at the same time I’m well aware that for now things need to slow down and I need to focus on my well being until next year. What I did realized is that this can’t continue as a one woman show, so from next year I will partner up with different people that will help me do the work faster. Often I bite more than I can chew.

Meanwhile, this kitty lives in our neighborhood and often greets me when I leave home early in the morning. I’m pretty sure she belongs to someone. She is clean, fat and looks as if she is being taken care of. I just had to include this picture in one of the posts.