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While Hotel Transylvania lures in moviegoers at the box office, real-life Transylvania, Romania, beckons thrill-seekers on the hunt for former haunts of Vlad Dracula – the legendary, bloodthirsty, real-life prince who was born here, came to rule the neighboring province of Wallachia, and, while not a vampire, managed to gain immortality as the inspiration behind Bram Stoker’s Dracula character.
Recently back from a one-week driving tour through this fabled Romanian region, a cradle of superstition and dark tales, Transylvania’s real thrills ultimately came in the form of sharing the roads with maniacal drivers (we dubbed them “Romaniacs”), roaming farm animals and stuck-in-time horse carts, and packs of stray dogs (not quite werewolves, but we’ll take it), and less from hexing gypsies and blood-sucking vampires.
Still, tracking the trail of Count Dracula (aka Vlad Tepes, or Vlad the Impaler, known for his penchant for impaling unlucky enemies), was a worthy pre-Halloween mission, in a rare visit to a European country with a currency that doesn’t stick its fangs into your budget (a dollar buys a healthy 3.5 Romanian lei). The most diehard Dracula buffs should skip the gothic Bran Castle, heavily marketed as Dracula’s castle, but, while certainly historic and foreboding, bearing little in the way of authenticated historical ties to him. Instead, visit these two sites that are dripping in Dracula history (if not blood) – that is, if you dare: Read more
Bucharest might not garner the buzz of other burgeoning Eastern European cities, but look past the traffic-choked streets, swarms of stray dogs, and swindling taxi drivers, and Romania’s ripe-to-be-discovered capital city is rich with travelers’ treasure. A few days of exploration is certainly warranted in this budget-friendly hub, a perfect launching pad for trips deeper into the Romanian countryside, like legendary Transylvania.
While in Bucharest, be sure to check out relics from the nation’s Communist days, including ex-leader Nicolae Ceausescu’s behemoth Palace of Parliament (the second biggest building in the world, after the Pentagon); charming museums (we loved the Museum of the Romanian Peasant, revealing the art and culture of rural Romania); elegant architecture, airy plazas, and historic boulevards (read on for a just-for-ShermansTravel hotel steal, with a prime location on the 19th-century belle-époque Victoriei Avenue); and a refined musical scene brimming with ballet and opera (don’t miss a concert at the exquisite Romanian Athenaeum music hall – where tickets start from just $8). Plus, we’ve wrangled special savings on guided city tours with Romanian tour company Perfect Tour exclusively for ShermansTravel readers. Read more
Like many recent graduates, Katie Grott knew she wanted to travel after wrapping up her degree at NYU in May – after all, there’s only so much time to explore the world after a full-time gig kicks in. But instead of choosing a more traditional route, like touring Europe or backpacking around Southeast Asia, Grott put her master’s degree in social work to good use and volunteered at a hospital in Romania through a two-week Projects Abroad program.
As we wrap up our own voluntourism contest (we need 5,000 Facebook fans to send two generous travelers abroad – help us out!), we chatted with Grott about the challenges of volunteering across the globe and how even short, two-week contributions can impact communities worldwide.
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