When the word Transylvania is mentioned it conjures up images of a mystic land steeped in history and legends, the home of Dracula, and it's this region that this unique Romanian short break gives a taster of. Transylvanian castles - Visit the opulent Peles and Pelisor Castles and the renowned Bran Castle Bear watching - In season see brown bears emerge from the thick forests at a local reserve Bucharest - Explore the capital city including the huge marbled interiors of the Palace of Parliament
Arrive in Bucharest, Romania's largest city that became its capital in 1832. It has gone through a period of urban renewal and modernisation and it is now a bustling city, at the centre of Romanian culture, art and media. There are no activities planned today, so you are free to arrive in Bucharest at any time. If you would like to receive a complimentary airport transfer today you need to arrive into Bucharest Henri Coanda International Airport (OTP), which is about 30 minutes' drive from the city centre. For those arriving on time our Leader plans to meet you in the hotel reception at 6pm and for those that wish, there is the chance to go out for dinner. Due to a number of flights arriving into Bucharest later in the evening, our welcome meeting will take place on the morning of day two. If you have free time on arrival then there's plenty to discover in the city's Old Town or there's a multitude of museums available to choose from including the National Art Gallery, National Museum of Romanian History, the Military Museum and the Peasant Museum, to name but a few.
After our Leader does an initial welcome meeting, we go on a city tour of Bucharest. A remarkable blend of turn of the century elegance and Communist excess can be observed through its architecture. Situated on the Danube Plain and set amid a series of lakes and spacious gardens, remnants of more gracious days still exist to charm the visitor. We visit many of the older parts of the city to see some of the buildings that earned it the reputation as the Paris of Eastern Europe and see the Palace of Parliament; the magnificent but blatantly excessive palace of ex-President Ceausescu. After our tour, we make our way to the observatory for bear watching. The Romanian bear population is one of the few strong and healthy populations remaining in Europe and the Carpathian Mountains are home to about 43% of all European bears (approximately 6,000 individuals). This region is therefore of key international importance in the conservation of brown bears and due to increasing human-bear interactions, it's also the focus of much research into the effective management of bears and their habitats. Bears may be active at any time of the day, but generally they forage in the morning and evening and rest in dense woodland cover by day. We try to spot these bears from a hide at dusk when they come out to feed. From here we drive to the Transylvanian village of Moieciu, where we stay in a local guesthouse for the next three nights. Please note, that the bear watching from the observatory may take place on day four depending on the local forestry department's advice. Also, since the Palace of Parliament in Bucharest is still an active government building that it might not always be open to visitors or possible for us to go inside. If this is the case then instead we will visit Sinaia Monastery on day three and the Rasnov Citadel on day four.
We start this morning with a walk in the Bucegi Mountains surrounding Moieciu. The surrounding forest and woodland are protected as a nature reserve. After our walk we drive to nearby Sinaia, known as the 'Pearl of the Carpathians' because of its stunning scenery. Our first port of call is the wonderful Peles Castle. Built for the imported Hohenzollern monarch Carol I, Peles resembles a Bavarian chateau and is richly decorated with stained glass, Persian carpets, Renaissance weapons, ebony and mother of pearl. Then we visit the adjacent Pelisor Castle, largely the creation of Queen Marie of Romania, with a fine Art Deco and Art Nouveau interior. We return to Moieciu this afternoon and there will be the opportunity for you to choose to spend more time bear watching at the observatory. A late dinner is included this evening at our guesthouse where we enjoy a traditional home cooked meal.
Today we visit the castle at Bran. The truth behind Dracula's Castle is even more fascinating than its myths. In the early 20th century it was the home of the remarkable British born Queen Marie of Romania, granddaughter of Queen Victoria. Vlad the Impaler, the infamous 15th century ruler of Wallachia, never actually lived here and Bram Stoker never came near Transylvania! Perched on a crag in a valley between two high mountain ranges, the castle controlled an international trade route, but is now a rural backwater. Exploring the village, the castle and the museum gives us a chance to unravel fact from fiction. Later this morning, we drive to the Medieval city of Brasov. Brasov is one of the most historic cities in Transylvania, and we spend the rest of the day exploring. The town is a gem of old buildings, cobbled streets and local atmosphere all clustered within the Medieval fortifications and overlooked by a magnificent 15th century Gothic cathedral. Founded by German settlers to protect the routes that made their way up to the high passes over the Carpathians, Brasov is an architectural delight. There are several churches dating from the 14th through to the 18th century and we shall include a visit to the Black Church as part of our tour. Later this afternoon you may like to visit one of the museums, the First Romanian School or Saint Nicolas Church in the Scheii area (the old Romanian district of Brasov). In the evening you have an option of returning to the observatory for more bear watching.
Departing Moieciu this morning we drive for around three hours to Bucharest Henri Coanda International Airport (OTP), where we will arrive at about 10.30am and this is where our trip ends. The earliest your flight can depart is 12.20pm. If your flight is departing later in the day then you may choose to return to Bucharest city centre to visit some of the historic buildings or museums. Alternatively, if you fancy a change of pace, there is always the possibility of some shopping. Since the 1990s brand names and high-end stores have been pushing their way into the Romanian market. From high fashion boutiques to art galleries, shopping in Bucharest can fit any taste or budget. Stroll down Boulevard Victoria from Piata Amzei to the National History Museum of Romania for the shops or visit one of the many shopping malls favoured by the local rich and famous. If you wish to be dropped off in the city centre rather than remaining at the airport then please discuss this with your Leader. You can be taken to our hotel in Bucharest where you can store your luggage. To get back to the airport you will need to take a public bus or taxi.
4 Break Fast(s) 1 Dinner(s)
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