A jaunt through the mountains near Bran

During our recent visit to Bran Castle, we had a few spare hours that we chose to spend wandering through the mountains above Bran. We found a dirt road that wound its way up the mountains through a beautiful village called Sodohol and then entered into Bucegi National Park. We stumbled onto it by chance and followed it till we could go no further without damage to the underside of our car, so we parked it and walked. We had a wonderful time and I hope the photos you see here will show it. Some of them are high-resolution panoramas and one includes a view of Bran Castle from afar. Enjoy!

Țara lui Andrei at Bran Castle

This weekend, Ligia and I participated at an event called “Tabăra lui Andrei”, put together by the team at Țara lui Andrei. They organize these wonderful camps for underprivileged children every summer in the village of Bran, in order to provide training, employment opportunities and personal development courses for these children. Each camp lasts about a week, with teams of about 60 children brought in to learn how to grow into productive, well-balanced people who like what they do in life. They do miracles! Normally, you’d say you can’t do much with someone in a week, but you’d be surprised at the results they get!

This week’s camp was for chefs and waiters. At the end of the week, after a lot of on-the-job intensive training and motivational seminars, they organized, cooked and served a three-course meal to a group of Romanian celebrities, notables and government officials invited to attend the dinner party.

We, the dinner guests, were treated to a wonderful event and were blown away by the professionalism of these children of high-school age. The evening started with appetizers, continued with a private tour of Bran Castle and culminated with this special dinner, served in the newly opened Castle Tea House.

I’d like to take this opportunity to thank the good people at Țara lui Andrei for the amazing, life-changing work they’re doing and for the impact they have on the lives of these children who get to see life through a different lens, even if only for a little while, and then get employment opportunities and a chance at a better life. I’m so proud that this kind of work is going on in Romania!

I also made a video where I talked a little more about this, and there’s a photo gallery here as well.

Bran Castle up for sale

The UK Telegraph reports that Bran Castle, the temporary residence of Vlad Tepes (aka Vlad the Impaler and Dracula) is up for sale. Its current owner, a descendant of the von Hapsburg family, lives in the US and isn’t interested in keeping it. I remember visiting the castle in 1991, before I came to the States. It was still winter up there, and all of the rooms were freezing cold. Although the castle looks imposing from afar, the interior courtyard is smaller than you might imagine. That’s because the rooms and halls are built right into the walls, which are also very thick.

It’s all beautiful, very beautiful. The location is wonderful, and the building, although old and in need of restoration, is beautiful as well. The place has a melancholy feel about it that puts you in the mood to read old novels. I’d love to photograph it. Maybe I’ll get the chance to visit it once more sometime, and I’ll have a good camera with me. About 500-750 shots of the place would make me very happy.

Apparently the castle draws in about 450,000 visitors a year, so any potential owner would make back (in time) the hefty asking price of $78 million. But still, as a native Romanian, I have mixed feelings about seeing a piece of our history up for sale to anyone. [Found out about this via Neatorama]