I woke up today at 08:30, showered, dressed, packed my bags, and got ready. I then ate a quick breakfast (a bowl of cinnamon flavored cereal with milk and a cup of coffee), stored my baggage (sans tripod and camera) in the luggage storage room at the hostel, and checked out. I then walked to the nearby bus stop and bought two bus tickets. Next, I took the number sixteen bus to the second bus station in Brasov. From there, I took the 11:00 bus to Bran Castle. The ride took forty minutes (through lovely Transylvanian country with mountains in the distance) and the bus station in Bran was right next to the castle. After exiting the bus, I immediately walked to the entrance to the castle grounds, bought my ticket, and walked inside. The castle was built in the Bran Pass (possibly on the same site the Teutonic Knights had built a citadel in the thirteenth-century AD to fortify the pass) to help defend the area from Ottoman aggression. I toured the castle, walking through each room, corridor, and stairwell open to the public; it was a nice castle that served as a royal residence in the twentieth-century AD (a favorite retreat for Queen Marie) and I liked the Victorian architecture that it had been remodeled in. After walking around the inside of the castle and its courtyard, I exited the fortress and walked around its gardens before I returned to the bus station at 13:15. It should be mentioned, that this castle is advertised as “Dracula’s Castle” under the false belief that it served as inspiration for Bram Stoker’s novel; however, the location of Dracula’s castle in the book was inspired by an empty mountain top (Mount Izvorul Călimanului) and there is no evidence Vlad III (or “the Impaler” – the inspiration for the Dracula character) ever stayed here; certainly it was under his kingdom at the time, but that is not sufficient enough reason to designate the castle as “Dracula’s Castle.” Anyway, almost immediately after arriving at the bus station, a bus destined for Râșnov arrived, and I got on. In about twenty minutes, I was driven to the town of Râșnov and then walked up to the citadel. I walked around the mound the citadel is on (counter-clockwise), following signs leading me to the top, but soon I grew weary of hiking on the road and followed a scant trail up the hillside, straight up to the citadel. Once at the top of the mound, I walked to the citadel’s entrance and bought my ticket. I then passed through the entrance, under Bathory Tower, and walked up to the Barbican (fortified gateway) that leads to the inner part of the citadel. Next, I walked up to the highest point in the citadel (where the Upper Fortress Chapel once stood) and surveyed the land (taking many pictures). Then, I explored the rest of the citadel (where many souvenir shops were, selling cool knight costumes, traditional clothing (which I would love to see worn by a model Romanian woman [NOTE: “model”]). After touring the entire citadel, I exited the complex and walked a short distance down the road before I noticed a trail through the woods. I followed the trail and it led me back in to the town of Râșnov. I walked to the bus stop and waited for a bus heading back to Brasov. After about twenty minutes, a bus came, and I took it back to the second bus station in Brasov. I then took the city bus back to the city center. From there, I walked to Republica Street and had a quick fix at the McDonald’s (a Big ‘n Tasty burger, French fries, and iced tea). After the meal, I returned to the hostel, grabbed my bags, and walked back out to the nearest bus stop, by the theater). I then took the number four bus to the railway station and bought a ticket to Bucharest. I then waited at the platform and boarded the train when it arrived (or, more precisely, after the train arrived and two cars were added on to it – my seat was in one of the additional train cars). The train departed at 18:08 and we rode through Transylvania, a truly beautiful piece of country and I enjoyed the landscape during the waning sunlight. After passing through Transylvania, we traveled through flatter territory and soon night fell. Eventually, we reached Bucharest at 20:55.
I exited the train and entered in to the station. I then figured out how to buy a train ticket to Belgrade for the seventeenth of April (this was annoying since all the older ladies working at the ticket counters and information desks kept directing me elsewhere, completely uninterested in helping me, trying to understand me, and awfully bitter as well – they are probably all upset that they aren’t making the same money they used to when they were younger and employed by “special” parlors). Once I finally got my tickets to Belgrade, I entered into the metro station and took the metro train to the city center, near the hostel I wished to stay at. When I finally reached the city center (after 22:00), I walked to the hostel, checked in, and then settled in. Soon, after arriving, I joined a fellow American (of Cuban descent whom had been traveling for three years now) and a New Zealander for a walk about in the city. We walked around the vicinity of the hostel and I was surprised to see all the “night clubs” and “massage parlors” here (it is more overt than in Thailand or Hong Kong), but there were also some legitimate night clubs and many dining options nearby. The other American and I bought some liquid refreshments at a nearby convenience store (I purchased water, a cherry and aloe drink, and a bottle of Romanian semi-dry white wine. Once back at the hostel, I went through my pictures, updated the website, and typed out today’s journal entry. After midnight, while watching Dean Martin’s Roast of Ronald Reagan, I opened the Romanian bottle of wine I had bought (a rare blend of Sauvignon Blanc, Chardonnay, and Pinot Grigio); it was a semi-dry wine that tasted of lemon, pineapple, grass, and flowers; it was alright, but a bit harsh to swallow. After the roast, at 02:00, I talked to an Iraqi man working in Norway and staying at the hostel (the second Iraqi I met in the former Bessarabia – the other being in Moldova – I wonder if there is some historic or economic relationship between the two regions). Finally, after finishing typing and finishing my wine, I went to sleep after 03:00.