I was about five days into my stay in Bucharest and I haven’t really done much of anything. I had an online gig and it had a project deadline, so I pretty much locked myself up at the Hub at the Little Bucharest hostel in Old Town.
What’s a hub? It’s a co-working space made for digital nomads where they can do their work away from the hustle and bustle of the city – Bucharest is one loud city (at least in my opinion).
There’s a constant distraction when you’re staying at a hostel where all the action is and you’re just not going to get any sleep. At 4 am in the morning and they’re still blasting that stupid Skrillex and Justin Beiber song next door. The only way you can really sleep is to drown yourself with enough alcohol.
Combine this with really interesting peeps you meet and you can hardly get anything done. I must have been putting in 12-14 hours a day doing work but could hardly make progress because of all the distractions.
On the fifth day, my brain was fried. I needed to get out of the city and maybe see the countryside, a castle, a cow in a skirt, a goat on a unicycle, a horse with no name, just anything to get my mind back on track. I’ve met two really cool hostel mates the night before, Christian from Germany and Mia (Mita) a Kiwi from London. They were going to check out Peleş Castle in Sinaia just an hour and a half away by train the next day. I was also invited so, I said screw you Justin Beiber for not allowing me a full night’s rest, I’m going to Peleş Castle even if you’re conspiring with Skrillex to mess with my sleep cycle!
I woke up the next morning without a Justin Beiber song stuck in my head, thank goodness! Christian and Mia were ready to go. We made our way into the subway and stopped by a really awesome pastry shop where they’re selling strudels and all sorts of other carbohydrate and sugary goodness whose names I can’t pronounce for around 2.5 RON (translation, really cheap!) – Like $.50 a pastry cheap. For a buck, you can have a hearty breakfast here!
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Alright back to the meat of this post. Wherever you are in Bucharest, you can take the Blue Line towards Victory Square and then take the red line to Gara de Nord. From there make your way towards the train station where various train companies are operating.
Technically, you can hop on a tour and see Bran Castle and Peleş Castle all in a day. There are various tour operators you can look up and hook up with and then be on your merry. If you’re really into dumping dollars on tours, I say go for it, but if you want to go at your own pace, I recommend you do Peleş in one day and Bran the next.
Why? Because there’s a really cool town called Brasov that you will definitely miss if you’re in peak bagging mentality. And did you know that Bran isn’t really the real Dracula castle? That title belongs to Poenari Castle where the real Dracula, Vlad the Impaler, resided. And besides, do you really want to miss out on all the cool history because you’re in such a rush to cross it off your list?
The train ride to Sinaia was pretty cool. There is a stark contrast between medieval structures and Soviet-era buildings that are readily apparent as I peeked outside of the train window. Sometimes, I’m thrown back into my childhood pretending I was Sir Lancelot on a quest to find the Holy Grail for King Arthur whenever I see green farmlands and old castle ruins in the countryside.
But I would relapse back into reality as Mia and Christian converse about the history and other things not useful to my fantasy as a knight in shining armor.
We arrived at the Sinaia station just short of an hour and a half. There were aggressive taxi hawkers just like in South America right outside. They’re urging us to get into one of their cars yelling that Peleş is really far and they’ll take us there faster than walking. Ridiculous! The town isn’t nearly the size of Donald Trump’s toupee! It’s really small and just a few small steps up the train station in front of you and you’re in the town square. Makes you wonder if these taxi drivers were Donald Trump supporters.
We meandered our way through a park, following directions, and eventually reached the Castle. It looked nothing the like the pictures, it turns out to be the sister castle Pelisor. Our astute companion, Christian, seemed like a fan of the academics and knows a thing or two about the history of the place. He says that Pelisor was built for the wife of the King.
I thought to myself. Wow, that’s freakin’ cool!
If I was that rich I would build hella castles for my wives (I mean wife). It wasn’t until after I saw a statue of the wife outside the main castle that things made a little more sense. Heck, I’d want to build her a castle too just so she can stay there and not with me at the main castle! Slick dude, this King. Alright, all jokes aside. The castle, which is more of a palace, is rich in history and never short on the visuals. It’s truly impressive!
Peleş castle was built by King Carol I, and during his reign, Romania gained independence. He visited the site in 1866 and fell in love with the spectacular mountain scenery. He then purchased 1,300 square kilometers of land close to the Piatra Arsă River and commissioned the development of a summer retreat on the land. The construction began around 1873 and they also built a local power plant for the castle’s use, making Peleş the world’s first castle powered by locally produced electricity.
Walking around the castle compound is practically free. But if you want to get inside and see the goods, that’s when they get ya. It’s 20 RON (5 bucks) if you want to go inside but it’s 50 RON if you also want to get to the top. All signs say go to the top because that’s where all the cool stuff is. Christian happens to have a student card with him so he only had to pay a measly 23 RON for both the bottom and top tour.
Here’s what I didn’t like: They wanted to charge me another 35 RON if I wanted to take pictures inside.
Pay to take pictures!?! Ridiculous. What exactly am I taking pictures of? Sports Illustrated swimsuit models? I am not going to pay money to take pictures of tin cans and kitchen utensils. That’s crazy!
I skipped taking pictures inside but the tour was worth it in the end. While there weren’t any swimsuit models in any of the rooms, they did have a secret door that leads to fancy toilets and a huge collection of medieval weapons and armor. Oh well, if there are no swimsuit models, I’ll settle for medieval armors and weapons. When a dude gets his fill with medieval armors and weapons, it’s game over.
But is the tour it worth it in the end? Yes. While there weren’t any swimsuit models in any of the rooms, they did have a secret door that leads to fancy toilets and a huge collection of medieval weapons and armor. Oh well, if there are no swimsuit models, I’ll settle for medieval armors and weapons. When a dude gets his fill with medieval armors and weapons, it’s game over.
After the tour, we wound our way to a little German restaurant around the corner. We were going to hit up the gondola and go the mountain but decided to have more brews and conversation instead. We made another pit stop on the way to the train station and made our way towards Bucharest but ended up on the wrong train. One of the train conductors told us to get off a few stops down and hop on the correct train.
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A few stops down we hopped off, confused as to which train to catch next, we asked another conductor and she told us he has to get back on the train that just dropped us off! We hopped back on the same train again and the conductor told us to pay the fare to Bucharest. It turned out we only bought a one-way ticket to Peleş! I swear we told the lady at the counter in the beginning that we wanted to buy round trip tickets. Well, I guess she didn’t want us back in Bucharest and honestly, I didn’t want to either.
- From Bucharest take the metro towards Gara de Nord. From the Blue line exit at the Victory Square the take the Red line towards Gara de Nord.
- Purchase a round-trip ticket at the train station. Make SURE and double check that it’s a round trip ticket or else what happened to us will happen to you.
- When you arrive at the station ignore all the taxi hawkers! Walk up the stairs directly in front of you and follow directions. You can’t really get lost in the place.
- You can enter the castle for 25 RON but if you also want to see the top, it’s $50 RON altogether. It’s worth it, IMO.
- You are not allowed to take pictures inside unless you pay another $35 RON photographer fee (ridiculous).
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