So one of the moments I’ve always wanted to capture was our hike to the top of Poenari Castle, located in Curtea de Arges, Romania. We were doing a multi-day private tour of Transylvania and, although Poenari was being repaired, and there were a lot of stairs, and it wasn’t really a site most people wanted to go to (all things mentioned by our Mir Travel Agent), it was a place I really wanted to go to. I knew that, while we were in Transylvania, we’d hear Dracula-Dracula-Dracula, and I wanted to go to one place where he was legitimately Impaling in the way that only Vlad can.
Hence, Poenari Castle. Never served as inspiration for any Bram Stoker novels, but did help put the fear of Vlad into the Ottomans.
Also, not in Transylvania.
Our guide/driver/translator/guy who took us around Bucharest was named Claudiu, really nice guy but had an unfortunate stomach issue which kept him from eating the same, rich, delicious Romanian food that we ate. I definitely felt bad for the guy as I gorged myself on cheese-and-bacon covered polenta that night, but he seemed to be doing well with it.
Having our own car to get us around Transylvania was great, and I would recommend renting one if you have the means when you get there. Never a fan of big tour buses, always a fan of mobility, and a car here seems like the best bet.
So, before we get to the rest of the court, here’s the trip to the top of Poenari Castle! In Wallachia.
I should note one “character” that we left out of the Bitstrip, except I can’t for the life of me remember her name. Not just because it’s years later, but because I pretty much forgot it that day as well. She was a Canadian backpacker, making her way through Romania, and had done work as a refugee social worker in Hungary. So pretty tough. She was going to hitch and/or walk back into Curtea de Arges proper, which was a crapshoot in terms of getting a ride or a couple of hours in the blistering heat the other way. So, I asked Claudiu if it was okay and we managed to give her a ride to Curtea de Arges.
Good deed for the trip, done.
Curtea de Arges itself was the capital for the Wallachia region (Wallachia and Transylvania often get mixed up, and Vlad Tepes was in fact Wallachian and not Transylvanian, though Dracula was Transylvanian and, you know, fake). The town was a major power in the region until it decided to hand over a lot of its commerce to the Curtea de Arges Monastery (one of the main sites), which basically hamstrung the local government of any trading legitimacy and left it weak compared to regional rivals like Sibiu and Brasov (which will be the subject of future posts).
The town has a lot of neat little churches, but we focused our efforts on the big one, the Curtea de Arges Cathedral. Fantastically built, it houses the tombs of the Romanian royal couples and several other notable rulers as well.
I would almost call Curtea de Arges a necessary stop for any Romania “completists”. If you missed it, you might not regret it, but having been there myself, I’m very glad that I went. The Poenari hike was a lot of fun and the Princely Court itself was also pretty beautiful, and different than anything you’d see in the rest of Transylvania.
Which is not Wallachia.
But is coming up next!