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SinaiaWe traveled by private train from Constanta to Bucharest, a 4 hour ride. Then it was a 3 hour bus ride to Sinaia, our home for the next three days. Guest HouseSinaia is called the "Pearl of the Carpathians". It is a resort town in the mountains at about 4000 ft. offering spectacular scenery and a fascinating history. Sinaia was built by King Carol I in the 1800s and its early grandeur is still evident in the old houses that line its streets. While once belonging to courtly families seeking the king's favor, the houses are now rented out to tourists coming to hike, ski or breathe in the fresh mountain air. We were fortunate to be in Sinaia in the fall at the peak of the fall colors and to have some of the best weather on our whole trip.

La Brace RestaurantOur first night in town we took a taxi to a nice Italian Restaurant up on the hillside. We were going to walk but our guide told us that would be very dangerous due to the large population of black bears that roam the streets at night!

Bran (Dracula's)CastleThe next day we took an hour bus ride to visit Bran Castle in Transylvania. Vlad Dracula ruled in the 15th century and became known as Vlad the Impaler for his practice of impaling enemies of the kingdom. He is said to have been exiled at the castle for several years. Thus it is nicknamed Dracula's Castle. It was originally built as a fortress in 1377. In 1920, it was gifted to Queen Maria of Romania and it soon became her favorite residence. She renovated it for use as a summer home, painting the walls and adding carpet, art pieces and antique furnishings. The castle is four stories tall and is a maze of rooms and narrow spiral staircases. It is currently for sale for $140M. Outside the castle, vendors have set up a flea market, selling souvenirs and local handicrafts.

FarmhouseWe had lunch at a local restaurant and were given a demonstration of local handicrafts. We enjoyed the ride back to Sinaia, through beautiful forests and mountain scenery and past a gypsy village.

Pele CastleThe next day we visited Pele Castle which was the summer home of King Carl I. Set dramatically in the hills above Sinaia, this 160 room palace was built in Neo Renaissance style in 1914. This was probably the most beautiful of all the castles we visited on the trip, with its intricate wood carvings, beautiful furniture and paintings. Unfortunately we did not sign up to be able to take photos inside ($30 for a camera pass) so the interior shots are scans of postcards.

Brasov Old Town HallAfter touring the castle we visited the town of Brasov, the third largest city in Romania and full of buildings from the middle ages. We walked around the large pedestrian square and shopping street and visited the Black Church, so called because it was blackened during a fire in 1689. Originally built in 1477 as Roman Catholic, it is now a Lutheran church. The Old City Hall was initially built as a watchtower but turned into the city hall when it was renovated in 1420. It is now a museum.

Wine KegsIn the evening we opted for a visit to the Azuga Wine Cellars for a tour and dinner. They make Champaign the French way at the winery. I particularly enjoyed their white wine and their dessert wine which I bought a bottle of to bring home.

To see additional photos from our visit to Sinaia, Bran Castle, Pele Castle and Brasov, go to the Sinaia Photo Gallery.

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