GO ROMANIA: With Halloween upon us, Romania is a natural home for spooky adventures featuring witches from Wallachia, vampires from Transylvania and many terrifying things that go bump in the night, writes SEAN HILLEN
...THE MAIN ROUTE into the heart of Transylvania is through the Prahova valley, a ribbon of tarmacadam road that winds its way 170km northwards and upwards through the Carpathian Mountains to the olde worlde town of Brasov. It is probably the town most known to travellers to Romania, attracting many for skiing and hiking. A checkerboard of narrow cobblestone streets leads to and around an ornate central 14th-century Black Church in the old part of town, with a Buchholz organ of rare beauty inside.
Plenty of restaurants and cafes offer traditional repasts of polenta (cornmeal), ciorba de burta (pig belly soup) and mici (rolled grilled hamburgers), with a generous glass of potent palinka to wash it down (made mainly from plums, Romania’s equivalent of poteen, has a softer, sweeter taste). Outdoor activities take place mainly in Poina Brasov, a 20-minute car or bus drive up a steep mountain road with majestic views along the way.
A few kilometres away, Bran Castle, a bare, atmospheric medieval castle atop a knoll overlooking the road far below, is where most visitors end up when searching for vampirish activity. Though unrelated to Dracula or indeed to Vlad the Impaler, it is still worth seeing, mainly for historical reasons, as a key crossing point during tumultuous times when one kingdom vied with another for dominance.