Hotel Castel Dracula in the village of Piatra FântâneleACTIVITIES, EUROPE, LODGING, Skiing, STAFF, WALKING/HIKING — By Estrella Azul on November 18, 2016 at 23:23
Text & photos Copyright © Estrella Azul
AT THE END OF OCTOBER our firm took us on a haunted castle-themed, weekend team building trip to Piatra Fântânele in Tihuța Pass. Tihuța is a high mountain pass in the Romanian Bârgău Mountains (Eastern Carpathian Mountains) connecting Transylvania with Moldavia.
This remote village is claimed to be in the place Bram Stoker used for Dracula’s castle in his 1897 novel of the same name. Stoker’s descriptions, based on actual geographic locations, make it possible to use Jonathan Harker’s travel journal from the novel Dracula as a guide for visiting Transylvania.
It was my first team building trip ever, and I did not have many expectations. Come to think of it, I almost didn’t go—it was unseasonably cold in Romania this fall and I was worried about getting sick. I’m glad now that I changed my mind.
We stayed at Hotel Castel Dracula. The hotel’s name and the location already brought an air of mystery to the event, and the HR girls did a good job in further creating the right ambiance. For example, they sent us “creepy” text messages. My favorite was the one starting with a quote by Bram Stoker: There are darknesses in life and there are lights, and you are one of the lights, the light of all lights . . . adding “Join us outside if you dare.”
Outside, after walking down a narrow path in the dark, participants could light up paper lanterns and let them float away.
Since it was a firm-organized trip, we were assigned to teams and took part in planned activities, including parties both nights we were there. We were urged to write a horror story to be read out loud before our Halloween party began, and the party itself was quite spooky. We also had a half-day treasure hunt (my first-ever treasure hunt), which was a lot of fun and had us exploring the castle searching for all the clues.
The medieval-style castle was built in the 1970s and was opened as a hotel in 1983. It has a vampire theme, featuring several Count Dracula and other spooky paintings in the common rooms, Bram Stoker’s statue, a bar in the tower, Dracula’s “tomb” in the basement, and an accompanying graveyard (not real) on the property.
We went down to the tomb chamber but, aside from dark stairs, I did not find it scary at all.
My boyfriend went there on a school trip when he was a kid and told me his story—to him and his classmates it was terrifying. Descending the narrow staircase they heard whispering voices, and then the tour guide blew out the candle she was holding. The walls of the chamber flickered in the candlelight with hand-painted scenes of Dracula and vampires.
After taking all that in, the coffin in the middle of the chamber started opening. The kids were screaming and hands reached out of the walls to grab them as they ran back up the stairs . . . a completely different experience for a child. With none of these special arrangements, and at age 29, I wasn’t too impressed.
Given it was the end of October, it wasn’t too cold, but it either drizzled or rained nearly all day long. There was a one-hour window when it stopped, so some of my colleagues and I went for a short walk.
We didn’t follow the path all the way to the Nasterea Maicii Domnului Monastery and went very much off-road. It’s nearly impossible to get lost there—you can see the hotel from any point you choose to wander off to—so aside from getting mud all over my shoes and pant legs, there was nothing to worry about.
We took some of the best pictures of the view from the massive cross monument’s higher levels. On our way back, we stopped to visit the little souvenir village-like place next to the hotel.
We had a bonfire in the evening. Unfortunately, right after it was lit, heavy rain started. We stayed for about ten minutes before heading into the hotel where it was nice and warm.
If you fancy a visit to Piatra Fântânele, and you only have time in the fall, I suggest trying for September or early October. For those visiting during spring or summer, this location is perfect for cycling, running, walks and hiking.
If you know how to ski, though, Piatra Fântânele is the ideal place to be during winter. At the 1,200-meter altitude snow is pretty much guaranteed, and there are ski slopes with chairlifts, ski lifts, and also sledge slopes a few feet from the hotel. If you don’t bring your own, you can rent skis or sledges on the spot.
Regardless of which time of year you visit, you’ll be surrounded by some of the most beautiful views and peaceful settings in Transylvania.
Estrella Azul is a young emerging writer, passionate about reading, floral art and photography, with an artistic personality and a soulful outlook on life. She is a Hungarian girl living and writing from Cluj-Napoca, Romania, the capital of historical region Transylvania. Estrella is our European correspondent, she currently serves as the photo editor here at Milliver’s Travels, and she dreams of embarking on a round-the-world trip. To read more of her creative writing, her thoughts and daily happenings, visit Life’s a stage – WebBlog©. Read more of her stories on Milliver’s Travels by visiting Estrella’s story index.