5 December 2018

Celebrating Halloween in Transylvania’s Bran Castle

I've been to a few Halloween parties in my life - though not THAT many as where I grew up (Malaysia), Halloween wasn't a big deal - but the one I attended this year undoubtedly THE WINNER of the BEST LOCATION FOR A HALLOWEEN PARTY award.

This year, I got to celebrate Halloween at Bran Castle, Transylvania courtesy of G Adventures. In case you didn't know, Bran Castle is also commonly known as Dracula's Castle. Dracula a.k.a. Vlad the Impaler, who, as it turns out and funnily enough, is likely to have never set foot in the castle. In fact, Bram Stoker, author of 'Dracula', may not have even known about the castle.  Read more here

BUT STILL. HALLOWEEN PARTY AT DRACULA'S CASTLE.

 G Adventures currently has an exclusive agreement with Bran Castle to hold a Halloween party there on the 31st October. This means that the ONLY WAY you can celebrate Halloween at this famous national monument ON THE DAY ITSELF is via a G Adventures tour.

Of course, there are other parties organised at the castle taking place on other dates around Halloween . A quick Google search will reveal more information, but you know it's not going to be as cool as dancing with skeletons, spider webs. and fake blood on the spookiest night of the year!

The link above takes you to the 7-day trip starting and ending in Bucharest, Romania for Halloween 2019. There will also be a 3-day trip available to book soon, and this was the trip I went on.

 

HALLOWEEN IN TRANSYLVANIA VIA THE SPOOKMOBILE

In the 3-day 'Halloween in Transylvania' tour, we travel to Bucharest the day before, i.e. arriving on 30 October. So just in time for the party and perfect as a short break especially if you're coming from within Europe.

It was my fourth time in Bucharest and I was happy to be able to see my Romanian friends Cristina and Mihai once more. I last saw them when I visited Bucharest in May 2018 (read post: Bucharest - More Fun in the Sun!), so it was good to catch up again, albeit it was only for a brief moment in between our busy schedules.

 On Halloween morning, we met everyone outside the hotel where we were staying to start our journey to Brașov, which is a beautiful city on the way up to Bran. It's the 7th biggest city in Romania.

There were some 200 people who had travelled to Romania to attend the party and everyone was excited. 

This included our host/CEO (Chief Experience Officer) Stefano, who was from Italy but whose last name was the name of a French city. Stefano was very enthusiastic even though I imagined he must have done the trip before. I wondered how difficult it must be to stay enthusiastic all the time. He did a good job!

Our journey to Brașov took over 3 hours using a two private buses. G Adventures staff cleverly brought a bunch of Halloween decorations and had us all help set them up inside. I think everyone had fun stretching the wooly faux spiderwebs that spread through the entire bus. I admitted our bus did look super cool. I called it the Spookmobile

The other bus didn't have any such decorations, so we felt like our bus was the better one (it was).

BRASOV BRUSH-OFF

We stayed in Brașov over the next two nights - it was to be our base during the Halloween shenanigans. Most people opted to stay in Bran. closer to the castle, but I think Brasov was a fine option as it was such a pretty little town. It even has its own Hollywood-style sign in the hills.

After checking into our hotel which was right on the square, I went out for a walk with Agathe, a new friend I'd made in the bus. We had a nice lunch. Brașov had a lot of colourful buildings and seemed to have the kind of light that Lisbon has - a shiny, magical glow. I liked Brașov.

I told myself I'd use the spare time scheduled for the next day to wander around to take photos of the city. Now, we had to hurry back to the hotel to get ready for the Halloween party.

I had a bit of a problem. I didn't know what to wear for Halloween in Transylvania. 

I love fancy dress but I am no good at looking scary. I think I'm on the opposite side of the fancy dress spectrum - I like rainbows and glitter and sequins and neon face paint. Fairy lights instead of spider webs. I don't want my skin to look deadly pale - I want it to SPARKLE!

In between my hectic travel schedule during October, I only managed to piece together this ridiculous-looking, giant headband out of leftover tulle I saved from a tutu workshop at hoop camp last summer.

Cristina had given me a bag of Halloween make-up to use, including black and white face paint, glow-in-the dark nail polish, clip-on fangs, and fake blood. There was also a can of glitter hairspray, which was the only thing I used. I'm really not a fan of looking dead..

So I don't know what I went as. I used a lot of glitter on my face and wore a dress that matched my headpiece and it was good enough for me!

A TOUR OF BRAN CASTLE - HALLOWEEN EDITION

Fourth time in Romania, and I finally make it to the famous Bran Castle / Dracula's Castle. It looked COOL. Sorry about the grainy photo. Oh and those creepy things on the ground are just mannequins, not real people.

We got there via taxi from Brasov. The ride took about 45 minutes and we were there by about 7pm.. or was it 7.30pm? My giant headpiece kept bumping against the roof of the car during the journey and it felt as though I was too tall for the car, which is rare.

At the castle entrance, we met with some of the people who had opted in to a private tour of Bran Castle as an extra on the itinerary.

The 14th century castle was dressed for Halloween much better than I was.

The castle was decorated with all the usual things you'd expect at a Halloween party - pumpkins. candles, lots of fake spiders and their webs, bats etc.

We were guided through secret staircases and tunnels - there were so many rooms the whole thing felt like a maze. I like mazes!

What's funny is doing the tour with a group of monsters, ghouls, zombies, and Adam's Family characters (mostly Wednesday Adams actually). Most people arrived wearing very creative costumes - this made me feel rather underdressed but it was good entertainment just watching other people.

Admittedly, I didn't pay too much attention to the guide, who I am sure was sharing a lot of interesting information. It's hard to concentrate with all the scary-looking people lurking around..

LIKE THIS GUY:

He was definitely the scariest person that night. THOSE EYES. He was also big and tall. Like a monster looming.

I don't actually know what character he's supposed to be, if any. I'm bad at these things - apparently there were a lot of interesting movie or TV characters represented in the Halloween crowd that night but I hardly recognised any of them. I thought they were cool anyway.

HALLOWEEN IN DRACULA'S CASTLE - PARTY PICS!

Since it was a private party with only about 200 participants, it never felt too crowded - in fact the number of people felt just right.

The party took place on the castle grounds as well as at a teahouse at the bottom of the castle. So there was a lot of walking up and down, which was tiring but also kept me warm.

It turns out we were incredibly lucky with the weather, which was mild. I was told that last year's partygoers had to endure near freezing temperatures.

At some point there was a fire show on the field outside the castle, although it was mostly just one man practising fire-spitting. At least that's what I saw from behind a wall of other people's shoulders.

 

THE TEAHOUSE IS WHERE IT'S AT

Even though dancing under the stars surrounded by the walls of a centuries-old fortress was extremely cool, I ended up enjoying myself a lot more down at the teahouse!

The music was a lot more fun (remember I hate hip-hop) and that's where I found the kookiest, quirkiest people who danced crazy with me, including Stefano, our G Adventures host. He has a hilarious photo of us on his phone I need to get a copy of.

I danced so hard that I was dripping with sweat. The next day, my legs ached. I blame the Romanian folk music they played at the end of the night! It was too funny.

OH and special thanks to Chris from the G Adventures team for being such an awesome dance partner - I hope we cross paths again; perhaps on another dancefloor.

In between dancing, we went up to the castle to watch the costume competition/showcase. Stefano tried to enter me but really, me participating would've been rude to the other contestants who had put in so much effort! Anyhow it was a lively atmosphere and worth the climb back up.

They was an official photographer on-site taking photos of people - apparently you could keep a printed copy of your photo if it found its way back to you. Mine did not find its way to me.


A REVELATION ABOUT MY COSTUME

When I was using the bathroom, I exited the stall and there were two women washing their hands at the sink.

They looked at my tulle headpiece.. then one of them exclaimed..

"Are you a GIFT???"

Why.. yes. Yes I am!!

Isn't she a genius? I wish I'd thought of this earlier in the evening so I could act like I had it all planned.


IS IT WORTH CELEBRATING HALLOWEEN IN TRANSYLVANIA?

In short: Yes.

In not-so-short:

In terms of the venue, I can't think of a better place to celebrate Halloween. I mean it's Dracula's Castle (even if there's no real connection between the castle and Dracula, haha). 

How much more Halloweeny can you get than that? I definitely felt like I won at Halloween - next time I just need a better costume, perhaps with the help of a Halloween Costume Consultant. Is there such a person?

And don't forget - the only way you can join a Halloween party AT BRAN CASTLE on Halloween night itself is via G Adventures. 

The 7-day trip would include visits to other towns and places of interest in Romania, such as Sibiu and Sighisoara, and you'll get to experience more of the local culture.

The 3-day trip, which I was on, largely focuses on the Halloween party but there is some spare time to explore Bucharest, Brasov and/or Bran as well.

 

This post was created in collaboration with G Adventures, who sponsored my participation in this unique experience!

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