A good chunk of my time in Bulgaria was spent going “Omg we’re going to Dracula’s house for Halloween!”
One of the guys in our group, Aaron, booked a bus and a bunch o’ air bnb’s so ~30 of us could go could go party at Bran Castle in Transylvania for Halloween.
Didn’t look quite that nice in real life, but still cool
There are 3-4 places claiming to be the “real” Dracula’s castle. I chose to believe the one we went to was the real one because life’s more fun that way.
So what if Vlad the Impaler, the guy who inspired Dracula, only slept there a handful of times when passing through town (a fact I learned on the castle tour.) Still. Dracula’s house! Wooo!
Here’s the story of how it went down.
The bus ride of doom
Two days before Halloween, we hop on the bus around 8AM for our 6 hour trip to Bran.
Except, we got the time waaay wrong. Google Maps does not understand the ways of Eastern Europe. It told us it’d take 6 hours by bus to go from Sofia to Bran. But after 6 hours we were only halfway there.
No worries, though. The champagne was flowing and everyone was pumped for the adventure.
Well, almost everyone.
After about 8 hours, our bus driver decided he hated us and would no longer give us the key to the bathroom.
Fortunately for me, his anger was no match for my ability to be annoying. I learned if you just sit next to him and ask for the key over and over he’ll cave and give it to you.
Anyway, we get to Bran around midnight or 1AM or some silly time. By the grace of Aaron or God or a bit of both, there are cars waiting to take us to our air bnb’s.
From there, we drive 30min up a mountain away from civilization, wondering “Where the hell are we going!?”
But all is forgiven when we get there and see how gorgeous the place is. Plus, there’s bread/cheese/liquor waiting for us. Which is always nice.
Our AirBnB in Bran
It’s me and 3 girls and we hang out drinking homemade cherry liquor our host left us. Also, a little rakia.
Now if you’ve never had rakia, then your life is better than mine. It’s a Romanian hard alcohol that goes down about as smooth as a punch to the face. You can literally feel chest hair growing the moment you drink it.
So we do the smart thing and focus on the cherry liquor, which was deeeelicious.
But then our host showed up. And insisted we do a shot of rakia. And another one. And another.
The girls were smart and opted for the cherry liquor instead. I tried to do the same. But the host said “Oh, you’re going to do the girls drink?”
Damn it. Fine. Give me the rakia.
The girls go to bed like smart humans and I stay up drinking with the host until about 4AM. I learned all about how stressful it is running 3 malls (which was his job). He gets some un-asked-for drunk marketing advice for getting more air bnb visitors. It’s a fun night.
So yeah, welcome to Romania.
Having a Bran-d old time (Brand puns ftw!)
When we woke up the next morning, it became abundantly clear why we were in these middle-of-nowhere houses instead of renting a motel in Bran.
Reason being, Romanian countryside is freaking gorgeous.
We spent the morning wandering about the dirt roads taking pictures. Then decide to go check out the town.
Our host, being the champ he is, offers to drive so we don’t have to wait 40min for a cab to come all this way to get us.
The trip takes way longer than it should because we stop every 2 minutes for more pictures. It was just. That. Pretty.
Then we get to the town of Bran. Which is basically a small curve of road beneath the castle. There’s also a walkway with a bunch of little shops and booths for tourists to buy stuff to send home as presents. Which is exactly what we did as we wandered about with our delightfully cheap hot mulled wine.
Yada yada yada, a few hours went by and it was time to go home. We needed to put on our customes before returning for the party.
My costume of shame
Back in Bulgaria, we had the chance to go to an amazing costume warehouse.
This place makes and stores costumes for Hollywood movies. But they let regular ol’ people like us rent them for a few days on the cheap.
Inside the costume warehouse in Sofia
Granted, most of the costumes were the kind of stuff you’d wear if you were a peasant in the background of Game of Thrones. But they had some cool stuff too.
After an hour of coming up with nothing, I found a costume I was super pumped about — I was going to be the Tim the enchanter from Monty Python and the Holy Grail. With badass rams horns and everything.
I was already imagining myself spending the majority of Halloween shouting “WHAT is your quest?” to people over and over. This made me very happy. Until disaster struck.
We made the mistake of telling the guy “We’re taking these costumes to Transylvania for a party”.
Now it would have cost ~$25 to rent this movie-quality costume for the weekend. But because we were taking it out of the country, they said we had to pay a “go fuck yourself” deposit of ~$400. Cash.
So we left empty handed. Which was a problem, because I’d already raided all the costume shops/thrift stores looking to piece together a costume. But there wasn’t much there.
Apparently, Europe isn’t that big on Halloween (be better, Europe).
So I had to do something I swore I’d never do: rent one of those pre-made costumes you get in a bag.
This caused some significant despair. In my head I’m thinking, “What would Dracula think? Me showing up to his house in a pre-made costume. Instead of taking the time to piece together some obscure costume that references something form the 80’s/90’s” (which is how I normally role.) Embarassing.
Detour over. Let’s get back to Bran…
We go back to our place and I change into my costume in a whopping 2 minutes. Because I’m a guy and therefore capable of changing in and out of outfits quickly.
I’m all set to party. But the 3 women I’m with have other plans.
They’ve got to put on makeup. Goddess and Zombie makeup at that.
172 hours later, they’re finally ready. To their credit, they looked quite good.
Before we go our host tells us “Just invite your friends to party here! It’s better than the castle!”
Best host ever.
But we came all that way for the castle. We ain’t missing it. We hop in the car and go.
Fulfilling my life’s purpose
We get to town and see a giant line. I mean an “Oh crap, we might never get in” sized line.
As we’re surveying the line looking hopeless, some random person crawls out of the woodwork and tells us, “You know, there’s a second window where you can buy your tickets. It’s right next to the one where everyone’s waiting. People think it’s only for special groups but anyone can get tickets there”.
So I collect everyone’s money and walk passed the giant line pretending like I’m not just some jerk essentially cutting everyone.
I get to the front and sure enough, have no problem getting tickets. We get in line to tour the castle which then leads to the party in the back yard.
Due to some Remote Year Magic, we get in line at the exact same time as ~10 other remote year people.
But even better, there was a dozen Spanish (or South American?) people around us who, for unknown reasons, decided the best way to wait was to sing La Bama as loud as they could.
Obviously, I joined in with gusto.
Because dressing as a viking and singing La Bamaba with a bunch of random people at the base of a castle is pretty much what I was put on this earth to do.
“After the party it’s the castle party”
So we get into Draculas castle and walk around. It’s… a castle. There are things, stuff, etc.
Inside Dracula’s castle in Bran
The tour ends and it’s time to go into the party tent.
Again, there’s a massive line. I soon learn that if you’re not willing to press uncomfortably close to the person in front of you and elbow everyone in your path then you’re not getting in.
So I do that. And get in. Horray!
Inside is basically like any other tent party. Music. Bars. Lights. Go-go dancers on stage with a midget for some reason. Creepy pale dude’s in white drapes walking on stilts who I forgot to photograph.
Tent party outside the castle
Okay so slightly different than most parties but still. All clubs and parties are pretty much the same. So I’m going to “yada yada” what happened inside. Though the view of the castle was pretty sweet.
While there were some cool costumes, not everyone got the memo on what Halloween was about. Lots of Europeans in normal clothes or a Batman t-shirt that they think counts as a costume.
Europe, get on this Halloween bandwagon already. You’ll enjoy it.
That’s all, folks
The next morning we soaked in the countryside as much as we could before we had to leave.
If you need a place to disappear from civilization for a month, I highly suggest grabbing an air bnb outside of Bran. Great place to unplug from the madness of real life.
Just you and some old farmers using their horses to carry stuff around. And nature being beautiful.
That’s what turned out to be the highlight of the trip. The excitement of the party at the castle was, for me, even better than the party itself. Though it was the scenery that stole the show.
Ugh, what a cheesey way to end a blog. Let’s change that.
Then we spent 3 hours sitting in a hotel waiting for our bus. Because our bus driver decided to show up late out of spite. And once again he didn’t let anyone use the bathroom. That freaking guy…