Spooky Hiking in Search of Dracula in the Transylvanian Alps

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Gossamer Gear | Oct 27, 2019

Scary things can happen to you if you don't carry Gossamer Gear.

Many experienced backpackers seek new challenges. If you've focused on North America's spectacular trails, it's time to expand your horizons.

For this Halloween, let's focus on the world's scariest mountains. No, they're not in the Himalayas. Nor are they in the Andes, where in the early 1970s, a group of South Americans became cannibals.

No, the world's scariest mountains must be the Transylvanian Alps. The majestic Carpathian Mountains form a backward "C" in Romania. That must be the scariest thru-hike.

I lacked the courage to thru-hike the Transylvanian Alps. I barely had the guts to traverse them. I went from Busteni and hiked over the Transylvanian Alps to descend onto Dracula's Castle in Bran.

Unlike the other backpacking trips I took in Eastern Europe, I didn't do a loop. This was a one-way trip and so I had to carry all my gear. This meant lugging two big backpacks up and down the Transylvanian Alps. I carried one in front and the other on my back.

Had I had my high capacity Mariposa 60, I might have just had one backpack. Sadly, this was 2004 and the Mariposa 60 didn't exist.

dracula

Mount Human

In the afternoon of the first day, I reached Romania's highest hut. It's on the summit of Mt. Omul, which means "Mt. Human." It's Romania's second highest peak.

Instead of meeting Count Dracula, I was surprised to meet two friendly Romanian plastic surgeons.

They offered me some trail magic: bean and sausage soup. They would be camping in the hut, but with just four hours of daylight left, I had to boogie to get below the treeline and camp where it's warmer. I didn't have my Gossamer Gear shelter. I was desperate.

The Spooky Cabin

The daylight had nearly vanished when I got below the treeline and spotted a half-finished cabin. OK, that's a generous description. It reminded me of the cabin at the end of the Blair Witch movie.

It was dark and dusty. I only had a pathetic red LED to light my way. The wooden floors creaked. There were several openings on both levels for anything to enter. I hadn't seen anyone in hours. The cabin appeared empty, although a spider raced across the floor. I was in Transylvania. Dracula's castle was just down the mountain. This was creepy.

I lay down on the cold, dust-covered floor and eventually fell asleep. But, then, something woke me in the dead of the night–the sound of something chewing on either my sleeping pad or sleeping bag. It was as if it was making its way to my flesh.

My food was on my left side. This thing was clawing on my right. Could it be a bat? Will it go for my neck? Is this a dream? Or am I already dead?

The chewing stopped.

I couldn't see anything. I didn't have my glasses. Even if I did, it was so dark that I couldn't see my hand in front of my face.

I fumbled for my red LED. I reached for my glasses. The air in the room was deathly cold.

I finally turned on the light. I could see my breath in the chilling air.

I scanned around.

Nothing.

Was it a bat? A rat? A vampire?

I'll never know.

Visiting Dracula's Castle

The next morning, I touched my neck. It felt normal. I packed up and took off in the freezing weather. Frost covered the grass.

I finally came to Dracula's Castle, Bran Castle.

It's kind of disappointing that most historians believe that Dracula (Vlad Tepes) may not have stayed here for long (if at all).

And, it doesn't compare to Peles Castle, which has a much nicer interior than Bran's.

However, it was still cool to see Dracula's Bazar and Skeleton's Tavern. But, I still didn't have evidence of Dracula, so I kept pursuing him in…

Brasov

Brasov, a medieval Saxon town surrounded by verdant Transylvanian hills, is one of Romania's most visited places. It has the prettiest square I've seen since Czechia.

But, still no Dracula. I know, I'll go where he was born.

dracula

By: MarculescuEugenIancuD60Alaska, CC BY-SA 2.0

Sighisoara: Highlight in Romania

Like Brasov, Sighisoara is a Saxon medieval town surrounded by hills in Transylvania. However, it is more beautiful and less hyped than Brasov and has a greater amount of perfectly preserved medieval buildings. What drew me in was that within the walls of the medieval citadel lies Dracula's House, in which Vlad Tepes was born in 1431 and reputedly lived until the age of four. It is now a bar and restaurant. Not sure if fresh blood in on the menu.

I arrived late, so I decided to tempt Dracula for the second night in a row. I climbed to the top of Sighisoara, up a dark covered staircase with 172 steps, and camped without a tarp in the cold, damp air next to a Gothic Church. I lay in wait. I only heard the rustling of the leaves.

Although Dracula didn't suck my blood or even stop and say hi, I loved this little town.

Header Image By: Munteanu Anca - Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0

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Author Bio

Francis Tapon is a Triple Crowner and is the first person to do a round-trip on the Continental Divide Trail. He’s the author of 7 Life Lessons from Backpacking Across America.