A trip proposed by Mircea from the very friendly Maison Victoria.
Surrounded by the Carpathians, the region of Transylvania is a very nature destination with very strong traditions. The area has a rich history and many medieval cities. It is simply magnificent! Add to it the legend of Count Dracula and the possibility to visit his mythical castle in Bran. Although there is no real gay scene in Bucharest, the romanian capital, the LGBT are present and live discreetly. A nice voyage off the beaten track...
When to go?
With its continental climate, Romania has very hot summers with temperatures reaching over 30°c and harsh winters with lots of snow. The town of Bravov is actually the largest ski resort in Eastern Europe. Spring and autumn are quite short but very pleasant. No gay prides in Transylvania, but early June, there a GayFest pride week which terminates with a march in Bucharest. Accept association fights for LGBT rights.
What you need to see
The region is full of medieval buildings. Very central, the city of Brasov has a superb Gothic church, the first Romanian school which dates back to 1495 and numerous museums. Nearby, the Bran castle perched on a rocky peak, was not built by Vlad Țepeș the Impaler, but he is said to have taken refuge there during his military expeditions and to have been imprisoned there as well. The castle is definitely associated with the legendary castle of Count Dracula. With a crucifix and garlic necklace, you will be able to live the legend. Special evenings are organised, with a reconstruction of the life at the court where Count Dracula welcomes you with a glass of blood-red wine in hand. In the inner courtyard dance the iele, the famous nymphs of the Romanian folklore which entrance all passers-by under the malevolent gaze of the strigoi still haunt the castle. Also, the town of Bran, protected by the spectacular Rasnov fortress, is very pleasant and organizes folk festivals throughout the year with words, dances, costumes harmonize to form a very authentic show.
Going west to Sibiu, European cultural capital in 2007, with one of the richest historical centres of the region with beautiful cobbled streets and colourful houses. Do not miss Sighișoara, classified by UNESCO for its still inhabited medieval fortress. It is one of the jewels of Transylvania. You will visit the Clock tower, the church of the convent of Dominican or that of the Hill. This is also where Vlad Tepes was said to be born and have lived the first years of his life. Further north, Târgu Mureş is a city with Hungarian influences, just as the villages of the region, with lots of varnished tiles and a magnificent Art Nouveau Culture Palace.
What to do
It is a rural region with many authentic village and strong traditions. You will be seduced by the boys and girls who wear traditional costumes during folk shows, as in the village of Magherani Nyaradmagyaros for example. Besides, the Carpathian mountains peaking 2500 feet high offers an incredible playground for hikers and nature lovers.
While the Romanian cuisine has strong Turkish, Greek or Slavic influences, that of Transylvania is also influenced by the Hungarian and German gastronomy. The cuisine is generous and varied and restaurants showcase traditions. Soups are an institution here and initiate any meal. As for main courses, the typical Cluj cabbage is delicious : it consists of cabbage slices oven-grilled with minced meat. The Sibiu salami is famous throughout the country. For desserts, you can choose fresh cheese fritters and the famous kürtos which are hollow brioches cooked on a spit.
Among gay friendly addresses in Brasov, the Belvedere restaurant, perched on a hill, offers a panoramic view of the medieval city. It is chic and warm, like a beautiful chalet in the mountains with soft lighting that highlights perfectly an always full room. The chef brings his personal touch to the classic dishes of the country. There is also the bistro Ma Cocotte which is a very charming place with organic cuisine using products of the region, the restaurant La ceaun or also Casa Hirscher.
In Brasov, there are many clubs and rock, jazz or folk bars, night clubs with eclectic programs that will satisfy clubbers looking for modern and new sounds and new trends.
On the gay side, the café bar Simone (rue Politehnicii nr.6) is THE meeting place of the Romanian youth, open and curious with new experiences. It is very lively on special evenings which are organised every weekend. On the gay friendly side, Tipografia (rue Diaconu Coresi) is very quiet during the day, but after nightfall turns into a real "station" where locals, tourists from foreign countries or from other Romanian regions meet. There are also Times (17 boulevard Eroilor), Goha Studio (15 boulevard Mihail Kogălniceanu) or Louis (78 boulevard 15 Noiembrie). More underground, into tattoo and piercing, there is Square (27 rue Piata Sfatului), Subsol (11 rue Sf. Ioan), Trippin (9A rue de Mijloc).
There is no more discriminating legislation against LGBT since 2001, but homophobia remains quite present because mentalities evolve slowly, particularly because of far right groups and the Romanian orthodox Church. Discretion is therefore mandatory. In Brasov, there is cruising in various bars and clubs, in Piata Sfatului or in the central park opposite the town hall; in Sibiu, in the Arini and Astra parks. Otherwise, sites like Gay Romeo or apps like Grindr allow contacts quickly. Note that the lega sexual age is 15 years for the gays.
Where to sleep
The Victoria house is run by Mircea, a young gay local, who offers ten rooms with bathroom, in the small town of Rasnov located 15 minutes from Brasov and the castle of the count Dracula. Ideal to visit the region. The house has a large kitchen, where you can even cook yourself or with the help of a Mircea recommendation. It is not exclusively gay, but very gay friendly.
How to organize your trip
No particular formality for this country which is part of the European Union beside a valid passport or identity card. There is no airport in Brasov, so you will have to land at the international airport of Bucharest then to rent a car. There is no particular security problems in Transylvania if you except the rather large bear population (about 6000). If you cross one, you should avoid screams, brusk movements and not try to feed it. ;-)