Calling all history fans: Here’s a chance to get a first-hand look at the old-world cultures of Bulgaria and Romania – including a visit to the eerie Bran Castle in Transylvania (yes, the one said to be Dracula’s lair in Bram Stoker’s vampire story). Put together by the MIR Corporation, the 16-day tour is set for Sept. 2-17.
Your journey begins in Bulgaria’s 7,000-year city of Sofia. There, you’ll visit the serene Rila Monastery, founded in 927 as a retreat for hermits. After that you’ll ride to the Thracian settlement of Plovdiv with its ancient Roman and 19th century architecture. Then you’ll enjoy the stunningly beautiful Valley of Roses on the way to Veliko Tarnovo, capital of the 12th century Second Bulgarian Empire. Here, the remains of the Royal Fortress still stand at the top of Tsarevets Hill.
After crossing the Danube River into Romania for a tour of its capital, Bucharest, you’ll spend some time at Communist leader Nicolae Ceausescu's immense, 1,100-room Palace of the Parliament. Next, the tour will head north to Transylvania, a land of mixed Hungarian, Romanian and Saxon heritage.
"On this tour we’ll enjoy a traditional egg painting demonstration in a private home, meet a Romanian costume designer in the village of Salva, and spend time with actors from a Tirgu Mures theater,” said MIR Corporation Vice President Annie Lucas.
Other highlights of the tour include: exploring the German-influenced 19th century Peles Castle; admiring the UNESCO-listed painted monasteries of Bucovina; and learning about legends surrounding the Byzantine-style cathedral in Curtea de Arges Monastery.
Among the trip’s featured stops will be visits to Bran Castle (whose Gothic stone walls, towers and secret passageways came to embody the popular image of a Transylvanian vampire castle) and the citadel of Sighisoara, the birthplace of the bloodthirsty Vlad Dracul “The Impaler” Tepes (believed to be the model for Dracula).
Price of the tour starts at $5,995 per person, not including airfares between your home airport and Europe.
Seattle-based MIR Corporation, whose name means "peace" and "world" in Russian, has specialized in tours of Russia and neighboring countries since 1986. MIR has twice been named one of National Geographic Adventure's "Best Adventure Travel Companies on Earth."