Romanian Road Trip, Hunedoara And The Castle

One of the most anticipated destinations on our road trip was the Castle at Hunedoara, Romania. As we leafed through travel books and Googled “Hunedoara Castle”, we were amazed by the stunning images we saw. This truly appeared to be a castle that fulfilled every fantasy as to what a “Transylvanian castle” should be; somewhat creepy looking, imposing, not a pile of ruins, perched atop a mountain with a big drawbridge… you get the picture.

We left Sibiu not a moment too soon, as we felt (truly) that we were getting bored. The town is small and touristy, and once we had located the places we “liked” it wasn’t long before this little city became somewhat monotonous. We were bound for Timisoara via Hunedoara.

We weren’t quite sure how long we would be spending in Hunedoara as it was nearly right between Sibiu and Timisoara, so it would be a relatively quick trip (for the record, it was).

Let’s talk a bit about Hunedoara and the Castle itself prior to discussing our experience there.

Hunedoara is located in Western Romania, roughly along the middle of Romania (this would be considered the South Eastern region of Transylvania) along the Poiana Rusca Mountains. The city itself is most widely known for the Hunedoara Castle (actually called the Hunyad Castle due to its ties with the Hunyadi family).
The castle has gone through many renovations over time, quite a few due to the past prosperity of Hunedoara itself as this city contained the largest steel works in the Country. As you are driving through the city you will notice the kilometer long steel works mill (owned in part by the Mittal Group) and the supporting industry for such enterprise. You can certainly see that in its heyday, Hunedoara was a booming industrial hub. What remains now is a bit… well…. strange.

We were coming into Hunedoara just beyond the filming of the second installment of Nicolas Cage’s Ghostrider movie. The first thing that entered our minds when driving through this town is “what better place to film a creepy warehouse scene than in this village”. There weren’t a lot of people in the city that were “out and about”. It seemed relatively sleepy, but sleepy in a sense that everyone just kind of picked up and left one day. Imagine the inner city areas of Detroit but with a gothic-1500’s twist. If we stayed out too late here we felt we may come face to face with steam powered Dacias and headless horsemen.

We’ll spare you the Wikipedia re-write of the city and the castle, and let those of you knowledge-hungry expats click here to read the details. It is worth the look.

Well we essentially stuck to the main highway (road) through town with an eye out for the castle, as that was our destination. No signage, no nothing. How hard could a castle be to spot in the middle of a steel town? Well, we missed it. It wasn’t until we drove about 5 kilometers out of what is the city center to to the top of a hill lined with gaudy gypsy houses that we were able to look back and see the castle in the valley below. Oops. At least our overshoot gave us a chance to look at some crazy gypsy architecture.

If you have yet to see a gypsy home you really ought too. You won’t know whether or not to laugh or take a photo. These “family” houses are fairly good-sized, the most coming in around 500 square meters. They have the typical concrete construction (a box with terraces) but feature the most hideous roofing design you’ll ever lay eyes on. Of course these are the houses of rich gypsies (no that is not an oxymoron) and these roofs are complete with shiny metal “knickknacks” embedded along nearly every leading edge. They look like big, fitze, gingerbread houses. I am sure this represents something (as do pointy shoes and shiny jeans) but I am not sure what. If anyone knows, or has spent the time out of their lives to research this, please leave it in the comments below.

Nonetheless, after entertaining ourselves enough at the expense of the Puff Daddys and 50-Cents of Transylvania we turned around and headed towards Hunyad Castle.

Driving up to the base of the drawbridge certainly was an anticipation-building experience. The anticipation build within us a bit quicker here, as we didn’t have to walk up some kilometer long set of stairs to the castle. yes, we are able to “sight see” this castle the American way – with wheels.

We spent a good half hour photographing the front of this castle, because we felt that the 21,996 similar images scattered around Google just weren’t quite enough. After our photo-fix, we entered via the “drawbridge” (there’s actually a friggin moat too). We paid our few euro admission, entered the inside of the castle itself, and… that is where the fun stopped.

The castle sucked.

Sorry, that may be a bit harsh, however it did inhale forcefully. Imagine walking behind a really well-done movie set. Behind this amazing facade that was the “haunted castle of Transylvania” was just an open courtyard. Off the courtyard were some empty “rooms” complete with dirt floors, rickety beams, and… yup… you guessed it… the other side of the castle wall. Hmmm… don’t know what we were expecting, but it wasn’t this. Now stuck somewhere between “I want my money back” to “I might as well see more while I’m here” we wandered around aimlessly behind the castle walls taking more and more pictures of useless crap. I now have a really cool high resolution image of stone. After about an hour of this very pure form of entertainment, we began reading the placards placed randomly along castle walls and railings.

Likely one of the more interesting placards is the one placed along the edge of a well out back. It stated simply that those that were ordered to dig the well dug themselves to the bottom of a hole they never returned from. I think there’s some life metaphor about this too. There was also a beast pit, where treasonous persons would be thrown to the beasts. Interesting enough.

In the middle of the day you really need to close you eyes and try to put yourself into the true spirit of this castle in order to “feel” it. Other than that, maybe it ought to be featured on a Sci-Fi episode of Ghosthunters International.

All in all, the stop through Hunedoara was WORTH IT, simply because this is such a unique post-industrial city. To see this town is to truly step into what feels like an alternate reality. You should take the time to see the Castle too. Why? Because I don’t want to be the only one that did.

Next up on the road trip is Timisoara, Arad, And The Road To Both.