Tihuta Pass, Romania

Tihuta Pass, Romania

Physical address: Romanian Bârgău Mountains (Eastern Carpathian Mountains) between Bistriţa (Transylvania) and Vatra Dornei (Bukovina, Moldavia)

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Although Irish writer, Bram Stoker, never set foot in Romania, let alone Transylvania, his Gothic horror novel, Dracula, has had a lasting impact on the region. Some suggest that Stoker decided on the Tihuta Pass (known in the novel as the Borgo Pass) as the setting for Dracula, just by looking at a map of the region and picking a road. From the description in the text, however, there is no doubt that Tihuta Pass was where he intended.

“I find that the district he named is in the extreme east of the country, just on the borders of three states, Transylvania, Moldavia, and Bukovina, in the midst of the Carpathian mountains; one of the wildest and least known portions of Europe.”

At an altitude of c. 1,100m above sea level, the Tihuta Pass is not the highest or steepest road in Romania, but it is probably the most famous internationally. In the 1970s, tourism officials in the nearby town of Bistrita realised just how close to reality Stoker’s description of the region had come, and decided to capitalise on that. In 1974, the Hotel Castel Dracula was opened near the top of the Pass, giving visitors the opportunity to make the most of the spectacular surrounding views of Transylvania and Bukovina, while also enjoying the location’s connection to the world’s most famous vampire story.

In recent years, the Castel hotel has been host to Halloween parties, including a witches’ ball, and its very own Garlic Festival, during which regional foods, games, and other local cultural traditions are celebrated. There are even rumours of a Dracula crypt in the dark dungeons beneath the faux-castle, from which the undead will awaken to scare visitors who dare to spend the night.

If you’re looking for a less commercialised connection to Bram Stoker’s masterpiece, however, enjoy the sights of the Pass, then head through to Sighisoara, the village where the real-life inspiration for Count Dracula, Vlad the Impaler, was born in 1431.

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