Category Archives: Our news

This is the place where you can find news about Beyond Dracula, our team, our projects, new ideas, etc.

3 things we would love to do more of for you

As a purely bespoke travel agent, we are always putting first what you could enjoy the most while in Romania.

It takes time to understand what you like, have an interest in, love to learn about, try out, and simply have as an experience while on holiday. But this is one of the things that makes our job great.

Recently though, we had fun doing some things we’d love to do more of for each one of you. I’ll give you top 3.

  • Research for your trip a corner of the country.

Next week I’ll be in Maramures for a whole week of research. I’ve been there 2 years ago but we have 4 returning clients who want to spend 10 days discovering in a very laid back way this beautiful region.

Traditional wooden gate from Maramures at the Village Museum in Sighetu Marmatiei. Source: BD

What’s my plan? Firstly, I need to find the best options for accommodation and for excellent food; somewhere close to nature, authentic and yet with good standards. Secondly, I’ll check out the typical stops one makes in Maramures: the wooden churches and the Merry Cemetery. Finally, I’ll look for special experiences: craftsmen, water mills, the steam train, local chefs who could give a cooking workshop, local people who could share anything that would be of interest to our guests, and of course, I’ll stay open to surprises.

  • “Pimp” your selected accommodation

For a small group of guests coming in April, we’ll work on making their guesthouse an even cozier and nicer place to be in. Don’t think construction work! Think flowers, board games we know they like, candles, torches, better toiletries in bigger containers than the usual hotel ones, softer towels and bath robes, a larger selection of drinks, etc. None of these things are major changes and yet they are little touches that can take the experience of our guests from 98% to 100% excellent.

  • Find you the ideal teacher for your passion

There are many ways in which you learn about something you love. One of the best ways is to learn with and from someone who is as passionate as you are about the same subject and who loves to share the passion and the knowledge.

For a young group we have coming soon we’ve searched for an astronomer. Our guests wanted to learn more about astronomy, to look at the stars and the planets with a telescope, to learn about cosmological formulas, and to check out sky maps.

It’s not every day you meet someone passionate about astronomy but while searching for the ideal teacher for our guests, I could not help feeling impressed at the wealth of resources that are available. I am now certain that no matter what your interest or passion is, you can meet someone to talk to about it while on your vacation. Can you imagine how much fun that is?

Meet a local craftsman to learn about their work and make new friends Source: BD

The list could go on but I stop here with a thought I often have about travel: go slowly and make it an experience. No matter where you go and what you do, no matter what your budget can afford, choose to have experiences instead of a fast trip checking items on a bucket list.

If you ask me, that’s the essence of travel, that’s what makes travel great.

PS: Get in touch if you want your own trip to Romanian planned by us.

The sweetest pen pal we’ve ever had

Our main job is to be in touch with people. Whether it’s you, future guests, or our partners, we spend most of our time in contact with people. Part of the reason we really like what we do is this constant contact with people, with you.

We get the best of you; we get that side of you that dreams of your next trip. We get the child in you who plans his/her next adventure to an exotic land. We get to exchange e-mails and talk to the adventurous and playful side of each one of you. And that is just fantastic!

But we’ve recently had a unique experience with probably the youngest person to ever write to us.

It all started with an e-mail written by a mother on behalf of her daughter, Brooke. She was asking if Brooke could send a message to Dracula and get a reply.

While the Count was not to be found, I could only promise to send an answer on his behalf, from us. And so, weeks later we got this lovely letter from Brooke and her mom.

Seeing Dracula might be a problem…he never comes to work. Source: BD

It was right before Halloween and I have a hunch Brooke dressed up as a scary vampire. She sent her love to Dracula and drew a heart with teeth on it.

We wrote back, send her some postcards and promised to pass the message to Dracula when he stops by our office.

Last week we got a reply. This time not only the Count got a card from Brooke; I did too. And a gift: a bracelet with the shape of the state of Texas. Now both I and Dracula have a friend somewhere in Texas thinking of us and sending us love and hearts with teeth.

I got a longer letter than Dracula…and a better gift 😉 Source: BD

You know we love creating memorable experiences for you when you visit Romania. You also know we love making these experiences special even before you come to visit Romania by sending you hand written postcards. But writing to Brooke and her mom was just special. Can you imagine her face when getting mail from her favorite character, Dracula?

What did we do in Cancun?

If you read our end of the year article, you know 2016 has been a year of great beginnings in terms of putting Romania out there. Not only are we being tested to get on Wendy Perrin’s WOW list but we have already been accepted to the Traveller Made family.

I’ll soon tell you more about joining Traveller Made and how that benefits your travel experience. Now I want to share impressions and thoughts from the Wendy Perrin Global Travel Summit.

The Wendy Perrin Global Travel Summit, Cancun 2017

While January was wonderfully cold and snowy in Romania, it was not that difficult to escape it all for just 4 days and fly across the world to attend the meeting of some of the greatest people in travel, in Cancun, Mexico. While I can’t say I saw much of Cancun or Mexico (although I did have an additional half a day to watch the sun come up in Tulum, have breakfast by the beach and do some snorkeling in the Dos Ojos Cenote), I enjoyed every second of the trip.

The Summit is a yearly event where some of the TTEs (Trusted Travel Experts) who are already on Wendy’s list meet to exchange ideas, learn from each other, debate, and clearly, catch up and have fun. While not officially on the list yet, some of the travel experts being tested are also invited. If the rest felt like me, attending the summit made it even clearer that Wendy’s list is the place to be. In other words, I felt Romania belongs there, I felt we belong there.

Wendy speaking about the WOW List

But what’s the list and why does it matter that it exists?

There are many, many ways for travelers to decide on how to travel. That’s great but that’s also a pain.

How do you work through all the options? How do you find what’s right for you? The list makes that easy for you. It gives you the one person, the one contact you need to unlock unique experiences in almost every country in the world. If you genuinely care about your trips and you want them to be more than simple vacations, try any of the experts on the list next time you plan to go somewhere. Whether it’s something as little as a weekend trip to Paris or a whole month in Nepal…find the experts for these places and get in touch.

You actually don’t have to trust me. We’re still being testedJ Trust other travelers who have already tried the list. I can only tell you that for anyone to be on the list, receiving consistently excellent feedback from travelers is the only thing that matters to stay on the list.

How do our guests benefit from us being tested?

Firstly, to be considered is an achievement. It means that travelers have been happy with the way they got to see Romania when we showed them around. Secondly, being tested and then being on the list obliges us even more to keep up the good work.

And this is where meetings like the one in Cancun is great. Sharing with others how to best do this or that, makes your life better. When we learn from other business owners how to better interact with you or what other small things that we missed could make life so much better as you travel, you win, you get more value for the price you pay.

So what’s next?

Business as usual. We’re yet to receive enough travelers and get reviewed by them to make it on the list officially. Until that happens, we’re busy implementing some of the great ideas we got in Cancun but also working hard to get more of you to come and visit Romania. If you use the list to do it, even better; you contribute to our testing.

What did we do in 2016?

Lots. And since it’s the time of the year to look back and ponder, I’ve decided to send you some updates from us.

First and foremost, we’ve grown the team by adding 3 new members. True, they are too small to give us a hand at researching and creating wonderful bespoke itineraries for you but they are the drive and inspiration in everything we do. 3 babies were born in the Beyond Dracula team this year: Magdalena, Filip and Carlo. We’re thrilled to have them and welcome them!

The three partners of Beyond Dracula, with the 3 babies we have so far. Carlo and Magdalena in the picture, Filip is the only 2016 baby missing.
The three partners of Beyond Dracula, with the 3 babies we have so far. Carlo and Magdalena in the picture, Filip is the only 2016 baby missing.

Secondly, we end the year with a new team member but also losing one. Laura joined the team in February and has since been working on some of the most complex itineraries we delivered so far. Giulia, our dear Venetian, will join the family business and leave Beyond Dracula in January 2017. We’ll miss her but she’s not getting away completely, she has a home in Romania anytime she wants to come back.

An almost complete team: Greg, Raluca, Andreea, Giulia and Laura. Missing Traian.
An almost complete team: Greg, Raluca, Andreea, Giulia and Laura. Missing Traian.

Thirdly, although this year our volume of work decreased in comparison with 2015, the types of trips we put together became more complex. For example, for a group of 13 friends we put together 11 days of fun activities that were all prepared in advance yet allowed for full flexibility during the trip itself. We have also created a Board of Advisors formed by guests who were generous enough to take time to guide and support us as we grow and tackle new phases in the development of the agency. They are a huge help!

Finally, in 2016 we became the first and only agency in Romania to be considered for Wendy Perrin’s WOW List. Just like being part of the PURE community, being considered to be one of the trusted travel experts by Wendy Perrin is a major achievement and a big responsibility to continue to deliver the best quality to our guests.

And while we are yet to be officially on the list, we are formally as of January 2017 part of Traveller Made, a global network of travel professionals who commit to the best practices in the industry and constantly engage to innovate and improve the way they serve guests.

For 2017 we have big plans, many already confirmed, some being worked on. Beyond working further to give every single guest the best experience possible in Romania, we want to try out something new. We want to organize one destination wedding in Transylvania. Not more, just one and here’s why.

But with days to go before the change of years, I rush to wish you all a peaceful end to 2016 and let 2017 be one of those magnificent years for us to remember for a long time to come.

And most importantly, in 2017…travel. If anything can make us more understanding and kinder to each other is traveling. So pack your bags, keep an open mind and travel to a new destination in 2017.

 

PS: If Romania is the destination you choose, get in touch.

Small promises change worlds@PURE2016

We did it again. We traveled to Marrakech for another edition of PURE Life Experiences. This time I was joined by a special team. Husband and baby daughter along, there I was managing meeting the best in travel agents and agencies and breaking for coffee and lunch to meet my loved ones. It all worked out, luckily the travel bug and love for the new and people is in everyone’s DNA in my family.

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Here’s us after the fair, discovering the Secret Garden in the Medina of Marrakech. Source: personal.
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Sunny times at PURE 2016 Source:personal

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

But let me return to the show itself. This year’s PURE was all about promises. The small promises that change worlds. Here are the 8 the organizers proposed:

  • I promise to reduce my carbon footprint by driving less and walking more.
  • I promise to cook and eat local, seasonal food, whenever possible.
  • I promise to stop eating and serving the ocean’s apex predators and prioritize sustainable fish stocks.
  • I promise to be more mindful of my water usage and follow water-saving or recycling practices whenever possible.
  • I promise to go meat-free at least one day a week.
  • I promise not to participate or encourage any unnatural interactions with wild animals.
  • I promise to use sustainable products and materials and recycle wherever possible.
  • I promise to learn from and give back to the communities I visit.
What small promise are you making? Source: personal.
What small promise are you making? Source: personal.

What small promise can you take to change the world? Mine was about eating local and seasonal. It’s easy in Romania, especially when traveling in the country side and eating home cooked meals. But I could have easily gone for the meet-free day or the walking instead of driving.

Does it really matter what life choices I make? It does. A little bit. But it matters a lot more if we all make similar choices. We could all do our share to reduce greenhouse emissions, save the biodiversity of our oceans, reduce food waste, protect the forests, save water, engage respectfully and with an open mind with other cultures. So it really takes small promises to achieve big things. What are you willing to promise?

How to get your own postcard from Romania

In this day and age, if you are like me, most of your real mail consists of bills and advertising.

When I get a real letter or postcard, it’s a celebration. That doesn’t happen often though as e-mail, phone and a multitude of applications meant to make communication fast and easy, make communication fast and easy.

So why bother writing? Why bother taking the postcard or letter to the post office? Why bother finding out where can I buy stamps nearby? Why pay for a stamp?

Well, we think receiving real mail, handwritten and with colorful stamps is an experience. Something maybe old fashioned became almost a luxury.

So we decided to give this to you. And I mean to anyone of you who has not been to Romania and wants to know what Romania is like.

All you need to do is send us your mailing address. We have a beautiful stack of postcards from razvan voiculescu whose pictures you are familiar with from his pictorials. Get yours!

Postcards waiting to be sent!
Postcards waiting to be sent!

Why the act of generosity? It’s simple.

I hope the postcard will make your day. I genuinely hope that the day you get it, you’ll smile and go about your day happier.

And then I hope you keep it on your fridge or you use it as a bookmark. Every time you see it I hope it will make you smile and think of Romania. And if one day you want to go for a holiday, Romania will come to mind. And maybe we will come to mind also.

So don’t wait and get your own postcard. Send us your mailing address and you’ll soon have mail.

Raluca

PS: Your mailing address will not be misused in any way, shared with anyone else for any purpose.

Looking back on a long and adventurous year: Beyond Dracula in 2015

Season’s greetings, friends!

Now that 2015 is coming to an end, we sat down with a mug of steaming hot wine and a tray of warm Christmas cookies and recounted some of the lovely times we’ve had this past year…

Beyond Dracula in 2015

At the end of January, we welcomed Luke Evans, star of Dracula Untold, and several guests from Universal Pictures, in a press tour ahead of the movie-s Blu-ray and DVD release. Together we followed in the steps of the man who would become legend – Wallachia’s voivode, Vlad Țepeș – and shared with our guests some priceless nuggests of Transylvanian lore.

In February, we sat down for a chat with Aden Jamison Leirer, American writer and veteran, who shared some of his favorite things about his brief but adventurous Romanian trek. “It’s always a party in Romania,” he told us, “and everyone’s invited!”

In March, we invited you to a virtual trip to Romania’s mountain peaks, in a brief essay illustrated with works by acclaimed photographer and seasoned adventurer Marius Schumi. Then, we turned north for a stop in Sic, the fairytale village where boots dance by themselves.

Fast-forward to the beginning of summer, when we had the pleasure of welcoming our very first PURE guests for a one-of-a-kind Transylvanian tour. Their delight and enjoyment absolutely made our summer.

September brought us a heart-warming story of one of our guests, who fell in love with Romania at first sight, and just had to come back again. Thank you for sharing your story, Mouna!

We eagerly awaited for November, when we took part in our second-ever PURE Live Experiences fair in Marrakech. For four days we got to meet people from all over the world talking passionately about their destination, lodge, country or activity. It was tiring, but so very rewarding!

We’re grateful to you, our esteemed readers and guests, who were with us every step of the way, and we look forward to seeing you again in 2016. Have a safe and happy New Year, folks! …and don’t forget your winter holidays traditions and superstitions checklist! 😉

Our Second Year at PURE

It’s the weekend after the end of PURE 2015 and I am still in Marrakech. For four days we got to immerse ourselves into the world of travel and discovery. For four days we got to meet people from all over the world talking passionately about their destination, lodge, country or activity. Whether it’s a couple organizing trips on a catamaran around Italy, the owner of an exclusive property in the Dolomites or a passionate skier that organizes heli-skiing trips in the Alps, you have it all at PURE. And these are just some examples from Europe; the whole world is there!

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Our working table…introducing Romania!

This year the topic was living a rich life. What does living a rich life mean to you? We all answered the question and some got to be on stage and talk for 30 minutes about what makes their life rich. From Braam Malherbe, a South African who, among other things, ran the whole Great Wall of China (more than 4200km) in a single attempt to raise money for children from Operation Smile, to Jimmy Nelson, the Dutch photographer who went to unheard places on the planet to capture portraits of 35 disappearing tribes (the project is called Before They Pass Away), to Zita Cobb, the co-founder of Fogo Island Inn.

Fogo Island Inn stand
Fogo Island Inn stand

It’s about Zita Cobb that I want to tell you more. She left an impression on us, became an embodiment of our own dream, and is our inspiration for moving forward with everything we do at Beyond Dracula. As a Fogo Islander (Fogo Island is a Canadian territory just East of the Canadian border) she had a successful career as the CFO of one of the main US tech companies, her fortune being estimated at $69 million; in 2000 she was among the 4th best paid female executives. There were no limits or constraints to what she could do in life, choosing to do absolutely nothing being also a feasible option. From all the possibilities, she chose to return to Fogo Island and do something for the community that was left on the island after cod fishing was no longer a way to earn an income.

She created the Shorefast Foundation, build the Fogo Island Inn, and in 10 years created a business that does more than generate profit; she created a business that feeds back into the community, its culture and people as many resources as it can do to help preserve it and also develop it further. During her talk at PURE she spoke about creating a social business; but it was not in the typical sense where an NGO develops a business idea to become sustainable and independent financially. Neither was it in the more common sense where a business that is already profitable starts giving back by creating a foundation or by integrating means of giving back into their products or services. She spoke about a social business where the business is created from the start being mindful of nature, culture, people.

“Nature and culture are the two great garments of human life. […] You have business and technology as servants of place…By definition, if you put place in the center then you’re going to put human community in the center, and then all of your actions are optimized for that, or at the very least are mindful of that.” Zita Cobb

This is what we found refreshing and extremely inspirational. Personally, for years I couldn’t settle with the thought that business and everything else have to be separate. In travel this separation makes even less sense. I don’t believe one can be in any travel related business and not care about nature, people and culture. It’s the reason people travel, it’s what leaves a mark, it’s what should matter just as much as running a successful business.

In a country as experiential as Romania where people both expect and are surprised by landscapes, local life, and the taste of tomatoes, we are a business that needs to keep safe and look after our nature, culture, and people. We’re a young team blessed to work in a country like Romania but also responsible for keeping it in the center of what we do as we go about our daily work, every time we welcome a guest, with every trip we organize.

See you next year in Marrakech!

Beyond Dracula Untold: International press tour discovers Transylvania’s lore

Ahead of February’s Blu-Ray and DVD launch of Dracula Untold, a party of journalists and entertainers came to Romania on a tour sponsored by Universal Studios to visit the land ruled and defended by Vlad Țepeș and get to know the man behind the legend. Can you guess how it went?

And what better way to welcome our guests to the Land of Vampires than with an... appropriate gift?
And what better way to welcome our guests to the “Land of Vampires” than with an… appropriate gift?

Our guests had the opportunity to visit several key locations connected to the story of Vlad Țepeș, Wallachia’s voivod (as opposed to the bloodthirsty vampire warlord he’s turned into in popular culture), both within Bucahrest and in other parts of the country.

Before I came here I didn’t know much about Vlad Țepeș. I knew about Dracula, of course, but now I’ve seen the ruins, the castle, the dungeons. I like vampires, they’re quite sexy. The US adores vampires.” – Haleigh Foutch

Of particular interest was the Bran Castle. As we already told you, Bran Castle has already captivated the imagination of the public worldwide as a believable site for Dracula’s famed lair. Here, the group was offered a private tour chaperoned by “Vlad” himself, as well as a seven-course dinner inside the castle and a medieval music recital by the band Trei Parale in Queen Maria’s music salon. Filming also happened at Bran Castle, but we’ll let our guests give more details about that. 🙂

One does get to experience a version of the myths going around when "Vlad" shows up at Bran castle...
One does get to experience a version of the myths going around when “Vlad” shows up at Bran castle…

Much in the same vein (see what we did there?), our guests were thrilled to stroll through the ruins of Vlad’s Princely Court in Târgoviște, from where Vlad ruled Wallachia with an iron fist. As an added bonus, they were also offered a quick tour of the location where the Ceaușescu dictators were executed in the culmination of the 1989 Revolution. This grisly site is not fully open to the public yet, but there are plans to construct a museum here.

We came here to explore the legendary land where Vlad Țepeș (also known as Dracula) lived. We also came here to talk about the latest movie from Universal Pictures, ‘Dracula Untold’. I am familiar with the story of Vlad Țepeș and I don’t think people believe that he was a vampire. I do think that he was a cruel ruler, using bloody methods to scare his opponents, especially the Ottomans. Again, I don’t think he was a diabolical creature. I like the story of Dracula, but it is fiction.” –Aaron Sagers

Continuing on the path of Medieval castles and fortifications, the group visited the Mogoșoaia Castle, erected by the Wallachian voivod Constantin Brâncoveanu. Much like Vlad Țepeș, Brâncoveanu also opposed the Ottoman conquest of Eastern Europe. Eventually, he was captured and sentenced to death by beheading together with his sons when he refused to renounce his Christian faith. (Yes, Romanian Medieval history is quite bloody, isn’t it?)

Everyone enjoyed themselves immensely, and were sure to send thoughts and memories to the folks at home with the postcards we provided and helped send out.

Everyone enjoyed themselves immensely, and were sure to send thoughts and memories to the folks at home with the postcards we provided and helped send out.

Other locations of note were the Snagov Monastery, the mountain resorts of Sinaia and Brașov (with its famed Black Church and Rope Street, Europe’s most narrow street – only 1.2 meters / 4 feet wide) and several noteworthy sites in Bucharest, among them Curtea Veche, the Caru cu Bere restaurant (offered numerous international Awards of Excellency for the food and atmosphere) and the Aman Museum, home of a famous painting showing Vlad’s fight against the Ottomans that’s coincidentally depicted in Dracula Untold as well).

And, of course, no Dracula Untold press tour would be complete without an appearance by the man who played Dracula himself, Luke Evans, who came to Bucharest for a press conference and brief event and seemed to have a pretty good time.

Mr. Evans with our very own Raluca Șpiac
Mr. Evans with our very own Raluca

We did our best to make our guests feel welcome and have a good time, and we hope that their experience was even better than what they were expecting and that they’ll choose to come back again sometime in the future. In the meantime, we’re expecting some exciting tweets and blog posts from the press crew, so stay tuned to our Facebook page for post-event stories!

We’ll be waiting to see you guys again with open arms! 🙂

Romania and Beyond Dracula at PURE Life Experiences 2014

We’ve been preparing for it since we got the invitation to come. We were both excited and honored to be the ones representing Romania for the very first time at PURE Life Experiences, a one of a kind fair focused on experiential travel. November came and we were ready.

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Smiling after 4 amazing days at PURE (not the best quality picture but the smiles make up for it:))

To clarify experiential travel I will paraphrase one of the PURE Conference speakers, Pico Iyer: “Experiential travel is what happens when real people have unreal experiences”. Real people are us all while unreal experiences are those encounters than change one’s life. Unreal experiences are luxurious, where luxury nowadays is peace of mind, stillness. Unreal experiences are true and authentic conversations, encounters with genuine and unassuming people that we normally don’t have the chance to meet during our busy lives. These moments when we lose track of time and feel free to discover, almost lost in a way, those are moments that transform us.

While Pico Iyer was speaking, I could not help and think that Romania is one of the countries that can offer exactly that, plenty of experiential travel. A friend nicely put it a while back when she said that being in Romania is like living in two centuries at the same time. And it’s true but to fully get this, one needs to venture into the middle of it, travel around, talk to people, and let oneself be surprised.

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Our own definition of experiential travel

The question of how to keep such “luxury” for the generations to come also rises. We wonder and fully believe that it’s our responsibility to also protect and preserve Romania’s resources whether they are forests, villages or ancient traditions.

Sustainability and adventure was the topic of the second speech we heard at the conference. Most know him for his four-month journey crossing the Pacific in Plastiki, a catamaran made entirely out of recycled plastic bottles. David Mayer de Rothschild is your true explorer, not afraid to take a stand in the debate on climate change and actually, rightfully claiming this is not a debate. Nature is not something outside of us, the link between our planet and our lives is not something to question, it’s there and it’s strong.

Fully inspired by the speeches and taking example of how other countries around the world promote themselves, we started our marathon of meetings with batteries fully charged. And what a marathon it was! Romania on the list of countries represented drew a lot of attention and from curiosity to genuine interest and desire to get to know the country and Beyond Dracula, we spoke to around 100 people. For these people Romania became a country about which they either found out for the first time some important characteristics or they understood that it’s a country that has more to offer than some of the stereotypical associations made with it.

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Honored to be among so many like-minded travelers

Tired but with the humble satisfaction that we did  our best for Romania and for Beyond Dracula, we’re soon packing to go back home and work on having as many as possible visitors from the agencies and travel agents we met at PURE come to see for themselves what Romania is all about.

And until next November, a bientôt and Insha’ Allah, as they would say in Morocco!