The Balteni Hermitage, a UNESCO monument, is a short jog north of Bucharest and may be a worthwhile trip for any Dracula enthusiast.

The legend says that the Balteni Monastery was built at the end of the 16th century after Voivode Radu Negru had a dream about it before a battle with the Tatars.

The place that was chosen for the construction of the Monastery was supposed to be a “natural fortress” in case of danger, and a place of calm and prayer during the times of peace. The land used to be back then an island that was supposed to prevent the enemies from attacking it. The oaks forming the Vlasiei forest used to be an undefeatable “wall”.

The locals are still talking about an underground tunnel that was connected to the monastery and that served the villagers as an escape in times of war. The Cocioc forest that is partially surrounding the place is a natural vestige of the Vlasiei forest.

The monument is considered one of the most valuable ones in the Southern part of Romania due to its medieval architecture. The church is tall and slender, it’s build with unpainted bricks and the roof is made out of shingles. The walls, which are supported by counterforts, are 80 centimeter thick, giving the monastery its citadel aspect.

According to the legend, this is where ruler Vlad Tepes (commonly known as Dracula) has been killed at the end of 1476. In one version of the story, Vlad the Impaler was murdered in a nearby forest, and the monks of the Snagov monastery (which is rather close to this monument, also on an island on the Snagov Lake) took it upon themselves to inter the villain. Perhaps the monks felt indebted to Vlad for the additions he insisted be added to their abode—most bizarrely, a prison and a torture chamber. Whatever the reasons, the monks dressed the body richly and put it to rest in front of the church alter.

Some say that Balteni is more beautiful than the Danube Delta and it’s a true oasis for anyone living in the capital. The temperature there is generally 5 degrees lower than in Bucharest during summer, which makes it the perfect getaway place for its inhabitants.

In case you want to escape Bucharest for a couple of hours the Balteni Monastery is the perfect place for you. It takes only half an hour to get there and there are several places where you can have lunch around it.

You need to drive on the DN1, Bucharest-Ploiesti to Tancabesti, turn on DJ101B to Peris, and then DC179 to Balteni. Once you enter the village you will see the beautiful Balteni Hermitage on the right side of the road.

By Oana Pascu