Transylvania, Romania

At my first sight of Bran Castle high atop a hill, chills race up my spine. "A beautiful garden once stood at the base of the castle, tended by Queen Marie who used the medieval fortress as a summer royal residence," my tour guide says, flicking ash off her cigarette. Mountain winds whip as I walk up the long, spiral cobblestone path to the castle entrance. "Saxons built Bran Castle in 1382 to protect the gateway to Transylvania at Bran pass. By building the castle, the Saxons gained their freedom from the Romanians. In order to provide rapid access to weaponry and fortifications, a labyrinth of secret passages and tunnels exist throughout the castle and beneath its courtyard." -- Laura Elliott
Eugeniu Salabasev / Associated Press
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