There are too many of us. Much too many. Ten times more than the ideal, I would say. It seems, in fact, that we’re bound to become even more numerous. Is there anything we can do about it? Well, not much, unless we apply draconian rules on reproduction, 20th century China style. And some say that from an economic point of view a reduction in population is actually a bad idea. So, then, are we bound to keep multiplying forever? Will we fill up the whole land surface of the earth with skyscrapers? Bury ourselves underground? Build underwater cities? Emigrate to outer space? Not necessarily. Other factors might blur the picture in the medium to long term future – like machines, artificial intelligence, merging of organic and silicon based life, or a deranged dictator with access to a nuclear button…

Whatever may happen in future centuries, in the here and now it would be much more pleasant, in my view, if there were only 700 million of us instead of 7 billion. I saw an illustration of these hypothetical contrasting scenarios – overpopulated or sparsely populated world – while driving around in Transylvania visiting some of their wonderful attractions. This in turn enabled me to work out a solution to the overpopulation problem. It’s wonderfully simple, and can be summed up in three words.

Avoid the crowds.

Don’t go to Paris, London, Venice or Barcelona. The world is a big place, and for every Paris there are hundreds of beautiful places in France where you can go for a walk without bumping into humans holding selfie sticks aloft. For every Venice there’s a Stockholm. Most tourists in Egypt visit the great pyramid of Giza and not the others. Actually, I’m grateful for the various Romes, New Yorks, Machu Picchus, Petra, et cetera. They absorb so many tourists. I love the sandy beaches, where millions of humans cram close to each other to fry themselves in UV radiation, leaving other interesting locations relatively devoid of selfie sticks.

So, then, why should I have even considered visiting Bran Castle while touring in Transylvania? I can only put it down to human fallibility, my own, and I have a lot of it. The place was absolutely overrun. Bran Castle, by the way, is where Vlad the Impaler, also known as Dracula, had his abode in the 15th century. I really should have known better. A holiday resort has grown around the foot of the hill on top of which the castle was built. Car parks, fast food stalls and pizzerias give you a strong idea of what you’re letting yourself into. Having driven for several hours and overcome several stops for roadworks, turning back was not an option. So, we parked, had a hot dog, and entered a luna park full of kiosks selling Dracula stuff and such junk, where we joined a long queue to get entry tickets to the castle.

I guess by now I have given a clear enough picture. The castle is interesting, the views of the surrounding lands are breathtaking, but you are being pushed along by the throngs, all the time.

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No reason for Vladimir to complain about the view
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Multitudes of casually dressed guests for Vladimir’s party
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Deserves a dark thunderstorm for a backdrop. Not this.

Now contrast this with two shining gems that are unknown to anyone: Cetatea Rupea, in Rupea, and Cetatea medievală in Targu Mures. Cetatea is Romanian for citadel.

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The Rupea citadel rises majestically from the landscape as you travel on the main road from Sighisoara to Brasov. You buy an inexpensive ticket and enter the fort with perfect ease. Inside, you stop at information points to read about the individual buildings and the history of the development of three concentric enclosures, each built to protect the expanding settlement.

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Gianluca loved it. There was also WiFi without a password. Romania is very much online.

 

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The guards could have seen aliens approaching from a long way away. Nowadays, you see the town of Rupea, all of it.

And you have ample chance to play the clown without any selfie sticks getting in the way…

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The medieval citadel in Targu Mures is right in the centre of a city, and yet (Targu Mures not being Barcelona or Istanbul, or famous in any way at all) it was blissfully devoid of tourist coaches. On Sunday morning, a wedding was being celebrated, group pictures being taken and so on. Gianluca and I were in perfect liberty to wander around, take our own pictures and generally enjoy the peace and quiet in the middle of a historic monument off the beaten path and ignored by tour operators. Perfect.

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Free WiFi available here, too

This was on the day when, sadly, we had to leave Romania, the same day that France beat Croatia in the World Cup final at the same time that Gianluca and I were waiting for a delayed flight at the Cluj-Napoca airport departures hall, the only airport terminal I have ever been where there’s not a single TV screen.

The great moral of the story (not the one on the World Cup final, but the contrast between Bran Castle and the lesser known Rupea and Targu Mures citadels) is that, rather than ticking off any bucket lists, any Statue of Liberty, Dubrovnik, the Taj Mahal, the Mona Lisa… I’m experiencing great satisfaction in discovering beautiful places that I didn’t even know existed. Here, while enjoying the peace and quiet, I make believe that the world population has reverted to the ideal total of 700 million.

 

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