A long weekend in Brasov
One of my favourite weekend breaks for chilling out and hiking has to be the city of Brasov, in the heart of Carpathian Mountains. A two hour train journey north of Romania’s capital of Bucharest, Brasov has got it all, an old town, plenty of budget accommodation and lots of cheap eats as well as excellent bars. This area of Romania is also known for the fictional character Dracula, however I saw very little tourism or promoting the two sharp tooth loveable character anywhere around here. So here is what I recommend if checking out Brasov for a long weekend including some nearby places.
Brasov’s Old Town
I really did enjoy exploring the old town area of Brasov’s, with its medievals looking building lining up cobble streets with plenty of authentic bars and restaurants to choose from. The heart of the old town has the impressive Black Church, despite it being a stony grey coloured building it is known as the Black Church because most of it was burnt to the ground in some fire many many moons ago. With a Gothic facade most of the interior is Baroque, this church may not be the best one around but certainly stands out from the crowd in this part of town.
The other part of the Old Town which impressed me was the Piata Sfatului (one of the main squares). With a beautiful white small church in the middle (I am sure that is a church), this is also a great place to take in a view of the ‘Brasov’ Hollywood-sign which is on top of mountain Tampa which overlooks the old town. Walking around the town I also came across the Saxon historic walls which are still standing and Catherine’s Gate which was a former entrance to the old town and used for defensive purposes.
Hiking up Mt. Tampa or take the cable car
When I came here in the winter months I managed to do some hardcore hiking. OK, I did take the lazy way up and took the cable car (yes, it runs in the winter months as well even if there is heavy snow) and checked out ‘that’ Hollywood style sign. Then I did quite a few miles in the mountains and got lost but somehow managed to get back on track and arrived back in Brasov just before the winter sunset. I got lucky. In this part of the world there are bears sleeping away, the dangers of heavy snowfall and maybe breaking a leg and there be no one around to rescue me. I was totally unprepared for this so in future, if hiking into the mountains especially during the winter, I will make sure I am prepared.
A day trip away – Bran Castle and Rasnov Fortress
Either get on a tour bus or do what I did as I do a lot of budget travel when I backpack around Europe and catch the local bus, first off to Bran to see the castle which is linked with Count. Dracula. Of course there is nothing of him here but Bran Castle is a brilliant place to visit in the middle of winter, all that snow and the surrounding setting of the place gives it a spooky view. There is a lot of climbing staircases inside and plenty of rooms fully decorated to check out but I do love the miniature courtyard. I would recommend coming here just for the castle and its surrounding and not some made up character who loves to drink blood (I tried Dracula’s Blood beer whilst here…it was ok, just like any other Eastern European beer). Anyway, for those who wanted to know, the Royal Family used to reside here. Nice decor.
The tricky part of getting from one place to another is getting the buses in middle of nowhere but I was lucky and managed to get a bus from Bran to the nearby town of Rasnov. Here I came for the fortress perched on a mountain top (with another Hollywood-Style sign with the town’s name) overlooking Rasnov.
Built to defend the local villages around the mountains, the fortress for me is an amazing viewpoint to capture the surrounding mountains and the town below. The highlight of exploring the fortress has to be the well, as there is a story behind it as I found out. With the absence of no water source, it was decided by the leader of the fortress to get some people to dig a well in the very rocky soil here. I found out whilst being told about the legend that during a siege, the locals here made two Turkish prisoners dig the well in order to regain their freedom. Nice touch guys but the two prisoners dug for seventeen years. The two naughty men also wrote verses from the Quran on the walls inside the well which can still be seen today. However, no one knows what happened to the two prisoners, did they die? Did they get released? Were they killed? Nobody knows. Well, the well was used for quite a while until the wheel inside decided to break and that was nearly 170 years ago!
I loved every minute of my central Romanian journey and loved the local community and I seriously hope to come back here one day and explore more of the region.
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