Nearly 3 weeks relaxing in Brasov, Romania
September 8, 2014 – September 26, 2014
After nearly six months of traveling we decided we wanted to stay in one spot for awhile and relax. To cook our own meals in our own kitchen and not worry about being packed and ready to catch an early bus or plane. The idea came to us in Argentina, and we decided eastern Europe would be beautiful, new and cheap. We looked up Airbnb places and found beautiful Brasov, Romania. Brasov, deep in Transylvania was a perfect place to explore ancient castles, such as Dracula’s Castle, and Peles Castle, and just in time for Oktoberfest!
Dating back to the early 1200’s, Brasov (pronounced Brashov in Romanian) is a beautifully well preserved city still surrounded by a fortified wall and defensive towers. Much of the ancient city still remains just as it has been for hundreds of years. With many pedestrian lined streets, filled with shops and cafes and low prices, Brasov was a perfect place to relax for nearly three weeks before continuing on with our rapid pace of traveling.
Kronstadt – The Old City
Kronstadt, the old part of the city, is a roughly crown shaped city surrounded by walls and fortifications beginning around 1211, by Germans invited into the area by the Hungarians to develop and defend the area from Turkish expansion. Kronstadt means – city of the crown.
The city is filled with old stone, red tile roofed buildings as well as fortifications, all nicely re-purposed for apartments, hotels and hundreds of shops, cafes and restaurants, all maintaining the ancient feel of the city. There are also many pedestrian only streets making shopping, or just exploring the city very easy.
Much of the city is still surrounded by the city walls, fortifications and towers.
Views Of The City
The city is settled in a valley between several different hills, each offering a little hiking and of course great views of the city below.
The Black Church
The largest and one of the oldest structures in the city is the Black Church, built to impress the Muslim traders who came from Turkey with the power and wealth of Christianity, the church looms above everything else in the city. It was originally christened the Church of Saint Mary, it caught fire in 1689 and everything not made of stone burned to the ground, leaving blackened stone behind. The church was rebuilt but renamed The Black Church, today you can still see parts of the stone which are colored black, but most of the church is actually gray and white with very little true black remaining. We checked out the interior after attending an organ concert in the church one evening.
There is a large central plaza, Piata Sfatului, in the old city as well, in which you can often find farmers markets, arts and crafts on display, as well as large events like the Romanian Music Awards which were going on shortly after we arrived.
Oktoberfest in Brasov
We arrived in Brasov just in time for their Oktoberfest celebrations. The Oktoberfest grounds were within the old city and just a quick five minute walk from our apartment. Given the proximity and the cheap beer, we stopped by multiple times.
The old fortified city of Brasov, known as Kronstadt, is only a small part of greater Brasov. The newer more modern city has grown outside the limiting ancient city walls. Modern conveniences such as shopping malls, post offices, the bus station and train station are all found outside of the wall. Much of the ‘new’ city of Brasov is still very old and has a similar feel to ‘old’ Brasov.
Bran Castle – Dracula’s Castle
Just a 45 minute bus ride from town you can find Bran Castle, visited by Bram Stoker and part of his inspiration for Dracula. It is now widely known as Dracula’s Castle, even though it has little to do with the real Vlad the Impaler.
Around one hour south of Brasov by train, in the town of Sinaia, you can find the even more beautiful Peles Castle. Set on a large grassy field amongst the trees of the forest, with a backdrop of rock mountains, Peles is one of the most impressive buildings I have ever seen.
The interior of Peles Castle was also one of most lavishly decorated buildings we had been in as well, all crafted by hand over the last two hundred years.
We also visited Pelisor Castle, which is only about 100 meters from Peles castle. The interior was much less lavish than Peles Castle, and some Romanian royalty preferred to live in Pelisor Castle over Peles Castle.
Our little apartment in Brasov
A big part of what made our time in Brasov so appealing was the small apartment we found to rent for nearly 3 weeks. We found it on airbnb.com a cheap (roughly US$35 per night) but very nice apartment with a large bedroom, small kitchen and bathroom. When we started off on this trip, I didn’t realize one of the things I would miss the most was cooking our own meals in our own kitchen. The small place we found just across the street from the central plaza made the experience very easy and memorable.
Covrigi are round pastries filled with various sweet flavors, like cherry, vanilla or chocolate, and became one of our daily traditions.
Brasov turned out to be the perfect place for us to unwind for a few weeks, and we recommend including Brasov on any visit to Romania. We left recharged and ready to tackle our next destinations in the Middle East and Africa.