Braşov, Romania
45° 38' N 25° 35' E
Apr 14, 2008 07:05
Distance 140km

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Brasov. Monday, April 14th.

Got up early to catch a 7:30 am train to Brasov. Getting up early is a good sign, as it means there is a plan and an urgency to getting it done. Arrived in Brasov (population 285,000) and was settled in by 10:30 am.

Brasov is in Transylvania, as in where the tales of Dracula come from. I am not here for the Dracula story, but rather because a friend recommended it. The city is smaller in area and has interesting geographical and historical sites, AND I was not disappointed. Had one of those ten out of ten days, which is what you travel for and hope for (but they only come around every 10 days or so, if you are lucky).

What was so wonderful? First, the city is very easy to figure out: a high mountain behind it (code for hike to the top), a well defined historical portion of the city which is self contained, inexpensive lodging right in the middle of it all and superb weather (as in dry and mid twenties). It can be mastered in one or two days, few if any hucksters bother you to buy things, there are no crowds and it has buildings which have neat angles to look at and from. Not much more you can realistically ask for, and it was all in Brasov.

The town is alledgedly one of the largest Gothic cities outside of Germany. I had to look up gothic, means 'Germanically influenced'. The buildings have a unique character compared to what I have seen earlier. The city is at the foot of Mount Tampa, which is in the Transylvanian Alps, so you have to cross a mountain range to get there. This in itself makes the trip rewarding. Apparently good skiing is to be found in the area.

First thing I did was to climb/hike to the top of Mount Tampa, which was a determined 360 metre incline to an elevation of about 2,000 metres. It took about 90 minutes, as I could not find the path up so I went straight up, correctly assuming that eventually I would cross the proper way up. Great view from the top, as the attached photos show. Like Hollywood, there is a large sign at the top of Mount Tampa which says the city's name. Tacky but smart tourism. Going down took 45 minutes, but now I had a sense of what to see in Brasov.

The city has a wall built in the 1400's, which is very visible from the top of the mountain. At the centre of the historical part of the city is a large square and Gothic church called the Black Church (as it had been burnt down in 1689) with a 4,000 pipe organ. Was originally built in 1477 and re-built a few times since (no photos of inside were permitted, which was too bad as it had a different interior than other churches I had seen). After checking out the church, it was time to look at the towers which were outside the ramparts or the wall, called the White and Black (fire again). Towers were built in the 1500's. Monday was a museum closure day, so I could not go to the top of the towers. Aimlessly wandered about trying to usefully spend my remaining Romanian currency, as I had some left because the lodging cost much less than I had budgeted for. Ended up with vitamin pills.

Visiting Brasov was a fine way to end my Balkan sojourn. As my blog may suggest, the Balkans are somewhat tiring and underwhelming. Finding a town like Brasov made the two weeks of bouncing about from place to place worth it. Glad I got to visit Sarejevo and Brasov. I appreciate the fact there are very different cultures living side-by-side here (but I do not agree with how these differences are resolved), I saw some spectacular countryside and added a few (six) countries to my list of have seen.

Now three days of moving about at odd hours of the night to get to Singapore and new adventures, in a very different setting from what I have experienced to date.

Photos / videos of "Transylvania":

Looking down on Brasov from 360 metres, or about 1100 feet. You can see the centre of the historical part of the city, parts of the wall and two towers in the forest. Zooming in on the town square, the Black Church and the White Tower. Looking beyond the city towards the farming plains beyond. Looking at the lower hills in the foreground.  What a wonderful view, well worth the hike up. There is a cable car to the top but it was under repair.  Would have hiked up regardless. Flag of Romania at the top of the higher part of Mount Tampa. Flag has nice colours. Angular close up of the Black Church, which has a Gothic architectural design apparently. Jewish synagogue (I think), with Brasov sign behind it.  I took the prior photos from beside the sign. One of the narrowest streets in Europe (according to my guide book). Schei Gate, at the south end of the old part of the town. View from the base of the White Tower. View of the Black Church and Black Tower from the White tower. Path leading into the town from the White Tower. Next, you will see the arch that this path uses to cross the stream.  The arch which crosses the stream.  The path on the prior photo enters the arch above the opening you see.  Note the church and buttress on the wall you can see through the opening in the arch. Looking up to the White Tower. Shops on the square in the centre of the town. More shops and the Black Church all around the square. Birds and tourists resting in the square. Council house on the square.  Built in 1420 and re-stored recently. Square, birds, Mount Tampa and the sign.  I was there.