I arrive in Brașov with 3 days up my sleeve. No need to rush, I think to myself, plenty of time to see the city in all its glory.
Day 1 begins. I wake up to a crisp, clear morning – baby blue skies; perfect winter weather – but end up skipping Brașov altogether and passing the hours exploring the castles of Bran and Râșnov instead.
By the afternoon the sky is cloud-filled, dark, gloomy.
‘Do you think it will snow tonight?’ I ask the receptionist at my motorway hotel, while I am planning my excursion for the following day.
‘No,’ she replies, uncaringly.
‘The weather forecast says it will snow,’ I reply stubbornly.
‘Sure?’ the receptionist arches her eyebrows quizzically. Her fingers work the keyboard of her desktop computer, long artificial fingernails tapping away at plastic keys, the sound of birds feet on a timber deck.
‘Says here snow,’ she confirms, nodding.
The receptionist looks past me, looks through the glass door to the motorway outside, apprehension flickering across her features. Then the emotion is gone, and she is bored again.
‘Snow,’ she repeats, returning her gaze to her computer screen.
Founding of Brașov
German colonists were invited to Transylvania (by the kings of Hungary, who ruled these parts) from the 12th to the 14th Centuries.
The German colonists, who came to be known as Transylvanian Saxons, were charged with the task of developing the region, which they did by building cities, establishing farms and mines, and starting new trades.
In 1211 CE, King Andrew of Hungary ordered the Germans to increase the fortifications within Transylvania, thus ramping up the defensive potential of his southern domain.
A fort was built where Brașov stands today. The settlement that existed here was formalised, and given the name Kronstadt (meaning: City of the Crown).
Germans continue to call the city of Brașov Kronstadt to this day.
Council House (Casa Sfatului)
The first thing visitors do when they arrive in Brașov is head straight for Council Square with its iconic Council House (Casa Sfatului).
Constructed in 1420 CE, Council House currently contains the Brașov County Museum of History.
Black Church (Biserica Neagră)
Built between 1385 and 1477, Brașov’s Black Church is the largest Gothic structure in South East Europe.
It was blackened, and hence gained its moniker, in the great fire of 1689 (when Austrian armies attacked and set fire to the city).
St. Nicholas Church (Biserica Sfântul Nicolae)
Dating to 1292 CE, St. Nicholas Church was rebuilt in stone in 1495.
The church was originally a Gothic structure, similar to Black Church, but was remodelled at a later date in Baroque style.
Catherine’s Gate (Poarta Ecaterinei)
Built by the Tailor’s Guild in 1559, Catherine’s Gate is one of two surviving original gates (the other being Şchei Gate, built 1827-1828).
Catherine’s Gate, named after a monastery that has long since vanished, was the only gate ethnic Romanians could use to enter the walled city of Brașov whilst it was under the rule of the Transylvanian Saxons.
Rope Street (Strada Sforii)
Ranging in width between 111cm and 135cm, Rope Street is one of the narrowest passageways in Europe (there are at least three others that are known to be narrower).
Rope Street is a highlight for those who like enclosed spaces. 😀
Brașov city walls
In medieval times the city was enclosed by 12 metre high walls (built between 1400 and 1650).
The walls no longer fully enclose Brașov, but a few significant portions remain. If you have the time to spare, I highly recommend walking the track that runs beyond the walls.
It makes for a perfect winter’s day activity. 🙂
Practical information and how to reach Brașov:
Brașov is 175km from Bucharest, and is accessible by both bus and train (trip time = 3-4 hours). More transport info here.