Brasov is one of the biggest cities in Romania, part of the Transylvania region, located some 170 kilometres from Bucharest. The city was founded in the early 13th century by Teutonic Knights and was developed by the Saxons, so don’t be surprised by the German feel of Brasov. German-speaking Saxons were invited to Transylvania in the middle of the 12th century by King of Hungary Geza II, to protect the southeastern border of the Kingdom of Hungary against foreign invaders. By the way, the German name of Brasov is Kronstadt, and its Latin name is Corona. The old town of Brasov is one of the best preserved old towns in Europe with splendid architecture so it’s quite understandably one of the most visited places of Romania.
The city is also notable for being the birthplace of the national anthem of Romania. Moreover, Dracula or Bran castle is just 30 kilometres away from Brasov, Rasnov fortress is just 17 kilometres away and also UNESCO heritage Prejmer fortified church is at the same distance from the city. Beautiful Harman fortified church is even closer. It makes Brasov a great base for exploring those wonderful Romania attractions.
So here are the things for a busy traveller not to be missed in this beautiful city.
Brasov is often referred to as the city at the foot of Mount Tampa (Muntele Tampa), so let’s start exploring from there. Walking to the top of the mountain takes about an hour so if you are short of time, take a cable car to the peak of the 960 metres (3,200 feet) high mountain. I was hoping to have a nice viewpoint at the top of the mountain but I could not find it. If you are as unlucky as me, enjoy the views of the town from the cable car instead. They are really impressive. At the top, you can take a walk or even hike but you have to have time for that so decide in advance what you want to do and how much time you want to spend on that. After your exploration of Tampa mountain, head to the very centre of the town Council Square.
The Council Square
Located at the heart of old medieval Brasov and lined with beautiful red-roofed merchant houses, the Council Square (Piata Sfatului), known to the Saxon population as the Marktplatz, is a nice place to rest and soak in the beautiful scenery.The most notable building in the centre of the square is the Old Town Hall.
The Old Town Hall
This building now is Brasov History Museum. It was built in the 13th century for meetings of the city council. In the Middle Ages, the trumpeter tower on the top of the building was used as a watchtower to warn city inhabitants about invaders coming.Address: Piata Sfatului 30
Romanian Orthodox Cathedral
Located on the east side of the Council Square, opposite the Old Town House, the Romanian Orthodox Cathedral (Catedrala Ortodoxa Adormirea Maicii Domnului) was built in a striking Byzantine style at the end of the 19th century. It displays some impressive interior frescoes and decorations. The Assumption Church is located in a courtyard behind the northern side of the central market. The central tower of the facade to the market, located above the parish house, notifies of the presence of the church.
Address: Piata Sfatului 3
When in Brasov, do not forget to walk Strada Sforii.
It is believed to be one of the narrowest streets in Europe. Translated as a Rope Street in English it is approximately four feet wide and was made in the 17th century to serve as an access route for firefighters.
You are bound to be impressed by the Black Church.
Over 500 years old, Biserica Neagra (the Black Church) is the most impressive historical monument in Brasov, the greatest Gothic church in Transylvania. The construction of this Gothic Evangelic church began in the late 14th century and initially it was named Saint Mary’s Church. It was finished in the late 15th century. Some 200 years later, a fire partially destroyed the church and the smoke blackened the walls. The restoration lasted for about 100 years, and after that, this place of worship was called Biserica Neagra (the Black Church) because of its black smoked walls. Nowadays it is considered the greatest place of worship in Romania, with an impressive 90 meters in length and 65 meters high, with enough space for 5000 people.Also, the biggest bell in the country that weighs 6.3 tons can be found in this tower. The organ of the Black Church, with 4000 pipes is considered one of the biggest in Europe. It was built in the first part of the 19th century by Berlin organ maker Buchholz, and it is famous for its sonority. Nowadays, organ concerts are organised there every week.The collection of old carpets from different parts of current Turkey, dating from the 17th and 18th centuries, represent an invaluable treasure of the Black Church. Those were donated by the citizens of the city. The church is closed for visitors on Monday. Next to the church, notice a monument to Johannes Honterus.
Monument to Johannes Honterus
Johannes Honterus (1498-1549) was an important figure in the Saxon culture of Transylvania. He was a son of a leather tanner from Brasov. After returning from abroad to his hometown at the age of 35, he led the Protestant Reformation in the area. His name is strongly connected with setting up a printing press in Brasov, publishing school books and world maps. He is also known for designing the first map of Transylvania in the early 16th century and establishing the first paper mill in Romania and the school library. Johannes Honterus is buried in the Black Church. This statue was made to celebrate 400 years since the birth of the famous Saxon humanitarian.Johannes Honterus also founded the German gymnasium "Schola Coronensis" (today's "Johannes Honterus" Theoretical High School) in 1541. You see the building of Gymnasium opposite to his statue.While exploring the city, take some pictures of Brasov Hollywood-like sign at the top of the Tampa Mountain with different foregrounds.Which of them do you like best?
Then continue your tour by heading to the Catherine's Gate.
It was erected in the second part of 16th century by the Tailors' Guild, for defensive purposes, instead of an old gate destroyed by the flood sometime earlier. It is the only original city gate to have survived from medieval times. The fairy-tale tower we see today was part of a bigger structure, demolished in the early 19th century. Being closed up and used for storage for many years, the gate was restored to its original state in the 70s. The four small corner turrets surrounding the main tower symbolize “Jus Gladii”, or the “right of the sword”. Jus Gladii was a privilege given to the towns of medieval Transylvania that allowed local authorities to impose the death penalty in their cities.Notice the coat of arms of Brasov at the gate. Brasov was first mentioned as “Corona” which means “crown”, hence the coat of arms of the city, which is a crown with oak roots. Its basic design dates back to the 14th century: an old French shield Azure.Then walk up Strada Prundului to Piata Unirii and the beautiful St. Nicholas Church located in the Schei District.
The Schei District
During the Saxon rule of Brasov, from the 13th to the 17th century, Romanians were forbidden from owning property inside the citadel walls and so they settled in the Schei district next to the citadel. Romanians could only enter the town at certain times and had to pay a toll at the gate for the privilege of selling their produce inside the citadel.
Saint Nicholas Orthodox Church
Brasov Saint Nicholas Church (Biserica Sfantul Nicolae) dominates the Schei District. First built in wood at the end of 14th century, replaced with a stone structure a hundred years later and considerably expanded in the 18th century, the church is a true architectural masterpiece. With a mix of Byzantine, baroque and gothic styles, it features a slender tower and four corner towers. Like other medieval churches, it is surrounded by protective walls with large wooden gates.The enclosure shelters a small old cemetery where several prominent people of Romania are buried. The First Romanian School, now a museum, the Library and the Archives of Saint Nicholas Church also are found on nearby grounds.Address: Piata Unirii 1 - 2
By the way, if you happen to be in Brasov on the first Sunday after Easter, do not miss the Junii Brasovului Parade starting at the Union Square of the Schei district. This festival celebrates the one day a year that Romanians were allowed to enter the Saxon town freely. Others say that the custom of Junii is considered to be one of the initiation rituals among young men. The men riding the horses are the “Junii” (young men). Junii are separated into 7 groups, each of them wearing specific traditional clothes. Headed by a military band, the seven groups from the Union Square and go to the city centre, after which they return to the Union Square and go on to Solomon’s Rocks to continue the celebration.
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Brasov is beautiful, so make sure to include it in your Romania Road trip itinerary.
What did you think? Have you been to Brasov? Or perhaps you’re thinking of visiting there in the near future? Either way, I’d love to hear from you so please add your comments below.
Author: Anita Sāne
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