In 2012, I was fortunate to hike in the Transylvanian Alps in Romania for four days. It was a wonderful experience as it was trekking with purpose: to help orphaned kids in a Romanian orphanage in the town of Brașov (pronounced BRA-shov). I have shared about the hike and the service aspects of this incredible trek. But what I have not done is pay the town of Brașov its due… You see, Brașov was totally unexpected for me given my limited exposure to Romania before this trip. Also, it was unexpected after spending a couple of days in Bucharest. Brașov could not be any more different than its counterpart south of the mountains. And that may be true of many towns in Romania if my visit to Iași added further to the case…
German Saxons were influential in shaping the region and this town going as far back as the 12th century when the Hungarian overlords of the area brought these industrious folks to help develop the area. Brașov could be said was founded by Teutonic Knights but even after they left, the settlers stayed continuing to influence this town, so much so, that German is still an important language in the area (I found just as many people who spoke German there as English) though some of that could be due to more modern reasons too. In any case, all you need to do is look at the architecture of this beautiful town surrounding a good bit by mountains to see what I mean. You feel you are in maybe some part of Germany or Austria in the old part of the town.
Some of the key sights and sites of the town include:
- The Black Church, one of the largest (if not the largest) Gothic churches in southeastern Europe
- The old city gates that remain (Catherine’s which is the only original medieval gate still standing, and Şchei which is more recent from the 1820s)
- The medieval city walls and fortifications, which you can get onto and walk pieces of it to see some of and go up the old towers (the White and Black towers)
- The main square or piața (Piața Sfatului) with all the cafés and lively scene
- Rope Street, the narrowest street in Romania
- The first Romanian school (originally built in 1495 and re-built almost a century later into the current structure) sits next to St. Nicholas Church (which itself dates from the 16th century) and its small but interesting museum (we got a fun and lively short lecture by a priest named Vasile on the history of the school)
Brașov is not only rich in history and architecture but it is also a perfect spot to explore Transylvania (which is WAY more than Bran’s Castle!) and from which to launch any summer or winter sports activities. The hiking is phenomenal with beautiful landscapes that feel untouched by modernity and I can only imagine how neat the skiing is!
And the food, oh, the food! I loved it!
Here a couple of images showing the range of “interesting” to be found in doors around town!
I enjoyed my days in Brașov before and after the hike and can safely say this is a MUST when visiting Romania.