On our second and last day in Romania, my mum and I decided to take a day trip out to Transylvania, a region in Central Romania known for its vampire stories, historic cities, cute mountain villages and scenic Carpathian landscape.
We left our hotel in Bucharest early in the morning and caught a bus from the Gara de Nord train station at 7 AM. The ride took 2,5 hours, most of which I spent sleeping. During the train ride, it became clear to us how different the rest of Romania is from its capital. We saw many run-down villages full of abandoned houses with smashed windows and peeled-off paint, but there were also many beautiful and colourful villages. And then the breathtaking Transylvanian nature. When we eventually reached the mountains, my mum woke me from my sleep, so we could enjoy the spectacular view together.
The City of Brașov
Brașov is the 7th most populous city in Romania with a population of 250,000. The city is known for its historic sights, its spectacular views of the Carpathian Mountains, its nearby ski resorts, and probably most of all, as the starting point for trips to Bran Castle, known as Dracula’s Castle, which we also went to (stay tuned for next post!).
Piața Sfatului – The Main Square
Piața Sfatului has been a market square since 1364, and is the very center of Brașov today. The houses that surround the square are rich in history – and colour –, and are very well preserved. In many ways, this old part of town reminded me of a mixture between Polish Poznan and small villages in the Austrian Alps. Not everything about this square is peace and harmony though, as a pillory, which used to be in the middle of the square where the Council House from 1420 is now situated, was used for public humiliation and punishment in the medieval times, and among those punished were “witches”.
After looking around the square for a while, we decided to go to the German bakery Come Bäck to have lunch and coffee before continuing our sightseeing. This place was really nice, and is definitely worth recommending!
Up Tampa Mountain
After finishing up our lunch, we decided to take the cable cars up Tampa Mountain to see the view of Brașov from above. I would’ve loved to have hiked up the mountain, but there was simply not enough time, so the cable cars were a great alternative.
Tampa Mountain is a 960 m tall mountain, which lies 400 m above Brașov. It’s located in the southern part of the Eastern Carpathians, and is mostly made up of limestone formations, which have risen up gradually from the crust of the Earth.
View of Brașov From Above
The cable car took just three minutes to make the journey from the Casa Pădurarului restaurant at the base to the Restaurantul Panoramic on the crest of the mountain. From there, we had to walk through the forest up to the enormous “Brașov” sign, from where we got the most spectacular view of the city and its surroundings. Unfortunately, the sun failed to show its face that day, so I couldn’t get the pictures that I had dreamed of, but it was still a worthwhile experience.
It was quite difficult to know which way to go from the restaurant to the sign, and we met other travellers who were confused as well, as there is no signage anywhere. Eventually, we ended up following other people and found the sign a few hundred metres to the right of the restaurant.
Strada Sforii – The Narrowest Street in Romania
When we got back down the mountain, we headed to Strada Sforii (‘String Street’), which is believed to be one of the narrowest streets in Europe.
The street was initially built in the 17th century as a corridor for firemen to use, but is now mostly a tourist attraction. The width varies between 111 and 135 cm, and apparently it’s impossible for a human to stretch both arms at once in the street (I forgot to try, but I’m pretty sure I believe it…).
Biserica Neagră – The Black Church
We walked through the narrow street and back to Piața Sfatului, where the Black Church is situated. The Black Church was built by the German community of the city in 1477, replacing an older church, which was demolished around 1385. It was built in Gothic style, and acquired its name after being blackened by smoke from a big fire set by invading Habsburg forces in 1689 during the Great Turkish War. The Black Church is the main Gothic style monument in Romania, and is the largest and most important Lutheran church in Transylvania, despite it being Roman Catholic originally.
Unfortunately, the church had closed for the day when we were there, so we didn’t get to experience its interior, but the exterior definitely didn’t fail to impress me!
While walking out of the old town to find a taxi to take us back to the train station, we came past Catherine’s Gate, a beautiful 16th century gate that I didn’t even read about when researching the city!
Catherine’s Gate was built by the Tailor’s Guild in 1559 for defensive purposes, and replaced an old gate, which was destroyed by a flood in 1526. The gate is named after St. Catherine’s Monastery, which was once located on the site. The central tower of the gate is the only original part of a city gate in Brașov that has survived from the medieval times.
We only had a few hours to explore the city of Brașov, as we also wanted to take a trip out to Bran Castle, but I feel like we made the most of it and saw many of the best sights that Brașov has to offer. I especially loved the cable car trip to Tampa Mountain. Brașov is more historically interesting than Bucharest, and also offers better views, so I would definitely recommend going there on a day trip (or more!) when on a holiday to Bucharest!