Brasov, Travel Off The Beaten Path In Europe
Brasov is a charming town in Romania; perfect for anyone looking for something different than the usual European city.
Let's say for the sake of conversation that you've done the traditional sightseeing around Europe. London? Done that. Paris? Done that too. Amsterdam? Um, let's just say what went on during that trip is best left alone. How about Prague? Lovely, but did that too. What about Brasov? No? Didn't do that?
Well, if you're the been there/done that in the European city department, think about the Romanian town of Brasov for the next one. Even better that you're close to Bran Castle in Transylvania to boot.
Yup, Transylvania--the region of the vampire.
I'm just joking around, but sightseeing around the city of Brasov is no laughing matter; this is one seriously medieval town. For four centuries native Romanians weren't allowed to own land within the old, walled city of Brasov--and they could only enter via the Schei Gate, having to pay a toll every time they crossed. The fee is gone, but the gate still stands.
Another gate that's still standing, an once part of its defense wall, is the Catherine's Gate that was built in 1559. Around the same time as the Brasov Fortress was built, come to think of it.
One of the best places to appreciate Brasov's architecture is the St. Nicholas Orthodox Church that's done in a blend of Byzantine, Gothic, and Baroque accents. The Black Church is another one of Brasov's must sees, so called because of smoke damage. Thankfully its 4000 pipes to its organ play--and the church makes a wonderful venue for all sorts of concerts.
Want to learn more of Brasov's history? Head to the Casa Sfatului, which acts as the city's Local History Museum. One other museum that you need to visit is the Ethnographic Museum that's got exhibits on local clothing and jewelry. Even better that the museum is free.
The Graft Bastion, or Bastionul Graft, houses all sorts of artifacts from the Middle Ages throughout its four floors. Awesome, I love learning about medieval life. Just as much as I enjoy a good party.
Thankfully I got both in Brasov, from its Pageant of the Juni in April, to its Golden Stag Festival in August, and even better Beer Festival in September. Follow that with the Opera Festival, a Jazz Festival, and Drama Festival--and you've got yourself one hell of a good time.
For something much quieter, the hiking trails through the Carpathian Mountains are just the thing. Of course, if you'd rather have creepy--than Bran Castle (once home to Vlad the Impaler) is just what the travel writer ordered.
Getting around is easy enough, even if you don't speak Romanian. Taxis and buses are easy to get; while the latter has an all-day pass for just a few bucks. Just remember, the old Brasov Synagogue is closed on the weekends, so you'll have to do that during a weekday. Fill your weekend with art galleries and other cultural pursuits.
For anyone looking to do something different, Brasov is just perfect--you'll even find everything from 5-star hotels to tiny campgrounds for overnight accommodations. Me? I think I'll see if someone will let me sleep in Dracula's, I mean Vlad the Impaler's, deliciously haunted castle.