Monday, 3 March 2014

Transylvanian Travels: Braşov

We arrived in Braşov by train from Bucharest. I normally love to watch the scenery go by on a journey, but on this occasion we had spent the day in Bucharest and travelled through the evening, when it was dark.

We had a hostel reservation, and found that it was in the guidebook along with instructions for how to get there. Being easily reached by bus, we went for this option rather than getting a taxi. The driver was really helpful when I asked where we needed to get off, and a lady heading a similar direction from the bus even escorted us to the hostel to make sure we could find it ok – what a great welcome to a new town!

On arrival at the hostel, the friendliness-rating of the welcomes cranked up even further, and we were greeted by the young hostel (manager?) as though we were good friends making a long-awaited visit.

The hostel was the well-known Rolling Stone hostel, and our host was Diana. She was really great, and with her help we organised how to spend the next 2 days. There is so much that you can easily visit from Braşov, so I had chosen Rolling Stone partly because reviewers had said that you can book trips there at reasonable prices – and Diana did not disappoint! She gave a great explanation of our options, and also went through the public transport options for us too so we could choose how we wanted to things (and with such a limited amount of time to work with, we went for the easy option!)

We also had our spare day that we were saving for either Bucharest or Transylvania, depending on our preference, and we rapidly decided to spend that day in Transylvania too.

Piata Unirii, Schei district

Our first day was spent in the town of Braşov itself, exploring its sights and German cake shops… Rolling Stone Hostel is located in the Schei district, meaning a pleasant walk is required to get into the main citadel. This walk can take you past the first Romanian School, through an old gate where they used to tax those crossing between the Hungarian and German sides of the city. 

Catherine's Gate, built by the Tailors’ Guild in 1559

You pass Strada Sforii (Rope Street), claimed to be the narrowest street in Europe at around 1.3 metres (4 ft) wide, 

Strada Sforii (Rope Street)

and pass the old synagogue. 

The synagogue

Once into the town centre, the focal point is the Piata Sfatului, upon which are various museums, coffee shops, and just a nice view to take in. 

Piata Sfatului

The Black Church is also near here – impressive from the outside, it is fairly plain within, except for the unusual sight of the Turkish prayer mats hanging within (photography not allowed inside).

The Black Church

The surrounding streets are nice to explore by simply wandering aimlessly around, browsing in the shops as they take your fancy. There are plenty of coffee shops dotted around where you can refresh yourself when you need to, and it’s lovely just to take in the atmosphere and enjoy the architecture. I believe that in the summer the place becomes really bustling, and cafes and coffee shops spill out into the streets. But on a random February weekday the place was quiet and peaceful.

Pretzly deliciousness!

The town of Braşov is elongated, squashed as it is between hills on either side. We took up walk up the hills to western side to visit the Black and White Towers, part of the town’s old defences. They now house museums, which were all closed up when we were there, but it made for a pleasant walk anyway.

The White Tower

On the opposite side of town stands the higher Tampa Hill, home to the Hollywood-style Braşov sign, with a cable car and several footpaths leading to the top. My friend is not comfortable with heights, and she wimped out (her words!) of going up in the cable car.

Looking up at Tampa Hill

Instead we earned our dinner by walking up one of the footpaths that snakes its way up through the trees. We couldn’t see a great deal to do at the top, so after a brief look around she plucked up the courage to get the cable car back down again.

Looking back down Tampa Hill over Braşov

A beautiful little place with everything you need – transport connections, restaurants, bars, history, etc etc, Braşov seems a great place to be based for travels in Transylvania.

No comments:

Post a Comment