Main Square, Brașov, Romania

Brașov is situated in the Southern Carpathians with a enchanting Old Town and mountainous landscape under the one dominating peak. Mount Tâmpa sits 400 metres over the south of the Old Town. Enthusiastic walkers will be itching to conquer this forest covered limestone peak, once defended by a 13th Century Teutonic Citadel with distant views of the Burzenland region up at the top. The Knights’ Road is the oldest of the routes to the summit, dating back to the days of the Citadel. The mountain is also a nature reserve, providing a habitat for grey Wolves, brown Bears and Eurasian Lynxes. There is a cable car to the top and a panoramic restaurant at the upper station.

The Piața Sfatului (Council Square) is illustrated by historic painted house façades once belonging to the city’s guilds, as well as monuments like the Black Church and the Orthodox Cathedral. A lot of the houses are now restaurants and cafés with terraces sprawling onto the square. On the southern side of the square, you with see the 16th Century arcaded Merchants’ House, once a market building now converted into a shopping arcade.

The 15th Century Casa Sfatului (Town Hall) on Council Square is hard to miss, originally starting as a Medieval watchtower. Over the years the Town Hall has been modified due to natural disasters and after the 1600’s Habsburg invasion, the building has been left with a blend of Gothic and Baroque architectural styles. Since the 1950’s the Council Hall has hosted the County Museum of History, which houses a collection of Iron Age tools, Roman items from nearby forts, Medieval ceramics, antique weapons, traditional handicrafts and coins.

Biserica Neagră or Black Church is seen as one of Eastern Europe’s greatest works of Gothic architecture, it was constructed in the 15th Century by Braşov’s German community. In the 16th Century Lutheran services replaced Catholic ones, which has stayed to this day. Outside the entrance there is a statue to the Transylvanian Saxon humanist Johannes Honter. On the northern façade there is a 15th Century sculpture of the bas-relief of Jesus in the Second Temple of Jerusalem.

Located on the southern side of the Old Town is the most complete remnant of Braşov’s old fortifications, the Bastionul Țesătorilor (Weavers’ Bastion). In the 1500’s the city’s guilds were responsible for looking after the city defences and this Bastion was in the hands of the weavers, keeping attackers at bay while also giving the weavers somewhere to store their wares. The earliest architecture dates back to the 1420’s and an extra floor was added in the second half of the 16th Century. The museum incorporates details about the Weavers’ Guild, Ottoman weapons, guns and a Hungarian-era scale model from 1896, depicting the city as it would have looked in the 1600's.

Strada Sforii (Rope Street) is found not far from the Șchei Gate and is one of the narrowest streets in Europe. At a minimum of 111 centimetres, this 80 metre passageway dates back to the 1600’s. It is near on impossible to spread your arms as you squeeze down this shadowy passage.

The 14th Century Bran Castle is often connected to Count Dracula and his real life 15th Century inspiration Vlad the Impaler. While this isn’t strictly the truth as Vlad the Impaler really didn’t have much to do with the Castle there is plenty of history to the building. A romantic twist of towers built onto a rocky promontory overlooking a gorge, it was a bulwark against the Ottoman Empire in the late Middle Ages and was controlled by a succession of Hungarian Kings. When Transylvania was surrendered to Romania after the First World War it became a favourite residence for Marie of Romania and the museum inside has many of the Queen’s belongings.

Located on a ridge the semicircular Turnul Alb (White Tower) defends the west side of the Old Town. There will be no trouble distinguishing this bright whitewashed Bastion on its high perch from Council Square. Raised in the last decades of the 15th Century, this structure was maintained by Braşov’s tile makers’ guild and being five storeys, it was the tallest of all the city defences. The wooden staircase inside, which you can climb stands behind the battlements and views the Old Town against a backdrop of Mount Tâmpa.

On the outskirts of Brașov, the quaint Șchei District is the site of the Prima Școală Românească (First Romanian School). In the grounds of the 16th Century Church of St. Nicholas (Biserica Sfântul Nicolae) the first ever school to teach courses in Romanian originated in 1583. After the war in 1941, the school became a museum housing more than 4,000 books and 30,000 historical documents including Romania’s first printing press. Some of the oldest documents include an 11th Century manuscript and the first Romanian bible.

In the southwestern Șchei district on a tributary of the Șcheiu River you will come to the weird Karst formation of Pietrele lui Solomon (Solomon’s Rocks). Divided in two by a stream is a pair of vast, sheer rocks, steeped in local folk tales about a Hungarian King or Solomonars, dragon riding wizards who control the rain. At the beginning of the 20th Century excavations on the site found vestiges of a Fortress that had been operating since Neolithic times. From here there is a bike trail that twists through the mountains to the nearby ski resort of Poiana Brașov.

Poiana Brașov is a ski resort under 15 kilometres from the Braşov city with a skiable area of 80 hectares and 24 kilometres of pistes. Nearly all of its slopes now have snowmaking facilities, ensuring a 120 day season. You can find quick transfers from the centre of Brașov to the resort. In warmer weather the four mountains encircling Poiana Brașov are a hiker’s dream with sweeping meadows, lofty vantage points and many hectares of fresh oak and hazel forest.

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