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Castles in Transylvania

If you’re one of the people that decided to visit Romania because you heard about the great long history and the many beautiful castles left behind, like Peles and Bran, but you’re sure there is more to it then just those two, then you are right and I plan to help you a bit.

Since we don’t have that many airports and the most crowded one is Otopeni, I would assume you’ll arrive in Bucharest and start my directions from there.

First stop, on the road from Bucharest to Brasov, it’s Peles Castle, the 2nd most visited castle in Romania, after Bran castle. If you want to see both a German and Austrian architectural masterpiece, dated from Carol the 1st , and a beautiful place loaded with history, you should definitely stop here. Start with Peles but make sure you also visit Pelisor; it certainly worth the time you’re investing and gives you a much cozy and relaxed feeling, after the greatness splendor of Peles. Pelisor Castle was opened for public visit starting with 1993 and lies here like a mark of Princess Mary and a true manifestation of her spirit, nonconformist and loving of beauty and freedom.

Also an option for the building of Peles Castle it appears it has been the place where Cantacuzino Castle lies today, our next stop, in Busteni. Placed upon a hill and located on a site of an ancient hunting house, this castle was used as a stopover for Cantacuzino family on it’s way towards Brasov. The architectural style is neo-Romanian and the charm is maintained by all the aristocratic surroundings and great mountain views; once in the castle, when the doors will open towards the balcony, be prepared with your camera on for one of the most breathtaking views from a castle, upon Bucegi Montain with Caraiman peak and the heroes cross. Everything it’s very well organized here and you can find either expositions of many great artists and there beautiful works ( for more than an year the castle hosted Chagal, Picasso, Dali, to name a few) and in this period you can be lucky enough to enjoy a classical concert. More info about visiting hours, history and events in place you can find directly on the Castle’s website and a lot more beautiful stories you will hear form the castle’s guide http://www.cantacuzinocastle.com/homeeng.  A nice legend says that “nababul”, how Gheorghe Grigore Cantacuzino was called because of his great great fortune, wanted to pave the roof and the yard with golden coins.

Since you’re in Busteni, I recommend also visiting Enescu’s Home; if you’re lucky enough, you might even catch a piano concert here or at least some rehearsals. Also, the yard it’s very green and full of life.

To continue the walk through history and architecture, we’ll go further towards Brasov. If you plan on stop, rest and have a bite, here are some points where you can do that, in Brasov Traditional food in Brasov – what and where to eat like a local

If you can still hold it a little, once in Brasov, I suggest starting your visit with Brasov’s fortress; the fortress it’s not open for visit but the alleys and the view are spectacular, especially in the evening. After wondering around, you can start descending towards the city and visit Black Curch.

What you should know it’s that once in Brasov, you already are in a citadel because Brasov used to be one and you can find the historic statements at every step, from the 8 bastions, as the city was called the Fortress of 8 bastions( only 3 of them are still entirely held), to the thick long walls of the fortress that surrounds the old center.

Protected by this walls, inside the citadel, lies Black Church. The name it’s given by the color and the color remained after a big fire that happened on the 21st of April 1689. Black Church it’s one of the most important landmarks of gothic architecture in Romania. Because of its size, when finished, was named the biggest church from Vienna To Constantinopol.

Some interesting facts about Black Church are:

  • It’s the biggest Gothic style edifice of worship from the south-eastern Europe
  • It has the biggest bell from the entire country, it’s made of bronze and weighs 6 tones
  • It has the second largest collection of oriental rugs, in Europe ( the first one it’s hosted by the museum Topkapi in Istambul)

Walking around the Council Square, you can also see the History Museum (Council House), the Black&White towers, very nice also for visiting, taking a walk through the woods and also spend some minutes exploring the area called Dupa Ziduri ( After the walls).

On the other side of the mountains, right on the area called Sub Tampa ( under Tampa), you can admire the beautiful walls of the fortress and bastions belonging to the 8 built initially under Sigismund de Luxemburg, starting with the XV-th century and used by guilds as deposits, in times of peace, and as fortresses, in time of war. A very nice architecture and attention worths the Weaver’s Bastion.

If you’d like to know more details about Brasov and what to visit, please access the page dedicated entirely to the most beautiful city in Romania:

After spending the day in Brasov, you can commute your attention to Bran, the most visited castle in Romania and the most known, thanks to Dracula’s legend born here. The interesting fact it’s that Vlad The Evil, who inspire Dracula’s character, actually never lived in Bran. He was born and lived a while in Sighisoara at the castle that can be visited on your way towards Tg Mures or Medias. Bran’s Castle lies, also, on the top of a hill in the middle of a wooden area. The tea room resembles most with a country house, in that area and it’s like an invitation to stop, seat and relax in that heavenly garden. Before forgetting yourself in the green garden and tea house, make sure you buy the ticket for visiting both the courtyard and the castle.

The entire area before entering the yard has the rural touch of Transylvania, it’s filled with local people selling their own stuff. The cheese is excellent, well known in the entire country and the wool shoes are very comfortable and cosy in the cold winter days. Also, if you want to take some “palinca” home with you, this is where you should buy it from.

After enjoying the castle and its entire history, I suggest moving your attention to a location known less than Bran but very hard not to be remarked on the way between Brasov and Bran. Through its strategic location, the fortress was controlling the access to Transylvania, through the Valley of Rasnoava.  A nice little train can ease your way up to the fortress and the chill cave at couple of hundred steps from the parking lot, will totaly refresh you in the hot summer days.

If you want to enjoy the nature and maybe have surprise in the form of a deer, a fox or who knows what other animal, I suggest taking the old road ( called under the mountain) to arrive at the great fortress of Fagaras. As a plus, from everything you’ve seen so far, you will find the lake protecting the fortress and the actual entrance that in the past was belonging to a mobile bridge. The fortress takes a more romantic look in the evening, once the lights are up and the pictures you can take at that hour, could be much prettier than the imposing ones took during the day. This fortress was renewed couple of years ago and since the, hundreds of guests are wowed, weekly, by its impressive history

Coming back to the legend of Dracula, I’ll move again your attention to Sighisoara, the only citadel in Europe, that is still lived. During the summer, it’s a medieval festival hosted here, full of guys dressed according to the life in a fortress. There are games, theatre plays and all the range of medieval activities and accessories. Sighisoara is also listed on Unesco site because it’s “outstanding testimony to the culture of the Transylvanian Saxons, a culture that is coming to a close after 850 years and will continue to exist only through its architectural and urban monuments”.

Once in Sighisoara, you should also visit the fortified church in Biertani and further more, the medieval fortress in Medias.

On the road from Brasov to Sighisoara, you’ll find another two beautiful fortresses, Rupea, very easy to notice from the European road and Viscri, although much further from the main road, reachable after passing a true country road, but maybe a little more more known after prince Charles made a passion for the rural life kept intact here.

Also in the heart of the country and Transylvania, at 150 km of Brasov, you’ll find another beautiful city, with a big mark of history and art, Sibiu. The history of Sibiu is very much influenced by the saxon colonies, called here by the hungarian for them to be able to occupy faster, Transylvania. Once here, the saxons brought a new way of life and many new craft that led Sibiu to a whole new commercial level and one of the most developed citadels in the country. Once in Sibiu, make sure you take a long walk through the old historical center, through the small streets, Bridge of lies, Bruckenthal National Musseum, The Small Square, The Council Tower and the Museum of popular culture and art, Tradition. The museum itself will take you upon a big walk through the entire country and traditions, you can spend days here but, whatever the time invested, I suggest ending the visit with a good traditional meal at “Casa din batrani” ( The house from the olds).

I’m ending this article with the most important fortress in Romanian history, the one in Alba Iulia. The name of this fortress it’s directly connected with the most important events in Romania’s history, starting with the peasants revolution of Horia, Closca and Crisan, in 1784, and ending with the Great Romanian Union, the actual Romanian National Day, the 1st December 1918. Built in the 18th century, under King Carol the 6th on the hill of Alba Iulia citadel, the purpose was to protect the Habsburgic Empire of the Otoman Empire.

In 2012 the fortress benefited of massive investments and took her image at what it is today. This restoration makes us enjoy a time travel and enjoy the walls, the alleys, the gates and rooms as they once were projected.  The only difference is that now nobody is attacking you, if you are lazy you can take a tour in mini-busses or bikes especially there for you, you can eat at the restaurant exactly in the fortress or you can enjoy a change of guards if there at the right time.

Of course, in the summer, during the medieval fortresses festival, you can enjoy more of the guilds activities and you can breath the air of a medieval fortress.

 

 

2 replies »

  1. This is a great travel itinerary for those interested specifically in visiting the castles from Transylvania and the fact that other fortresses and nearby tourist attractions are included is certainly very useful.

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