A World of Adventure



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For details and addresses of Transylvania's medieval cities, unique architecture, citadels, castles, villages, and countryside, plus hotels, transportation, and tours, get the new
Language and Travel Guide to Romania
published by
Hippocrene Books.


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The most famous area in Romania, thanks to the legend of Dracula, this is a picturesque region of medieval towns and hilly pastures nestled among the Carpathian mountains in the center of the country. Its name inspires romantic visions of mountain forests, imposing castles and a mysterious history.

While under Hungarian rule in the 13th century, Transylvania was settled by Saxons invited by King Geza II. They brought with them an advanced civilization and built seven fortified towns in the region, which became known as the Siebenburgen (seven fortresses). Sadly, most of the ethnic Germans fled Romania during Ceausescu's communist rule or immediately thereafter, but their influence is still dominant in the region. Likewise, German is the most common language spoken after Romanian in Transylvania, followed by Hungarian. Few people speak English here.

Brasov         Bran         Poiana Brasov         Sighisoara         Sibiu         Cluj  

Brasov   Maps
Nestled at the foot of Mount Timpa, Brasov is Romania's second most important city. An industrial center with over 323,000 inhabitants, Brasov's old section is a picturesque relic of its historic beginning. Settled by Saxons as one of their Siebenburgen (the town was then called Kronstadt), the architecture of Old Brasov is distinctively Germanic. Colorfully painted and ornately trimmed buildings line the streets.

Piata Sfatului, Brasov Piata Sfatului, the center of the old town, surrounded by restaurants, outdoor cafes and historic buildings:
15th century Council House (Rathous) or Old Town Hall, now the History Museum.
Casa Hirscher, also called Merchants' Hall, built in 1542, where the Saxon guilds used to meet.
Cerbul Carpatin (Carpathian Stag), golden-yellow arcaded restaurant and terrace.

The 14th century gothic Black Church, so named after blackened by smoke by a fire in 1689.

Strada Republicii, a pedestrians-only street lined with shops and colorful old Saxon buildings.

A memorial gravesite park honoring the people (mostly students) who died during the December 1989 revolution; each with a photograph of the person's age.

Parc Central, with a rose garden, promenade and a children's playground.

Mount Timpa, overlooking town; a cable car runs to the summit and lookout point; Panoramic restaurant and outdoor cafe at top.

Remains of the 15th century fortress wall, built to protect against Turkish invasion.
Weavers' Bastion, one of seven bastions along fortress wall, now the Museum of the Birsa Land Fortifications with galleries of weaponry and the history invasion.

Brasov’s only Synagogue, built in 1901, and the Schei Gate, entry to the Schei district.
Ecaterina's Gate, erected in 1559.
Church of St. Nicholas, the first Orthodox church in Transylvania, built by Wallachian princes in 1493-1564; and Brasov's first Romanian-language school, now a Museum holding the first Romanian-language textbooks, printed in 1581, and Romania's first printing press.

Dealul Cetatii, Citadel Hill, topped by well-preserved ruins of 14th century citadel, now a restaurant

13th century gothic Church of St. Bartholomew at the foot St. Jacob’s Hill, where Vlad Tepes impaled his victims in 1460.

Bran and Rasnov
Rasnov Bran Castle, medieval fortress most often associated with the legend of Dracula, built in 1377 atop a hill to protect Brasov from invading Hungarians and Turks.
Rasnov, ruins of the 14th century peasant fortress on a hill and its fortress walls, bastion, well and houses.
A 15 mile (25 km.) bus ride from Brasov stops at both villages.

Poiana Brasov
Another popular day-trip is to Poiana Brasov, a ski resort at the foot of Mount Postavarul and just 7 miles (12 km.) south of Brasov. There's good skiing from December to April. The resort sits at 3,300 feet (1,000 meters) and has 12 ski slopes of varying difficulty, with lifts and cable transport. Hiking is enjoyed year round on the mountain.

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A beautiful, preserved and fully functioning medieval city that is also the birthplace of Prince Vlad Tepes, the real Dracula, born in 1431. His yellow house is now the Bererie restaurant and tavern, with medieval furnishings and a wrought-iron dragon hanging above its door. The city was mainly inhabited by Germans and Hungarians (Magyars). Its German name was Schassburg; Hungarians called it Segesvar.

Sighisoara The fortress, built on the hill in the 13th & 14th centuries is reached by a long path with 172 steps from the lower town. The most dominant remaining bastion is the Clock Tower, now housing the Museum of History. Since 1648, 3-foot high (1 meter) carved wooden figurines have mechanically presented themselves when the clock chimes the hour.
At the top, a lookout balcony circles the tower giving you a magnificent view of the whole town. Other bastions surrounding the hill are the Skinners' Tower, the Tailors' Tower, the Jewelers' Tower, the Shoemakers' Tower, the Tinsmiths' Tower and the Butchers' Tower.

Across from the Clock Tower is the 13th century Monastery Church, decorated with hanging oriental rugs, a baroque altar and a bronze font from 1440. The streets are lined with charming old houses painted yellow, blue, green, and pink. Especially interesting are the 16th century Venetian House, the 17th century House with Deer and the 18th century Schuller House.

The Covered Stairway, erected in 1656, has 175 steps leading up the hill from Strada Scolii; it is covered by a pointed wooden roof and sides loosely slatted to let in light. At the top of this hill stand the 14th century schoolhouse, still in use, and the Church on the Hill (Bergkirch) built in 1309.

Piata Hermann Oberth, heart of the lower town, has a little park filled with flowers and surrounded by colorful medieval houses, shops and cafes. It connects to the hill via an ancient cobblestone path, Strada Turnului, leading underneath the Clock Tower.

The white Byzantine style Orthodox Cathedral is north of the citadel, overlooking the river.

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Sibiu may be the loveliest of the Transylvanian cities. Medieval buildings with gingerbread-house designs of carved wood and old houses painted blue, green, gold, turquoise and pink, have tiny roof windows that look like sleepy eyes peeking out at you. Doorways and gates have intricate ironwork figures. Sibiu was named the 2007 European Capital of Culture.

Its most famous building is the 200 year old Imparatul Romanilor Hotel, which housed Emperor Franz Joseph II of the Austro-Hungarian Empire, Franz Liszt, Johann Strauss, Johannes Brahms and poet Mihail Eminescu.

Bastion, Sibiu Piata Mare is the focal point of Sibiu, surrounded by 16th & 17th century merchants' homes that now house small shops, cafes and businesses. Standing watch is the Council Tower, one of the city's original defenses. First erected in 1366, it was rebuilt in 1588. As in the other Saxon towns, Sibiu's craftsmen belonged to guilds. At no. 20 is a large arcaded building that was the Furriers' and Skinner' Hall. The Butchers' Hall stands at no. 2.

Another clock tower tops the 18th-century Catholic Cathedral with its interior of pink marble colonnades, gold-laced walls, and ceiling frescoes.

Brukenthal Palace Museum, the Baroque style home of Samuel von Brukenthal, governor of Transylvania from 1777-1787, now displays paintings, graphics, engravings and sculptures from the 15th-19th centuries. It also has history and natural science sections, folk art and a library with priceless early books and old Transylvanian newspapers.

Piata Huet's gothic Evangelical Church (Lutheran), built during the 14th-16th centuries as a Catholic basilica, contains the tomb of Mihnea the Bad, the son of Vlad Tepes.

The ancient Passage of Steps narrowly connects Piata Huet with Strada Turnului in the lower town, along a medieval wall with brick and tiled overhead arches.

Piata Mica has the arcaded Old Market Hall museum, built in 1789, and connects to the 1850 Iron Bridge, also called Liars Bridge. Legend says that no one can tell a lie while standing on it without the bridge collapsing. Alongside is Fingerling's Ladder, a steep staircase that leading from the lower town's artisan area up to Piata Mica.

Old Town Hall, built 1470-1491, is now the History Museum. The Orthodox Metropolitan Cathedral, was built in 1906 to resemble Istanbul's Hagia Sofia.

Sibiu, the former Hermannstadt, was a major trading center between Transylvania and Wallachia. To protect the town against Turkish invasion, its 15th century guilds built a fortified brick wall with 40 bastions around the city. Along Strada Cetatii stands the best preserved stretch of the wall and three red-roofed bastions. A narrow park lines the high ground inside the wall; steps lead down to its arched doorway to the low ground outside the walls, where modern Sibiu resides.

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Piata Unirii, Cluj The Roman city of Napoca, built over an old Dacian settlement, was named a municipality by Emperor Hadrian in A.D.124 and a Roman colony by Marcus Aurelius (A.D.161-180) who renamed it “Castrum Clus” in A.D.173. Under Hungarian rule from the 11th century,
Germans were invited to settle in Transylvania and renamed the town Klausenburg. In the 1500's the Magyars took control and changed its name to Kolozsvar. After World War I, when borders were redrawn and Transylvania became part of Romania, it was renamed Cluj, and in
1974 Ceausescu added Napoca to the name in recognition of the city's Dacian forbears.
Today the city is an industrial, scientific, cultural, university and tourist center and the capital of the county. Cluj still retains the architectural charm of its historical Hungarian buildings.

The town center is Piata Unirii, dominated by St. Michael's Catholic church,
built from 1321-1444, and a statue of Matthias Corvinus on horseback.

The Art Museum in the 18th century Bamfly mansion, with collections of weaponry, carpets,
Romanian paintings and sculpture, some dating from the Middle Ages.
Piata Stephan cel Mare is home to the Romanian National Theatre and Opera.
A block north stands the Orthodox Cathedral.

The Ethnographic Museum of Transylvania, housed in an 18th century palace where Hungarian Franz Liszt performed, holds Romanian traditional costumes, textiles, pottery, tools, photographs and documents. An open-air branch of the museum on Hoia Hill consists of peasant houses and wooden churches from the region.

Babes-Bolyai University at Piata Pacii and beyond, holds the students' club and medical faculty.

The Botanical Gardens is 35 acres with plants from all over the world, greenhouses with subtropical plants and succulents, an aquarium with the Amazon lily, and a Japanese garden.

Other Transylvanian Sites
Transylvanian countryside Transylvania is filled with picturesque rural villages, medieval castles, citadels, monasteries, spas and ancient ruins to be explored, as well as its lush countryside and Carpathian mountains.
Some of the smaller villages to visit are: Harmon, Prejmer, Medias, Biertan, Bistrita, Sebes, Hunadoara, and Fagaras.


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© 2005 Rosemary Rennon
All photos were taken by Rosemary Rennon, unless otherwise noted.