As I leave Brasov on the train to Bucharest (brief stopover before Bulgaria this evening), I feel sad to say goodbye as it’s been an incredible two days. It really is a beautiful city set along the base of the Tampas Mountains, offering stunning scenery that looks heavenly in the evening sunshine.
Brasov free walking tour
On my first day here I was greeted well at the Hostel – Centrum House Hostel – which I strongly recommend if you visit here; the staff were very helpful and couldn’t be more friendly towards a solo visitor. I had chosen to walk from the train station to the hostel as per my method of getting acquainted with each new destination, however, after the hour’s walk I’d made myself regret this decision!
I perked up when the hostel staff told me about a free walking tour leaving from the city hall at 6pm. After having a brief stroll myself and nap, I joined a tour group of around twenty tourists. This would be my first walking tour and surely won’t be my last.
The group lead was a local, having lived here her whole life and after giving a brief history of Brasov and explaining the famous ‘hollywood’ sign, walked us through the main attractions. These included the City Hall Square, Black Church, Rope Street, Weawer’s Bastion, Catherina’s Gate, Graft Bastiona and the Black and White Towers.
The guide was very humorous and light-hearted about the achievements of her city, for example, the Black Church isn’t really black, it’s just called this because of a fire over one hundred years ago, and the ‘narrowest street in Europe’ isn’t really the narrowest street in Europe, it’s the third, although it’s actually not a street, but an alley. It was built for firefighters to run through and is wide enough for one man carrying two buckets either side of him.
Vlad the Impaler
My personal highlight of the tour was Catherina’s Gate, where it got mythological. Catherina was Vlad the Impaler’s mistress and one true love. At the gate we were told a story of how the local women kidnapped Catherina and tied her up to beat her and prevent more brutality from the violent leader (classic Mario and Peach storyline?). As they had his precious Catherina, their plan worked and untold lives were saved. Eventually, Vlad was imprisoned for a number of years and is perhaps most famous for being the inspiration for Bram Stoker’s Dracula! His preferred method of torture? Impaling via the anus over two days, avoiding major organs so the pain and distress lasted longer.
Brasov’s White Tower
The tour ended with a trip to the White Tower overlooking the whole of Brasov where the view was very serene. Staring down really gives you a context and makes you realise how lucky the locals are to live in such a beautiful, natural setting. The next evening I would walk through the baseline of the Tampas Mountains, alongside joggers and dog walkers making the most of their surroundings. However, it wasn’t always this way. Brasov used to be under communist rule and at one time was even renamed ‘Stalin City’.
The more I learnt and spoke with locals, the more I understood that the communist era here is still remembered and present in their city. I was told how the city hall square has reclaimed it’s status as a social meeting place and market, whereas it had been turned into a car park to reduce interaction among residents. It’s clear a lot has changed since this time and still continues to change. The tour guide laughed as she recounted how during a live television screening in the 70s, the communist leaders couldn’t admit that the city hall clock was broken, so had someone manually change the time minute by minute from the inside!
As I left the tour and continued my own walking route through the medieval streets, I knew I liked this place and was thankful I’d given it more time than Sibiu for example, as it requires more immersion. Back at the hostel I booked my own private tour of Bram’s Castle, the Citadel, optional Dino Park and the Royal Palace. Busy second day in Brasov and the surroundings on the cards!