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ROMANIA | Saturday, 4 August 2012 | Views [414]

Getting to Braşov is very easy, due to the fact that it is a major Romanian railway hub. I'm watching the departure board as the arrival time of my Brasov bound train is delayed. Slowly the expected time of arrival is updated, 15 minutes late, 30 minutes late, 45 minutes late and so it goes on. It's a relief when it reaches 75 minutes late and stays there.

It's said that Romanians will say, "Why come to Romania and not visit Brașov?". When the train pulls into Brasov station and I wander out, it's not clear why anyone would think this. The area around the station looks just like the communist inspired housing blocks of Bucharest. The scenery doesn't improve much as I take the 15 minute walk to my hotel, having to pass more concrete towers, abandoned warehouses and the ugly town market hall.

The hotel when I got there wasn't much better as it seems to have been located on the edge of a constructions site. I thinking that it's a good thing I'm only staying one day. I'd arranged to join in a walking tour of Brasov. A free guilder tour offered by guided-brasov. After settling in at the hotel, I still have plenty of time before the walking tour begins and I might as well head into the old town of Brasov.

The taxi ride to the old town is yet more of the same concrete jungle, but when you get into the old town area, it's apparent that Brasov is indeed a beautiful place. The old town area is surrounded on three sides by the Carpathians, protecting the picturesque medieval centre from those nasty communists. It's almost like a medieval town centre, full of historic building, architectural delights, plus a whole lot of character. Even the post office is pretty, kind of like a Lego building:

This is the town square:

The building on the left is the old town hall, now hosting the Brasov history museum and the tourist information centre with a somewhat unfriendly lady who took the trouble of giving me a map of the town. The map mentions some of the attractions of Brasov, including a Bran Castle. Purportedly Count Dracula's Castle, which even the advertisement mentions is so named more for touristic rather than historical reasons. Skipping that, me thinks. Then there's the problem of not wanting to visit something scheduled on the walking tour. There are a few museums and art galleries around the centre and none of them are really worth visiting. The Art Gallery of Brasov is kind of interesting just because it focused on Romanian artists. Still, all the museums and a little wander around the town centre was enough to waste enough time till the walking tour at 6pm.

The tour meets in the town and the tour guide is there right on time, a good sign. The guide's name is Andre and his English is pretty good, an excellent sign!

The tour starts in the town square with a bit of history about the town itself. The square used to be the market area and is still used for that purpose. We were lucky enough as the "town guards" put on a show as they marched around the square for the tourists.

The Black Church, a Gothic style, Lutheran church built by the medieval German community. The name is derived from the colour of the building after it was damaged in a fire:

Then a walk through Strada Sforii (Rope Street), the narrowest street in the Europe:

To get to the house with the green pain, which belonged to the mistress of Vlad the Impaler:

It's interesting how the Romanians, Ottomans and the world view dear Vlad. In Romania, he's considered a hero who fought against the Ottoman occupation. The Ottomans obviously have a different view, but I guess it's true that one man's freedom fighter is another man's terrorist. And the rest of the world have just been watching and reading too much fiction.

Followed by a long walk to see what remans of the city walls. One of the remaining gates to the city. Only the Germans were allowed to use this gate to enter the Schei Quarter:

St. Nicholas Cathedral. We get an interesting story here about a "secret box" hidden in the church with a message to be read in desperate times. I don't want to spoil the story, just take there tour if you're ever in Brasov:

And walking past some more of the old city fortifications to end up atop the black tower:

The walking tour ends at abort 8.30 back at the town square. Through it all, Andre not only tells us the history of the places of interest, but also tries to entertain us. Successfully informing us and making us laugh. Here's to you Andre:

From the black tower is possible to see the contrast between the old town and the new area. The new area was the part built by the communist to be "practical". Practical meaning it sticks out like a giant pimple on the backside of humanity.


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