“All journeys have secret destinations of which the traveler is unaware” – Martin Buber
As promised in “People of Romania-Brasov (Part I)”, I have returned with more stories from Raul, Gabriela and Mihai about their beautiful hometown! I am, however, going to connect the dots and make an amalgam of their preferences to give you a big picture of the city.
The story begins in the Council Square with Raul’s favorite landmark, The Black Church! Built by the German community of Brasov in the late 14th century, the Gothic style of the monument attracted him from childhood – especially the gargoyles that, legend says, used to chase away the evil spirits. He used to go to the Evangelic church quite often for the Pipe Organ Concerts and to listen to the Christmas Choir. Fun fact: The Black Church holds the second biggest Oriental rugs collection in Europe, as well as the biggest bell in Romania weighting 6 tons.
From the Council Square, you can reach “Catherine’s Gate”, the only original city gate to have survived the medieval times, pass the “Schei Gate” towards the neighborhood in which Raul’s father was born and reach Mihai’s favorite spot in Brasov, Unirii Square. He loves the area due to the amazing architectural styles, while the most impressive landmark in his opinion is the St. Nicholas Church, initially assembled in the Gothic style but later redecorated with Baroque motifs. Established at the beginning of the 13th century, it was rebuilt in stone only towards the end of the 15th century and became the symbol for keeping the Romanian traditions and customs. Fun fact: here is where the Deacon Coresi served, the one to print the first ecclesiastical books in Romanian.
Gabriela, on the other hand, slightly disagrees with Mihai, as she considers The First Romanian School to be the most important landmark in Unirii Square. Located in the interior yard of the St. Nicholas Church, the school was built in 1495 but holds the Baroque motifs from the reconstruction in 1760 and it has always been protected by the residents of Schei. Today’s Museum “The First Romanian School” shelters around 4.000 old books, 30.000 historical documents and many other exhibits that show the true history of the region. Fun fact: home of the first Romanian Bible, the museum also kept the antique printing press, along with 9 Coresi copies.
Leaving Scheii neighborhood, you have several options as Mihai’s passion for Downhill Mountain Biking takes you to Poiana Brasov and towards Postavaru Massiv, while Gabriela’s childhood memories and – to quote – “Roncea’s Love”(Raul’s last name), change the direction to Piatra Craiului Mountains!
If you remember from the previous article, I mentioned Mihai still rides his Pegasus Bike every chance he has. But only on the city streets! His passion took him towards Poiana Brasov, on one of the best Downhill Mountain Biking trails, in the Postavaru Mountains. I personally was more of a roller-skates type, so I am letting the video below to better describe to the enthusiasts the trill this route has to offer:
Tip: Mihai’s trail takes you to Postavaru Cottage, the oldest mountain shelter still operational, built in 1883 by the SKV Brasov (see “Winter Sports in Romania” article).
Leaving Scheii neighborhood on a different path, as well as different means of transportation, Gabriela and Raul’s stories keeps us on the same track. First towards Gabriela’s hometown, Rasnov – a small town located 15 km away from Brasov. But even closer to the city, you can find the perfect spot to enjoy all that nature has to offer, the fresh air and the perfect view across the area. Gabriela remembers that, as a child, camping became a family tradition. She and her family would take short vacations, pack the necessary and head towards Cheile Rasnoavei (Rasnoavei Gorge), the perfect natural setting for camping, where they would spend quality time in a relaxing and peaceful environment!
Tip: for the mountain sports and adrenaline enthusiasts, at Cheile Rasnoavei you can also try bungee-jumping, see the breath-taking landscapes while crossing the wire at altitudes 40, 60 or even 136 meters above ground and, of course, rock climbing on several alpine routes.
Eleven kilometers from Rasnov, in the Southern Carpathians mountain range, you will reach another small town of Brasov County – Zarnesti. From here, Raul’s favorite part of Romania starts. Heading from Zarnesti towards Piatra Craiului Mountains, you will pass “Bodorog’s Fountain” and reach “Zanoaga’s Glade”, being accompanied along the way by mesmerizing landscapes that remind all of the beauty of nature and what the Earth has to offer. Once more, Raul and Gabriela agreed on the best place to rest for the night – “Curmatura Mountain Hut”, where you can have the most authentic experience of a mountaineer. From here, you can explore the Piatra Craiului Mountains, translated as “The Price’s Stone”- the narrow and saw-like ridge is regarded as one of the most beautiful sites in the Carpathians, the whole region being included in the “Piatra Craiului National Park”. In Raul’s opinion, passing the Zarnesti Gorges (Prapastiile Zarnestiului), following the trail to the hut and advancing through the glade, where you can also find sheepfolds, and going even further towards the highest peaks, is the best way to escape the city and day-to-day life, to discover the wonders of nature and relax your mind and body.
Tip: You should climb to the “Refugiul Ascutit-Lehman” (“Sharp Refuge”) but make sure you have enough water with you, the closest source being one hour away downstream, as well as a sleeping bag in case of cold weather.
As a recap, we have learned from Raul, Gabriela and Mihai where to eat and have fun in Brasov, their favorite landmarks and the surroundings of their hometown. We discovered the best trails and routes to follow in the search of the best experiences Brasov County has to offer. But as you may have already realized, they talk a lot about the things they love. And so, a third part of the article is required so you can learn about their traditions, legends and even a local recipe Raul’s mother was kind enough to share with us!
PS: Thanks for the pictures, guys!