They say that the city under Tampa is one of the most beautiful places in Romania. I don’t know if it’s true or not, because I haven’t seen this entire country yet. But I do know that Brasov is indeed special through its sights and through its troubled history.
Just as in any other touristic city, restaurants, terraces and shops are at every pace. Each one of the numerous museums, citadels and churches require an entrance fee. These can add up to a consistent sum. Thankfully, recreation possibilities are available for the ones that came here to consume, as well as for the low budget tourists. That is why I find it fair to present Brasov in an equal manner for the “princes” and for the “paupers” (just as I am at most times). There is one important aspect that must not be forgotten. This is that the famous places aren’t necessarily the only ones worth seeing. There are hidden, mysterious, old places that will offer you the unique emotions of an unexpected discovery.
Chapter I – The citadel streets
From the Eroilor Central Park alleys one can see Tampa rising above the brick red roofs. All around us there are old, beautiful buildings. Some parallel streets like Republicii, Muresenilor, Nicolae Balcescu lead to the center. Once upon a time these were all narrow streets and dirty water ran down between their houses, all the way to the canal that surrounded the stone walls. Each of them had a gate that was guarded by a guild. And this was how one would enter into the Brasov Citadel. Throughout time, the city was a famous trading center, reaching over 40 guilds. Each of them occupied a part of the citadel and the most developed ones guarded either a gate, a tower or a bastion.
Probably the most famous street in Brasov is Republicii street, a nicely renovated avenue, which is at all times animated by tourists and locals. There are many shops here, some cheap and some expensive. If you don’t want to spend your money, you can just stroll down and look through the shop fronts. Maybe there’s a sale in one of them. There are many restaurants and cafes and in the summertime the street is covered with terraces. It is a bohemian, relaxed atmosphere, as if every day was a holiday.
At the end of the street you will reach Sfatului Square, of which I am sure you heard of. Today, this is an open space, but it wasn’t always like this. Some time ago this was a crowded center. It owes its name to the market held here. Each guild had its own corner where they would trade their products. We can also see Casa Sfatului (the People’s Council House), built in 1420, which used to be the town hall until the 19th century. There is also Casa Negustorilor (the Merchants’ House), another old building that is now a small shopping center. We are now in the center of the citadel. The new embraces the old and the past embraces the present.
If we look carefully through the houses we see a massive, gray building rising above their roofs. This is the well known Black Church. Built entirely from stone, it took almost one hundred years to be completed. At first, its name was St. Mary, but since the great fire in the 17th century it was known as the Black Church. There is an entrance fee, but even a simple tour around the edifice will impress you.
It rises above the city, witnessing so many events, good and bad. The details encountered at each step capture your eyes and the numerous stone figures remind us of the incredible skills of those who worked here.
Nearby we can visit the String Street, a very simple and yet very cute attraction. Only 1,32m wide, it is probably the most narrow street in Eastern Europe. The high walls of the houses almost cover this alley and it seems like a passage which is isolated from the rest of the city and also from time.
Many such streets are in the citadel. Most of them are dark and retired and can only be discovered through random strolls and, I’m not kidding, by avoiding the main sights.
The Brasov citadel survived many attacks. Still, the great fire in 1689 destroyed a lot of buildings and decimated the population. Documents were lost. There is no record of how many people lost their lives. It was only at the 1700 census that approximately 17,000 people were counted. Some documents were rescued from the Casa Sfatului tower. Information was found about a chain of powerful earthquakes that took place in the between 1600 and 1700, recorded with the date and time. This was a century in which both enemies and nature tried hard to eliminate the citadel.
Further up from the center we reach the Forestry University. In its yard we can visit Ecaterina’s Gate, also known as the Upper Gate. It is a small construction with five sharp towers and it reminds me of a piece of a fairy tale castle. I found out that its architecture is unique throughout the world and it does indeed capture one’s attention.
Next to it there is the Schei Gate. The two are the only remaining gates of the six that existed in the 19th century. We chose the latter and we exit the citadel. But surprises continue to appear even beyond its walls, in the next chapter.