Brasov is in the centre of Transylvania. Casa Rozelor, our apartment-hotel there was great, very modern and comfortable, inside a historic building close to the main square.
On our first day we woke to a temperature of 2 degrees and drizzling rain which turned to snow falling by midmorning. As snow doesn’t usually fall until December the locals were as surprised as us. The snow lasted all day. It was very picturesque but slushy underfoot and it seeped into our shoes. We were glad of the layers of merinos we had packed.
The Black Church
Braving the weather, we ventured out to the Black Church which is black no more. During a fire several centuries ago it was covered in black soot and somehow the name stuck. All around this church Europe’s largest collection of oriental rugs was magnificently displayed. Its 4000 pipes organ resounded all too briefly while we were there. We would have loved to hear more but unfortunately the weekly organ concerts don't happen in October.
Saint Nicholas Church and the Romanian School Museum
Our visit to the Saint Nicholas church was on another very chilly and showery day. It was originally built in 1521, then added to and is now 4 churches under one roof. I was fascinated by the painted frescoes on the outside walls. Next door was the First Romanian School museum, small but with some extraordinary treasures such as the first Romanian bible, which was made from goat's skin.
We were on a museum roll and continued onto the Art and Ethnographical museum with its ancient weaving looms and traditional costumes. Then we visited an old historic house where we were invited to come back later in the evening for a concert. The concert proved to be a rather extraordinary performance by a Romanian Opera singer who sang light American songs in a very emotional way. These items were interspersed with Romanian poetry readings dramatically performed by an actress. The audience were mainly older people like us. Afterwards we were invited to have coffee and cakes with them.
It was well worth walking to the citadel for a great view over old Brasov as well as the ugly high-rise flats on the flat land outside the old town.
The citadel became a defensive redundancy as cannon warfare developed in the seventeenth century and a nightclub is now is located in the old building. From there we walked around the woody sides of Mt Tampa but didn't go too far up the hill as there was snow on the ground making walking difficult. I also didn't want to meet one of the many bears that are reputed to live in the forest.
Eating out in Brasov was delicious and very cheap. There were plenty of places to choose from. At one restaurant a whole grilled trout, mashed potatoes and lots of veggies cost about $8.
We lunched several times at the very popular "Come Back German Bakehouse" where we only just managed to resist the pastries and settled for freshly baked filled ciabatta bread and coffees.
On our last day in Brasov we were keen to travel out of town but decided to avoid the touristy Dracula castle. Instead we took a taxi to Prejmer, 20 minutes out of Brasov, where there is a lovely Saxon 13th century fortified church. It is a very peaceful place and the church is still in use.
It is the extent of the fortifications around the church that make it special (it is a UNESCO site). The church is completely encircled by a 12 metre high wall, with living quarters on the inside of the wall. There are large numbers of sloping potholes, used to pour boiling oil on any invaders. Apparently there were 50 invasion attempts over the centuries, and only one enemy was able to get through.
Back in Brasov, just before leaving for the station, we saw a local custom. At six every night, three brass players dressed in period costume, along with six locals dressed as medieval soldiers, perform in the central square. We'd seen them the night before and were ready with the camera this time. Marvellous!