Brasov, The City of the Crown
Photo : Stella Verstegen
Photo : The Sarmale traditional dish
After two full days of exploring this beautiful city, I can tell you that Brasov is definitely worth visiting! Historical buildings, cute traditional restaurants, a beautiful view from the top of Tâmpa Mountain, and a lively City Square where you can sit at one of the many terraces and watch the people passing by.
When signing up for the journalism project working for ‘The Village Magazine’ in Brasov, Romania, I didn’t know what to expect. I only knew a little bit about the country, but since I was really interested to visit Romania I decided to sign up and learn more about the Romanian people, their culture and history, while improving my writing skills.
On Sunday, September 15th, I arrived at the airport in Bucharest when I was picked up by a Projects Abroad collaborator, who welcomed me to her country with a warm embrace and drove me to Brasov, the place of my volunteering project. Having this wonderful Romanian greeting, I felt happy and excited to start my journey. Having this wonderful Romanian greeting, I felt happy and excited to start my journey. After passing through different forms of relief I was used to from the Netherlands, like plains and hills, we arrived to the beautiful Carpathian Mountains. At that moment I realized that I was far away from home.
. The Southern Carpathians are very well known for its many ski slopes. Especially Sinaia is a popular destination for this. On my way I saw the ‘Sinaia Railway Station’ which had a larger picture of Mihai I, the last king of Romania at the front of the building. This station was built in 1913, in order of King Carol I and is located close to the Peles Castle.
We also passed the ‘Bucegi Mountains’ that are located on the eastern side of the Southern Carpathians. Here I spotted the steel Heroes ‘Cross, which was built on the Caraiman peak as a memorial of World War I. In 2014 this monument was recognized by the Guinness Book of Records as the tallest summit cross in the world. At night the Cross lights up by its 300 lightbulbs, which makes it visible from miles away.
When arriving at the apartment, I met my host-mother, Rodica, and three other foreign girls of my age that were also volunteering with Projects Abroad in Brasov. The fact that I wasn’t going to be all by myself, but together with 3 other girls, made me feel safe and I was very excited to get to know them. I also felt very happy that I was going to stay in a cozy apartment right in the centre of Brasov for two weeks and I realized, a new adventure had begun.
Discovering the City
The first night in Brasov was an experience I would’ve never imagined. Together with the other girls I went to the City Square, where there was a big celebration going on. At the various market stalls people where selling traditional Romanian products, such as clothing, wine, leather accessories, jewellery and other handmade crafts. There was also a live band that played cheerful Romanian music. The atmosphere was very lively, everybody was dancing and we all had a blast!
Even during the day the city is just as vivid as the first evening. The city square is packed with Romanians and tourists, walking around or sitting at one of the many cafés and restaurants. At the shopping street ‘Strada Republicii’ you can find lots of cute stores where you’ll find souvenirs, fashionable items and traditional clothing.
Before going to Romania I didn’t really know that I was so interested in learning about the history of a foreign country, but after hearing stories about the creation of the city and important events that happened throughout its history I had an eager to learn more and see as much as possible. I saw many historical buildings, like the ‘Biserica Neagra’ (Black Church) that got its name from the big fire on April 21st in 1689. As I walked around I noticed that Brasov is build inside the remains of the fortress, which made it easy to get around. The remains of the wall and even the towers and bastions or different guilds are still present. This made me able to imagine how it was like in the time old days, when the fortress was still intact. Especially the Black Tower and White Tower, which were used to keep guard and watch over the old Brasov, are very noticeable from the city centre. They give you a nice view and it’s quite easy to get here. Except when you walk to the towers in the evening when it’s dark. Then you definitely need a torch, because there were no streetlights on the way.
Not only has Brasov a cozy and lively city centre, it’s also extremely beautiful, especially from the top of Tâmpa Mountain. To go up you can hike or take the cable cards. At night-time the big Brasov sign lights up and looks very impressive, so I was curious how it would look from up close. By making use of the cable carts it only took me a few minutes to get at the top. From there I walked to the Brasov sign. This small distance had a lot of slippery rocks, so if you ever decide to go up, don't forget to bring sturdy shoes! The first thing I noticed when I arrived at the lookout spot were the many red rooftops. The reason why all the roofs in Brasov have the same colour dates form the communist era. In these times all rooftops had to be equal in the way they looked. It was clear to see that a lot of the city’s structure had stayed the same, since I could compare it with the picture of the old town that can be found around the city walls. When I tried to spot my apartment it was very easy to find, since the running field of the Sports High school nearby that was so much bigger than from up close. I also saw the White Tower that really stood out between the green trees on the hill. The view from the top was absolutely amazing!
Museums in Brasov
By walking around the city, I noticed that Brasov has a bunch of interesting museums that showcase different aspects of its history. The first one I visited was the ‘Museum of Urban Civilization’. This monumental building represents the typology of the public life in Transylvanian cities between the 16th and 19th century. Originally the building used to be the house of the wealthy Saxon Closius family. After 1873 the house was owned by businessman Dimitrie Eremias and later his grandchildren. The museum shows pieces of furniture, materials and art that represent the different eras. The work of Elena Pop, the last milliner of Brasov and photographer Leopold Adler are a part of this exhibition.
In the middle of the City square you will find the ‘Museum of History’. This building used to be the old city Town Hall and is one of the most non-religious monuments of Brasov. The museum guides you through the establishment of Brasov all the way to the Romanian Revolution in 1989. It showcases a wide range of materials and furniture from the different guilds. Upstairs you will find posters and products from the communist times and devices of the households during the revolution.
Right across the street from Brasov City Hall I visited the ‘Museum of Ethnography’, where there was a large exhibition about textile production. The first hall visualized the costumes of Transylvanian inhabitants and the producing of different textile types like weaving and knitting. The second hall showed different techniques to decorate the fabrics to make it look more appealing like knotted tassels and embroidery. I really liked the museum, since I loved the way the traditional clothing looked with the floral embroidered decorations.
I love trying new food and was very excited to taste the flavours of traditional Romanian cuisine. The first thing I ate while in Romania was homemade ‘Galuste cu prune’, round shaped pastry’s made of sweet plums and potato, made by the Projects Abroad collaborator who picked me up at the airport. It was very tasty!
At my host-mother’s place I ate my first Romanian dinner. The table was full with different trays and pans; it looked like a big feast. There was a rich flavoured ‘Ciorba de legume’ (vegetable soup), vegetable stew with eggplant, tomatoes and mushroom, a fried egg and a salad. As dessert there was a bowl of fresh plums and grapes. Even though I never ate this combination of food, it was delicious!
Other traditional Romanian dishes I tried these past few days were ‘Ciorba’, bean soup in a breadbasket. I noticed that apparently; Romanians eat a lot of soups. I tried ‘Papanasi’ a traditional dessert that reminds me a little bit of the Dutch ‘Oliebol’. I also ate ‘Sarmale’, minced meat wrapped in cabbage and as a side dish ‘Mamaliga’, porridge made from yellow cornmeal.
Besides the ‘healthy’ traditional food me and the other girls discovered an ice-cream shop right behind the ‘Museum of Urban Civilization’called ‘Good Food’. Here they have the amazing looking ‘Chimney ice-cream cones’ originated from Hungary. These cones are the smaller version of the Transylvanian ‘Kürtos’, a sweet cylindrical pastry. So far I tried a different flavour every night, I just can’t get enough!
So far my experience in Romania has been fantastic! I love learning about the history of this old city. The food I eat at my host-mother’s place is delightful. I’m starting new friendships with the other girls in the apartment and I’m extremely excited for the upcoming days I’ll spend in this crown worthy city!