Winter Adventures -the Rasnov Fortress

I have been writing bout my snowboarding trip to Poiana Brasov, Romania, which was so much more than just hitting the slopes. Having stayed at a quaint little pension in Rasnov, only ten kilometers from the resort, we were tempted by other attractions in the region. This town is probably most famous for its fortress – Cetatea Rasnov which towers over the entire region.

The first fortification on this steep cliff seems to have been during the Bronze Age. The medieval structure was then built between 1211 and 1225. In the 15th century Ottoman armies were unsuccessful in overtaking the fortress despite numerous attempts. Having to surrender the citadel to Saxon armies in 1612 because their route to the water spring was blocked off, the Rasnov people decided to build a well within the walls of the fortification. The 146 meter well was dug straight down into the rock cliff over a period of 17 years. The well was then used from 1640 to 1850.

After hundreds of years this structure is still standing tall, no longer defending against enemy armies, but welcoming inquisitive tourists from all over the world.

Fagaras and Beyond Intro

If you look at a map of Romania and try to point to the direct middle of the country, you’re probably pointing to the town of Fagaras. Fagaras, my home town, is most know to foreigners for giving its name to the Fagaras mountains, the range with the highest peaks in the country, and the Transfagarasean Highway, which crosses these mountains with hairpin turns at great heights.

I can recommend two more reasons to stop in Fagaras:

1. to visit the Fagaras Citadel in the center of town

2. to make it your home-base for visiting the area

I have recently discovered that Fagaras, being so central, is the perfect starting place for various day trips in the area. To the north you have got Sighisoara, to the east Brasov, to the south the Fagaras mountain range with varying options of hikes and visits and to the west Sibiu and Alba Iulia. Of course, a car is helpful, but the main train line Brasov-Sibiu passes through Fagaras, as do many buses.

In the next few posts, I’d like to let you know about the day trips we made around Fagaras with a car. Here they are in short.

Day 1: Sighisoara, the Viscri Fortified Church, and the Rupea Castle

Day 2: Alba Iulia, Sibiu

Day 3: Transfagarasean Highway (Balea Waterfall and Lake) and the Sambata Monastery

Day 4: Sinaia and the Peles Castle

But first, since it was our starting point, let me introduce you to theĀ  main attraction in Fagaras, the Citadel.

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Fagaras and Beyond Day 2 – Alba Iulia

After a second night in Fagaras, our home-base so to speak, we had another full day planned: Alba Iulia and Sibiu. The drive was pretty impressive on its own. On your drive towards Sibiu you have the Fagaras mountain range following you on your left, as you pass through quaint Transylvanian village after quaint Transylvanian village. I’ve passed through countless times and yet I still try (hopelessly) to capture pictures from the car of tall fence-walls and gates that leave you imagining what is behind them. The best part is catching glances into the traditional courtyards of these authentic homes.

In Alba Iulia, the main attraction, the recently renovated fortress and old town, is hard to miss. There is plenty of parking near the entrance and you can already see the bridge welcoming you in. The bridge actually crosses what used to be the moat and what is now a beautifully kept round-the-fortress-walls bike- and footpath. A nice place for a stroll where even the locals might spend a Sunday afternoon.

Entrance bridge and walkway through the old moat

Entrance bridge and walkway through the old moat

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Ever wanted to walk in a moat? Well here you can take a stroll with the fortress walls towering over you

Ever wanted to walk in a moat? Well here you can take a stroll with the fortress walls towering over you (crocodiles not included)

Pass through the thick front gate and you will spot two churches. The Romanian Orthodox church on the left and the Roman Catholic cathedral on your right. Both are free to visit, as is access to this fortress. There are a few special tours and areas only available to paying public.

Two fortress' two churches

The fortress’ two churches

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The Romanian Orthodox Church

The Romanian Orthodox Church

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The Roman Catholic Cathedral

The Roman Catholic Cathedral

The Alba Iulia fortress and town has huge historical significance. Here you can find the intersection of more than 2000 years’ worth of histories: Dacian, Roman, Hungarian, Habsburg, Ottoman, Saxon, Romanian. A very important economic and military center for the Romans, Alba Iulia was the Roman castrum known as Apulum. Its ruins can still be visited today. Alba Iulia was the capital of the Transylvania Principality, the place where the three provinces of Romania got united – twice, briefly in 1599 and on December 1st, 1918, and the place of coronation of Romania’s first monarchs.

Looking out towards an entrance (or would it be an exit?)

Looking out towards an entrance (or would it be an exit?)

My brief description and the few photos I showcase here barely scratch the surface of the wonders of Alba Iulia. For more information you can check out http://www.visitalbaiulia.com. Or maybe you’ll just have to go visit the fortress yourselves.

Fagaras and Beyond Day 1 – Rupea

RUPEA CASTLE

On your way from Sighisoara to Brasov, you will inevitably notice the Rupea Castle high up on a hill, inviting you for a visit. It’s been newly renovated. It looks great, but as no one lives there anymore, it feels a lot like a museum, an impressive one, nonetheless, with imposing fortified walls and towers.

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Fagaras and Beyond Day 1 – Sighisoara

SIGHISOARA

The Clock Tower is the emblem of the medieval town of Sighisoara. It contains a museum of the history of the city, which you visit on your way up to the balcony. From there you get a great view of the red-tiled roof tops of the old houses and the lush-green area surrounding the town. What makes this medieval town special, is that besides being a great tourist attraction: historical, mythical, quaint and colorful, it is alive, zooming with people who call it their home.

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