Brasov #1: Walking Tour

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January 7th 2020
Published: February 9th 2020
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When I got to the train station in Sibiu, I found out that my train was delayed by 40 minutes. Great, 4 minutes longer that I could have had in bed. The station was pretty cold, but at least there was free wifi. I love that all the train stations in Romania have free wifi. The journey to Brasov took a couple of hours. Second class was very comfortable (I had previously taken first class on my journey to Sibiu), but absolutely freezing. I don't know why the train was so cold, but everyone was bundled up, trying to nap. I really don't like that they don't announce the train stations on Romanian trains. I had to do a bit of guesswork with my arrival time because of the delay. Luckily, most people seemed to be getting off in Brasov. The walk from the station to the Old Town, and hence where I was staying, was quite far, about 40 minutes. The walk was pretty straight forward and I managed not to get lost. It did involve going through a couple of underground shopping arcades. The steps on those were rather treacherous. Although it was still early, my hostel let me check in. Since it was freezing here and I was tired, I took a rest before venturing out for lunch.

I wasn't too hungry and didn't really know what I wanted to eat. I took a walk around Piata Sfatului, the main square. I didn't have a lot of time and wasn't too hungry, so I ended up in a dessert cafe. The cafe, Zoomserie, was filled with fridges full of delicious looking cakes. I ordered a chocolate Oreo topped cake and a coffee. The coffee was nice and warm, and a much needed caffeine boost. The cake was nice, very sweet. the only thing I didn't like was that the Oreos on the top were a bit soft, some crunch would have been a nice addition to the cake. I had a little bit of time before the tour started so took a little walk around the main square and some more of the streets leading off it. It was a lot busier here than Sibiu, but it still retained its old town charm. I can see why this place is so popular.

There was a free walking tour that met by the fountain. Since it was winter, the fountain wasn't working and therefore not very impressive. I was surprised that so many people turned up for the walking tour especially given how cold it was. There must have been over 10 people. The guide, Anne, was great. She was super friendly, informative and had a real love for her hometown and her heritage. She told us about how the area was populated heavily by Saxons, who ethnically German, originally came from what would be present day Belgium, Luxembourg, France, and the Netherlands. These people were invited by Hungarian kings to help develop and cultivate the towns and land of Transylvania. They were also often involved in trade and developed the old square that we were standing on and the market hall next to it and the town hall in the centre. It was interesting to hear the history and stories of the area, as I knew absolutely nothing about the place. It was utterly freezing though and staying still was tough as my feet got numb very quickly.

We moved onto the Black Church (Biserica Neagră), which was only a short walk away and I had walked past earlier. The church was built by the German community in the Gothic style and was an important place of worship for Lutherans. Before it the Black Church was built there, there was a Roman Catholic church there. The outside of the church seemed to be undergoing some restoration work. We didn't go inside, but by this point on my trip I was feeling a little church fatigue so it didn't bother me. We walked around to the other side of the church to the statue of Johannes Honterus, which I'd seen earlier and had no idea how it was. The guide explained why this bloke has a statue in front of the Black Church. He was a native of Brasov that left to study in Vienna and he then travelled to Regensburg, and later lived in Basel before returning to Brasov. During his time in the Holy Roman Empire, he encountered Protestant ideas and he introduced Lutheranism to the area. The statue is holding a book and he is famous for writing and printing books. He also founded the local Humanist school, which still functions as the Johannes Honterus School, just opposite the statue. It was interesting to learn about someone that I had never heard of, who had a great impact on this area.

From here, we walked the backstreets and came to a small street called 'Rope Street', which since it was rather narrow, we walked through to the other side before our guide gave us an explanation about the street. This street is the narrowest in Brasov (not in Europe as has been claimed before) and was built in the 15th century to give firemen access between the main thoroughfares. It was a cute little street with an interesting backstory. We headed across to the Rope Street Museum, which has free entry. It is quite small and has a cafe, I mainly used the place to warm my frozen feet up. Back out to brave the cold, we came to the old city wall and could see up the hill with the big Brasov Hollywood style sign on it. We walked along the small streets until we came to Șchei Gate (Poarta Șchei). This gate was built between 1827 and 1828 to allow large traffic to pass into and out of the city. From here, it was a short walk to Catherine's Gate, which I found to be much cuter. It looked like it should be part of a fairy tale castle. This gate was built by the Tailors' Guild in 1559 for defensive purposes. It was named after the monastery that was located near the gate. The design of the gate with four turrets, shows that the citadel had judicial autonomy. Also, during Saxon rule, Romanians weren't allowed to enter the city via any other gate and had to pay a toll to enter.

Our final stop was in the old Romanian neighbourhood, which was about 10 minute walk away. It was nice to move away from the busier centre into a quieter neighbourhood. We came to St. Nicholas Church (Biserica Sfântul Nicolae), which is a Romanian Orthodox church. Religion is very important in Romania, people appear to be very devout here. Our guide explained some ways in which the Orthodox church is different from other branches of Christianity. She also warned us that the woman working in the church was a bit of a battleaxe and so she would explain everything outside and that we would have to be quick as the church would be closing soon. The church was established in 1292, and the stone structure was built in the 15th and 16th centuries, so it has been around for a very long time. The outside of the church was beautiful, with lots of pretty details. Inside was quite dark, which I think adds to the atmosphere. In the grounds of the church, there is the first Romanian school. The school was started in 1583, and was the first institution where the Romanian language was used as the language of instruction. The school has now been turned into a museum, but we didn't have time to visit it.

It was dinner time. I made my way back to the main square. Although the guide had given us some suggestions for places to eat. I had already spied a place that I wanted to try. I do not eat enough Greek food, so I picked a restaurant named Go Greek for dinner. Since it was still early, it was rather quiet when I entered. Since I hadn't eaten much for lunch, I was ready to order a feast. I ordered Saganaki and a pork Gyros, along with a carafe of Rose. I was a bit gutted when my food all arrived at the same time. I thought that the Saganaki would come first. Bein g confronted with all I had ordered at once made me wonder how I would manage to eat it all. I started with the Saganaki first as I think fried cheese tastes better warm. It is years since I'd had Saganaki and I thoroughly enjoyed it. The gyros was really good, too. My plate was piled high with meat, bread, tzatziki and chips. It was so yummy, I really should try to eat more Greek cuisine, but it isn't the easiest thing to find in Asia. Thank goodness it was only a short waddle to where I was staying. It was so cold, I was ready to hibernate for the evening.

Additional photos below
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Saganaki Saganaki

Go Greek
Pork Gyros Pork Gyros
Pork Gyros

Go Greek

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