The Transylvanian city of Brasov is usually just a day trip from Bucharest. People spend maybe an hour or so to wandering around the town square, and buy a drink before hopping back on their transport back to the capital city of Romania.
But, thanks to an epic tip-off from the travel ninja Shikha at Why Waste Annual Leave and a few other Brasov devotees, instead of following the crowds, we booked a couple of leisurely nights there. At the end of our day trip, instead of returning to Bucharest and getting stuck in the Sunday evening traffic, we checked into our hotel and waved our guide off.
Yes, you can easily ‘do’ Brasov in an afternoon – it’s a popular stop off at the end of a day trip after visiting the “home” of Dracula – Bran castle, and the beautiful Peles castle – but having the leisure to linger was exquisite.
In addition to trying local dishes, we also ate lunch at McDonalds. Yes, yes, as a blogger we shouldn’t pretend to eat anything other than caviar washed down with champagne and unicorn tears, but we were hungry and couldn’t be bothered to find somewhere. (For the record, we both opted for a Big Mac and a diet coke.)
For the first half day, we wandered around whilst the skies were beautifully blue…
… learned a lot of local history, admired the Hollywood style sign in the hills…
… slipped into a couple of churches (not to mention dodged giggling kids racing around on miniature cars)…
…some hidden, and some hidden in plain sight…
…and admired the sign from our cosy hotel, as it lit up at twilight.
Our only full day dawned fairly murky for the most part, it was a Sunday so a lot of things were closed, so after hitting 20,000 steps and getting lost a few times in the less pretty corners of the city…
…we settled in for a touch of people watching, and a few cocktails of various kinds. The locals all gathered in the Old Town square; couples on dates, families with hungry kids, older people watching the antics of their grandkids and the occasional tourist drinking afternoon margaritas. AKA the very best kind.
This isn’t a very good guide is it? More of an amble along cobbled streets. That’s an excellent metaphor for
lazy, sorry, slow travel. Sometimes you just need to smell the daisies.
The fare is unsurprisingly hearty – just the thing to get you through a long day in the snow, skiing down the Carpathian Mountains nearby – or enjoying once the sun sinks below the horizon.
We had stayed in 5-star luxury in Bucharest, so this was a nice way to dial back to something simpler, something less formal.
This dish? A hearty, creamy polenta crowned by a friend egg, sausage and bacon. Across the table Mr Kiwi inhaled his Goulash. Bella Muzika was a lovely restaurant for dinner – recommended specifically to us by Shikha. It was “quiet, romantic and set in an old underground cellar with candlelight , serving Romanian and errr….Mexican (?!) food.” Delicious.
Prince Charles, who claims distant kinship with Vlad “The Impaler” Tepes, the 15th-century Wallachian ruler on whom the Irish novelist Bram Stoker based his Dracula, first came to Transylvania in 1998. In his own words, he was “totally overwhelmed by its unique beauty and its extraordinarily rich heritage”.
It also has a unique cultural legacy, seen most clearly in the Gothic-style medieval towns like Brasov and fortified churches built by the “Saxon” German settlers who 800 years ago were invited to come here to offer protection from incursions by Turks, Tatars and Mongols.
Despite huge changes – in the past century sovereignty has transferred from Habsburg emperors to Romanian kings to communist dictators to elected politicians – Transylvania has somehow retained a link to the old ways.
Unfortunately our last half day was besieged with rain, but luckily it allowed us another lie-in, a long breakfast and a good few Netflix episodes. A rather comfortable start to the day, before we hopped on the 3-hour train which snaked through the Carpathian mountains, back to Bucharest.
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