When Clinton and I visited Romania we decided to focus our attention on the historical region located in central Romania and known as Transylvania. Our past post focused on the historic Bran Castle and the beautiful city of Brasov, but we also visited other places in the region. Transylvania hosts some of the best preserved medieval towns and historic citadels and towers. Natural borders include the Carpathian mountain range and the Apuseni Mountain range and boast exquisite beauty even from afar. Transylvania has an extensive multi-ethnic heritage that includes the many countries along her border. Hungarian and German influence is apparent in many instances while traveling around the country, from the architecture to even the food. Romania was officially formed in 1859 when Wallachia and the Danubian Principalities of Moldavia unified and gained independence from the Ottoman Empire. Romania fought with the Allied powers during World War I and afterwards Transylvania joined the Kingdom of Romania. After joining the Axis side during World War II it fought against the Soviet Union before joining the Allies in 1944 where they recovered Northern Transylvania. Romania became a socialist republic after the Soviet Union occupied the country/ but in 1989 the Romania Revolution began a transition towards democracy.
Keeping with the Vlad the Impaler theme, our next stop after celebrating my birthday at Bran Castle was to visit the birthplace to Vlad in Sighisoara. The building I have to admit was rather tourists – it had a picture of a vampire in front and seemed to be only a gift shop – so we opted to skip the inside of the building to walk around the town and see the sights as Vlad may have done when he was younger. Sighisoara was first noted by Vlad Dracul, Vlad the Impaler’s father, in 1431. By the 14th and 15th centuries the city had grown to include craftsmen and tradesmen who oversaw the construction of 14 towers and several bastions as a defense system was created. The stone buildings, including the striking Clock Tower, are breathtaking. The medieval architecture, the winding stone walkways and alleys, and the history associated with the area make Sighisoara a must see when visiting Romania, and Transylvania in particular! The history of the town dates back to Roman times when it was known as Castrum Stenarum. In the 12th century the Transylvanian Saxons built a new citadel and added German influence to the medieval town. Sighisoara was designated a World Heritage Site by UNESCO for it’s beautifully intact 16th century towers, streets, houses, and churches that rival the historic streets of Vienna and Prague. (Don’t worry, blog post about those cities are in your future!)
The diversity of Romania is on full display when traveling to another Transylvania city – Deva. First mentioned in 1269 when the “royal castle of Deva” was documented by Stephen V, the King of Hungary and Duke of Transylvania. It was partially destroyed by the Ottomans in 1550 but was rebuilt in 1621 in the Renaissance style. Artifacts date back to the Bronze Age and indicate that the area was inhabited by at least 450 BC. The town is an important place of pilgrimage for the members of the Universal Unitarian Church as the ruins of the Deva fortress contain the prison where Francis David died in 1579. Clinton and I visited the area as a stop over before heading to our next destination, but it was nice to get out and walk around the town.
Romania is very different than the western European countries that many visit. There are historical, cultural, and geographical reasons for this but the most important thing to remember is to get out and enjoy! Spending time in your comfort zone means predictable hotels, boring restaurants, and limited options for exploration. I’m not saying be unsafe, that is completely different. But don’t expect the same conveniences that you had back home and be ready for this! Clinton and I spent time researching areas of interest but even that didn’t help us know that the train from Budapest to Croatia was going to take 3 days with no guarantee of rewarding views. We decided right then that a 12 hour ride to Brasov to visit Bran Castle was worth the detour. We sent a quick email to my mom back in the US to let her know our change of plans and headed to the train station. We almost got on the wrong train but we made it – and it was WORTH IT! Get outdoors or get inside a new museum or historic place this year and don’t let anything stop you!
Romania was only one country that the #TravelingTalleys were able to visit back in 2010 and it won’t be the last! Stay tuned for more adventures and start planning your own!