Dracula is one of my favourite books, a true horror story, therefore Transylvania was high on my list of places to visit and Romania did not disappoint.
For three days I stayed in a boutique hotel in the ski resort of Polana Brasov and although it was too early for snow, the mornings were a chilly six degrees centigrade. However, by eleven o’clock the sun was blazing, the sky was a brilliant blue and the temperature had risen to twenty to twenty five degrees. It was therefore necessary to dress like an onion and peel off layers as the day progressed.
The countryside is stunning. The area is thick with forestry and the trees were multi-shades of autumn. A warning was given to keep to well lit roads in the area as brown bears were preparing for hibernation and on the lookout for food. The bins from residences were a handy source and the large omnivores were not afraid to venture close to human habitation. I kept a wary eye out, but the hotel was fabulous and I remained there when the sun went down!
Brasov is the fourth biggest city in Romania and was once a walled city with gates. Catherine’s Gate, built in 1559, is a reasonably plain edifice in need of a little TLC, but overall the old town is an architectural delight with Baroque and Saxon buildings in muted greens, blues, pinks, creams and yellows. Almost all the buildings are different, some with plain roofs others with soaring spires, some with intricate embossed bas reliefs, others quite plain, a throwback to the Communist era.
Walking along by a stream I couldn’t believe how clear the water was, nor how tidy the surroundings were. Even the trees in the forests were well kept, with very few fallen trees and almost no undergrowth preventing the conifers, beech and oak from flourishing.
Divided into a new town and an old Brasov has a university where students study forestry and a collection of wooden carvings of indigenous animals were on display in the grounds.
Most Romanians are Orthodox, but there are communities of other religions too. The Orthodox church, a muted orange and white building, boasted a fine iconostasis (above), and the Jewish synagogue, a red and white building, had a remembrance of those who died in the Holocaust.
The main shopping street is lined with outdoor eating areas, but I made my way to the town square which is newly cobbled with square patterned tiles and is spotlessly clean. There is a museum and a fountain in the centre and is bordered by a number of eateries.
At La Gustari I discovered the most delicious cheese doughnuts, freshly fried and served with lashings of cream and sour cherry compote. Absolute heaven with a cup of coffee or a pot of fruit tea.
Brasov is an up and coming city, vibrant with colour and a busy commercial centre. It is well worth a visit, close to several ski resorts and there is a bear sanctuary not too far away which I didn’t get a chance to visit, but if I go back it will be to see the bears and enjoy those doughnuts!
For more about bears please visit my blog on Wild Ireland located in County Donegal, Ireland.
And there are the Peruvian bears in Belfast Zoo too!