Thursday 18th April 2013
Transylvania, for many conjours, up the image of Bram Stoker’s Dracula character based on Vlad the Impaler – a feared enemy of the region, thought to have killed in excess of 80,000 during his reign of terror. Thankfully the tourism industry here on the whole avoids the tacky, mass market merchandising that could detract from what is a fascinating part of the country.
The character of the many towns in the area reflects the changing patterns of settlers in the region and the defensive towers, hilltop citadels and fortified churches date to the Saxons migration to the area. Tourism is being developed around these locations, many are already UNESCO World Heritage sites and some are under major reconstruction. We have visited a number of the villages and towns on our travels through this region of the country, many share similarities but all different in their own way.
A charming city surrounded by old fortified walls with beautiful squares, narrow cobbled streets and lovely churches. Split into an upper and lower part of the town there are also a number of guild towers and we walked up to the top of the Council Tower to get a birds eye view of the city.
A tiny village south of Sibiu with a hilltop fortified church. Inside the partly renovated very plain church is an altar with marble plaques in memory of German soldiers who died in 1916 in battles around Sibiu.
Strategically located near the mountain pass this Saxon town has a large central square surrounded by merchant houses and dotted with churches. Fortress walls line the town beneath Mount Tampa. In case you’re not sure where you are they have a huge illuminated Braşov sign on the hillside – HOLLYWOOD style!
The castle here claims links with Vlad the Impaler, it’s impressive with many towers and ramparts and lies in a beautiful mountain setting but the tourist tat and Dracula tours didn’t appeal to us and we drove on out of town choosing not to stay at the rather ‘dead’ looking Vampire Camping site!
Approaching from the southeast you cannot fail to be impressed with the strategic positioning of the castle on a craggy outcrop with views across the countryside for miles. Under massive reconstruction we could only admire it from the outside but the newly finished car park made a great overnight stop for us and one of the best views to date from our ‘bedroom’ window as the floodlit castle glowed against the night sky.
Another impressive hilltop citadel which we walked up to through the village backstreets, pretty pastures and wooded lane. Although totally ruined we were able to wander around freely (the Health & Safety police would have a field day here) peering down into the unguarded 60m deep well, climbing steps up through archways and wandering around the crumbling towers. It was peaceful, beautiful and free.
Another Saxon influenced hilltop citadel with pastel coloured houses, cobbled streets, an understated town square and a number of cafés, hotels and sadly a few tourist tat shops. The Clock Tower has interesting figurines and beautifully coloured roof tiles. With the absence in some areas of the town of cables, wires, signs and ariels there are sections where you really feel you are stepping back in time.