The Council Square
The Council Square (Piata Sfatului) is the heart of the old
medieval Brasov. Lined with beautiful red-roofed merchant houses, the square
is one of the finest in the country. In the center of the square lies the Council
House, built in 1420. The building used to serve as Brasov's city hall; today it
houses Brasov's Historical Museum. The exhibits tell the history of the Saxon guilds,
who dominated Brasov during medieval times. On top of the building sits the
Trumpeter's Tower which was once a watchtower for approaching barbarians before
being incorporated into the building. Around the square you'll find some of the
smaller landmarks captured by my other tips like the Renaissance style Hirscher
House or Merchant's House (now the "Cerbul carpatin" restaurant), the beautiful
entrance to the Orthodox cathedral or the museum dedicated to the Mureseanu
family out of which came the first editor of Gazeta Transylvania, a political
newspaper published in the 19th century. One of the square's corners is dominated
by the town's most famous landmark, the Black Church. Piata Sfatului is a nice
place to rest, and soak in the beautiful scenery. In the summer outdoor cafes
line the square and the place is lively. Every late summer the "Golden Stag"
(Cerbul de Aur) music festival takes place here.
The Black Church
The Black Church is Brasov's most prominent landmark and
one of the finest examples of Gothic architecture in Romania. A true center of
Transylvanian Protestantism, the church was built between 1383 and 1477. In
1689 the church was nearly destroyed by a great fire caused by the Austrian army
that occupied Brasov. It was then that the church was named the Black Church
from its blackened walls. The church has a beautiful collection of Turkish
rugs from the 17C and 18C, one of the richest collection of its kind in all
Europe. Through their rich colors and diverse motifs the carpets warm the
severe interior. They were received as gifts from local merchants who returned
from trips to the Ottoman lands. Another impressive feature is the church's
organ, built by Buchholz of Berlin in 1839. In the summer you can listen
to organ recitals, throughout July and August. The church is still used
by German Lutherans today. There's a small admission fee to visit the interior.
Address: Court J. Honterus 2
Ecaterina's Gate is the only original city gate to survive
from medieval times. In fact the fairy-tale looking tower which was built in
1559 is only a part of the original gate; documents talk about the existence
of a wooden structure which was demolished in 1827. The four small corner
turrets (also seen in other Transylvanian towns) symbolize the fact that
the town had judicial autonomy, and the "right of sword" (ius gladii) which
was the right to decide on capital punishment. Above the entrance the tower
bears the city's coat of arms, a crown on a tree trunk. The gate was in the
care of the taylors' guild.
The Hirscher House
This imposing house which borders the Council Square
(Piata Sfatului) was built during 1541-1547 by Apollonia Hirscher, the widow
of Brasov's mayor Lukas Hirscher. The house was a tribute to the city and
its intended use was as a trade center for the merchants of Brasov. The house
design in Renaissance style was modeled to resemble the merchandise halls
from the old big cities of Eastern Europe. Because the first floor was the
market for high-boots, the building was named "Podul Batusilor"
(The High-Boots Bridge). Above the entrance you can see the Hirsher's coat
of arms. Today the building is hosting a traditional restaurant, The
Carpathian Stag (Cerbul carpatin). Address: Piata Sfatului, 14.
Saint Nicholas Church
Saint Nicholas Church is the oldest Orthodox church
in Brasov and one of the oldest churches in Transylvania. The church was
first built in wood in 1392 and replaced with a stone structure in 1495
by the Wallachian prince Neagoe Basarab who supported the Romanian
community in Brasov. The church is a true architectural masterpiece with a
mix of the Byzantine, Baroque and Gothic elements. The final construction
was ready in 1594 and the church was then again altered in 1739 when it
was extended, the clock tower was added and the interior was embellished.
Like other medieval churches it is surrounded by protective walls with
large wooden gates. Inside the pretty garden there is also a small old
cemetery; beside the church is the First Romanian-language school (1495),
now a museum. The church's treasury contains a large collection of icons,
paintings and liturgical objects, many of them made by the famous
handcraftsmen from Brasov. Address: Piata Unirii, 1
Romanian Orthodox Cathedral
Opposite the old town hall on the east side of the
Council Square and hidden behind an archway lies the Romanian Orthodox
Cathedral. Its portal which serves as the parish house faces the square
trying to blend among the merchant's houses. The cathedral was built in
Byzantine style in 1896 under the care of the archpriest Bartolomeu
Baiulescu; the church was modeled after the Greek church in Viena. It is
worth entering the church for the frescoes and the impressive decorations.
Address: Piata Sfatului, 3.
The Schei Gate
During the Saxon rule of the 13th to 17th century
Romanians were forbidden from owning property inside the fortress walls
and such they settled outside the wall in the neibourhood named Schei.
Romanians could only enter the town at certain times and had to pay a
toll at the gate for the privilege of selling their produce inside the citadel.
One of the remaining gates of the town is Schei Gate (Poarta Schei). The
structure that we can see today was built in 1827 and replaced the old Schei
Gate which was heavily damaged from fires. The gate looks like a triumphal
arch with three openings. Above the small arches on both sides of the gate
you can see inscriptions in Latin. Address: Str. Schei.
The Black Tower
Because Brasov and the surrounding region were
repeatedly raided by the Turks and Tatars the town decided to fortify
itself. In the 15th century the Saxons build a defence wall which was once
12 meters high and two meters thick and stretched for 3 km. They also
erected seven bastions around the city, and the guarding of the bastions
was entrusted to guilds. Parts of the walls still remain today and can be
seen along the Dupa Ziduri Street (Dupa Ziduri means Behind the Walls).
Of the original seven bastions a few survived, including the squared Black
Tower which lies at the west of the old city wall. The tower built in 1494
now houses a museum, and they charge a small fee for seeing a museum but
frankly there's not much to see inside. From the top you do get a nice
view of the Black Church but you get almost the same view from the iron
balcony surrounding the tower. Apparently the name comes from the tower
being severely burnt in 1559 (it doesn't look black today). Address: Str.
The White Tower
The White Tower is another one of the seven bastions
which were part of the town defensive walls in the 15th century. Because
Brasov and the surrounding region were repeatedly raided by the Turks and
Tatars the town decided to fortify itself. The Saxons build a defence
wall which was once 12 meters high and 2 meters thick and stretched for
3 km. They also erected seven bastions around the city, and the guarding
of the bastions was entrusted to guilds. Parts of the walls still remain
today and can be seen along the Dupa Ziduri Street (Dupa Ziduri means
Behind the Walls). The semicircular White Tower was also finished in 1494,
like the Black Tower. The tower is located high up the hill and you'll
have to climb some 200 steps up to it (serious exercise). Address: Str.
Republicii Street, Brasov pedestrian thoroughfare
Strada Republicii is Brasov's main thoroughfare, leading
away from the Council Square towards Bdul Eroilor. No cars are allowed here
which makes it a popular place for strolling. The street is lined with
shops, cafes and restaurants and it's crowded but nice, especially in
The narrowest street in Europe
Or so they say :) I don't believe that the statement
is true, but it is probably the narrowest street in Romania. A plaque
that marks the street reads "Sforii Street (Rope Street) links
Cerbului Street with Poarta Schei. It is 80 m long and its width is
between 111cm and 135 cm (3.64 feet to 4.42 feet). It was mentioned
in official documents starting with the 17th century. The street
was renovated in 2003 by the care of the city hall". The street is
indeed narrow, I wonder if two persons can pass through at the same
time. I think there might be a problem there, even if they turn sideways.