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FORTRESSES AROUND BRASOV

BraÅŸov and its surroundings still bears the charm and mystery of the epoch marked by the accomplishments of the Teutonic Knights, reminding us at every step about the acts of bravery which made an impact on the history of the Romanian people. Starting with the 13th century, Bârsa Land and FÓ‘gÓ‘raÅŸ Land have played an important economic, political and military role. The fortifications built by the Dacians and the Romans continued to be useful in the Middle Ages, being later transformed by the local communities into peasant fortresses or fortified churches. The walls full of stories at RâÅŸnov, Feldioara or Prejmer and the enigmatic rupestral ensemble at Åžinca Veche create a unique atmosphere favorable for relaxation and for discovering historical, ethnographical and artistic riches in BraÅŸov. Set in a wonderful natural environment, they offer you a journey in time, revealing the secrets of the epochs they’ve passed through.

Barsa Land

RâÅŸnov Fortress

There is a little Saxon town 15 kilometers from BraÅŸov crossed by narrow streets, which is picturesque and coquettish in its simplicity. Watching over it is the majestic and svelte fortress called RâÅŸnov, seemingly dislocated from the mountain and intermingling with the forest. From below, the fortress attracts you like a magnet, while from the top you get to see a completely different world, a true dwelling place over which the times have passed mercilessly.

In medieval times, RâÅŸnov was an important commercial center, tying Transylvania to Wallachia. As a consequence of the numerous Tartar sieges, the people of RâÅŸnov rebuilt the stone fortress abandoned by the Teutons in the 13th century. The first documentary attestation of the fortification dates back to 1335, a year in which the invaders burnt the entire region. The fortress resisted the repeated attacks until 1612, when the Hungarian prince Gabriel Bathory and his troops took it by storm and discovered its weak spot - the lack of a water source inside the building. Water was brought in from the forest, outside the fortress, but the besiegers found the road to the secret spring and blocked it. For this reason, RâÅŸnov fell for the first and the last time in front of the invaders. In time, the construction lost its military and urbanistic role and the inhabitants of the fortress moved out into the present day village.

Rasnov Fortress

 

Rasnov Fortress

The fortification at RâÅŸnov is built in a simple architectural style, resembling the one of common houses. The very thick and high walls, the numerous defense towers, the shooting holes and the defense roads made the invaders’ advancement impossible.  In the fortress there is an exterior yard with storage spaces for food and weaponry, a cattle shelter and an interior yard, with houses grouped into thematic neighborhoods at the heart of which there was a fortified fair. Over 80 dwelling places were built for the villagers to retreat during sieges.

Among the ruins, the past plays like a movie. The narrow alleys of the fortress, the massive walls, the small houses, they all take you back to the times of the ladies and the knights in armor. The edifice houses the Feudal Art Museum, where you can admire ancient pieces of furniture, weaponry, tools, important epoch documents, a torture mask and a yoke to transport the prisoners in. Furthermore, on one of the streets you will discover the fountain built after the attack of the Hungarian army led by Gabriel Bathory. The legends say that it was dug by two Turkish prisoners, in exchange for the promise that they would be released if they carried their task to the end. For 17 years they wrote verses from the Koran on the walls of the fountain, asking Allah for mercy.

In the highest point of the fortress there is a telelens, offering a unique view over RâÅŸnov, but also over the Bucegi Mountains, Piatra Craiului, or the BraÅŸov Depression. The landscapes are superb, and the place - so charged with history impresses with its greatness. You can better learn about the past of the fortress in June, when it is celebrated with medieval music, demonstrations with carriages and stuntmen and delicious traditional dishes.

Rasnov Fortress

 

Rasnov Fortress

 

Rasnov Fortress

The Rupestral Ensemble at Åžinca Veche

Tourists come to Åžinca Veche to learn about the legends connected to this place and to solve the mystery of the halidom dug in stone. A place of worship, introspection and meditation, the rupestral ensemble also called 'The Temple of the Fates', 'The Monastery Dug in Stone', or 'The Temple at Åžinca Veche' is a unique and mystical attraction, extremely controversial.

The road to Åžinca foretells the mystery and the beauty of the rupestral monastery, prompting you to discover it. A delightful stone footpath, with traditional culverts and a birch fence elbows among the trees, up to the cave. The locals say paranormal phenomena happened here and that one can have premonitory dreams. They also say that if a person’s intentions are good and they climb into the tower from where they can see the sky, their wishes come true. Furthermore, it is said that around the important holidays, one can hear divine choirs singing at Åžinca, and that sometimes, a girl dressed in white can appear in the temple; if you see her and pray to her, she can change your fate. You will learn if these rumors are true or not only by visiting the stone temple.

On PleÅŸu Hill, near the rock hidden in the forest, young people still keep a very old custom. Three times a year, they throw a wheel with straws tied on it downhill after they’ve set it on fire. According to tradition, this way they will meet their soul mate and get married. Moreover, the locals who were convinced by the extraordinary power of the halidom used to enter the galleries and leave all sort of objects there, believing that they would charge with positive energy and perform miracles. Full of enigmas and uncertainties, situated at the heart of nature, the Åžinca Veche rupestral ensemble helps the traveler find inner peace and balance.

Sinca Veche

 

Sinca Veche

Feldioara Fortress

On a knoll, at the end of the trails elbowing on the flank of the hill, you will see the ruins of Feldioara peasant fortress. 17 kilometers from BraÅŸov, it is the most important fortification raised by the Teutonic Knights in Transylvania. Some historians consider the fortress was raised by the Teutonic Order who chose this place to become their center in Bârsa Land and gave it the name of St. Mary (Marienburg). On the other hand, it is said that the locals in Feldioara built the fortress themselves, at great expense. In 1529, one of the battles between the supporters of the Hungarian king John Zápolya and those of Ferdinand of Habsburg took place here, an episode which marked the beginning of Petru RareÅŸ’ reign in Transylvania, due to the help provided by Zápolya. In 1612, the fortress was occupied by Gabriel Bathory and the attempt of the people of BraÅŸov to get their fortification back failed.

Presently, the ruins at Feldioara, out of which there is only a tower left, along with a few wall fragments, a part of the cellar and the well, are surrounded by a ditch reminiscent of medieval times. Near the old fortress there is a gothic church, dating back to the 13th to 15th centuries, very well preserved.

Feldioara Fortress

 

Feldioara Fortified Church

Prejmer Fortress

Prejmer prides itself with one of the strongest and best preserved fortress-churches in Eastern Europe, a remarkable medieval monument. Dominating the center of the commune, the fortification was raised to defend the area from the Tartars and Turks coming to Transylvania through the BuzÓ‘u Pass.

Initially, the Teutonic Knights built a church shaped as a Latin cross at Prejmer, in a Burgundian gothic style. High, overwhelming and white, it stands out in the landscape with its special architecture. In the interior it houses a unique and extremely valuable piece - the gothic tryptichal altar, made of wood and painted on both sides. The windows allowing the gentle light of the noon to come in catch your eyes, along with the still functioning organ, installed here in 1803.

In order to protect the church, the villagers raised thick and high walls around it and dug defense ditches. In its five centuries of existence, the fortress was set on fire 50 times, but it was never conquered. Inside the fortress, each family in Prejmer had its own room, passed on from father to son, where they kept their supplies and which they used as shelter during the sieges. The 272 rooms can be visited by climbing the black wooden stairs, which create a powerful contrast with the bright white of the walls. The fortress had an instrument which frightened and kept the enemies away, the so-called organ of death, which could fire continuously through its ten barrels. You can also visit the small Saxon ethnographic museum, where you will see objects of worship, costumes, ceramic pieces and painted furniture.

Prejmer Fortress

 

Prejmer Fortress

In the same area you will find Budila commune, housing more castles which impress with their architectural style, among them Beldy Ladislau and NemeÅŸ. Beldy Castle is impressive; it is presently the office of the city hall, preserving the original, 300 year old ceiling of sculpted wood. Surrounded by a romantic park, where the alleys slowly sweep along the trees and guarded by massive wrought iron gates, Beldy Ladislau Castle is a genuine architectonic jewel. From NemeÅŸ Castle, dating back to the mid 18th century, only the walls and the cellars are left almost intact. One can also see the stables of the castle, built in the baroque style.

The surroundings of BraÅŸov bear the mark of the historical events which they have faced throughout time, and welcome the tourists with an atmosphere reviving the charm of medieval times. If you want a truly relaxing vacation, during which you can discover the mysteries of the fortifications, but also the enigmas of rupestral monasteries, RâÅŸnov, Åžinca Veche and Prejmer are the perfect places for you to visit.   

[An article written by Andreea Bertea]