Râşnov (pronounced Rash-nov) is like Braşov’s little brother who lives 15 km away. Not only does their name sound alike, they are from the same family (Transylvania), but they also have some similar characteristics.
So they are both fans of Hollywood? No, not really. But they are both medieval Romanian cities. I didn’t visit the modern city of Râşnov, but I did spend a few hours in the citadel/fortress (cetatea), which was built around the year 1215 by the Teutonic Knights (Order of Brothers of the German House of Saint Mary in Jerusalem). The citadel was conquered only once in its history, around the year 1600 by Gabriel Báthory (Prince of Transylvania from 1608-1613). There are lots of souvenir shops right in the citadel so you can find Teutonic Knights’ paraphernalia, jewelry and other medieval trinkets.
When you arrive to the citadel, you will need to park (its free) at the bottom of the mountain. You will have the option to either (A) take a “train” which is pulled by a farm tractor or (B) walk. If you ask the ticket sales lady, she will tell you that it takes 15 minutes or more to walk up to the citadel.
Traveler’s tip: If you’re able bodied to walk 10 minutes or less, I would advise walking up to the citadel. The train looks fun, but its actually crowded and its a slow bumpy ride to the top. You could probably walk in the same amount of time and stop to smell the trees or pick the wild berries along the path. Having a ticket for the train, after experiencing the ride up – I walked back down and it was much more enjoyable.
Wondering around the citadel (there are no tour guides available from what I saw – maybe you can arrange one in the town below), I was amazed at how well preserved it was. There were loose rocks everywhere and it really looked like you were walking over the ruins of a city. I felt like a trespasser who was let it on a secret town rather than a tourist stampeding through the motions and snapping photos so you actually see what it looked like later. That’s one of the best parts about touring Romania – all of the places you visit are authentic and not over crowded.
Inside the fortress there are more than 30 houses and as I looked inside these small-squared living quarters that people used to call home I couldn’t help but think that nowadays, most bathrooms are bigger than these spaces. I tried to picture women in long dresses, wearing an apron and a bandana on their head cooking over a small fire. There was even a building designated for the school and there was open courtyard space.
While I truly enjoyed walking through history, it might not be a sight-to-see for everyone. I overheard one lady say in English:
“What am I supposed to see here? Everything is broken!”
I nearly burst out laughing hearing such a remark. I turned around and saw the poor lady struggling to climb up the steep entrance way and bracing herself against the rock wall so she didn’t trip on the loose rocks.
Another traveler’s tip: If you want to see the citadel, bring runners because there is a lot of unsteady ruin to walk through. Maybe leave the non-history loving people your traveling with at the bottom to wait. There are a few snack places down there.
From the citadel, you can see the red-roofed view of city below. But unlike, Râşnov’s big brother, Brasov, you are closer to the city and it feels like you are in a protected fortress. One could even feel like a princess or a warrior looking over the city below through the spy holes.
Make sure to walk up to the highest point in the citadel where there is a plaque explaining that it was where the church used to stand. Its a little more crowded on this peak, but you also get to see the lush green mountains in the surroundings.
Seeing the Râşnov Citadel was a moving experience. You stand on history and you can imagine how they lived. You can be swept away in the moment gazing over the red-roofed city and and then turning to face the ever green mountains.
Have you ever been to a citadel? Was it as authentic as this one in Râşnov? Have you ever visited a place where you truly felt and saw the history around you?
Until next time,
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