Brasov

Originally a Wallachian settlement, Brasov became a German colony, and the two quarters, the Saxon and the Romanian (Schei) can still clearly be distinguished. The German colonists (Transylvanian Saxons) were allowed to settle in the area by the Hungarian king Geza in the 12th Century. They called the city Kronstadt, and made their living from trade and crafts, while the Romanian population was mostly involved in agriculture (having been denied citizenship and the right to practice crafts). After World War II, much of the Saxon population emigrated to Germany or was deported to the Soviet Union.

Brasov has some beautifully preserved medieval architecture. The oldest historical monument is the Romanesque St. Bartolomeu church, dating back to 1223. The large St Nikolae church was built in 1495. The Black Church of 1380 is the most remarkable example of Gothic architecture in Romania. Partly destroyed by a great fire in 1689, it became known as the Black Church for its charred walls. The church contains a precious collection of Anatolian carpets and the largest organ in South-Eastern Europe, and concerts are held there on a regular basis. The 15th-century Old City Hall is now home of the History Museum. The 16th-century Citadel was one of the strongest fortifications in Transylvania and is well worth a visit. If you take the cable car or simply walk up to the top of Tampa Hill, you will have a beautiful view of the old city.

Poiana Brasov, an excellent skiing resort, is just 12 kilometres away. The season lasts about 4 months. Two cable cars, one gondola and eight ski lifts service nine slopes between 300 and 3800 m in length. There are runs of various difficulty, both for beginners and for advanced skiers. Accommodation is plentiful and varied, restaurants offer international and traditional local cuisine to the sound of folk music. The rates are much lower than in Alpine resorts in Italy, France and Switzerland. Swimming, horseback riding and hiking attract visitors in summer.

Predeal is 25 kilometres from Brasov. It is Romania's highest town, situated at 1033 m altitude. It has 11 slopes rated easy to difficult, a cross-country run, a new high-speed cable car, artificial snow installations, snow boards and snow mobiles for rent.

Sinaia is another famous resort within a short distance from Brasov. A monastery was first founded there in the 17th Century. In 1873, the Peles Castle was built as a summer royal residence. One of Romania's most popular resorts, Sinaia contains a bobsleigh run, and great ski slopes at 2000 m altitude, beginner to black.

The Dracula legend has been attracting a considerable tourist flow to Romania. The person who served as a prototype for the creation of Dracula was a Transylvanin count of the name of Vlad Tepes. Whether he was a vampire or not is highly questionable, but he did have the nasty habit of impaling people for the smallest offense or even just for the fun of it. The places related to this notorious historical character have become a profitable industry as visitors from far and wide flock to the 'vampire castle', buy mementos and take dinners at the 'Dracula Restaurant'. Actually, Bran Castle was never the home of Vlad Tepes, and he might have stayed there shortly but even that is uncertain.