Date: Fri 28th Dec’12 (Day 162 – part 2)
Location: Brasov, Romania
Rasnov Fortress during winter is the kind of place you would go to if you love biting cold weather, trudging through snow and wandering through mist so thick you can barely see your palms when put in front of you.
Located at the top of a formidable hill overlooking Rasnov town, the fortress was built in the 13th century and was used as a defensible position and a lookout to alert against the invaders that have threatened over the centuries. Today, the fortress is in ruins, restored for tourism and installed with locals wearing medieval garb, with armour and weapons, parading around the interior. Think cosplay, but only more cool.
Three of us (the same three who came down from Dracula’s Castle that morning) arrived in the town of Rasnov, after I convinced them that it was worthwhile to pay a visit. From the bus stop, we walked through the pretty town, trying to find the way up to the fortress.
At this point, I took out my phone and switched on the map app. It uses http://www.openstreetmap.org/ which, as it was run like a wiki and updateable by anyone, includes trails, little roads and interesting local-marked landmarks not visible on Google Maps. It is pretty useful when looking for shortcuts and interesting non-touristy spots.
We followed a trail marked on the map, which went straight up the hill instead of following the asphalt road. What must have been a pretty scenic hill trail to the fortress in summer is a treacherous climb up slippery snow-covered stone steps here during winter. Luckily the railings were available, otherwise we would be climbing on all fours. Along the way, we passed by the giant letters of “RASNOV” which was visible from down below. Some smart-aleck had the idea to imitate the “HOLLYWOOD” sign obviously.
We reached the top of the hill. The stone walls that ran around the perimeter of the fortress surrounded the castle, punctuated by stone towers. It would be hard to breach the fortress, I thought to myself. Entering from the main western gate, through the tower, I first came into the outer court. Other than having the highest lookout point within the citadel, this section was bare. There was a lot of rubble. Ruins of building and sections of the walls are crumbling, hidden underneath layers of snow. If you are the adventurous sort, and like scrambling over rocks, this could be the place for you.
Further east though, the inner area of the citadel was more inviting. The restorations were extensive here, and there were houses and intact buildings. Back then, these were the living quarters of the people based in Rasnov. There was an entire village here then! Today though, it was peddlers who were dressed up in medieval clothing. One guy looked like Puss-in-Boots carrying his musket. Another was vaguely dressed up like the court fool, but carrying a spear, so maybe not so foolish.
At the eastern end of the citadel, a small museum housing several items from the history of Rasnov fortress was on display. Surprisingly, there were some tourists in this area. I thought that the miserable weather would have drawn everyone away.
We left Rasnov Fortress in the late afternoon, following the main road. Along the way, we saw children on sleds and a reindeer in the middle of town. I enjoyed myself quite a bit here. One of my companions even remarked “That was actually better than Bran (Dracula) Castle, a more authentic experience.” I disagree with him, but you can make your own conclusion after visiting Rasnov Castle for yourself.
Hourly buses leave from Brasov’s Autogara 2 heading for Bran Castle, stopping by Rasnov along the way.
Try taking the trail up to Rasnov, a pleasant hike during summer. Be careful during winter though, you might want to be extra careful if you don’t have good shoes.
I recommend visiting both Bran Castle and Rasnov Citadel on the same day trip.