“In the morning light, during their trip through Transylvania, the future knights will see the profile of the Rasnov fortress. Its mysterious quietness draws them to it, as if hiding in its thick, eroded walls, terrible secrets are waiting to be discovered”
Well, guided by this, we decided to take a short trip to Rasnov and use our almost non-existent writing skills to tell you all about it.
Transylvanian landscapes, hitchhiking through Romania, ways of turning ancient remains into commercial travel destinations, life stories, we guess you’ll find a bit of everything in here…
7 AM – Wake-up call. After checking the railway company’s site we found out that the most suitable train for Brasov leaves in about an hour. Then, of course, the usual morning ritual began, spiced up a bit by the lack of coffee in the house. After groping around for several minutes, we end up in a cab, arguing about the things we forgot to take with us. The taxi drivers in Bucharest are some really interesting species. Although most of the time they’re grumpy and always annoyed about something, if you’re lucky enough you might end up in the back-seat of a race-driver wannabe which can take you to your desired destination in minutes, in spite of the rain, traffic or police officers. Well, we weren’t lucky.
Several tens of minutes and curses later, we arrive at the railway station. Too late, of course. The train had left for about 5 minutes. Resigned, we head slowly for the small park in front of the station with cups of coffee in our hands. The other choices for reaching Brasov and eventually the small town of Rasnov are with the bus, with the next train that leaves in about two hours or of course, by hitch-hiking. Feeling adventurous, we chose the last option.
Up in a cab again and heading for the Baneasa Airport, near the city outskirts. If you plan on hitch-hiking your way out of Bucharest, that’s one of the best places to try your luck. After five minutes of waving, the incredible happened and a car stopped. We were lucky, the driver will take us to Ploiesti, the next big city near Bucharest. One hour passed, thanks for the ride, here’s a bill of 10 Lei (the equivalent of 3 Dollars) and here we are hitching again.
In Romania, it’s ussually the cheaper and less fancy cars that will stop and pick you up. Their drivers are the most interesting people to talk to and you would be amazed of what you can find out about life, women, politics and sports in half an hour of riding along with one of them. It was also the case of the driver that took us in his rugged van, which among other things, carried several blue barrels marked as “toxic substances”. But the guy was heading towards Zarnesti, a town built at the feet of the Piatra Craiului Mountains and fortunately for us, right near Rasnov.
So we began our ride looking at the mountains that were slowly raising in front of us as we headed towards the Prahova Valley. One of the drawbacks of the hitchhiking is that you can never tell the driver – “speed up man, I’m trying to catch some sun out there” And chewing on our nails we slowly passed by the wonderful landscapes with a cruise speed of about 60Km/H. Oh yes, we had all the time in the world to admire the sharp summits of the Bucegi Mountains, the small towns of Sinaia and Busteni, to feel the strong air mixed with the exhaust gasses from the other cars that rushed by us. And last, but not least, to carefully listen to another life story. Hell, in the end this is what hitch-hiking is all about…
Anyway, if you want to drive your way to Rasnov, after passing through the Prahova Valley, you’ll have to turn left right before entering Predeal and then follow the road for about 14Km.
Eventually, three hours later, the ride ended near the Rasnov city outskirts. Ignoring the scent of adventure that was floating in the air, we stopped for a snack on the side of the road and asked for directions to the Rasnov Fortress. After five minutes of totally contradictory answers and some people looking at us as we were trying to steal their goats, we entered the small town. Rasnov is a place of contrasts. Judging it by its inhabitants – mostly old people, not very eager to be seen on the streets, you could easily classify it as a dead city. But then you see the houses. Incredibly large wooden gates, latticed windows towards the street, small crosses on the roof-tops and huge stone walls. Managed to picture this? Ok, then try to imagine the above in all the bright, full of joy colours of the rainbow. Yellow, orange, deep blue or pink. Pretty funky, isn’t it?
While walking towards the city center, after 1Km or so, we saw a blue sign showing the road to the fortress. So we turned right, followed a country road for another 15-20 minutes and finally reached it. The first thing that stroke us was the large crowd of people up there, together with their cars, dogs, cameras and oh well, badges that reminded us in Brasov was happening the yearly Golden Stag (Cerbul de Aur) music festival. Thank God they were just leaving. The second thing to notice was the magnificent view. The fortress was built about 800 years ago on a rocky hill, elevated at about 150m above the city and surrounded by mountains.
And so, after paying the 6 Lei entrance fee and negociating a bit the photography fees, we passed through the gates of the citadel, with our hearts filled with the emotion of discovering a new place.
The emotion didn’t last for too long. Though impressing, the inner courtyard is a mixture of commercial kitsch in the form of cheap souvenirs and big posters with holes in them, waiting for your pictures posing as a vampire or as a candid virgin. But, you may also find in there impressing remains of the old fortress, that are strangely still in good shape. The owners of the place did their job pretty well, so I guess I’ll forgive them for the “buy your own Dracula teeth” earlier.
Just as you enter the courtyard, you’ll see a 143m deep well, digged several hundreds years ago by two turk prisoners in exchange for their freedom. It’s not mentioned if they were released or if they were left on the bottom of the well, but they sure did a great job. The water allowed the inhabitants of the fortress to fully close the gates in times of war and not depend on the outside villages. So, Rasnov gained its fame as unconquerable.
While wandering through the courtyard and running into all kinds of tourists, most of them not Romanians, we discovered a small sign that pointed towards a looking glass on the top of a small hill.
Not expecting too much, we climbed the hill and suddenly we were reduced to silence. Below us, the fortress’ walls and towers. Above us, the most amazing blue sky spotted from place to place by fluffy clouds. All around us, mountains, green fields and little brown dots – houses from the small towns surrounding us. I guess the trip to Rasnov finally paid off.
Several minutes later we climbed down and visited the museum hidden behind the ancient walls. The museum’s “piece de resistance” is a skeleton burried below a glass floor, but you may also find some really interesting artifacts in there. From rusty knives dating probably from the ’80’s or ’90’s to several hundreds of years old weaponry. The inner rooms are looking more like a maze, with several wood ladders linking them and a few so-called secret passages which should keep you busy for quite a while.
Well, that was it. We finally said good bye to this ancient yet somehow friendly place, dreaming though about a night spent in it, with flashlights and nobody around us, free to discover all of its secrets. Soon maybe. We’ll keep you posted.