Built by the Transylvanian Carpathian Society in 1894, Paltinis (German: Hohe Rinne) is the highest (4,724 ft.; 1,440 m altitude) and oldest tourist resort in Romania. A favorite for ski enthusiasts, Paltinis, with its beautiful location, fresh air, and numerous hiking opportunities, is also an attraction for summer hikers. Marked trails make it easy to reach the main points on the surrounding mountains. Most of the trails are suitable for mountain biking, as well.
After his return to Sibiu as the Governor of the Great Principality of Transylvania (1777-1787), the Baron Samuel von Brukenthal brought along his collections, and Hochmeister’s Calendar for the year 1790 mentions among the attractions of the city the painting collections including 800 paintings divided in 13 halls of the Brukenthal Palace. Over time the collections enriched both through acquisitions and donations. At the present, exhibits from the National Art Gallery can be found at the first and second floor of the Brukenthal Palace, which became a genuine Museum of Art.
The village of Biertan (German:Birthalm), first mentioned in an official document in 1283, is home to one of the largest and most impressive medieval strongholds in Transylvania. Surrounded by quaint streets and vineyards, the 15th century fortified church at Biertan is perched high on a hill in the middle of the village. Three tiers of 35-foot-high defensive walls, connected by towers and gates, encircled the complex, making the church impossible to conquer during medieval times. Featuring late-gothic architecture with heavy doors and double exterior walls, the church boasts the largest Transylvanian multi-paneled wooden altar and a remarkable wooden door which once protected the treasures in the sacristy. [read more=”Read more” less=”Read less”] The altar was built by artisans from Vienna (Austria) and Nurenberg (Germany) between 1483 and 1513. The door, a true marvel of engineering, has a particularly ingenious locking mechanism with 15 bolts that can be simultaneously activated by a key. The mechanism stirred quite an interest at the Paris World Expo in 1900. Couples seeking divorce were locked in the Prison Tower for two weeks. Sharing one set of cutlery and one bed, the couple had to make their final decision. In 400 years, only one couple decided afterwards to go through with the divorce!
Romania’s national roads network cannot rival the US Interstate Highway system but the Transfagarasan and TransAlpina, two unique thoroughfares over the southern Carpathian Mountains are part of any list of the world’s most amazing roads. Also labeled “the Road to the Sky”, “the Road to the Clouds”, “the Best Driving Road in the World” and even “A spectacular Monument to Earth-Moving Megalomania” the TransFagarasan climbs, twists and descends right through Moldoveanu and Negoiu – the highest peaks in Fagaras Mountains and in Romania. This is no pass through a gap but a frontal assault, a stark and spectacular reminder of unchecked power stamping itself on an obstreperous landscape. Also known as the “Transylvanian Alps”, the Fagaras Mountains are rich in unique wildlife and scenic hiking and biking trails. [read more=”Read more” less=”Read less”] Built for military purposes at the initiative of Romania’s last communist leader Nicolae Ceausescu, this dynamite-forged road connects two of Romania’s historic provinces Transylvania (the Center) and Walachia (the South) through a series of five tunnels, 27 viaducts and 831 small bridges. The TransFagarasan ranges in elevation from 1,630 feet at Cartisoara to almost 6,700 feet at Balea Lac. The road is below the tree line until about 5,000 ft. and then it opens up and reveals itself. Although it is the best-known scenic drive in Romania, because there are faster roadways that connect southern and central Romania, the Transfagarasan is still relatively unperturbed by the motoring masses.
If adventure and Alpine scenery sound alluring, the TransAlpina road offers an ideal mix of the two. Winding its way through valleys and plateaus up to 7,038 feet – a height not reached by any other mountain passage in Romania – the TransAlpina road offers breathtaking views together with lots of driving excitement. Arguably the oldest road over the Carpathian Mountains, TransAlpina was built at the beginning of the 2nd Century AD by the Roman legions during their war campaign to conquer Sarmizegetusa – the capital of Dacia (modern-day Romania). After the conquest of Dacia, the Romans have used the TransAlpina to transport to Rome the gold extracted from the central part of Romania (Transylvania). At the beginning of the second millennium TransAlpina has become one of the main transhumance routes over the Carpathian Mountains; it still serves this purpose, even today. Paving of the road began in 1930 and eight years later King Carol II inaugurated the new TransAlpina (also named during the monarchy period “the The King’s Road”).
Originally built in the 12th century as a Romanesque basilica, the church was fortified during the 15th century to protect the local Saxon population against repeated Ottoman raids. The fortification process included the construction of fortified towers over the two side entrances and the choir, the building of a double structure of defense walls, a moat and several defensive towers along the walls. The clock installed in the 195-feet high (bell and clock) tower has been working since 1868; no repairs were ever needed! The tower of Cisnadie fortress also features the first thunder road installed in Transylvania (1795).
As a living part of history, the Romanian city of Sighisoara may be the most well-preserved medieval village in all of Europe and the lack of over development in this area has kept the city as close to its origins as possible. From this perspective, taking a trip to Sighisoara can be like stepping back in time, with several iconic buildings and the remnants of the original six-sided fortress that was once used to protect the city from attack. The Dracula connection; The history of the city is not only limited to its role of craft supplier to many neighboring areas. The real claim to Sighisoara’s fame is that it was the birthplace of Romanian ruler Vlad Tepes, who also spent time in the city later in his life. For those unaware, Tepes is thought to be the figure that Bram Stoker’s Dracula was supposedly based upon, with several stories of barbarianism and his penchant for impaling enemies. While this connection is very loose, Tepes is seen as a national hero of the country as he was able to repel Ottoman and Hungarian invasions on a number of occasions and the use of his likeness in relation to the Dracula story brings mixed emotions to many native Romanians.
Surrounded by an aura of mystery and legend and perched high atop a 200-foot-high rock, Bran Castle owes its fame to its imposing towers and turrets as well as to the myth created around Bram Stocker’s Dracula. Built on the site of a Teutonic Knights stronghold dating from 1212, the castle was first documented in an act issued by Louis I of Hungary on November 19, 1377, giving the Saxons of Kronstadt (Brasov) the privilege to build the Citadel. Although Stoker never visited Transylvania, the Irish author relied on research and his vivid imagination to create the dark and intimidating stomping ground of Count Dracula, leading to persistent myths that it was once the home of Vlad Tepes, ruler of Walachia. While the association with Dracula is sketchy at best, the castle continues to hold a strong attraction for all fans of the Count. From 1920 to 1957 Bran served as royal residence, a gift of the people of Brasov to Queen Marie of Romania. The castle is now a museum open to tourists, displaying art and furniture collected by Queen Marie. Narrow winding stairways lead through some 60 timbered rooms, many connected by underground passages, which house collections of furniture, weapons and armor dating from the 14th to the 19th centuries.
The Royal fortress (the 14th century)
Some researchers place this first stone fortress in the 14th century. There are others that claim this to be a 15th century fortress. This first fortress had an ellipsoidal shape, with pointed, northern and southern extremities. The walls are up to 2 m wide. They were built with dolomite limestone and pebble stone, directly on the native rock. Researches performed before the First World War show that in the northern part of the ellipse was a triangular tower with two rooms of triangular and trapezoidal shape, with analogies in the 13th to 14th centuries France and Germany.