The fortress of Rasnov. Just like in the movies

by Victor Grigore, Webphoto.ro

This rocky hill has been defended since the time of the Dacians, more than two thousand years ago, according to some archeological findings. The Teuton knights, who were under a contract with the Hungarian king to defend this border region of Transylvania, also built some fortification here in the 14 century. But we have no idea how it looked than.

The first document about this citadel was in 1331, while the current aspect is largely from two centuries later. Back then, Râșnov was a small village with a strategic position on the routes entering Transylvania over the Carpathians. In a time when Bran Castle was not yet built, Râșnov was an important point for trading and taxing merchants.

The strategic position has remained the most valuable asset today, but not for military or commercial reasons. Tourists are now the new marching armies of the modern world, and Râșnov is just in the middle of the road from Brașov and Bran Castle. It can also be included in other routes, like a detour from Brașov to Sinaia, for the marvelous Peleș Castle, through the breathtaking alpine landscapes of Pârâul Rece (Cold Stream).

Râșnov is just 15 km away from Brașov on a well maintained national road. So all eyes are attracted by the fortress on the hill and the Hollywood-like sign with the name of the city. This is not just a coincidence, as the stronghold featured in most of Romanian historic movies like The Immortals, The Dacians or The Column, but also in Cold Mountain, the Oscar awarded film with Nicole Kidman. If it was convincing enough for Hollywood directors, it will make great background for a few family pictures, with its medieval streets and stone walls.

On top of that there is the excellent panoramic view you get from the eight bastions and defense walls. From here you can see some of the Bucegi Mountains, part of the Carpathians, tops like Postăvarul and Piatra Craiului. And also almost the entire city of Râșnov itself, a cultural mix of Romanian and German traditional architecture, found in a natural setting at 650 m altitude.

The fortress Râșnov is very simple in design as it was built in time by peasants. Stone was used for the 5 m outside walls, while some interior constructions are made of brick. There are several methods the peasants used to avoid conquerors. Trees were cut on one side of the hill, for better visibility, while trenches were dug to make climbing more difficult. Today, tourists can also use a buss to get to the fortress on a much smoother road.

There are two sets of walls: an exterior wall with a large yard that was once used for cows and farmers’ adobes, and the interior wall, inside which the actual houses are. The total area of the fortress is 3500 square meters.

This defense system proved powerful enough, as Râșnov withstood some major Tatar and Ottoman Turkish sieges in the 15 century. The fortress surrendered only to Hungarian prince Gabriel Bathory, without an actual fight, but the peasants redeemed it one year later.

The weak point of this medieval fortress was still the absence of a source of water inside the walls, which made surviving during sieges very difficult. To fight this, a fountain was dug for almost 20 years in the rock of the hill. The well resulted has a depth of 100 – 140 m, according to different sources.

Today, the fortress of Râșnov is a tourist magnet. There is a coffee shop inside the fortress and numerous souvenir shops. The authorities do their best to bring it back to life with actors dressed in costumes and exhibitions, like this photo exhibition with historic images of Queen Mary of Romania. Still, if you are looking for spectacular interiors like those in Peleș or rooms ready for living like in Bran Castle, you might get disappointing by the stone covered streets of this stronghold, that might get only those with a passion for history enthusiastic.
Râșnov is 15 km from Brașov, 170 km from capital Bucharest and 70 km from Făgăraș.
The ticket for visiting is 10 lei (less than 3 euros).

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