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Pork, stray dogs and a fortress: two days in Brasov

September 5, 2012 | Romania, Travel | 8 Comments
Brasov town square

I knew virtually nothing about Brasov before I went.

To be fair, that is not a rare occurrence.  My “research” for most of the places I go these days seems to consist of spending five minutes on Google then downloading a WikiTravel article to read on the train.  I could say this is because I prefer local neighbourhoods to tourist attractions, following my intuition rather than a map.  There is some truth in that, but usually it’s just because I’m too cheap to buy a guidebook and too lazy to do any reading.

The small city in central Romania is usually used as a base to explore Bran Castle, famously (although wrongly) associated with Vlad the Impaler – the apparent inspiration for Count Dracula.

I didn’t even go there.

Instead, my two days in Brasov consisted largely of wandering around the medieval old town, eating vast amounts of delicious fatty pork, and making friends with the local stray dog population.

We’d noticed a significant change in the weather as our train trundled slowly further away from Bucharest.  The summer heat started to wane, clouds replacing blue sky as we climbed up into the mountains less than 170km away.  It was grey and a little drizzly as we pulled into town, but nothing could dull the attraction of the masterpiece high on the hills above us.

Brasov sign

Yes, that is a Hollywood-style sign.  No, I am not sure why.

Somehow tearing our eyes away, we found our accommodation and headed out to explore the old city.  And by “explore the old city”, I mean “find somewhere with food and cold beer”.

That mission successfully accomplished, it was time for random wandering.  The town square was bright and colourful, the restored buildings shining in the sunlight that had by now decided to make an appearance.  A nearby gelato stall restored the energy lost during the 100 metre walk since lunch, so we carried on to Catherine’s Gate and the (not particularly) Black Church, two of the more famous attractions in Brasov.

Somewhere along the way, a stray black and white dog decided, without even so much as a discussion, that he was in fact my new best friend.

I walked.  He walked.

I stopped.  He stopped.

I glared at him.  He gave me his best “but I love you” face.

And on we went.

It wasn’t until I made to go inside the church that Sparky gave up his bonding efforts, and mooched off to find someone else to annoy befriend.

Dog Dave

The following day we took a bus to the nearby town of Rasnov, home to a less-touristed and better preserved fortress than the one in Bran.  Playing a now-familiar game of “do-we-get-off-here-no-idea-shit-well-everyone-else-is-so-I-guess-maybe-we-should”, we missed our intended stop and had to endure a ten minute walk past beautiful restored buildings and conversations with friendly old people who didn’t speak a word of English.

Yes, it was a real hardship.

Eschewing the road that went up to the fortress, we opted instead for the dirt track hidden at the back of a courtyard beside a bar.  It ended up being a shorter, steeper and much prettier route, with only a couple of pulse-raising moments along the way as feet slipped on rocks and tree roots.

And as an added bonus we got to see another Hollywood-style sign, this time from close up.  No, I still don’t know why.

Rasnov sign

I was impressed with the fortress, a surprisingly large area in various states of restoration.  It was busy without being packed full of tour groups, and the views out over the town and surrounding countryside would have made the hike up there worthwhile by themselves.

Rasnov ruins

Being a weekend, the buses only ran once per hour, so after waiting 59 and a half chilly minutes for one (of course), we eventually made it back to Brasov and had to decide on a very important topic.

Where would we go for dinner?

From the guesthouse owner to friends of mine, the answer was unanimous: we had to go to Sergiana.  Located on one edge of the old town, down a few steps into a warren of booths and tables, our first impressions were great.  The dimly-lit cellars had a moody, smoky vibe, and although the waiters spoke English, most of the nearby conversations seemed to be in Romanian.  Always a good sign.

As we were sipping large beers and perusing the menu, the waiter came back and quietly changed our entire lives.  With a plate of pork fat.

Seriously, I don’t know (or even want to know) what those little chunks of meat actually consisted of, but it was pretty much an orgasm in fried bovine form.  Lauren and I just sat there looking at each other, entirely speechless after the first heavenly mix of greasy pig and tangy onion.

Sergiana pork

It was due only to politeness that we even bothered to order main courses.  Both of us would have been deliriously happy to have gone for a large bucket of this starter, burying our heads in it until we resembled the animal from which it had come.

The rest of the meal was good – excellent, in fact – and remarkably well-priced given both the quality and quantity of the food.

It was the pig fat, though, that we just kept talking about.  Continuously.  For days.

Waiting for the train the following morning, I couldn’t help but wonder if there was enough time for one last trip to Sergiana before we left.

Because, I mean, there’s nothing wrong with fried pork and onions at 7.30 in the morning … right?

This trip through Central and Eastern Europe is made possible by the good folks at Eurail.com.

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8 Comments

  1. Reply

    Bram

    September 5, 2012

    This post seriously is hilarious. I thoroughly enjoyed it again. Nice job!

  2. Reply

    Erica Erickson Forehand

    September 8, 2012

    Love the post! Though I must say, the fried pork fat sounds absolutely disgusting lol

    ps: I love reading both your's and Lauren's blog - I look forward to reading new posts every week!

    • Reply

      Dave

      September 8, 2012

      Thanks Erica! And (unless you're a vegetarian of course) the pork really was amazing!

      Sorry you'll have to wait a bit for your next post updates - Lauren and I are taking a break on a yacht with some friends for a couple of weeks. See you then! :)

  3. Reply

    kami

    September 8, 2012

    Bran was a huge disappointment, Rasnov quite the opposite so I guess you've made a right choice which one to visit :)

  4. Reply

    Miruna

    September 28, 2012

    I enjoyed your post although I can't help myself not to mention that Bran is not that bad, it's just overrated. The truth is, this castle is lovely, it has its own charm, but it has nothing to do with Bram Stoker's novel. However, I'm glad you liked Sighisoara. Next time when in Romania, please let me know, I'll make sure you won't miss again the country's best spots:).

  5. Reply

    creative nomad

    October 1, 2012

    We went from Bucarest to Bran castle and whilst a little too touristy I do agree the castle is rather nice and the area on the way to the casle is also very beautiful. Not too mention, whilst its no dracula castle there is some great history to be learnt from the ruling of the castle inhabitants.

    We also had one of those where-the-fuck-are-we-and-where-do-we-go?! moments which nearly landed us in an unmarked van! got to be careful with these things.

  6. Reply

    Scott

    October 8, 2012

    Julia and I are heading here this weekend, and we will be seeking out the pork fat, I can assure you of that!


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