Centuries ago, the Turkish-Tatar invasions forced the inhabitants of the old city of Brașov to move at the foothill of the Tâmpa Mountain, an area covered by forests and protected by the surrounding hills. According to tradition, sometime around the 13th century, they began to build the first defensive systems of the Brașov Citadel. During the following centuries, Brașov came a long way from the ditches, trenches and palisades that once served as protection. At the end of the 14th century the first stonewalls were beginning to take shape. Gradually, the major guilds in the city built 8 strongholds, 4 gates, 28 towers and enclosed the insides.
After visiting the streets and monuments Between the Walls of the Brașov Citadel, we stepped out of the old citadel through the Șchei Gate and found ourselves standing behind the old stonewalls. Close by, we found Ecaterina’s Gate, inside the yard of the Forestry University. This small construction is unique in the world. It has five sharp towers and looks like a miniature castle, straight out of a fairy tale. Nowadays it does not work as an entrance gate anymore, it is only a historical landmark through which visitors can pass in and out. However, cars can still pass through the Șchei Gate today. These gates are the only two remaining out of the six that the Brașov Citadel once had.
The fortifications under the Tâmpa Mountain
Tâmpa was the natural guardian of the Brașov Citadel, thanks to its position and height. Now it is a well known touristic area, with the famous cable car going up to the belvedere point, where the name of the city is written at the top of the mountain. At its foothills, a series of alleys take visitors along the old fortifications, behind the walls of the citadel. At each end there’s a stronghold, the Drapers’ Bastion and the Weavers’ Bastion. Between them four rectangular towers survived, the Arts’ Tower, the Rope Handlers’ Tower, the Hunters’ Tower and the Carpenters’ Tower. Each of these towers were named after the guild that watched them. In time of peace, they would store their merchandise inside. In case of an attack, the workers and the inhabitants were the ones that protected the citadel. They would bring all the domestic animals inside. Wars could sometimes last for months in a row so, in order for the animals to survive, there was a small gate through which they would go out on the Tâmpa Mountain to feed.
The Weavers’ Bastion can be visited in exchange of a fee. But in summertime the four smaller towers can be found open for anyone who wishes to enter. Craftsmen expose their work inside and you can find plenty of souvenirs to choose from. Plus, the basement of the towers is actually the original foundation. From their wooden balconies the entire historical center of Brașov opens up. The Black Church rises high above all the other buildings and we can see the pointed tower of The Old City Counsel (“Casa Sfatului”) guarding over the Old Town Hall Square (“Piața Sfatului”). On the opposite side we see two towers perched above the houses. It’s time to head out over there and have a closer look.
“După Ziduri” Alley, meaning “behind the walls”, is a narrow sidewalk between the northern defensive walls and a forest covered slope. At one end we find the Blacksmiths’ Bastion, currently the State Archives. Above the alley a path takes us up to the Black Tower (“Turnul Negru). Dating back from the 15th century, the tower got its name after being struck by lightning and turning black. To me, it looked rather gray… Behind it, we saw a couple of holes, clearly dug by human hands into the rock, probably some old tunnels that used to connect the towers to the city. If only we would have brought our flashlights along… Continuing along the path we reached the White Tower (“Turnul Alb”), which is a little bigger and got its name from the white paint that always covered it. Both towers have large wooden balconies with an incredible panoramic view over the city. From the White Tower we went down on some steep stone stairs. We passed through the Graft Bastion and returned to the alley. This stronghold was built as a bridge above the canal and served as access for the garrison when changing shifts at the White Tower. We stepped under the arcade and continued our journey on the alley.
Walking behind the walls of the Brașov Citadel and visiting all that remained from this once powerful fortification, made me imagine how life must have been like ages ago. In time of war, all these carefully thought defensive systems had to resist attacks and invasions and each brick was valuable. Every inhabitant fought for his life and his family. Brașov was tested many times, not only as a fortress, but also as a community, when nature and circumstances tried to eliminate it. Numerous earthquakes, storms, fires, the plague and other deadly diseases were sometimes even more destructive than the attacks themselves.