Activities

Hire a helicopter for an aerial twirl of Brasov. Call Brextrans ((§ 443 666; Str Dealul Spirii 52). The downside? It's €400 an hour for up to eight people.

ItACHELOR PARTY - ROMANIAN STYLE

Hip first Sunday in May is a swinging time to be in Brajov, especially for single men...for purely tut lological reasons, of course. Those without dirty minds read on...

A centuries-old tradition, the Juni Pageant (Sarbatoarea junilor), still colourfully unfolds through Hie streets of Schei. Groups of single young men don traditional Schei armour and, sword in I Ihind, ride from Piata Unirii, through the Schei Gate, to Piata Sfatului, followed by the married | tnrn. The parade ends up on Mt Tampa for several hours of energetic folk dancing. During Saxon I domination, this was the one day of the year Romanians were allowed to enter the walled city. I Ihc costumes worn by the young men are incredibly detailed, ornate and elaborate, some over a I i iMitury old and weighing several kilograms from the beads and silver jewellery sewn into them. I The tradition was not meant to ensure that the single men found potential brides, but one can I Imagine how many trial runs were enacted as the party wound down.

Ilrujov is a good base for biking, trekking, idling and climbing in the Carpathians. See lilt' Activities chapter (p39) for excellent lliajov-based organisations and guides.

festivals & Events beyond the fantastic Juni Pageant (see the Imxcd text above), Bra$ov proudly hosts mIIiit events, including the International i lumber Music Festival, which is usually lirld the first week in July in various venues imund town, with a final concert at Bran i untie.

In August an International Photographic Ai l Inhibition is hosted at the Art Museum, and in early October Piata Sfatului gets rau-11 ins and sudsy during a one-week International Beer Festival - another goodie.

December welcomes the beautiful De la i olind la Stea (From the Carol to the Star) music festival. Choirs and theatre groups liom various countries perform traditional ( hristmas carols and nativities. The four-ilay festival is usually held in the Sica Alexan-ilrescu Drama Theatre.

Sleeping

HUDGET

Maria and Grig Bolea (lai 311 962) This pair is hard to miss at the train station, even if you try; they meet almost every train. Maria is iin institution unto herself in Bra^ov and she now has an international reputation. She's so famous that she even has impersonators, fake Marias running after tourists trying to take them into their homes. Half of our reader's letters praise her helpfulness and say she made their stay marvellous. The other half complain about her pushy, domineering ways and warn to steer clear.

She places tourists in private homes (€10 per person), some of which can be winners, others not so great. You takes your risks!

Kismet Dao Villa (Hi 514 296; www.elvisvilla.com /brasov; Str Democratiei 2B; bed €10-11, d €26) This is one of the country's finest hostels: well organised, spotless, modern and well located (behind Piata Unirii). Staff have a good sense of humour and know how to keep spirits high (all guests get a free beer). Dorm rooms have from five to nine beds. Take Bus No 4 from the train station to the last stop.

Pensiune lonescu (@ 473 091; [email protected] .com; Str Stejerijului 16; s/d €13/19) You feel like you're in the country here, in a lovely spot overlooking the city, though it's just a steep 10-minute walk up cobblestoned Str Cibin-ului from the Old Town. Each visitor gets a separate cabin in the sprawling garden, so you never feel like you're living in someone else's home. Breakfast is not included. An excellent choice.

Pensiune Gabriel (gj 0744-844 223; Str Toamnei 4, B11 Sc etl ap1; per person €13) This comes recommended by a number of our readers. A 10-minute walk northeast of the centre, the place is clean and friendly and the owner super-helpful, often driving guests to Bran and other places.

Hotel Aro Sport (@ 442 840; Str Sfantu loan 3; s/d €9/12) Don't listen to what locals say about this hotel. It has a nasty reputation but is surprisingly pleasant for a bare-bones budget hotel. The shared washrooms are spotless and spacious, and rooms are tiny but quite decent.

Hotel Postavarul ((H) 477 448; fax 418 469; Str Republic» 62; s/d/t with shared bathroom €13/18/27) This one-star behemoth is not a bad option if you want to be in the centre of town.

Situated in a 1910 building with old-world granduer, the rooms on offer are unmemor-able and the lower floors can be subject to noise from the casino below.

Camping Darste (© 259 080; Calea Bucure§ti 285; tent space/hut €4/7) Just what you'd want in a camping ground: a location right on a busy, polluted road. This place, 10km southeast of the centre, is not particularly recommended.

MID-RANGE

Hotel Coroana (© 477 448; fax 418 469; Str Republicii 62; s/d/t with private bathroom €38/53/72) Located in the same building as the Postavarul, the two-star Coroana has rooms with private bathroom that seem a bit expensive for what's on offer.

Hotel Capitol (© 418 920; fax 472 999; B-dul Eroilor 19; s/d €56/72; How does a a three-star high-rise relic from the 1960s get away with high prices when it offers little to justify them? A central location perhaps.

TOP END

Hotel Aro Palace (©478 800; www.aro-palace.ro; Str Murejenilor 12; s/d/ste €83/107/117; §§) This is impressive mainly for its Art Deco facade facing Parcul Central. Plush rooms feature nice touches such as cable TV, phone and fridge; credit cards are accepted.

Eating

RESTAURANTS

La Republique (© 0744-351 668; Str Republicii 33; mains €0.50-3; ® 9am-midnight) Being one of the most pleasant places on the pedestrian strip makes it worth a visit. That it is a creperie already makes it unique (both meat-filled and dessert crepes are delicious); the friendly service and fresh coffee complete the picture nicely.

Pizza Roma (©411 835; Str Apollonia Hirscher pizzas €1.75-3; ®11am-1am) Just off the main square, this place only serves pizzas, but they're the best in town, thin-crust and delicious. For dessert there are many ice cream and gelato dishes.

Ischia Tour (© 478 693; Str George Baritu 2; mains €2.50-4; ® 10am-midnight) Decorated to give the impression ofbeing in an Italian village, this charming place has some Romanian dishes on its extensive menu, but you'd best go with its specialties such as lasagna and fish dishes. It's the kind of place you feel like lounging about in for hours.

Pepper Jack's (©417 614; Str Brancoveanu 38; mains €3-6) This is a rather pricey Mexican-Romanian restaurant just south of the cen tre. The Transylvanian section in its cellar has some tasty (and cheaper) options, and the burritos hit the spot.

Cerbul Carpatin (Carpathian Stag; © 443 981; Piata Sfatulul 12; mains €3-6; ® lOam-midnight) Bra§ov's most famous restaurant is located in the Hirscher House (1545). Romanian dishes are the highlight here, though the restaurant's interiors (a marble staircase, elegant wine cellar) get more raves than the food. Some nights there's live folk music.

Cetate Brafov (©417 614; mains €3-6; Dealul Cetatii) The bird's-eye view of Brajov might aid digestion of the so-so food on offer. It's housed within the walls of the old fortress, and its labyrinthine interior is an experience in itself. Chamber-music recitals and folk dances are regularly held in the medieval saloon for unenthusiastic crowds of German tourists.

QUICK EATS

Cofetaria Modern (StrMurejenilorl) While not as modern as the name would suggest, this cafeteria sells items running the full range from cakes and pastries to potato chips and chocolate bars.

Old Centre Bistro (© 419 100; Str Nicolas Balcescu 67; meals €2-3; ® lOam-midnight) This is a decent option for a quick bite; its specialities are cold platters and standard fast food.

Poiana Soarelui (S 7am-10pm Mon-Fri, 8am-9pm Sat, 8am-2pm Sun) This is your best bet for divine pastries, cakes and croissants. If you i tin resist the smell here, you just aren't Immin.

111 CATERING

IM fruit and vegetable market is at the inn ihern end of Str Nicolae Balcescu. Next in Ihe market is the handy Luca Supermarket i • Mill).

Drinking

I AFES

Minn Art Café («1474157; Str Postávarulul 18; ® 9am-ll|>uil 11 serves only speciality coffees and teas, Inil what better place for an espresso than •ill rounded by antiques, sculptures, paintings and other works of art in what is primarily tin art gallery. It's worth inquiring about Ihe occasional concert evenings it hosts.

Rex Café (@473 591; Str Castelulul 58) Just off llii' main drag, this is a good place for an i. ni cappuccino and some light snacks.

PUBS & BARS

Utllval 39 (@ 478664; Str Mure§enllor23; ® 10-1am) My Inr, this is the best bar in town for a relaxed drink. It manages to pull off both a lively and subdued atmosphere at the same Mine: Ihe clientele seem surreally happy and die staff are gregarious, but the brick walls, «nil music, dozens of candles and antiques liiive a soothing effect that makes you feel like moving in for a while. Speciality cock-Itills cost €1.50 to €3.

Saloon (g477 317; Str Murejenilor; ®11-2am) While its attempt to outdo the Wild West (t iin you say 'more Catholic than the Pope'?) In mildly amusing, this is a great place to pull nil your cowboy boots and relax. Rock and I tines (and sometimes country) fills the air.

Opium (@ 0788-331 415; Str Republicii 2) Swanky iind sexy, this is the city's premier lounge Inn, with its deep-red velvet decor, couches, dim lights, emphasis on cocktails and a tpncey mix of acid jazz and deep house.

Entertainment

CINEMAS

llra$ov has several cinemas, the most cenital of which is the Royal ((H 419 965; Str Murejenilor 7).

CLUBS

Most discos charge varying entry fees, usu-.illy from €1 to €2, and mainly on weekends. ( Hubs are busier outside of summer when students are back in town and in need of action.

No Problem (ff) 311 934; B-dul Saturn 32) As the city's premier pick-up joint, its name is no doubt the appropriate answer to one of the frequent propositions heard here. Hugely popular, this disco is northeast of the centre. Take a taxi there (€1.50).

Aquarium ((§ 418 850; Piata Teatrului 1) This is another popular disco, located within the Sica Alexandrescu Drama Theatre (see the following section). It's a three-floor emporium, comprising a restaurant with decent international cuisine, a shaded terrace for lounging and, of course, the sweaty dance floor on the third floor.

Student Culture House (Casa de Cultura Student-easca; 443 900; B-dul Eroilor 29) Next to the Transylvania University, this hosts everything from discos to drama. Performances by the Student English Theatre Club (Clubul de Teatru in Engleza) are occasionally held here.

Gradina de Vara is an open-air disco sometimes held on summer weekends up on the hill in the citadel. It's popular with both teens and tourists.

OPERA & BALLET

The Gheorghe Dima State Philharmonic (@441 378; Str Apollonia Hirscher 10) has a good reputation and performs mainly between September and May, as does the Opera Bra$ov (§i)415 990; Biserlcii Romane 51), which stages mainly classics. Tickets for theatrical, classical music and ballet performances can be purchased at the Agentie de Teatrala ((a) 471 889; Str Republicii 4), just off Piata Sfatului.

THEATRE

Sica Alexandrescu Drama Theatre (fa) 418 850; Piata Teatrului 1) has plays, recitals, and opera year-round, while the Puppet Theatre (Teatrul de Papu§i Arlechlno; @ 442 873; Str Apollonia Hirscher 10) stages creative shows for kids.

Shopping

One of the best selections of souvenirs can be found at the Ethnographic Museum (see p89).

Galerie de Arta (Str Murejenlior 1) It sells modern art as well as ceramics and glass works.

Artizana (Str Republicii 48) Offerings here include traditional folk costumes, rugs and sculptures.

Ascent (©477 855; www.ascent.ro in Romanian; Piata Sfatului 17) This is a superb sports store and has water bottles, whistles, boots, maps and anything else you might need for hiking. It can hook you up with personal mountain guides too.

Sport Virus (HI418 115; Str Gheorghe Baritiu 24) There is a smaller selection of sportswear and gear here, but it's quality stuff.

Star (® 9am-8.30pm Mon-Fri, 9am-7pm Sat) This is the central department store of Bra§ov.

Doua Roti (©470 207; Str Nicolae Balcescu 55; S 8am-4.30pm Mon-Fri) It sells used bikes and parts, and does repairs.

Getting There & Away

TRAIN

Advance tickets are sold at the Agentie de Voiaj CFR office (© 470 696; Str Republicii 53; ® 8am-6pm Mon-Fri, 9am-1pm Sat). International tickets can also be purchased in advance from Wasteels (© 424 313; www.wasteelstravel.ro), in the main hall of the train station (Iff) 410 233).

Bra?ov is well connected to Mangalia/ Constanta (four per day), Sighi§oara (€5, four per day), Cluj-Napoca (€8, four per day) and Oradea (one per day) by fast trains. Local trains to/from Sinaia run frequently. There are 10 trains to Sibiu (€5.50, 2Vi-3% hours), all stopping at Fagara? (one hour), with one extra personal train to Fagara? taking IV2 hours. There are 18 trains to/from Bucharest (three to four hours), including the Pannonia Expres and the Ister, which go to Prague (10J/2 hours) and Budapest (11 hours), respectively, and the Dacia, which runs to Vienna (15 hours).

The left-luggage office (open 24 hours) is located in the underpass that leads out from the tracks.

It's not hard to get anywhere from Bra$ov, especially by maxitaxi (minibus). The hard part, as usual, is finding the schedules; Bra?ov is a particular case in point (see p348).

Most maxitaxis leave from Autogara 1 (© 426 882), next to the train station. There are maxitaxis to Bucharest every half-hour from 6am to 7.30pm, plus hourly maxitaxis on a Targu Mure$-Sighi?oara-Bra?ov-Bu§teni-Bucharest route. Two maxitaxis a day head to Bistrita via Targu Mure?, and two head to Constanta via Slobozia. There are at least five maxitaxis to Fagara? en route to Sibiu, and three per day to Gala(l I and Braila. Regular bus services include one per day to Ia§i, Gheorgheni, Miercurea I Ciuc, Piatra Neamt, Targu Neamt, Targu Mure? and Sfantu Gheorghe; and two to Targoviijte and Bacau.

Autogara 2 (© 426 332; Str Avram lancu 114), wesl | of the train station, has buses to Ra§nov, Bran and Moieciu, marked 'Moieciu-Bran', every half-hour. Other major daily buses include one daily to Fagara? Campulung and Curtea de Arge?, two to Pite?ti, and eleven to Zarne§ti.

Few buses use Autogara 3 (¡a) 333 173; Str Harmanului 47A) in the east of the town.

The main bus stop in town is the 'Livada Postei', at the western end of B-dul Eroilor in front of the County Library (Biblioteca Judeteana). From here catch bus No 20 to Poiana Bra§ov (€0.50, every half-hour). Buy your ticket from the kiosk opposite the Stu dent Culture House before boarding. Bus No 25 leaves every half-hour for Cristian.

There are no international bus routes handled by Romanian companies. All Euro pean routes are handled by Eurolines (© 424 313; ®8am-9pm), which has an office inside the train station and sells tickets for buses to Germany, Italy, Hungary and other Eu ropean destinations.

Getting Around

Bus No 4 runs from the train station and Autogara 1 into town, stopping at Piata Unirii in the centre. From Autogara 2, take bus No 12 or 22 from the 'Stadion Tineret-ului' stop on nearby Str Stadionului (turn right out of the station, walk to the end of the street) into the centre.

Avis (© 413 775) has an office inside Hotel Aro Palace. Hertz ((©471 485; B-dul 15 Noiembrie 56) is another option. Rental companies based in Bucharest will deliver cars to Bra?ov and other destinations for a fee.

You shouldn't have too much trouble finding honest taxis in Bra$ov, but it's best to call a reputable company like Ro Taxi (© 949 or 319 999) or CCB (© 414141).

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