Around Brav

There are plenty of things to see and do around Bra§ov. As well as the Saxon fortresses of Prejmer, Harman and Ra?nov,

Mill can easily visit the mountain resort •ii I'olana Bra§ov or the over-touted Bran i H'lllr In a day.

frajmer & Harman

Cinimer (Tartlau) is an unspoiled Saxon Iiiwii, first settled in 1240, with a picturesque IHIi century citadel (admission free; Sl1am-5pm In» III, 9am-3pm Sat, 11am-5pm Sun) surrounding 'In I Mh-century Gothic Evangelical church in ii- i «'litre. The fortress was the most powerful peasant fortress in Transylvania. Its 272 Miiiill cells on four levels lining the inner . Ititdel wall were intended to house the local |»ii|'lilation during sieges. Its outer defensive mill 4.5m thick - is the thickest of all the (Villaining Saxon churches. These fortified

■ Inn i lies are listed collectively as Unesco World Heritage sites.

I ISrman (Honigburg - literally 'honey I'iiitle'), 7km from Prejmer, is a small Saxon village, also with a 16th-century peasant illndel at its centre. Inside the thick walls is ii 'i.'.m weathered clock tower and a 15th-

■ i iilury church (admission by donation; ® 9am-noon I I 'ipm Tue-Sun). Ask for the key from the lliuihuter (warden), a German-speaker ivlin you can also hire to be your guide. Ming the bell on the left of the main door llnnk for the Bitte Lauten! sign). The colour-In! houses facing the main square are typi-• .il of the Saxon era, with large rounded doors and few windows. Like Prejmer, rural

I llrman hasn't changed much since the I'Jlh century.

ItETTING THERE & AWAY

You'll save much time by taking a taxi to either Prejmer or Harman from central llratjov (about €3). There are 17 daily trains from Brajov to

II ilrman (€0.40, 15 minutes) and Ilieni (the il.llion closest to Prejmer Citadel; €0.50, 22 minutes), destined for Targu Mure?, Deva and Intorsura Buzaului.

As you arrive at Ilieni look for the tall lower of the citadel church, south of the milway line. Walk south on Str Noua for iiliout 500m, then left on Str Alexandru loan Cuza. Turn left at the end to reach Str Ijcolii on the right. The citadel is straight ahead. From Harman's station, either grab ii cab to the centre or walk 200m northeast, turn right, cross the highway and continue straight for 2km to the centre of town.

AUTHOR'S CHOICE

One of the most splendid, beautifully decorated places to stay and eat in Transylvania is The Country Hotel (© 367 051; Str Mihal Viteazu 441; www.rotravel.com/hotels /marcela/en_3.htm) in Harman. If ever the terms 'rustic' and 'luxury' went together,

¡here they've found their perfect union. A stunningly reconverted home and barn now houses an enormous loft-style apartment which can be rented for €99 a night (six people can comfortably sleep there) or €29/49 for single/double occupancy of one bedroom with shared access to the gorgeous kitchen and living room. The owner, Marcela Cosnean, is an interior designer known for her unique linens, and the apartment's sublime decor reflects true creativity, subtly interweaving a folky, rustic ambience with the best modernity has to offer. She has turned a stable into a rentable art gallery and sometimes holds garden parties and artsy salon-style get-togethers. She can also help organise day excursions around the area (near Comandau) and arrange accommodation in the surrounding mountains, making her place a useful base. There's a pool and Internet access. German

From Brasov there are four daily buses to Premjer (€0.25, 25 minutes), with two extra services Saturday and Sunday.

Rajnov

Many who poke around the castle ruins of Ra^nov's 13th-century hilltop fortress (Cetatea Ra§nov; ©230 255; adult/child €1.20/0.80, parking €0.25; ® 8am-5pm Tue-Sun) feel they are more dramatic and less touristy than Bran's castle. Ra§nov is certainly a memorable experience, and gives a good feel of what life inside castle walls must have been like. The stunning panoramic views of the surrounding plains towards the Piatra Craiului mountains are alone worth the trip.

The fortress was built by the Teutonic Knights as protection against Tartar, and later Turkish, invasions. Indeed, almost immediately after its completion, the fortress suffered its first Tartar attack in 1335. The fortress remained functional until 1850, when it was abandoned for ruin.

AROUND BRA§OV

AROUND BRA§OV

Visitors can wander around the grounds, church, chapel, weapons tower and jail and peer down the 146m-deep well, dug by two Turkish prisoners who were promised freedom once it was completed (it took them 17 years!). Peeking into alleyways, peering around corners and freely wandering around the ruins are the main pleasures here - kids of all ages will love exploring. There are rooms with exhibits and places to grab a snack, and many of the buildings are in the midst of a long restoration process.

The town itself is worth a gander. While undeniably run-down, it exudes old-world charm with its small houses sitting on dirt roads (no concrete apartment blocks around). It has preserved its look and feel of a century ago.

SLEEPING & EATING

A number of houses near the central square have cazare (rooms for rent) signs in their windows. The one hotel of note in town doesn't warrant much noting.

Hotel Cetate ((a) 230 266; d with private bathroom £18) Located below the castle on the road to Poiana Bra^ov and about 2km from the bus stop to/from Bra^ov, this dreary hotel is open year-round and has a restaurant.

Camping Valea Cetatii (@ 230 266; cabins €5.25) Adjoining the Hotel Cetate, this camping ground is open from June to August.

GETTING THERE & AWAY

Buses marked 'Bran-Moieciu' leave every half-hour from Bra^ov's Autogara 2 for both Ra§nov (40 minutes) and Bran (one hour).

From the bus stop in Ra^nov, walk 100m east towards the mountains, turn right at Piata Unirii and watch for the hillside stairs in the courtyard of the unmarked Casa de Cultura (on your left). The castle is a 15-minute walk uphill. A second entry route leads from a road between the camping ground and Hotel Cetate.

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