Poiana Brav

Poiana Bra^ov (1030m), on the slopes of Postavarul Massif in the southern Carpathians, is Romania's premier ski resort. Unlike its sister resort of Sinaia, 'Bra^ov's Clearing'

Mr« lew challenges for advanced skiers. M"l Ihe beauty of this intermediate resort lii In its sheltered, forested location which Btiiiiiiiltees good skiing between early De-11111 m*r and mid-March. Some years, you i mi ski here as late as May. In summer take iln i nble car to the top of Mt Postavarul 11 nu.1 m) for a panoramic view of Bra§ov mill Ihe surrounding Carpathians.

I lie newly built St Ivan Butezatorul church I'.li Vnloa Draga) in the centre is done in the Miiuimure? style (presumably for ski tour-ti who won't make it that far), made en-iiti ly of wood and with a tall spire, looking ji.iilu ularly striking against its mountain Itiii kdrop.

Orientation

I In' main road that runs through town from Bra§ov is called Str Poiana Soarelui, it the southern end of which is the cable-■ iii station (Statie Telecabina). At the very i nitre of town is the unmistakable Capra NengrS restaurant and casino. Just north of In if Str Poiana Ursului (the so-called 'old loud' to Bra§ov) branches off to the north-i iisl, heading towards the Complex Favorit i.i i ommercial centre that has all but fallen In ruins but is slated for major renovations) iind the main car park, where the central litis stop is located. The first bus stop from lli.isov lets people off on Str Poiana Soarelui just north of Str Poiana Ursului; this is i more convenient starting point.

Information

The local Salvamont (g 286 176; Cabana Cristlanul M.ire) will come to the rescue any time of the tl.iy in case of emergency. There is no tour-i-.l information office in Pioana Bra§ov, but hotels compete in terms of the information and services they offer, so it pays to shop tiround. The best ski school in town is run hy Ihe Ana Group (g 407 330), which owns the Sport, Bradul and Poiana hotels.

Sleeping

Most travel agencies in Bra§ov take bookings for hotels in Poiana Bra§ov. Except for n couple of weeks over Christmas and New Year, you can always find a room at the resort. Note that many hotels raise their prices considerably between December and mid-March, some almost doubling them. Prices listed here are for the off season. Generally, the lower-end hotels (with doubles under €30) do not raise their prices at all.

To get to the cheap end of the resort, follow Str Poiana Ursului away from the centre. It's worth wandering around there for a while and checking places out yourself.

BUDGET

Cabana Cristianul Mare (g 486 545; beds €5) At 1690m is this large wooden chalet with an attached restaurant overlooking the slopes. It's open throughout the year except for a few weeks in November.

Cabana Postavarul (g312 448; beds €5) At 1585m (15 minutes downhill), this one gets fewer tourists and so is a bit more relaxed.

Poiana Ursului (g 262 216; Str Poiana Ursului; d with shared bathroom €15) Just opposite the main car park/bus stop, this is a cheap, though shabby, option. On site is a very small, very sad 'zoo'.

Perched on the hill above town, off the road to Bra§ov, are numerous low- and high-end options. Following the turn-off to Rasnov and Bran then veering left onto Str Poiana Doamnei brings you to several good places.

Hotel Caraiman (g 262 208; Str Poiana Doamnei; s/d €17/22) This is a good mid-sized option, with 66 decent rooms. Mountain bikes are rented out here.

MID-RANGE

Hotel Alpin (g 262 380; www.hotelalpln.ro; Str Poiana Doamnei; s €37-46, d €49-75, ste €115; ^) It's hard not to notice this hotel towering over its little hill, peeking through the trees at the lower town. The good news is that the hotel is a full-service centre, has a large pool and decent rooms, offers free ski rental, does not raise prices in the wintertime and is open to bargaining on prices (for multiple-night stays, for example). The less good news is that this is a large hotel (125 rooms) and has a sterile, impersonal feel to it.

Vila Diana (g 262 040; Str Poiana Ruia; s/d/ste €45/55/65; Somehow this large, rustic-looking bungalow manages to be thoroughly modern, classy and cosy. Beds are large enough for a game of Softball and most rooms have private balconies. There's an on-site sauna, and the hotel offers ski rental for guests. It's on the east side of Str Poiana Soarelui at the turn-off to Bran.

Casa Viorel (§262 431; Str Poiana lui Stechil; d €35-45, ste €55) This is among the resorts' nicest places to stay, hidden amid forest at the northeastern end of the resort (turn right after Hotel Poiana Ursului). It's run by the same enterprising couple who run Coliba Haiducilor (see below).

The luxurious Sport, Bradul and Poiana Hotels at the eastern end of the resort are owned by the Ana group ( @ 407 330; office® anahotels.ro) - the Poiana has very comfy single/ double rooms for €56/75. Thé Bradul, hidden among trees, has equally cosy singles/ doubles for €61/85. Hotel Sport, wedged between the Poiana and Bradul, is the most exclusive of the three, with doubles/suites for €93/141 (€174/190 in ski season). Bikes can be rented here. The on-site nightclub Top Disco attracts an older crowd.

Eating

Coliba Haiducilor (Outlaws' Hut; @ 262137; Str Drumul Sulinarului; mains €2-5) This unbeatable place is at the southern end of the resort near the cable-car station. It is beautifully decorated in traditional rustic style, and a fire burns in the hearth in wintertime while live folk bands play. There's even a mini 'museum' in which traditional weaving looms are displayed. The food is plentiful and wholesome.

Stâna ( (Bj 475 948; mains €2-4) It's a bit of a trek to get to, but worth every step and stumble along the way. A rustic restaurant housed on a sheep farm 1.3km along a dirt track off the main road leading to Poiaiiii Bra$ov (signposted 200m before enterinn town), it serves home-made cheese anil other delectable products.

Capra Neagra ((SI 262 191; Str Poiana Soarelul, mains €1-3) Consider this as a last resort. It', a tacky restaurant-bar-casino-disco smack in the middle of town.

Getting There & Away

From Bra^ov, bus No 20 (€0.50, every 3(1 minutes) runs from the Livada Po§tei bus stop, opposite the County Library at the western end of B-dul Eroilor, to Poian.i Bra$ov.

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