The Rupea Fortress

We visited the Rupea Fortress a number of years ago, before the restoration work began. Now the work is complete and it’s amazing to see the difference. We visited it recently and took another set of photos. Those are coming soon. In the meantime, here is a set of the photos taken back when it was still falling apart.

There’s a lot of history packed into that hilltop where the fortress is built. Archeological digs found evidence of settlements dating back to 5500-3500 BC. When Romania was known as Dacia, before it was conquered and colonized by the Romans, the place was known as Rumidava. Afterward, it became known as Rupes, from the basaltic rock of the hill where it’s built. When the Saxons colonized Transilvania, the fortress became known as Castrum Kuholm, the word “kuholm” refering once again to the same basaltic rock. There is more information here, should you be interested.

I hope you enjoyed the photos! I took them with my Canon EOS 5D and the EF 24-105mm f/4L lens.

Canon EOS 5D (front)
Canon EOS 5D
Canon EF 24-105mm f4L IS USM Lens
Canon EF 24-105mm f4L IS USM Lens

The Neamt Fortress

This medieval citadel was built on the peak of a mountain near Tg. Neamț in Moldova, Romania. The origins of the original fortifications are somewhat unclear, but there is clear historical proof that the citadel as we know it now took shape during the reign of Peter I, toward the end of the 14th century and was enlarged and further fortified during the reign of Stefan cel Mare in the 15th century. After being destroyed in the 18th century, it underwent significant restoration work in the 20th century and became a museum.

While I appreciate the architectural and structural work that was put into the restoration process, I am less than enthused about the way the interiors were decorated, with puppets and props and modern light appliances. The Neamt Fortress isn’t the only one to be done in this way. The Rupea Fortress has only recently been restored and it’s the same story there. Other places I’ve visited in Europe and in the United States were done the same way. The problem is that it gets to a point where it’s too fake to be believable, even though it all seems period-appropriate at first sight. Maybe it’s just me, I don’t know. Luckily all these faults are only window-dressing, so they can be addressed gradually and without too much expense.

Enjoy the photos!

Btw, I took these photos with my Canon PowerShot G10.

Canon PowerShot G10
Canon PowerShot G10

The fortress at Rasnov

There is a fortress near Brasov, built above a village-turned-town. It’s called Rasnov and it’s been there since early medieval times.

Râșnov citadel and village on the Josephine Map of Transylvania
Râșnov citadel and village on the Josephine Map of Transylvania

The citadel was built as part of a defence system for the Transylvanian villages exposed to outside invasions. A decisive aspect for building the citadel on the actual location was the route of the invading armies which were coming from the Bran pass and were passing through Râșnov on their way to Burzenland (Țara Bârsei). The only chance of survival for the inhabitants of the area, including the ones from the villages of Cristian and Ghimbav, was refuge inside the citadel. Compelled to stay there for decades, the people of Râșnov and the nearby villages turned the fortification into a dwelling.

Sources such as Wikipedia state that archaeological research revealed the existence of fortification traces on the citadel hill since prehistoric and Dacian times, but I have to say this is the case for virtually every town in Transilvania. At one spot or another in the city, archeologists will find traces of fortifications or houses that date way back to Dacian times or even earlier. Romania is an old country.

The medieval citadel we see today is considered to have been built between 1211-1225, during the rule of the Teutonic Knights in Burzenland. Although there is no written evidence for this, it makes sense historically.

In 1335, during a Tatar incursion that ravaged Burzenland, Râșnov and Brașov were the only citadels that remained unconquered. This is also the first documented attestation of the fortifications at Rasnov. In 1421, an Ottoman army laid siege to the citadel. In 1600, Michael the Brave along with his troops and his wife, Lady Stanca, retreated here after the defeat at the Battle of Mirăslău.

The citadel was conquered only once in 1612, during the rule of Prince Gabriel Báthory. The reason was the lack of water. While there was no well within the citadel walls, there was a path to a secret spring outside its walls, but this was discovered by the enemy troops. Without water, the siege quickly ended. An interior well was then dug inside the walls, directly in the rock bed, between 1623 and 1642. It is 146 metres (479 ft) deep.

In 1718 the citadel was partially destroyed by a fire and in 1802 it was damaged by an earthquake. In 1821 refugees from Wallachia (during the revolution led by Tudor Vladimirescu) retreated to the citadel. Between 1848-1849, because the region was constantly ravaged by Hungarian revolutionaries and Austrian imperial troops, the villagers retreated to the citadel. This was the last mission of the citadel as a place of refuge and defence. After those events ended, it was left to ruin, to be restored during the early 21st century.

We visited it in the summer of 2009. I hope you enjoy this gallery of photos I took there.

Sighisoara: off the beaten path

This Labor Day, we drove into Sighisoara and we decided to see it differently from the way most of its visitors see it. The typical route is to park at the bottom of the hill, walk up the stairs, see the clocktower, tour the piazza, buy some trinkets and go back down…

We drove into the outskirts, climbed up one of the adjacent hills, found a clearing, and got some interesting views of the city that way.

Afterward, we went up into the fortress to see if we could see some spots we hadn’t yet seen, and after walking up a well-known side street, were rewarded with the open gates of the rectory. We went right inside the courtyard and had a marvelous walk up into the gardens adjacent to the fortified walls.

We were greeted by a very pregnant and friendly kitty in the courtyard, who acted as our host for the duration of our visit.

The human hosts saw fit to ruin the architecture with polycarbonate sheeting as cover and communist-era poured concrete as a rude balustrade for the balcony. The satellite dish is apparently a modern pre-requisite.

Back to our walk in the beautiful garden.

In this view of the fortified tower, you can see the city and the river in the background.

Our feline host got a belly rub, which made her very happy indeed.

She then accompanied us to the gate.

We stopped at one of the local establishments for some lemonade.

Here are some more photographs from the streets of the Old Town.