Brasov for Digital Nomads
One of my favourite parts of being a digital nomad and being able to wander the world while working remotely is meeting fellow travelers and swapping adventures and stories of beautiful cities, esoteric cultures and of course, bullet speed WiFi. What constantly strikes me when hearing these stories is how few people end up passing through Romania when they get so very close.
Of course, having been born there, I am writing this with a bias, but as someone that has traveled extensively, I assure all readers that I am comparing it to the rest of the world as a place I have properly explored and am very familiar with, and not as my hometown. It is for that reason that I choose to speak only from experience and present the city that I am most familiar with: Brasov.
Brasov is the largest and, I believe, most beautiful city in the region in Romania that was previously known as Transylvania. Over history, it has also been influenced by Austro-Hungarians that took it over for a few decades, and German expats that fled various regimes in their country. As such, it is a very unique blend of cultures and people that is still very obvious today.
It is surrounded by the Carpathian Mountains, which offer 360 scenic views from almost anywhere in the city, amazing hiking in the summer and skiing in the winter, and keep the air crisp all year round. Majestic castles and fortresses surround the city and fortifications can still be seen in the city itself, giving it a truly medieval feel. The food local and traditional, with bakeries and little cafes littering the city and, most importantly, the wifi they all offer is through the roof. This is no joke, it is ranked second in the world.
Local Sights in Brașov
Piata Sfatului is a large plaza in Brasov with museums, cafes with blazing WiFi and traditional restaurants! Digital Nomads can find tons of cafes and restaurants here and on a sunny day the square is a beautiful sight.
Piața Sfatului, ie The Brașov Council Square, has held markets since the 1300’s, and the area is largely unchanged. The houses that surround the square are a genuine example of the area’s architecture and exemplify it’s age and rich history. Most streets leading to it are narrow, cobblestoned, and give the traveler a palpable sense of what life was like in the 14th century. The most notable building in the square is the Council House, now a city museum, which is built in the centre next the fountain. It definitely worth exploring for a well rounded dose of the area’s rich history of ever changing empires.
Everywhere in this plaza will have amazing WiFi and Romanian’s are generally well acquainted with technology. The sight of a laptop on a table won’t require any explanation. Also, the little coffee shop across the plaza called Kafea has a great little knook to plug into!
Leading up to the square is the walking-only Strada Republici, which accommodates a bevy of restaurants that continue right to, and surround the Square. Many of them offer delicious traditional Romanian food and are shaded with umbrellas advertising Ursus, the local beer, and shouting out the city’s name in the various languages common in the area – Kronstadt in German and Brassó in Hungarian.
Strada Republici is another great place to find a place to plug in for the day and catch some wifi. It has a wide array of food choices, most of them with outdoor patios and a great place to grab a beer as the sun starts to set. Or right now! Digital nomads, take your pick!
The street is also full of shops offering artifacts dating throughout the town’s history, which makes for a great afternoon of food and souvenirs on a sunny day. Adding to the rustic atmosphere is the Tâmpa Mountain, a lush green mountain that overlooks the walk, reminding the guests how close to nature they really are.
On the parallel street “Strada Poarta Schei” is the cozy Kafe Pub. It has much more room than Kafea with many more tables and outlets. Wifi has never let me down but I have to say that, although their tea selection is much better, I like the coffee at Kafea more.
The Churches in Brasov
The city and its dwellers have been pious Christians for as long as anyone can remember but have converted between Orthodox, Protestant and Catholic as various peoples and influences settled in the city throughout history. As such, many ancient churches erected over the centuries dot the city and are still in use today, giving mass a truly authentic feel. Biserica Neagră, which translates to the Black Church, is a huge Gothic monument whose construction began in the 14th century! The majestic structure was originally named the Church of St. Mary until a fire in 1689 destroyed parts of the city and left the church’s structure black. Located right next to Piața Sfatului, it is a right in the middle of the town, and very easy to access.
Much smaller than the Black Church, but much more charming, is the Biserica Sfântul Nicolae (Church of St. Nicholas). Luckily for me, it is a 5 minute walk from my grandparent’s church, and the one they frequent most often. The church was established in 1292 and has a relevant history. It was mentioned in a Papal bull issued in 1399 by Pope Boniface IX, and was rearchitected several times. It stands in front of a small square, also surrounded by shops and restaurants attended regularly by the locals.
Brașov is first and foremost a mountain town, situated within the Southern Carpathian mountains, making it a prime destination both in summer and winter for hikers and skiers respectively.
Immediately in the city, you will find the Tâmpa mountain. It is a dominant sight within the city, and relaxing hike to the top. A gondola that runs regularly is also available to get you to the top to enjoy the scenic views of the city and the surrounding mountains. Adding to the city’s lights and charm is a lit up sign carrying it’s name.
Poiana Brașov is a neighborhood of Brasov that contains the Postăvarul Massif, and is one of the most popular Romanian ski resorts. It’s an important tourist centre preferred by many tourists not only from Romania, but also from Italy, France, Germany, Switzerland and other European states. After the 2010s modernization, the ski area has expanded from 50 hectares to 80 hectares and the slopes length was increased from 13.8 km to 23.9 km. It is easily accessible from the city via busses or trails that start on the Tâmpa mountain and make their way all the way to the top of Postăvarul.
There are many restaurants that run year round serving traditional Romanian food with amazing views of the city. This is easily doable as Poiana Brașov has a temperate-continental climate. The average temperature in summer is 20 °C and in winter -4 °C.
Brașov’s Surrounding Area
Brașov has the good fortune of being established within a beautiful region in the mountains, full of rich history that spills well outside of the city’s borders.Transylvania, the historical region that it’s situated in, alone brings up mysterious legends that people are dying to explore, and have the opportunity to do so from this starting point.
Bran Castle is what people refer to when they call out Dracula’s castle. Although there is no evidence that Bram Stoker had this castle in mind when he wrote the story, or that the person that inspired the character, the Wallachian ruler Vlad Țepeș (Vlad the Impaler; 1448–1476), resided there (although it is noted he passed through several times), the castle is still full of mystery, history and beauty dating back to the 13th century. It is perched up on a hill and surrounded by natural forest. The majority of the castle is explorable on a visit, even a hidden passage, and the torture chambers are also on display for the adventurous travelers.
Also a short drive out of Brașov is the Râșnov Citadel. Perched high on a hill overlooking the town of Râșnov, it is a historic monument and landmark in Romania, again dating back to the 13th century. The citadel was built as part of a defence system for the Transylvanian villages exposed to outside invasions. The only chance of survival for the inhabitants of the area was the refuge inside the citadel. Compelled to stay there for decades, the people of Râșnov and the nearby villages turned the fortification into a dwelling.
Also teeming with history, it was used to defend the area against many attacks, including from the Ottoman empire. The citadel was conquered only once, during the rule of Prince Gabriel Báthory, in 1612. The fall was caused by the lack of water due to the discovery of the path to a secret spring by the enemy troops. To defend against a similar faith, a well was commissioned, and two Turkish prisoners were forced to dig it. While digging into the rocky soil for many years, they left many verses of the Quran engraved in it’s walls that are still visible today.