Black Sea Samsun Turkey

TURKEY: Top 5 sites in Samsun, Turkey

Jason and I have talked about doing a Black Sea Road trip throughout the North East area of Turkey ever since we moved to Turkey, but it has never happened in the last 4 years of living here. On HIS birthday, Jason surprised me by setting aside some dates, finding tickets, renting a car, and making a ‘let’s go’ plan!  So in less than 10 days before leaving, we finalized our itinerary and booked all our lodging for 12 nights. It was a little stressful but we made it happen!

***Spoiler: It turned out to be an amazing time, to say the least.

COVID-19 has not made 2020 fun for anyone, even us living the expat life in Turkey, and traveling in the midst of the virus meant we had to be extra careful and mindful of our exposure. You can check out some of our other travels during COVID times to Kalkan this past summer.

Black Sea Samsun Turkey Teleferik Gondola
Black Sea Samsun Turkey

Samsun is the largest city, an important shipping port, and the traditional provincial capital of the Black Sea region of Turkey. We learned it was supposedly the home to the legendary Amazon warriors. According to Greek legends, these women warriors were famous for wielding bows and arrows and using double-headed axes for fighting in battles.

Samsun, like the rest of Turkey, has passed through the hands of many empires. One of the oldest names it holds is Amisos given by Miletusians (Miletus), which was one of the Ionian city-states, between 760-750 BC.

Unfortunately, most of Samsun was burnt to the ground by Genoese raiders in the 1400s. So, even though it is very old, there is not much old architecture left to enjoy.

Regardless, this city will always have a special in the republican history of Turkey. Samsun is the location of the start of the War of Turkish Independence in 1919 by the republic’s founder, Kemal Atatürk. The most famous symbolic monument in the town is a bronze statue depicting equestrian Mustafa Kemal Atatürk.

Read on to know what you should see and do in Samsun, Turkey:

1.Amazon Warrior & Twin Lions Statues:

  • Located near Bati Park in Baruthane along the seafront, the twin gold lion and Amazon warrior statues are hard to miss. A man-made canal runs through the center of the park. Supposedly, the park has lots of activities for children such as go-carting and play areas as well as plenty of wide shaded areas for picnicking. Due to COVID-19 restrictions, there wasn’t much open. For a small fee currently 5 lira, you can also visit the nearby Amazon village.

2. Black Sea Coastline

  • 14 kilometers of seaside…. just enjoy a long beautiful walk (hopefully if it’s not too windy!)

3. Amisos Hill and Gondola/Cable Car:  

  • The first settlement in Samsun, formerly known as Amisos, was around 750 B.C. by the Milesians, a Hellenic civilization. While I didn’t see any ancient tombs, I heard there were some scattered along the walking path to see.
  • At the top of the hill, a cafe with a stunning view of the sea waits for you to enjoy a cup of tea, or even a meal. The cable car is right beside the cafe. A quick 5-minute ride takes you down to the park close to the twin lions.

4. Onur Park/ Downtown

  • Sandwiched between the seaside and downtown is a beautiful city park perfect to enjoy a chat with a friend or a well–equipped park for the kids. The Onur Anıtı positioned in the middle of the park depicts the equestrian Turkish founder, Ataturk, riding a horse.

5. All the Museum: (Unfortunately most do not have lots of English translations.)

  • Bandirma Ship Museum – Entrance Fee: 5 TL – I wish we would have seen this one! The ship is a replica of the original ship that was destroyed in the 1920s. The ship reminds the visitors of Mustafa Kemal’s journey to the city in 1919 at the start of the War of Independence.
  • Samsun City Museum – Good museum to learn about the city’s history. Even though most signs do not have English, there are supposedly audio guided tours recorded on a device in multiple languages.
  • Archeological and Ethnographic Museum and, right next door, the Atatürk Museum

Our other tips for this area:

Getting There:

  • For our road trip, we flew from Izmir to Ankara on Pegasus Airlines and drove a rental car from Ankara to Rize- stopping in Amasya, Samsun, Ordu, and Trabzon along the way.
  • Pegasus Airlines and Turkish Airlines have daily flights from Istanbul to Samsun. No direct flights from Izmir unfortunately.
  • Bus service is frequent and convenient to Samsun, especially with the Ulusoy company.

Lodging: 

  • Park Inn by Radisson Samsun: Although it is in the next town over and not in the hussle and bustle of Samsun, we really enjoyed staying here. The hotel has high standard, a great room service menu, and a friendly staff making it one of my favorite hotels we stayed at on our 2 week trip (and we stayed in 7 different places!).

Restaurants: 

  • no special recs (because we order room service at Park Inn and it was fantastic) but this is the side location we stopped at downtown at a local place a grabbed some pide for the road.
Black Sea Samsun Turkey  Pide

Nearby:

  • If you are looking for a few extra stops, west-bound Sinop is the highest point along the Black Sea Coastline of Turkey.
  • On the way to Ordu is a town called Giresun. It’s another easy little stop if you want to spend some more time experiencing the Black Sea Region.

Overall, Samsun is a must-see location for Turkish history buffs but otherwise, I would say a full-day visit (or 2 if you have kiddos that nap) should be sufficient. You can explore Samsun with us over on our Following The Funks YouTube Channel via our Samsun video and see what all we did in our late afternoon/ morning visit!

Comment below and let me know about some of the questions below:

  • Do you want to travel to Samsun now?
  • Have you traveled to Samsun before?
  • If so, what did you love? What did we miss?!

Check out our other locations on this road trip! This is just a piece of our 8 part video and blog post series of our road trip.

  • SPOILERS: Instagram highlights
  • My top 5 tools video for how we planned our travels – VIDEO
  • Part 1: Explore Ankara, Turkey – POST and VIDEO
  • Part 2: Explore Amasya, Turkey – POST and VIDEO
  • Part 3: Explore Samsun, Turkey – POST and VIDEO
  • Part 4: Explore Ordu, Turkey – POST and VIDEO
  • Part 5: Explore Trabzon Part 1, Turkey – POST and VIDEO
  • Part 6: Explore Rize ParT 1, Turkey – POST and VIDEO
  • Part 7: Explore Rize PART 2, Turkey – VIDEO
  • Part 8: BSRT FINALE! Explore Trabzon Part 2, Turkey – VIDEO

EXPAT: 5 ways to document your expat adventures

Note: This article was first featured over at Expat Magazine at Expat.com titled “5 Ways to Document Your Expat Adventures.” – You can see all my published works on my portfolio page.

Quick Foreword:

If you haven’t figured it out by now, I’m going to let you in on a little secret. I LOVE talking about expat living. Not a traveling digital nomad, but a ‘we found a county and stayed put’ type of digital expat. Before I moved, I had this jumbled mix of what I loved writing about and I had a hard time narrowing it down to one specific area.  But over the last 4 years of living in Turkey, my 2nd time to move abroad, and writing last weeks article about culture shock, I think I have found (one of) my niche!!

Even more than chatting about expat living, I love sharing the ways I have documented our expat adventures. *Spoiler* The most interesting way is through our FunkTravels Podcast and FollowingTheFunks YouTube channel! In the midst of moving, traveling, and adjusting to another culture, documenting our memories can be the one thing that is thrown to the wayside. It also becomes one of the biggest regrets of those when they journey onward to the next phase of life.

Ok, we are ready to move on! Here is the article:

I woke up one morning and had completely forgotten where I was. You know how a really deep, good sleep can disorient you? Something in the room made me think I was in Turkey on a cool fall morning, maybe how the sunlight streamed in through the windows just so or the smell of the crisp morning air coming in through the open window. Of course, I quickly realized that I was no longer living in Turkey, but instead, I was in my bed in the States.

It’s funny to remember that now because currently my husband and I now live in Turkey once again. The smells and sounds of the neighborhoods are ingrained into my memory and I know… this is our lovely Turkey. It is strange how our senses can spark the littlest memories about a place.

Sometimes I get completely transported back to the places I have visited, whether I want it or not, remembering the tiniest details that I didn’t realize I had forgotten  – like the taste of butter, removing shoes at the door, or the certain fruity smell of a pipe from a hookah.

Over the last ten years, I’ve spent 5 of those as an expat; both single and married. I love being reminded of the journey and adventures we’ve had this year on our latest expat experience. I know that when we are back in our home country, I will enjoy looking back through the ways that I have documented our time abroad as well as sharing those memories with others.

Here are 5 ways I have used to document the adventures of our up-and-down, never-dull, fun, frustrating, and wonderful expat life.

1. KEEP A SIMPLE JOURNAL:

Keeping a journal has been proven to help people reflect and process change, but it’s mostly just a great place to hold memories. Keep a running list of things you love about the culture and place you live. Write stories of when someone helped you, a kind gesture on the street, or laughs of the neighborhood children after school. Journals are easy to take with you and write in at any time!

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2. START A WEBSITE:

This is probably the most popular choice. It can be a digital journal option for you and a great way to include your photos. If you are super tech-savvy, vlogs are growing in popularity. If you enjoy writing as a creative outlet, a website is a great way to share your expat lives with others and find an online community as well.

3. START A PODCAST:

Audio series are a great way to share your stories with others! My husband and I enjoy listening to them together on road trips, while working, or on any lengthy public transportation rides! So when moving to Turkey together this time, we decided to share our expat journey with others via podcast! (Update: Via 50 episodes of our podcast we shared our move from the USA through our 2nd year living in Turkey – so January 2016 to spring of 2018. We now still published blog post like this and have ‘continued’ our podcast via our newer brand of FollowingTheFunks YouTube channel.)

4. CREATE A PHOTO BOOK:

Maybe writing isn’t your thing, but creating a photo timeline of your journey is! Photo books are one of my favorite ways to remember a trip, experience, or even an entire year. There are many websites to help you create beautiful digital photo books of your travels. Or if you enjoy crafty projects, make a photo book from scratch.

5. ORGANIZE AND PRINT THOSE PICTURES:

If possible, just taking time to organize your pictures is a way to document your expat life! Perhaps there isn’t time to do all the other things mentioned above! No problem, do what works for you! And when all else fails, just print those pictures! These days it is so easy to never go out and print photos. So every month gather your favorite photos and print them! Then move the old photos over to a photo album, and hang up your newly printed pictures! (Update: I have just gotten the hang of this and got a ton of photo books done!)

Those are just a few of the many ways you can document your expat journey! Overall, the main goal is to just do something! It doesn’t have to be perfect (which if I am honest, is very hard for me), but you just have to start!

Now to you:

Have you used any of the ways above to document your story?  

How have you documented your expat adventures? 

What tips do you have for others who want to start documenting their expat life?

EXPAT: 5 Tips to Overcoming Culture Shock

When the excitement of moving abroad wears off

Note: This article was first featured first on the Expat Women in Turkey website. You can see all my published works on my portfolio page.

Spring is gorgeous here. The sun shines and the weather is just the right temperature. Recently, I went out for a few errands and just basked in the rays of sunlight peeking through as I weaved in and out of the shadows made from my neighborhood buildings and trees. In a split second, I went from gloriously praising MY lovely city to cursing the stinky rules of THEIR culture. Because, for the almost 1 millionth time, I barely missed stepping on fresh dog poop in the middle of the sidewalk….

Eight months ago (Update: now 4 years!) my husband and I moved from a small town in the midwest of the United States to Izmir, a busy apartment city of 4 million people. We moved from one set of cultural rules to another – spoken and unspoken. An unspoken one in America, you pick up your dog’s poop and throw it away (or take them to a dog park) and here in Turkey, leaving poop everywhere is totally acceptable. Amazing how one little thing can spark a moment of anger stemming from culture shock.

(Update: I have since come to learn that this is NOT a norm and street dog are a major culprit here with this issue. ALSO, I would like to point out just how amazing clean these major cities are kept!)

But this isn’t the first time I have moved internationally.  Before marrying my sweet man, I spent 2 years in Turkey and 1.5 more years in Afghanistan.  From my experience, the first few months can be hard because you have to adjust everything about your life. Other people seem to have a little honeymoon phase (maybe 2-4 months) before the frustrations hit them full-on. 

Throughout these journeys, I have found a few ways to counteract culture shock:

1. KEEP A JOURNAL:

Keeping a journal has been proven to help people reflect and process change. However, many people end up using a journal to vent about things they don’t like or make them angry. While there is nothing wrong with that, I suggest using your journal another way. Keep a running list of things you love about the culture and place you live – especially in the beginning while the ‘honeymoon’ stage is still happening.  Write stories of when someone helped you, a kind gesture on the street, or laughs of the neighborhood children after school.

2. BE A TOURIST FOR A DAY:

My best way to counteract the frustration of living in another country is to get out and explore. Sometimes it is easy to fall into the routine of work, eat, sleep and repeat. Make a list of places, festivals, and events to explore in your city then make a plan and go! It can seem intimidating, but the more you try new things, the easier it becomes to explore.

Culture Shock - Expat living

3. MAKE YOUR COMFORT FOOD:

While I promise you it won’t be the same, it’s definitely worth the effort! The first time I moved to Istanbul, I basically had to learn to cook my comfort food from scratch. But when I mastered my first banana bread recipe, it became a go-to for times I felt like everything I ate was foreign.

4. EXERCISE:

Sometimes moving to a new city can stop our daily routines. Maybe you exercised before moving, but now are lacking motivation.  One of the best things I did my first year abroad was pay (way too much money, mind you) for a gym membership. It gave me a reason to get out of my house, interact with others, and meet new people.

5. MEET YOUR NEIGHBORS:

You may think “why would I meet new people when people are the cause of my culture shock?!” Believe me, it is the best advice others gave me when I was feeling frustrated. Creating deeper relationships with locals (or even other expats) helps you understand the culture more. Perhaps cultural frustration can be resolved by learning more about why people do the things that they do. Also, connecting with other people helps you notice individuals behind “those Turks” or “those Americans” or “those… insert people group here“.  Grace and open-mindedness help you move past culture shock into an area of understanding and appreciation for another’s home country.

These are just a few ways I have found helpful to avoid and break through the culture shock in the 3 countries I have called home in the last 10 years.

Remember that you are not alone and there is always someone to talk to! So instead of withdrawing, maybe consider doing the exact opposite and see how it goes! 

Which one sounds most appealing to you?

If you have moved abroad, what has helped you overcome culture shock?

TCK Life: Finding Time to Teach Passport Language and Culture to my TCK

So, you’re not a teacher, but you want your TCK (Third Culture Kid) to be able to go back to her passport country for a semester of school, university, or perhaps just the option for her to live there easily when she is an adult. One of the benefits of cross-cultural life is having perspectives from multiple backgrounds, but you’re afraid your TCK is so disconnected from her passport country that she may not be able to assimilate to her “own” country. 

A big part of that is language and culture. Your TCK likely picks up her passport language from you or your spouse, but not everyone feels confident teaching their child to read, or homeschooling to ensure their child has the education their passport country requires for university. If you’re not a TCK yourself, it may surprise you how much language and culture is taught by the community you live in. There are idioms that your uncle taught you, a way of behaving in certain places that you learned by being there with other members of the community: the way one behaves in school, on public transportation, in a shop, at a funeral—these things are culturally informed and taught by the whole community with a shared culture. 

This may feel overwhelming as a parent of a TCK. “How am I supposed to replace an entire community of teachers for my kid?” you may wonder. Don’t worry. You can’t. And you don’t need to. Sure, you need to be intentional about teaching language and some culture, but one of the gifts of being a TCK is having an outside view of a culture that is seen as your “own.” So, do what you can, remembering that your TCK will have different struggles and advantages because of their upbringing, and that’s okay. That said, there are some ways you can teach your TCK her passport language and culture abroad.

Here are three tips to help teach your TCK her passport language and culture:

1. Take (even small) opportunities as they arise.

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When your child asks why you do something one way while all of her friends in your host country do it another way, take the opportunity to explain culture. This helps your TCK differentiate between the host culture she interacts with daily, the culture of their home, and the culture of their passport country. It can lead into a conversation that teaches your child more about the values you hold as a family.

2. Small, regular lessons are better than trying to shove a bunch of information in your kids before you visit your passport country.

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Say your child is enrolled full-time in school in her host country. Fifteen minutes daily of working through some free printables from Pinterest can seem like an insignificant amount of time, but if she’s getting that manageable amount of exposure, it can really make a difference over time. This is especially true if you are intentional and strategic with what you are doing with your child in those fifteen minutes a day.

Trying to do a crash-course over the summer isn’t working with the grain of your child’s brain, and ultimately won’t yield the results you or your child want. That will just frustrate both of you. Growing slowly and steadily is always best.

Once your child is able to read in her passport language, exposing her to books (and e-books) that are classics from her passport country, or history books will allow her to grow in an understanding of that national narrative and culture.

3. Prioritize. Prioritize. Prioritize.

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What are the most important goals for your TCK? Is it knowing the language their grandparents speak? Is it university opportunities in your passport country? Is it life skills in a passport country? What is the importance in ratio to the learning your child needs in your host country? That ratio should show up in the time they spend learning. If you haven’t read my blog post on helping TCKs through culture stress or in figuring out how to choose educational plans for your kids, check them out here and here, respectively.

Essentially, list your long-term goals for your child in order of importance, and put the effort in. Be prepared to sacrifice to make those most important things happen. Maybe it’s worth hiring a tutor for your TCK. Maybe it’s worth changing your educational plan to incorporate more of your child’s passport language. It may even be worth moving to a city with an international school, or sending your TCK to boarding school. Do the research to find out what’s best for your family. 

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Remember, it is worth the investment of time and effort of thinking strategically about your kids’ upbringing. As you’ve chosen a non-conventional lifestyle overseas, your children may require non-conventional approaches to their education. And an investment in your child’s future is never a waste. 

Your turn!

  • What are some ways you are helping your TCK learn her passport language?
  • How do you find balance in your family?
  • If you don’t have a TCK, what are some ways that you or your kids’ can learn more about another culture?
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TRAVEL: Your Travel Guide to Braşov, Romania

Note: This article was first featured first in the DestinationsMagazine – Transylvania: A Guide to Braşov, Romania. (Link no longer available). You can see all my published works on my portfolio page.

Also, make sure you catch the Travel Guide to Romania to see our 4 day travel guides.

As you arrive in Braşov, you’ll see the town’s name boldly announced in white letters, perched high on the hilltop. Brașov lies in the center of Romania’s Transylvania region in the renowned Carpathian Mountains of Vampire Count Dracula fame. Later, during medieval times, Braşov was occupied by the Saxons, who turned the city into a walled citadel for protection against invaders. Today the city is still surrounded by those same medieval stone walls.

For centuries, the city’s central Romanian location has given it a strong political influence in the region, especially during the Ottoman Empire, while also providing a trading doorway into western Europe. Braşov’s name means “Crown City” in both German and Latin.  Its coat of arms bears a crown with oak roots, and can be seen on walls and buildings throughout the city.

Romania Travel Guide

Here is your ultimate guide for visiting Brasov, Romania:

History, Architecture, and Culture

Braşov offers a diverse number of gothic, baroque, and renaissance architectural styles. Architecture, crepe stands, and cafes line Braşov’s wide pedestrian-only boulevard. Visitors will find themselves looking up, entranced by the artistic architecture all around them. 

The city center is lined with romantic cobblestone roads. The inelegant looking, yet harmonious, Gothic-style Black Church peeks out from behind colorful baroque houses that shield the beautiful Council Square of Piata Sfatului and the former town hall, Casa Sfatului.  Here, you can relax at an outdoor cafe while you soak up the ambiance that reflects Braşov’s heart and soul.

Built from 1383 to 1480, the Black Church earned its name after the smoke from a 1689 fire darkened its walls. Although the largest Gothic church in Eastern Europe may not be as striking as some Western European cathedrals, its gothic architecture and the Anatolian Carpets that adorn the walls reflect the crossing point of the cultures and influences from the Ottoman Empire, the Kingdom of Hungary, and the Saxons. 

Built in 1559, Ecaterina’s (Catherine’s) Gate, is one of the oldest portals in town. Complete with a drawbridge, and four corner towers, Catherine’s Gate was once the only entrance into the northern part of the fortress.

Catherine’s Gate survived fires in 1689 and 1759 , but an earthquake in 1738 damaged its walls. Closed up and used for storage, the gate was finally restored to its original state between 1971-1973, and is undeniably the city’s most beautiful gate.

Due to repeated raids by the Turks, Braşov’s residents fortified their city in the late 1400s, building thick stone walls with strong bastions, two outer watch towers, and a Citadel. On the opposite side to Braşov’s mountaintop sign, you can visit the striking white tower and newly renovated black tower which is, ironically, also constructed of white stone.  In 1599 the Black tower was destroyed by fire from a lightning strike, which blackened its walls, hence its name. Today, this pyramid-shaped glass roof tower is no longer black and houses a museum. Both towers can be toured and provide magical panoramic views over the city. 

The free Braşov walking tour is ideal for history lovers. This interesting two-hour tour covers 800 years of the city’s history including Romania under the “Golden Era” of communism. You’ll hear stories about the citadel and Dracula while walking through one of the narrowest streets in Eastern Europe.  The tour covers the history of the Black Church, the Council Square, Rope Street, St. Nicholas Church, the Citadel’s Walls, the Schei Quarter, and Ecaterina’s (Catherine’s) Gate. 

Offered daily at 18:00, the tour is held in all weather. The guides are personable and used stories and humor to captivate us as she explained the history of Braşov. It meets at the Piata Sfatului, the Town Hall Square, next to the fountains. While the tour is ‘free’, the guides work from tips. We suggest tipping at least €5 per person, which we felt was well worth it.

Extra Fun

Strada Sforii, also known as “Rope” and “Skinny” Street, is claimed to be Eastern Europe’s narrowest street. It’s one of Braşov’s most interesting tourist attractions and was originally used as an access route by firefighters. Found between Cerbului Street and Poarta Schei Street, this 13th-century alleyway is 53 inches at its widest point and just 44 inches at its most narrow point. Most visitors miss Strada Sforii, and never get to explore its narrow, winding path. Look for the tiny sign marking the entrance to the street.

Nature

Just outside Braşov, towering mountains clad with thick forest cover the countryside. One of our favorite tourist activities in Braşov was riding the gondola to the top of Mount Tampa. For 17 lei/ person (€3.7) you can purchase a round trip ticket, that offers marvelous views of the city. If you like hiking, 10 lei (€2) will get you a one-way ticket in either direction. Make sure you stop to admire the view of downtown Braşov. The Black Church and square can easily be spotted from above. 

Castle Lovers

Braşov is a unique location. Even with its small-town, quiet feel in the middle of the mountains, restaurants and activities are plentiful. Braşov offers much to explore within, and around, the city. The nearby city of Bran is home to Bran Castle, a.k.a. the famous Dracula’s Castle! A quick 30-minute drive from Braşov, the castle is easy to find.  

While Bran Castle is best known as Count Dracula’s castle, this wood and stone fortress had an essential role in protecting the Hungarian king from Ottoman and Tartar invasions. Built in 1378, the castle served both protective and commercial purposes. In 1836, Bran became the official border and in 1920, the Braşov Town council donated Bran Castle to Queen Maria of Great Romania, who lived there with the royal family until 1947. Since then, the Castle has been converted into a museum.

Romania Travel Guide Dracula's Castle Bran Castle

Castle tickets are 30 lei (€8) per adult. The uphill walk to the castle takes 10 minutes. While the attraction is kid-friendly, the castle itself with its many stairs and turns is not stroller friendly.  Lined with local shopping goods and souvenirs, and plenty of places to eat along the way, the village of Bran also offers tempting strolls along the street. 

The 14th-century Rasnov Fortress, on a rocky hilltop in the Carpathian Mountains, 650 ft above the town of Rasnov, was recently restored. It’s a quick day trip from Braşov’s historic center. For decades, this perfectly positioned citadel provided refuge for inhabitants of the area.

For 12 lei adult admission fee (€2.5), you get access to the maze-like inner rooms of the fortifications, a museum, a school, hundred-year-old stone houses, a skeleton buried beneath a glass floor,  a few so-called secret passages, and sweeping views of the countryside. 

For Festival Goers

Braşov offers many festivals throughout the year. The Beer Festival, Etnovember, and the Junii Feast, are a few that are well worth scheduling your travels to Romania around. 

The Beer Festival in Braşov is a smaller version of Oktoberfest, held in the fall. You can enjoy the beers and ales from several local beer companies in the dozens of tents. Taste Romanian grilled sausages (called mici) and other traditional foods, while enjoying local and national bands and artists. 

A cross between the words ‘ethnic’ and ‘November’, the intercultural festival ‘Etnovember’ reflects both the cultural traditions of the communities present. Since 1998, all ethnic groups from Braşov, Romanian, Hungarian, Jewish, Gypsy, German and Greek communities gather to celebrate their diversity and support friendship, tolerance, respect, and understanding. The three-day festival offers a wide range of art forms including dance, music, painting, photography, and design. If you want to see the heart of the Romanian people, visit Braşov during this time. 

The Junii Braşovului festival (‘The Feast of the Youth’) is an ancient tradition dating back to 1728, celebrating the start of spring, the renewing of nature, and the beginning of new life.  On the first Sunday after Easter, or the new year of the ancestors of the Romanians, the seven “Junii” (young men) groups from the Schei, the old district of Braşov, ride on horses from the mountains and ride around Braşov. Dressed in unique costumes, they carry mace batons, scepters, and flags, parading in front of the St. Nicholas church. In true Romanian spirit, where traditions live on, with dancing, games, and barbecuing, the festival has multiplied and an occasion to be marked on all Braşovians’ calendars. 

Eating Out

From Bucharest to Braşov, stop about 1 hour outside of Braşov in a little railroad town of Posada for supper and take a break from the car. Enjoy a traditional Romanian dish such as cabbage rolls or smoked sausages with a side of cornmeal with salty cheese and sour cream at the restaurant called Cernica.

In Braşov, grab a pastry from one of the many window stalls and find a table in the middle of the boulevard on the main street of Strada Republicii. For a wonderful brunch experience, choose from sweet or savory crepes at the laid-back La Republique. Lunch or dinner at the stylish but still kid-friendly pizzeria, Trattoria Pocol. For an afternoon snack, the adorable bakery near the Black Church, La Vatra Ardealului, will wake you up with their strong cappuccinos and delightful tiramisu, cakes, or chocolate truffles. 

Who Visits Braşov?

Often overlooked on the regular European tourist trail, Romania remains an eminently worthy travel destination in its own right. Romania is a country for those who’ve seen all the major European cities and want to get away from the overcrowded tourist hot spots. It offers plenty of tourist attractions without the craziness of tourist groups, lines, and prices.

The rich history and sights in Romania’s soon-to-be major tourist destination of Braşov in the Transylvania region make a perfect week-long getaway. Three days are sufficient to explore all that Braşov has to offer, but if you want to see more of Transylvania, you can easily add a few more nights.

How to Get There

With Romania’s 20 million people nicely spread over 240,000 square kilometers, the country is perfect for a road trip meets city type of adventure. Serviced by most major airlines, Bucharest airport makes an easy starting point. Sibiu International Airport or Aeroportul Braşov-Ghimbav airports near Braşov are closer options to consider. 

After landing, rent a car, purchase a sim card with data, and head north for your 2.5-hour drive to Braşov. Romanian roads are easy to navigate and sim cards help with GPS directions, and finding restaurants. 

During the return from Braşov to Bucharest, explore the well-maintained Peles Castle, and eat lunch in the nearby city of Sinaia which provided a cozy half-way stop. 

Getting Around

Because flexibility is important for travel, rent a car via your favorite car rental website. Most car rental companies provide a free shuttle from the airport to their company only 5 minutes away from the airport.  If driving in another country is not your cup of tea, taxis, buses, and even trains between cities are easy to use and inexpensive as well.

Where to Stay

Hotels are easy and plentiful to find. Below are a couple of hotels to consider for your time in Romania:

  • Kronhaus Bed and Breakfast in Braşov
  • Conacul Ambient in Cristian
  • Rem’s Pension in Rasnov
  • Conacul Bratescu in Bran

If your group is large or you are traveling with children consider opting for a more family style lodging through private apartment rental. 

When to Go

For sunshine and warmer weather, the summer months are generally drier and good for walks, but don’t be surprised if you are caught in a rainstorm or two in June. Fall time creates an autumn color tour for travelers as the trees and ground are splashed with orange, yellow, and red leaves. While winter weather can be inclement, holiday time in Romania invites guests to celebrate with locals still wearing traditional clothes while caroling, admire traditionally decorated wooden houses, and enjoy homemade sausages. 

ESSENTIAL INFO

  • Most shops and hotels will take credit cards but many restaurants, bars and smaller shops and outlets will only accept cash.
  • Most people speak English, but a translation app is handy for rural areas that don’t have English menus.
  • Purchase sim cards with 3G data for 40 lei (€8.5).
  • Download a maps app to help you navigate the city.
  • Take comfortable shoes. The best way to see all the cozy nooks in Braşov is by walking or cycling.
  • Pack for all weathers as even the summer weather can be unpredictable.
  • Currency: Leu ( plural Lei — pronunciation “lay” — abbreviations: Lei or RON )

USEFUL LINKS

Now to you! 

  • Have you been to Romania???
  • Have you been specifically to Brasov?
  • What did you love about it?
  • What else should we see next time we go?