TURKEY: Top 3 sites in Amasya, Turkey

Little Recap:

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.

Now on to Amasya!

Amasya will charm your socks off and you may just decide to relax in this little town for longer. It will for sure make you want to come back and just slow your pace of life to match this little peaceful mountain life.

Located 2 hours SouthWest of Samsun, Amasya is the capital of the Amasya province in the Black Sea region. This area is famous for its juicy apples (which we have tried in Izmir but not there ironically!). Amasya’s history dates back around 7,500 years, was home of the famous Greek Strabo. The well fortified area produced many kings, artists, philosophers, and sultans throughout the centuries.

The most appealing beauty that draws people to Amasya today are the Ottoman era houses, also known as Yalıboyu Evleri. Carved into the cliff jetting up behind these homes are rock tombs of former Pontus kings who once ruled this area. History lovers, especially Ottoman ones, are drawn to this location as the birthplace of sultan Murad I and Selim I.

Wether you love the beauty of a rivertown, climbing mountains, or history, everyone can find something to love about Amasya. Read on to read our recommendations for Rize.

What you should see and do in Amaysa, Turkey:

1. Amasya Castle aka Harşena Castle:

  • Overlooking the city at 227 meters Harşena mountain, the Amasya Castle or Fortress has 3 different levels. Built during the Pontiac Kingdom, this fortress has undergone tons of changes, additions, and rebuilds over the centuries as it was attacked by the Persian, Roman, Pontus and Byzantine Empires. Shortly in the 18th century, it lost its strategic importance and was no longer necessary.
  • Although modern stairways make it accessible to reach the top, it is still a long steep (aka. not the easiest) climb to the top – (check out our video to see why)! Along the way you will pass city walls, 8 levels of defenses, living quarters, cisterns, public baths, and maiden’s palace.

2. Rock Tombs

  • One can’t miss the ancient rock tombs (Kral Kaya Mezarları in Turkish) carved into the rock of Harşena. The impressive manmade tombs of the kings of Pontus are visible from almost every spot in Amasya. The Royal Necropolis is the first and the only necropolis of the royal family in the world.
  • By day visitors can climb the old stars to see the 18 rock tombs measuring between 8-15 meters in height unclose and get a unique view of the city. By night they are illuminated for all to see from the riverside. Remember the Greek philosopher Strabo? Yeah, he first wrote about this Pontus Kings tombs back in 40 B.C.

3. Take a walk along the riversides:

  • This will most likely be the first thing you do when you get to town, like we did. However, If you have time, I always suggest to start at the highest point (see #1- the castle) and work your way down!
  • But the serenity and peacefulness that extends from the calm waterways jutted with Ottoman style homes will definitely be the reason you fall in love with this town. Not to mention the background views of the mountain with its previously mentioned rock tombs and crowning castle walls.

BONUS: Nearby (ish) Unesco Hattusha Hittite Capital:

  • If you decided to drive from Ankara to Amasya like us, you will pass right through Boğazkale District of Çorum Province, home to Uncesco site of Hattusha, the once Hittite capital. Monumental for it’s time the city wall of more than 8 km in length surrounds the whole city and speaks to the urban organization for its time. Some of the construction, rich ornamentation, ensemble of rock art date back to the 13th century B.C! The 6 km road made it easy to drive around this spread out site in see it all in 1-2 hours, depending on how long you stay at each stop – walking all of it would take all day (and exhausting).
  • Completely overlooked and forgotten by foreign tourist, it is a hidden gem I wished we had had more time to explore! The Çorum museum in Çorum city is home to some of the historical findings and statues that can no longer weather the outdoors. If you do have time and love ancient stuff, definitely check out the museum in Çorum museum city. (We are sad we didn’t have time!) As well, several different historical sites like Örenyeri and Kalehisar Kalesi are all located in this area.

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.
  • The closest airport to Amasya area is the Samsun plus a 2 hour drive inland. Like I said, not the closest to the Black Sea but still a major historical significance to the Black Sea Region that we do NOT regret stopping here!

Lodging: 

  • Çifte Konak Butik Otel: Nice hotel in an old Ottoman style home. Good Turkish breakfast and walkable to the riverside and downtown area. You can see a little more about this in our video.

Restaurants: 

  • Amaseia Mutfagi: Recommended by a friend, this little restaurant has amazing views being right on the riverside. The food was very reasonably price and not disappoint. But the service was definitely lacking.

Nearby:

  • If you are looking for a few extra stops, NorthEast-bound Samsun is located right on the Black Sea. Enjoy a night there, hang out on the coastline, and ride the cable car up the hill side.

Overall, Amasya is totally overlooked by tourist. If you want an authentic Turkish city and feel, this is a must stop on your Black Sea Road Trip. It is totally worth coming inland for a night or 2!

You can Explore Amasya with us over on our Following The Funks YouTube Channel via our video Explore Amasya.

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

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

Other Black Sea Road Trip Post and Videos:

  • 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

REVIEW: 2020 – COVID, YouTube, + Turkey Travels

Living in Turkey has some great benefits but when come to COVID, they are (semi) serious about their restriction and lockdowns. Due to those restrictions Jason and I shared our sushi and reflection questions with Sofia this year.  I am now sitting here on a 4 day New Year weekend lockdown writing out our 2020 REVIEW for this week. It will be the earliest I have gotten out a review. 2019 Review took me until April 2019. 2018 Review was in February 2018.

FIRST OFF: ADOPTION

Everyone always wants the updates of Sofia’s adoption. So instead of making you search for it, I have put it first on the agenda.

2018 was ‘technically’ the year we became parents. In 2019, custody of our daughter was legalized. We hoped our surprise private adoption would be finalized in 2020, but unfortunately it is delayed until 2021. Thankfully nothing can be ‘undone’, but we are just having to wait longer until everything is finalize.

If you are just joining in … you can find our adoption information here: Announced our adoption plans! (Adoption video #1 on our YouTube channel, but you can view the adoption playlist here.) Decided we had to move to America for said adoption plans….Then decided not to move to America because of an unexpected but exciting private adoption opportunity that came up here in Turkey!

SECOND: COVID

2020 has been an odd year for all. Turkey did not miss out. We had 3 months of strict restrictions and lockdowns last spring. In June, they started lifting and we ventured to a seaside town for a few weeks to get out of the city. We have cautiously made the most of our freedom and are thankful some family came to visit.

Unfortunately, as winter is approaching the covid numbers are rising again. We are already back on some partial lockdowns, and it looks like the winter will bring even more restrictions once again.

THIRD: YOUTUBE

Due to our adoption, we have placed almost all travels outside of Turkey on hold until all of this adoption stuff is complete and for 2019, we stuck close to Izmir. We SAID we were going to share these travels but it wasn’t until COVID that I got back into my website work and editing videos for myself! I hope you have found our content to be more all-encompassing of our lives as the Funk family – balancing life, work, expat living, mini-travels, and parenthood.

Our recap of 2020:

I did something a little different this year to share our year via our Following The Funks YouTube Channel. I started back on our FollowingTheFunks website and videos this year and it has been so rewarding!

This video has a TON of pictures and videos we have NEVER shared before with you (if anyone has been around since 2018, you would have noticed I took a crazy amount of time away from Instagram with all the transition going on in our lives). This April/May I finally buckled down and started producing content again – if not for you, then for our family to remember our lives here in Turkey.

Since there is not much explanation for anything in the video. So I did want to write out a quick recap of some of our memories over 2020!

  • January was normal life – work, Catie with her projects, and Sofia learning to walk more steadily. I think the most amazing part of this last year is watching Sofia grow from baby toddler to full on toddler child. (Is that a thing?)
  • February Sofia took her first airlines flight and we visited some friends in Istanbul. She then came down with the flu and we spent the rest of our week in the tiny airbnb apartment.
  • Jason also took a trip to the USA. It had been over a year since he had seen his family (remember I went 2 times in 2019?). He was able to visit our 3 new nieces and nephews and celebrate with his family at his Grandpa’s 90th birthday party.
  • Meanwhile, Catie took a solo trip with Sofia (on her second airline flights) to see her friend in Adana, Turkey. Sofia did unfortunately throw up all over me at the end of our arriving flight.
  • In June, most of the restrictions started lifting. We stayed closer to home but we thankful to take Sofia out daily at this point! Let’s just say that reentry into semi-normal society in a global pandemic is a lot like culture shock.
  • In July we decided to give ourselves a break from Izmir and skipped out to a little beach town called Kalkan. We stayed 3 weeks and enjoy each week with a different family/friends. The freedom to move around was refreshing (yes, we were cautious and wore mask). You can see a playlist from some of our summer here and what travel was like during COVID-19 in Turkey).
  • August was low key for everyone but Sofia. Jason changed out her crib to a toddler bed, gave up her Paci completely, and was potty trained. Oh and I am sure there was always coffee involved!
https://followingthefunks.com/category/black-sea-road-trip/
  • October came and went in a blur – literally… as I write this, I can’t remember what we did. I did a pumpkin decorating workshop and macaroon workshop with friends. Otherwise, it was a lot of normal life, Turkish breakfast every Saturday morning, and a lot of friend time. Oh and Sofia’s first fall party.
  • At the end of October, our city of Izmir was hit by a 7.0 earthquake. We were at home and experienced 15- 20s of strong shaking, which was very scary. Thankfully our home is fine but there are areas in Izmir that were devastated. Around 20 buildings immediately collapsed, over 100 people died, and 500+ buildings are scheduled for demolition.
  • November – Sofia turned two! This is the turning point for Sofia language! She started making sentences, and by the end of the year we were have two-way conversations (not just yes or no stuff!).
  • As well, a couple of Jason’s cousins came to visit us and we took them to Cappadocia and Istanbul. We are so thankful the new COVID restrictions and lockdowns didn’t start until after our cousins left.
  • In November, we had high hopes that our adoption would be finalized. We waited almost a year for this court date. But it was disappointing that it will be delayed until 2021. Thankfully it does not undo anything that has taken place. It is so surreal to think that we announced her to everyone in May of 2019!
  • In December, we enjoy filling our lives with advent activities to celebrate Christmas. This also included a last minute plan to spend a weekend out at a farm with friend. Sofia’s was able to ride a horse which is a daily topic of conversation still.

Last but not least! Our new contributor at Nia’s Corner:

Nia, a fellow expat living in Izmir, Turkey, joins Following The Funks as a contributor writer back in the spring. I am SO thankful for her insight, knowledge and thoughtfulness she puts into every post she writes over at Nia’s Corner! You haven’t seen her post these last couple of months because the earthquake effected where she was living. She has had a lot on her plate finding a new home and moving. I am hopeful you will get some more content this 2021.

You can find the complete list of her writings here. I think you will find more than a couple that will entice you! Thank you Nia for all you have share here on FTF!

WRAPPING IT ALL UP:

It is crazy to think we are in our 5th year of this journey. We are hopeful that 2021 will bring finalization of Sofia’s adoption as well as her USA immigration paperwork. If all works out then by the end of 2021 we should find ourselves in the states finalizing Sofia’s citizenship!

If anything I am so thankful I did this to remember all the GOOD 2020 held in the middle of a crazy global pandemic and restrictions and lockdowns in Turkey.

Thanks for letting us share our lives with you and being part of our 2020.

Jason + Catie + Sofia

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

  • What is your best thing about 2020?
  • What was the hardest?
  • How did you grow for the better this year?
Black Sea Ordu Turkey Teleferik Gondola

TURKEY: Top 5 sites in Ordu, Turkey (and a BONUS one)

Little Recap:

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.

Now on to Ordu!

Black Sea Ordu Turkey Teleferik Gondola
Black Sea Ordu Turkey

Back in the 5th century BC, Ordu was the site of ancient Cotyora, founded by Greek colonists from Sinope. A lot like Samsun, it follows the history of most of the Turkish Republic being passed from one empire to the next.

At the turn of the 20th century, the city was more than half Christian (Greek and Armenian). Taşbaşı Church, a former Greek Orthodox church in the neighborhood Taşbaşı, is one of the only prominent surviving churches. It was first built in 1853, used as a prison between 1937-1977, and then restored in 1983 by the Ministry of Culture and Tourism of the Republic of Turkey. The church, which was converted into a cultural center in 2000, continues to be transformed into an archaeological museum. It was closed when we went but we peeked at the outside from the fence. 

With a population of 220,000, Ordu is the capital of Ordu Province. The main city spans along the 10 kilometers of beautifully maintained public Black Sea coastline. Quickly become a modern symbol for the city, the Boztepe teleferik, or cable car transports passengers from the coast to the Boztepe hill, a good 550 m (1,800 ft) and is THE thing to do here.

As well, Ordu produces 25 percent (YES, TWENTY FIVE!) of the worldwide crop of hazelnuts (Turkey as a whole produces about 75 percent of the world’s hazelnuts). This was a fun stop for us and we would definitely come back!

Black Sea Ordu Turkey

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

1. Teleferik and Boztepe

  • Located 550 meters above sea level, Boztepe is the highest place in the city of Ordu. A quick 6-minute cable car ride takes you to a cobblestone road lined with little vendors selling everything from hazelnuts to little handmade trinkets. There are several little cafes, restaurants, and tea houses with a stunning view of the sea just waiting to serve visitors. For 15 TL a roundtrip ticket, it is one of the most affordable and enjoyable things to do in Ordu!
  • I don’t know much about the paragliding but we did see a couple gliding through the air as we enjoy our cable car ride. This website can give you a few companies to check out if it interest you!

2. Ters Ev (Upside-down house)  

  • Completed by Ordu Metropolitan Municipality in 2019, the Ters Ev (aka – Up-side Down House) is 150 square meter, 2 story home sitting on it’s roof and even has a small car ‘parked’ out front. A quick 2 minutes walk from the teleferik, visitors enjoy 2 of the cities most visited attractions.

3. Black Sea Coastline

  • I mentioned this in our Samsun post too, but really, it’s a must! Take some time to just stroll down the 10 kilometers of seaside and even take a dip in the sea. Multiple beaches are positioned along the way equipped with restrooms, changing areas and even showers.

4. Hazelnuts

  • Ok, not really a site but a ‘must-learn-about-and-try’ item! In between the Teleferik loading area and the Ters Ev lies an open market with several wooden stands for businesses to display their products.
  • Like I mention, Ordu produces a whopping 25 percent of the worldwide crop of hazelnuts – that’s amazing! So you can imagine they sell almost everything imaginable that they can do with hazelnuts! One of our favorite stands, Meşhur Ordu Helva, treated us with a taste of hazelnut and walnut Helva, and we definitely ended up buying some to take with us.

5. Colorful Buildings of Downtown

  • In my research about what to see in Ordu, NO one mentioned how COOL the downtown area is. A pedestrian-only street lined with colorful buildings where visitors can meander while window shopping is one of my favorite things! I wish we had more time to explore this area, but I was able to snap a few shots!

BONUS: Nearby Yason Kilisesi

  • The location isn’t exactly in Ordu, but if you are driving from Samsun to Ordu, like we did, then take the detour to Yason Cape just before you get to Persembe. Do NOT miss it! I PROMISE if the weather is even somewhat good then this place is the best stop you can make!
  • This small peninsula facing the sea is currently a governmental environmental protection area and there is no charge or touristy thing about it. Yason’s, or Jason in English (my Jason loved that!), Church built in 1868 by Georgians and Greeks still stands among the ruins of its garden wall. It is said the church was built in the place of an old temple that was built as a protector of the sailors of Black Sea‘s treacherous waters. The church held a similar mission.
  • Nearby the church is a lighthouse and a quiet, beautiful area full of green grass and wild flowers. We even took a dip in the calm, little cove.
BlackSeaRoadTrip Ordu Persembe Yason Church Lighthouse Turkey

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.
  • Looks like Pegasus Airlines may have a few direct flights from Izmir to the remote Ordu-Giresun airport. Otherwise, most flights will have 1 stopover via Istanbul airports.
  • Istanbul has direct flights to the Ordu-Giresun airport.

Lodging: 

  • Hampton by Hilton Ordu: Rooms are a little tight for space and we had some issues with our check-in. Otherwise, the location is PERFECT. It is literally 3 minute walk to the sea-side and restaurants.

Restaurants: 

  • Tomur Cafe: Great outdoor space by the water. It is known more for it’s burgers, pizza, salad – not a traditional Turkish food restaurant.
  • Our hotel provided breakfast, and we fill up on all the treats while touring in the morning so proper lunch was not necessary.

Nearby:

  • If you are looking for a few extra stops, west-bound Samsun is the provincial capital and starting point of the 1919 Turkish War of Independence.
  • As you continue eastward, Trabzon and Rize are next two stops you can not miss. Videos and blog post for this area coming soon!

Overall, Ordu is on our ‘visit again’ list. The beauty of the Black Sea and friendly people made want to come back for more! Even though a day is sufficient time for a short visit, I am sure a few more days would give you a deeper view into the city. You can explore Ordu with us over on our Following The Funks YouTube Channel via our Ordu 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 Ordu now?
  • Have you traveled to Ordu 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
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

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?