Brașov: We’re Home

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Brașov, Romania, is everything we wanted for August. It oozes European old-world charm, offers incredible opportunities for daily hiking, has every amenity you’d want, delicious restaurants, low cost of living, AND has superfast internet (if you want to know why Romania has super-fast internet, here is an interesting article). For the summertime, Brașov may be the perfect place (but photos of winter here tell us that it is not a contender for a year-round home).

Flashback to last summer, late June, when we were wrapping up the touring part of our first leg in Europe. We spent three beautiful days hiking in Slovakia’s Tatras Mountains, staying in a little series of little villages known collectively as Starý Smokovec. We loved it, and when we decided to return to Europe this summer, we figured we could avoid the hot (looking at you, Spain, France, and Portugal) and crowded (hello, Germany, Scandinavia, and Italy) nature of summer in Europe by choosing another semi-remote mountain town. However, we wanted something larger the Starý Smokovec that would be easier to get to and have a lot better internet. Brașov was the clear winner and we suspected we would love it here. 

Now, a week into our stay, we have been proven right. Here are some of the things we’re loving about Brașov:

Our apartment

Our Airbnb rental may be the best we’ve ever had. It has a ton of charm, a modern kitchen that includes a dishwasher, a separate guest room office for Chad, the afore-mentioned fast internet, and a spectacular view over the town. It even has an outdoor space where we enjoy our breakfast most mornings and wine many evenings. We’re incredibly comfortable here and really wish we could just pack this place up and take it with us on the rest of our trip.

Our neighborhood

We chose to avoid staying in the central tourist old city part of town and instead chose the older part of town (there is also a modern part, but that was less appealing). Our neighborhood is adorable and has a classic European “square” (though shaped more like a triangle) with a couple of bars, a couple of restaurants, a pharmacy, and some shops, cafes, and markets. We’re even able to do our grocery shopping there, traditional European style with stops at the butcher, the produce stand, and the mini-market. It’s all less than 5 minutes walking from our place and so convenient.

The hiking

We’ve always loved being able to get out into the woods for long hikes and the Carpathian Mountains that surround the town are full of trails. We’ve hiked every day since we arrived and set a goal to hike 100 miles during our time here. The trails are well-marked and included on Chad’s favorite hiking app, Backcountry Navigator PRO. 

The food

Chad made paprika hendl, which is mentioned in the novel, Dracula

I often joke that food is a big motivator in our travels, but it is true we really appreciate good food. Happily, it has been easy to find here. Romanian food is very similar to Czech, Hungarian, and other Central European cuisines, which are some of Chad’s favorites. There is also a good Turkish influence here, which is one of my favorite kinds of foods (and we had a great Turkish meal in Bucharest on our way here). We’re also cooking at home an extra night a week because we have such a great kitchen. Last night Chad made paprika hendl, which is referenced in Bram Stoker’s Dracula (which Chad is currently reading because, I may have forgotten to mention, Brașov is in Transylvania). It was delicious. But we’re also able to find Asian ingredients here, so tonight I’m making teriyaki chicken. Our grocery bill is the lowest we’ve had since Mexico and restaurants are extremely reasonable here too (two nights ago, we had our weekly “cheap night out” at a sit-down restaurant in the tourist core of the city and came in on-budget at $20 for two hearty entrees, 2 beers, and a decent tip).

Proximity to Bucharest

One of the biggest challenges in Slovakia was the difficulty of getting into and out of the mountains. It required us to spend a night in Krakow on the way in and Kosice on the way out. Brașov is much easier to get to – just 3 hours by train from Bucharest, which has a solid international airport. We spent three very nice (though hot!) days in Bucharest before heading to Brașov. Due to work obligations, we didn’t get to see a lot of the city, but we really enjoyed our time there and were pleased with our accommodations in Bucharest as well.

Summary

While not as packed as Western and Central Europe in the summer, Brașov is definitely a tourist town and there are crowds. The other slight negatives: lots of big barking dogs at most of the homes, lots of cats roaming the city, lots of smoking at restaurants and bars. But these are only minor issues and Brașov doesn’t feel over-crowded at all; we’ve had several very isolated hikes. The weather has been perfect and is about to get just a little cooler, which is nice. We truly love it here and are already talking about finding a similar situation for next summer.

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