Sep 28

Porolissum Fortress (Cetatea Porolissum)

Archeological sites, especially those well-kept, carry an important value because they are statements of ancient cultures and they allow individuals to get a glimpse of the way of life of their ancestors. Porolissum represents one of the best preserved archeological sites on the Romanian territory.

The construction was erected by the order of Emperor Traian with the purpose of blocking the passageway between the Carpathian Mountains and Dacia Porolissensi. But this region had flourished in the following years, being transformed into an important commercial center. Due to this development, the scope of the city had shifted in as much as it had become the capital of the region.

The initial construction was erected on a stone foundation, with the superior part being made out of wood. The structure could contain within its walls as much as 5000 soldiers. There are some aspects left shrouded in mystery. For instance, the name attached to the citadel has Dacian resonances, but in fact the archeological diggings conducted in the area have not revealed any Dacian settlements to have preceded the Roman fort.

As the region experienced a considerable growth, the citadel was refurbished, the new edifice being erected from stone. While there is no consistent evidence in this regard, there is a general belief that the reconstruction process occurred during the reign of Emperor Marcus Aurelius. It was around this time that human settlements started to encircle the citadel. In the year 124, the basis of a new province was set by Emperor Hadrian who had appointed Porolissum as the administrative center of the new location.

But after the quick expansion and the flourishing period it traversed, the citadel was abandoned. This occurred more than a century later, in 271, under the ruling of Emperor Aurelian. But even so, the data collected by the archeologists who had examined the area closely revealed that the citadel was not completely deserted. Only those who have founded the construction had left it behind, but soldiers still remained behind to protect the citadel. Remains of Dacian settlements were found, but the investigations conducted revealed that these were constructed at a later period, after the citadel already reigned proudly over the valley. Also in the region, archeologists found plates which had engraved on them the names of the most important individuals of that time, names of Daco-Roman origin.

The site began being explored at the beginning of the ‘70s, but the diggings continue to this day. The ruins of the city and of military installations have been revealed, such as public baths, a temple, amphitheater and several dwellings. At present part of the stone wall has been reconstructed and diggings are underway in the forum of the city. To the north west of the main entrance, lies a small Dacian fortress.

The area is definitely worth visiting due to the fact that it contains several markers of ancient civilizations. Tourists will be able to see the innovative developments that existed in the construction of such edifices in antiquity. The methods used were definitely impressive if the constructions are still standing after so many time, even if only partially.

Aug 30

Kamyanets-Podilsky (Orasul Kamyanets-Podilsky)

Whenever a majestic town, monument or item necessitates an accurate description, words seem to fail us. Because there are certain things that cannot be put into words, either because the striking beauty of that specific thing cannot find its way into our vocabulary, or because the way in which something presents itself before us instills a certain feeling, a certain emotion which cannot be expressed.

This is the situation one will find himself/herself in if ever visiting the town Kamyanets-Podilsky. The Ukrainian poet Lesya Ukrayinka had find the perfect simile to describe the ancient fortress that reigns over the city with the same name : “a stone flower on the rock,” thus alluding to the position the citadel occupies but also to the immense beauty of the edifice which seems to have sprung from the ground.

The Kamyanets-Podilsky fortress had been constructed in the 12th century, but the original edifice was not preserved as such, but was enhanced in time, having eventually been trasformed into the impressive stronghold that appears before us today. Thus it can accurately be said that the keep evolved in the same way as society. Imediately as a new form of defence mechanism was developed, the fortress was equiped with it.

What is it that draws us near to Kamyanets-Podilsky? Could it be the mysterious feel of it, as if something hidden to the eye dwells beneath the shadows of the fortified walls of the citadel or does it have something to do with the sensation one gets, that of transcending the present, and traveling back in time and space? It is as if entering a different world and it is precisely this aspect that attracts tourists from all over the world. The medieval town is endowed with an ancient Roman bridge which has been constructed more than 200 years ago, a Gothic city hall, towers and various churches. There is one tower which might capture your attention, probably because you have never seen such a turret anywhere else in the world. This fortification is adorned with the sculptural representation of the Virgo, which is placed right at the top of the tower.


With such decorative elements, it is no wonder that you feel transposed into the medieval times. In fact, Kamyanets-Podilsky is among the oldest cities in Ukraine. There are no actual historical accounts which accurately retrace the formation of the fortified city. This could only mean one thing: that there was room for interpretation, based on the scarce official information found in archieves.  For instance, there is one legend which says that 4 brothers had gone hunting and that, after spotting a deer, they had followed it until reaching the site of present-day Kamyanets-Podilsky.


Legend has it that the four brothers were so mesmerized by the beauty of the landscape that they had decided to put the basis of a city in that exact location. The legend is connected to the historical past in the sense that the four characters mentioned were said to have been the nephews of the Grand Duke Olgerd of Lithuania. But if we were to analyze the accuracy of this story, we would soon discover that there are several discrepancies, and thus we can draw a line between fact and fiction. The Grand Duke was in fact a historical figure, but the archeological diggings concluded that the medieval town of Kamyanets was built much earlier, before the period in which the duke lived.

There are several other legends which circulate in respect to the foundation of the city, but none can be taken for granted entirely. It would be nice to know how did Kamyanets came into being, but maybe this lack of information is another aspect which contributes to the mystery that revolves around the town, maintaing the enigmatic, yet authentic feel it conveys.

Jun 22

Brasov – The Fortified City (Brasov – Orasul Fortificat)

Brasov has gained the name of “Fortress of the Seven Bastions” due to the walls and bastions which are spread throughout the city and which have been erected between the 14th and 15th century in response to the Turkish and Tatar invasions.

Unfortunately, the passage of time and the battles that took place in this region had left an imprint on the fortified city in as much that at present only about half of the original fortifications (walls, gates and bastions) are preserved. But taking into account that remnants of the past are scarce, we would accurately conclude that Brasov has an important legacy whose value is not easily equated.


The stronghold has maintained its design since the middle of the 16th century and this can actually be seen on the model found in the Weavers’ Bastion. Brasov had 32 towers, 7 bastions (which are much stronger and better armed fortifications), and 3 entrance gates: one situated at the end of Republic Street (the name given today to the specific street), one located at the bottom end of Muresenilor Street (Customs Gate) and Ecaterina (Catherine) Gate which is a link to the Schei neighborhood.

In terms of measurements, the original walls reached a total length of 3.000 m, a 12 m height and a 1.70 -2.20 m width. The bastions were situated at every 110 m and 28 defense towers shaped as squares were meant to secure protection for them.


The White Tower is strategically situated at a higher position and it is a part of the exterior fortification of Brasov. This tower had been constructed in the second half of the 15th century and it initially communicated with the Graft Bastion which provided a link to the internal fortifications. In 1689, the White Tower was exposed to terrible damages due to a huge fire that took hold of the edifice. The tower was left in ruin until 1723 when it was finally subjected to restoration works. The tower is in a great condition at present (the last restoration work occurred in 2005), so tourists will have something to gaze upon.


The Black Tower dates from the time the fortified city was ‘born’, being constructed concomitantly with the walls of the keep. The tower exceeds 11 m in height and the entrance door was situated 2 m above the base of the edifice. The name of the tower is explained through an unfortunate weather phenomenon which occurred twice: the tower was hit by lightning both in the 16th and in the 17th century.

At the end of the 18th century (1796) the tower was used as shelter during the plague, and afterwards it had been left to chance for a period of two centuries, time in which it had suffered immense deterioration. But after it had been restored, from 2001 onward, the Black Tower housed an armament exhibition (with pieces from the 17th century).


The Graft Bastion was erected in the mid-16th century with the purpose of defending the northern part of Brasov. At present, the bastion is home to a section of the county museum: ‘The Craftsmen of Brasov – defenders of the keep.’ During the last restoration work which occurred between 2003 and 2004, the path towards the White Tower had been retraced by means of steps that go up the Warthe Hill.

The Weavers’ Bastion has been erected in the 15th century, over a period of 15 years (1421-1436).


Due to the fact that it is located right under Tampa Mountain, in such a beautiful natural setting, the bastion is used at present for various cultural events. Inside the bastion one can find the Fortification Museum from Barsa County where the model of the city (which was mentioned previously) is located, together with medieval weapons and valuable information about the fortifications situated throughout Barsa County.

According to documentary evidence, the bastion was completed in 1668 for the same purpose as the others: defense. Whereas the scope of the bastion had shifted throughout time, from 1973 onward it was used for a single thing – to maintain all the records of the city of Brasov.


The Drapers’ Bastion was actually built by the goldsmiths, in mid-15th century, but it was given to the drapers a century later when the goldsmiths erect another bastion on the northern part of the keep. This fortification has an elliptical shape and reaches a 20 m height, while the thickness of the walls measure 2 m.

The Goldsmiths’ Bastion was hexagonally shaped and exceeded the Drapers’ Bastion in height by two meters. But the bastion is no longer part of the fortifications found today in Brasov as it was demolished near the end of the 19th century (1886). At present, on that specific site one can find one of the edifices of the Transylvanian University.


The Furriers’ Bastion, which was erected in 1452, is a semicircular tower which communicates with the Drapers’ Bastion by means of a gallery located alongside the exterior wall.

The Rope-Makers’ Bastion, the first one to be mentioned in documents, in 1416, is a hexagonal fortification with special embrasures for firing mobile weapons.