Along with the unique and new places I usually explore trying to cover as much of my home country as possible, there are also these moments when I return to places that even though I've seen in the past, I do feel like seeing again in the company of someone new and get to see what has changed from the last time we met.
Therefore, today's post is going to be part of the second category where I, along with my boyfriend and sister had a pretty spontaneous trip to Alba Iulia, which I first explored when I was a kid and perhaps around 10-15 years have already passed since then, but which I always thought that I should see again even for just the sake of refreshing my memories and possibly create some new ones.
Happy or not, my boyfriend hadn't seen this fortress by now and he always had it on his bucket list so I was happy that we could have a 2in1 experience and fulfill his dream while attending a festival which is actually the main factor that made us find a way to reach Alba Iulia, but about which, I'll write about in a different post.
Anyway, as some of you might already know, none of us owns a car and most of our trips are either taken in the company of my parents or by train rides. However, since there were not too many routes from Sibiu to Alba Iulia by train, we thought about using one of those apps for hitchhiking and proceeded to reserve a race for all 3 of us.
At first, we were a bit hesitant being the first time we used this kind of service and not knowing the man we would end up spending an hour with, but since the app offers both an avatar of the drivers along with the reviews of their past clients, it was quite easy to pick the one we considered the most suitable for this trip. Additionally, he was driving along with his wife and they always took care to make us feel good in their company and have a good conversation that will make the time pass faster.
The time passed really fast and we ended up being dropped off the car right at the destination we asked for, which made us meet "Catedrala Ortodoxă a Încoronării" (EN: Orthodox Cathedral of the Coronation) which is, perhaps, the most symbolic part of the citadel and the one that people always remember about, even though the fortress has a lot more to offer than that.
However, since we were here for a festival that captured most of our attention and time available to roam around, we only got to admire the fortress and all the buildings that are open to tourists from the outside. It's true that at first, we did want to schedule our time accordingly to explore as much of the fortress as possible, but what we didn't pay enough attention to, was that we had this trip on one of the hottest days of summer the temperatures reaching over 40 Celsius degrees that made our bodies become weak pretty fast and our explorer mood be highly influenced in a negative way. Though, if you are curious to see on the inside some of the places that will be present in this post, you can check them HERE.
A thing that I always hate doing though, is comparing places seen in the past with some of these explored more recently because I always feel like in one way or another I bring bad details in one of the sides mentioned.
But the truth is, that no matter how many fortresses (and places in general) I've seen, even if they are part of the same field and painful history, every single one manages to stand out with something that makes it more unique in front of the others, and that's also the case for Alba Carolina Fortress that represents the most popular citadel from Romania.
Even though there might be fortresses with a lot more powerful history behind them, what makes Alba Carolina so famous is its size, the way it was maintained with the passage of time, as well as all the things that can be explored once you pass the imposing walls that are standing still after more than three centuries since the whole construction dates.
The best way to explore the fortress to make sure you are not missing anything is by first starting with a long walk around the citadel wall and then crossing the bridge that will take you in the middle of the whole thing. However, you can also see first the upper part of the fortress and then walk along the walls but since we were already looking for a place where to sit down for a bit and hide from the sun rays, we ended up beginning with the walls first.
Even though we failed terribly to find any bench away from the sun's rays, we did consider ourselves lucky for being able to meet some interesting-looking people who were actually the participants of another festival that was held inside the fortress, based on archery and other activities that were also practiced in the 18th century.
So, while I already presented one of the points of interest of the fortress (the cathedral mentioned above), keep in mind that there is a total of 23 constructions where each brings its contribution to making Alba Carolina Fortress a very desirable place by tourists that are coming from all over the world. Shall I begin presenting all of them?
Alba Carolina Fortress has no less than seven gates that were placed strategically to always have a way of escape in case of a war that was knocking at the door, some of them being carefully masked from the main ones that represented the biggest interest from both the tourists of the 21st century, but also for the rivals and different armies that left their touch in the past.
While I missed taking pictures with two of these gates, the other five are present in the images attached above, where you can notice that each entrance presents a different style and architecture from the others. Some of the architectural styles that are the easiest to notice are the scenes from Greek mythology, the scenes with the Habsburg Emperor Charles VI, the baroque elements, as well as the common architecture with just a bridge made of wood, or a sober tunnel made of bricks.
Another point of interest which is fairly close to Gate II, is the Obelisk of Horea, Cloșca and Crișan which even though it was partially demolished in 1937, the original sketches and images were used to build it again.
The monument was raised in honor of the leaders of the revolt from 1784-1785, Horea, Cloșca, and Crișan, who were considered as being martyr heroes of the revolt of 1784 in Țara Moților (whose inhabitants are known as moți) against the great landowners in the Apuseni Mountains.
After the suppression of the revolt, the three were arrested, Horea and Cloșca being publicly executed on a breaking wheel on the 28th of February 1785, while Crișan took his own life in prison a few days earlier.
I remember seeing the wheel present in the courtyard of the fortress when I last visited it, but this year was nowhere to be found.
This might have been caused by the festival that was undergoing and which needed a lot of space, so, if you ever end up visiting the fortress, most likely you will see the sculpture somewhere inside the fortress which will give you a better perspective of the pain these men had to go through when losing their lives.
Still close to the obelisk and Gate II, there is also a map that I've always found very interesting due to the way it was created and which takes a step away from the common paper ones.
The next round of points of interest still between the walls of the fortress which are also pretty close to each other, are the Roman Catholic Cathedral "Saint Michael", the Episcopal Palace, the Princiar Palace, the Equestrian statue of Michael the Brave and The National Museum of the Union.
While the church was built a lot earlier than the rest of the fortress, the place it currently occupies was first used for a different church which had to be demolished for unknown reasons. The thing that makes the current church so special though, are the funeral monuments that are still present even in 2023, which not only represent an uncommon thing for Romania in general, but these sarcophagi also belong to the most noble family from the Middle Ages.
The two palaces belonged to Queen Isabella and her son, John Sigismund who was the Prince of Transylvania, but also to the voivode Mihai Viteazul whose statue can be seen in front of these buildings.
Along with those parts of Alba Carolina Fortress that enjoyed a lot of renovations during the time and were carefully maintained with the passage of time, there are also some parts of the citadel that were left almost untouched for the sake of showing how most of the citadel would normally look like in 2023.
There are ruins of the past, columns left in their original position, walls of the fortress that are literally not even half of what the wall measures in 2023, and a lot more that do a great job of creating a comparison between the past and modern times which even though have the same subject in the story, they present two parallel worlds.
While the fortress enclosure is full of different monuments, statues, and sculptures each with their own story, I was happy to discover two similar statues placed in different parts of the fortress that were built in memory of the unknown soldiers who lost their lives protecting Romania.
It's a similar story to the one I shared in my previous travel post, but where it wasn't raised a whole cemetery with this purpose. And honestly, I think this is a smart move as from my experience I didn't get to see a lot of people being interested in this kind of cemeteries (even if we all should be), but while the fortress is very popular and has more and more tourists with each passing year, it's almost impossible to pass these statues without approaching to read their story.
Yet along with the fortress walls, I noticed two interesting spots, one with a small garden and the other one with a temporary exhibition. Last time I visited Alba Carolina Fortress there were none of these so perhaps they represent some newer projects offered to the tourists but which honestly are always welcome considering that these walls are so popular with people who are looking for places where to hide from the powerful sun rays.
And if you have the occasion to also check out something during that sun break, why not?
At the opposite pole, two spots that are never missing and which more or less make tourists stop by, are represented by the small pool surrounding a part of the fortress wall that is populated with fish of all colors and waterlilies and the center. For me, it was the first time I had seen waterlilies with pink flowers while I've only seen yellow and white ones.
On a similar note, the center of the fortress has everything from pubs to restaurants, from souvenir shops to traditional dishes which are so popular in this part of Transylvania and you can never have enough of it - Kürtőskalács and Langoș.
The address of Alba Carolina Fortress is Calea Moților, Numărul 5A, Alba Iulia, and you can reach it with any of the following buses 404I, 503E, 506R, 701R if you are already in town, but if you are coming from a different part of the country, the easiest and fastest way of access is via A1 highway and then on the European road E81.
SEE YOU IN THE NEXT TRIP! 🗾
Gabriela Travels is the FOUNDER of "Festival Mania" who started this community from the passion of attending various festivals and with the purpose of encouraging more people to explore festivals all around the world and share their experiences. At the same time, Gabriela is an independent Graphic Design Freelancer since 2019 completing over 600+ orders in this time and collaborating with various businesses and people from all over the globe. Additonally, Gabriela has her own corner on the internet since 2017 where she writes various articles for her blog, the most popular being the travel ones (260+ articles written on this field), but also abording other topics as well, like game reviews, movie and series reviews, photography posts, cooking recipes and more, boosting the total number of articles written to 550+ blog posts. Gabriela is also a gamer since she was 11 years old and gaming remains one of her biggest passions along with traveling, editing, cooking, and doing various sports activities.
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