Targu Mures – Targoviste – Poenari Fortress

Targu Mures lies in the heart of the Transylvanian countryside in north central Romania, 340 km north of Bucharest. Named literally for a ‘market’ on the Mures River and known as the city of roses, Targu Mures (Marosvásárhely in Hungarian ~ Neumarkt am Mieresch in German) enjoys the best of both Romanian and Hungarian cultures. Numerous vestiges attest the presence of Neolithic cultures and those of the Bronze and Metal Ages in this area. Archaeological diggings have brought to light Roman relics in the surrounding town of Cristesti. The town of Targu Mures was first documented as ‘Novum Forum Sicolorum’ (The New Market of the Seklars) in 1322. Beginning with the 16th century, Targu Mures excels as an important cultural and education center. The first school in Targu Mures appears in 1492. In 1786, the first printing shop is established and in 1802 count Teleki Samuel, chancellor of Transylvania, lays the foundations of the documentary library that bears his name to this day. The city of Targu Mures received a major boost to its social and economic life in 1754 when it became the seat of the supreme court of justice of the Principality of Transylvania.

During medieval times, guilds, made up of groups of craftsmen, played an important role in the evolution of the town. Artisan guilds had their privileges recognized since 1493. In 1620, members of the guilds took part in the building of the town fortress. Two of the most important guilds were the shoemakers and tanners ones. In 1800, the shoemakers’ guild had the most members, namely 254. The guild system lasted until 1872.

Targu Mures became a modern town in the second half of the 19th century, along with the expansion of the railway line. Today its centrally located Piata Trandafirilor (Roses Square) is lined with modern street-side cafes and restaurants, churches, and monuments. Targu Mures’ top attraction is located at the south end of the square: the Culture Palace (Palatul Culturii), a flamboyant early 20th-century city hall with an outstanding stained-glass hall, housing some of main local museums.

Poenari Castle (Cetatea Poenari) also known as Poenari Citadel, is a ruined castle in Arges County, the real Dracula’s castle, in a canyon formed on the Arges River valley, close to the Fagaras Mountains. Poenari Castle stands on a cliff, on the right side of the Transfagarasan road which climbs high into the mountains. Poenari Castle is said to be one of the most haunted places in the world. Poenari Castle was erected around the beginning of the 13th century by the rulers of Wallachia. Around the 14th century, Poenari was the main citadel of the Basarab rulers. In the next few decades, the name and the residents changed a few times but eventually the Poenari Castle was abandoned and left in ruins. However, in the 15th century, realizing the potential for a castle perched high on a steep precipice of rock, Vlad III the Impaler repaired and consolidated the structure, making it one of his main fortresses against Turkish attacks. More than anything else, he desired a unified Romania, free from the outside influences of Germany, Hungary and the invading Ottoman Turks. Although the Poenari Castle was used for many years after the Vlad’s death in 1476, it eventually was abandoned again in the first half of the 16th century and was in ruins by the 17th century.

Due to its size and location, control of the Poenari Castle was difficult to take, even by natural forces. However, in 1888, a landslide brought down a portion of the castle which crashed into the river far below. Nonetheless, the Poenari Castle was slightly repaired and the walls and its towers still stand today. To reach the Poenari Castle, visitors need to climb 1,480 steps. Poenari Castle offers impressive views of the surrounding mountains and valleys and it is worth visiting. Even though other castles of Romania, like Hunedoara and Bran are more popularly associated with Tepes, Poenari is the only castle which has a definite historic connection with him.