Let's travel together #196 - Cetatea Deva (The Fortress of Deva)

Visiting The Fortress of Deva never represented for me a journey to some ruins, but actually a walk between 750 years of history, culture and stories that more people should find out about, especially when it's related to your home country.

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What I've always appreciated about citadels, is the way they manage to share a little piece of history with every single tourist is passing by, even if it dates for centuries of years and not just a few decades.
Personally, I feel that there is no better way to gain some more knowledge about the history of a country other than visiting the ruins themselves which have been part of a lot of events during their living.
Of course, there are museums and other cultural centers where you can learn a lot of new things as well, but you can never compare it to the remains of a piece of history that marked a whole country's existence and even rules, punishments, and way of living that seems like being part of a different era comparing it with the current times.
However, visiting citadels always came with both a feeling of curiosity and one of sadness when I made my steps on the path that a while ago was dominated by wars, imposters, or even dead bodies... but in the end, it's about perspective and being grateful for the life you have and that you weren't born with a few centuries ago when living was never a safe thing.

Happily, our travelling feet brought us in front of The Fortress of Deva, which even though is well known as one of the most important fortifications of Transylvania from the Middle Ages, we found it very welcoming, colourful, and almost feeling the joy of being visited by new tourists, at no cost.

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Now, maybe I've made you curious why I'm pointing out the thing that you can visit the citadel at no cost.

That's because, during our visits to different historical monuments from Romania, we found very few which you could enjoy without being needed to pay a ticket for this purpose. Even those where you could see no investments being made to maintain the fortification stand still for as long as possible - which was really disappointing, but we walked further with the hope that the people who were selling tickets will use the money gathered in order to make everything last forever and make you feel like you actually contributed to the renovations made.

Hence why, visiting The Fortress of Deva came with a great surprise because everything looked so fresh and clean like it was there for a few years and not eight centuries.
It's true that we are talking about an important city from Transylvania and most likely the funds are a lot more substantial than these of a tiny village forgotten by people, but what I'm trying to say is that the fortress will always be visited by tens (if not hundreds) of tourists daily, and there is no doubt that if people who administrate the fortress had a personal interest, they could get a lot of money selling tickets, but no - visiting the citadel is free to anyone and that's where you get to feel twice the love of history some people have for the events that marked Romania and especially Transylvania centuries ago.
And these are the people whom I consider to be the most valuable persons who could promote Romania's tourism without having limits.
However, through my thoughts shared here, I'm not trying to say that I would rather not pay visiting tickets to the sightseeing attractions of my country, but more likely hope that the money gathered from visitors (at any place, not just citadels), would be well used to keep the monuments last forever and be seen by as many people as possible, from the whole world.

Because, personally, I don't see anything more beautiful than assisting to a place you've visited in the past and see it grow and evolve at the same time with you after you contributed as little as you paid for a visiting ticket. You get a feeling of gratitude that I don't believe can be met in a different situation.

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Visiting the citadel comes with 3 options:

  1. Via cablecar - which is known as the single inclined elevator from Romania and the first one from Europe, which covers a distance of 278 meters, bringing the tourists to the foothills of the fortress;
  2. By walking - starting from the stairs next to Parcul Cetatii which comes in various spiral paths that, in the end, make you reach the fortress;
  3. By car - until you reach the little parking lot next to the citadel, being followed by a series of stairs that will take you all the way up to the fortress.

Personally, we picked the last option, leaving the car in the parking lot and then follow a small path into the forest, which led us in no time to the gates that were making the access to the fortress. However, since we are talking about a citadel that played an important role in history, this one can't be placed too down, so you will have to climb no less than 113 steps until you can say that you reached the fortress in the true sense of the word.

Right after you cross the first gates before reaching the stairs, there's a little tower where you will find benches so you can rest and admire the panoramic view.
However, the stairs are quite tall and there is no doubt that sooner or later you will get tired of climbing them, but happily, once in a while, you will find little spaces where you can take a break and drink some water before continuing your journey.
Personally, I didn't feel too tired climbing the stairs, but I had a big issue when I had to go down to them due to the effort put in my legs to stop after every step so I won't risk falling 113 levels down, lol.
Anyway, there is no doubt that all the effort is worth it, and if you feel like you need a little more motivation, keep in mind that as soon as you make all the way to the top of the stairs, you will get some panoramic views over Deva city, which makes the world feel so tiny for yourself when you realize you are on top of it and have a huge city resting on your feet.

If you get to visit the citadel early in the spring (as we did) or during the autumn, you will earn a plus of colour to the forest and vegetation that is surrounding the city and which creates an even more spectacular view over the hills.

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The Fortress of Deva was built somewhere in the middle of the 13th century (in the year 1264), being strategically placed on the highest hill of Deva, at an altitude of 278 meters, in order to guard the city which represented for centuries the entrance to Transylvania via Mures Valley but to also protect the resources that were crossed right on the foothills of the building.

The citadel represented an important point of interest for the scientists who discovered in this place traces of Neolithic and Bronze Age habitation, as well as the presence of some carved stone blocks with swallowtail-shaped cuts characteristics that were specific to our Dacian ancestors.
This aspect, made the people think that we can also talk about a fortress that was raised on the remains of a Dacian citadel.
However, even if we are talking about a fortress that played a major role during its existence, the building started to gain military importance only in the 17th century, after almost 5 centuries since it was dating, a period which came with a lot of challenges, fights and invasions from other armies.
The Fortress of Deva managed to present how powerful it was, only after all the cities surrounding Deva were already conquered by Turks, but only the fortress being the one who can confront them and keep the army away from the city from which nobody had any expectations on that time.

Not too much after the fortress gained its military role, Francisc David was imprisoned for heresy, being the founder and first bishop of the Unitarian church in Transylvania, which, in the end, died in prison. Still in this place, an Italian General who was hired by the emperor of the Holy Roman Empire of the German Nation to lead Habsburg forces in the anti-Ottoman wars and later to administrate Transylvania as an imperial vassal wanted to execute the Transylvanian leaders so he gains full power and control over this part of Romania.

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There's no doubt that The Fortress of Deva have seen a lot of things during its existence, counting numerous important historical events every century of his living, moments when it was under numerous nations of domination such as ottomans, Hungarians, Habsburgs, and more.

However, the historical events were not the single challenges Cetatea Deva was subjected to, but also incidents that caused the building to be partially destroyed after the fortress's gunpowder magazine exploded in 1849, but which also came with many deaths of soldiers from the citadel garrison. There were needed no less than 12 years for the fortress to be rebuilt and start a new living.

During the over 700 years of existence the fortress currently have, there were built several successive enclosures, bastion platforms, a cistern, a row of casemates, a palace with a floor for the owner of the fortress, towers, buttresses with bellows, road gates, but also the powder magazine.
Of course, these weren't built from the first moment the fortress was raised or after the wars ended and the construction started to enjoy some more peaceful moments, but during the 5 stages of building and renovating Cetatea Deva.
Anyway, talking about a historical monument, this doesn't make the citadel to be avoided by the existence of a legend that is well known especially on the territory of Hungary, where a stonemason named Kelemen was working on building up the fortress together with other twelve craftsmen.
However, what they were creating during the day, the night was destroying everything, over and over again. They were, literally, working for nothing.
Being tired of creating the same part of the citadel over and over again and considering that working on the citadel comes with the need of sacrifice, that was the moment when one of the craftsmen came with the thought of sacrificing Kelemen's wife and use her ash to be mixed with the plaster.

Right in the next day, when Kelemen's wife was bringing food for the craftsmen, this one was sacrificed and building up the fortress turned into a real success.

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Beyond stories, myths and legends, today we can admire one of a kind fortress that is composed of three enclosures of different shapes, without being able to sum up everything having a specific form.

  • The First Enclosure - is 90 m long and between 18-35 m wide, having an ovoid shape that encompasses the peak height and adapts to the terrain configuration;
  • The 2nd Enclosure - presents an irregular ovoid path determined by the shape of the 1st enclosure, being between 2-20 m away from this one;
  • The 3rd Enclosure - was built in the first half of the 18th century and it's the largest enclosure between the three. The 3rd Enclosure was intended to mainly protect the access road to the 1st enclosure at the top of the cliff.

Another important aspect regarding the placement of the citadel is the hill which is a volcanic one and there is no wonder why the fortress was raised in this location, being needed to guard the whole city and the main entrance to Transylvania.

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What I truly appreciated and loved when I visited The Fortress of Deva is that I didn't find some ruins which are trying to keep secrets about the past of my home country, but actually, a construction that opens up like a book, where you are able to read every single page of it, meaning that you can visit and enter every single room of the fortress, where you will discover new stories and another piece of puzzle for the history of Transylvania that was written here.

However, a more atypical panel that we found and caught our attention, was the one about vipers, because as we can anticipate, there were repeatedly noticed the presence of vipers in this area so it's a good reminder that we should also pay attention to where we put our feet when making the next step, and not let our look be oriented always to the top of the fortress.

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Visiting Schedule:

  • Citadel: open 24/7 ;
  • Cable Car (1st May - 30th September): 9 AM - 9 PM ;
  • Cable Car (1st October - 30th April): 8 AM - 8 PM .

Prices List:

  • Citadel: FREE access ;
  • Round-Trip Ticket for Adults (Cable Car): 20 RON / 4.07 EUR ;
  • Round-Trip Ticket for Children/Students/Retirees (Cable Car): 10 RON / 2.03 EUR ;
  • Round-Trip Ticket for people with disabilities (Cable Car): FREE access.
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In order to reach The Fortress of Deva and get closer to the clouds, you have to follow A1 highway for most of the time (no matter what direction you are coming from) and then follow the European road E673 which will take you to the city. However, the fortress is located at the exit of the city, but once you are in the city you will find lots of road signs leading you to the parking lot of it from where you can decide whether you make your way to the historical monument by feet or with the cable car.

There is also another option of taking either Bus No. 1 or Bus No. 6 from the city which will have stops at the fortress.

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SEE YOU IN THE NEXT TRIP! 🗾

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