After Bucharest I travelled to the medieval towns of Sibiu, Sighisoara and Brasov that were first founded by Saxon (Germanic) settlers in the 12th century.
All beautiful towns and deserving of their own post, but I’m going to try and give you the essence of each. This is painful as I’ll have edit the number of my photos even more than usual!
I arrived in Sibiu, Romania on the train from Bucharest. It took 5 hr 45 min for 217 kilometres, and the slow train speed was appropriate for how rough the tracks felt.
Sibiu is my kind of town! Very interesting and photogenic, and small enough to explore on foot. In Bucharest I should have planned more and used more public transit, but no need for that here.
There were dark clouds moving in so I dropped my bags at the hotel and started taking pictures. The light was fantastic.
The centre of the old town is based on two squares.
The large square:
My hotel (yellow) is a 14th century hall that is imbedded into the Council Tower that was first built in 1223 to defend the city entry gate. I had a good view over the small square
Brukenthal National Museum (left) and Town Hall (right) divide the two squares
St Mary’s Evangelical Church built between 1300 and 1520. I loved the tile roof.
From the Bridge of Lies you can see the lower town
Then there are these ‘eyes’ in the roof…
Sibiu used to have 39 fortified defence towers, and three are still remaining
I remember these from Prague
You can tell from the food that the Hungarians settled in this area.
Chicken Paprika with homemade dumplings and a nicely spicy sauce!o
After two days I was off to Sighisoara on an even slower train. 2.5 hours to go 95 kilometres.
The beautifully preserved old town was protected by watch towers and walls, as well as it’s position on the ‘Citadel’ or hill. There are hotels, restaurants and souvenir shops, but they are low key and unobtrusive.
Left to right, Clock Tower (started in 14th century), Monastery Church (1289) with Ironsmiths Tower (1631) in front for protection, Town Hall (1885)
The buildings below are part of the business area that stretches out to provide services for the locals. The tourists seemed to go straight for the Citadel and never venture further.
Vehicles are very restricted on the Citadel so it was pedestrian friendly and peaceful.
These towns are all in Transylvania, which for me only conjured up ‘Dracula’. Bram Stoker wrote a book in 1897, which was based in this area, but there was no such figure. There was a ruler named Vlad the Impaler who was born in Sighişoara in 1431, and he liked to kill his enemies by impaling them and leaving them to die slowly. Not a nice guy but not a vampire. Vampires were just part of the local folklore.
But it’s good for tourism, with the not-original house where he was born, and other cheesy souvenirs
My hotel is in the old town (blue building) and my room is metres from the church bells that start at 6 am. But since the old town shuts down early it wasn’t bad. That is compared to Bucharest where the old town was wall to wall bars and restaurants.
Main Square on Citadel looking up higher to the church
Then you can climb the 178 steps of The Covered Staircase (1666) to the school, church and cemetery.
Delicious, fresh from the oven calzone for 4 RON ($1.33 CDN)
Goulash soup (paprika again)
Polenta is common for the area, this one baked with cottage cheese, smoked pork and sour cream. I managed to eat a third before I was defeated!
Then it was another 2.5 hour train to Braşov. It is the largest of the towns. The old town seems less defined and exists within a busy centre.
There is a large square near the Black Church, and then streets full of restaurants.
This is from my hotel room, with another photo taken this morning before the fog lifted.
Bisterica Neagra, the Black Church, was built between 1385 and 1477 though construction was hampered by extensive damage by Turkish raids in 1421. The church was given its new name when the fire of 1689 blackened the walls.
Mount Tampa rises up behind the town, with a funicular and ‘Hollywood-like’ sign
The first time I googled Braşov, I saw a story about the Romanian orphans and I remembered reading about them. Ceauşescu had banned abortion and contraception as he believed population growth would lead to economic growth.
But at the same time he needed to pay international debt and fund his mega egomaniac ‘House of the People’ folly (that huge building I mentioned in my Bucharest post). So he started exporting most of the food in Romania, and people were starving.
Orphanages were full of orphans but also children abandoned as families were too large and they could not take care of them. Unfortunately they were terribly neglected, cold, starved, unused to any physical contact or stimulation with incompetent and overwhelmed staff.
The Romanians finally revolted against him and he was executed by a firing squad.
I also walked down to the Schei district, where the Romanians lived as only the Saxon could live within the city walls.
Catherine’s Gate (1559)
Saint Nicolae Orthodox Church
Nice quiet walkway along a creek outside the city walls. You can see one of the towers (white) behind the houses.
Menus are interesting. It the law to state the portion of food being served, and different allergens (there is a table to explain). They must also accept electronic payment and give you a receipt.
There are southern touches showing up in the food – lots of feta and grilled eggplant at breakfast too.
So farewell to Romania. Off to Bulgaria (and more yummy feta) in the morning!