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krisek Sighisoara - A travel report by Krys
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Sighisoara,  Romania - flag Romania -  Covurlui
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krisek's travel reports

And where is Vlad Dracul (Dracula)? Sighisoara.

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Sighisoara is one of Romania's many picturesque towns of Transylvania. It is old, colourful, and there is something in the air. Something worryingly dark, something almost disturbing, mysterious and thrilling.


Sighisoara, the Clock Tower seen from the Citadel Square at night.
Sighisoara, the Clock Tower seen from the Citadel Square at night.
Sighisoara gained importance about 800 years ago, when Hungarian monarchs brought here colonists in order to defend the kingdom's eastern border. This was the time of the Gingis Khan's advancement into Europe, which was seen as a threat to the Christian faith. The colonists were mainly German from the Mosel Region (later called the Saxons), but there were also the Valons, Flamish and French with them. They built Hermannstadt (Sibiu), Kronstadt (Brasov), Schäßburg (Sighisoara), Mediasch (Medias), Bistritz (Bistrita) and Klausenburg (Cluj), as well as many villages and fortified churches in the region. The 'colonists' remained in Transylvania until the WWII, after which (based on the ethnic homogenity policy enforced by Roosevelt, Churchill and Stalin), they were 'encouraged' to leave the newly formed Romania.

Anyway, after the defeat of the Mongols, Sighisoara enjoyed over 200 years of prosperity, until the Ottomans approached Transylvania. Then city walls were ordered to be strengthened and built taller, which was the duty of the trade guilds. One of each guilds built a tower named after for the guild. Out of the 14 towers then erected, 9 remain until today. And they look fantastic!

This was my second trip to Transylvania. Yet, first one to the central-western parts. I decided to visit Sighisoara on a weekend trip after seeing Michael Palin's travel TV series called 'New Europe'. I booked my flight for September 2010, and then had to change my ticket three times. One change involved a change of the airport. In addition, the airline (Wizzair) change the schedule twice as well. So, I wanted to make sure that when I eventually get there, I will make most of it.

On this trip, I spent most of my time in the tiny Sighisoara, managed to go on a side trip to see two of the remarkable fortified churches (on the UNESCO World Heritage List as well), and visited Targu Mures, a city whose population is equally split between Romanians and Hungarians.

Favourite spots:
One of the sides of the Citadel Square
One of the sides of the Citadel Square
In Sighisoara, my favourite spot was probably the Piata Cetāti (The Citadel Square) in the middle of the upper old town, surrounded by walls. It was minute and very photogenic with colourful medieval facades, a double-arch gate, cobble stones and pavement tables from four small restaurants adjacent to guesthouses occupying the mansions dating back centuries, halls and facades of which must remember the dealings of merchants from the Dark Ages and the Renaissance period that followed. The square offered glimpses of two churches on the opposite sides of the hill and the incredible Clock Tower (Turnul cu Ceas) with its amazing, colourful roof tiles. It was also about 20 yards from the house that claimed at least temporary residence of Vlad Tepes Dracul, painted in bright yellow and which housed an overpriced restaurant and cafe when I visited. The square had a few benches and trees giving some shade on a sunny day.

What's really great:
The gate between upper and lower town under the Clock Tower.
The gate between upper and lower town under the Clock Tower.
The upper old town and the parts of lower old town were cleverly lit up from below at night, creating somewhat eerie atmosphere and ambiance. Similar to having one's face illuminated by a torch from below. Most of facades in town had been nicely refreshed with vivid paint and looked awesome, day or night. I also liked the fact that after seven o'clock in the evening, virtually all tourists disappeared from the Citadel (the upper town) leaving it to myself. Whether I wanted to sit down at a pavement cafe, snap photos or wander about searching for vampires. Mind you, I did not even encounter any bats. Perhaps humans were not in season yet.

One would expect that a place like Sighisoara was inundated by tacky souvenir shops occupying every other house in the town. It was not so! There were a few shops and stands, but they were rather discreet. The only disappointing fact was the the souvenirs they offered were of poor quality in general. It was really a pity.

Sights:
The Shoemakers' Tower at night.
The Shoemakers' Tower at night.
The main Sighisoara's sight was its well preserved citadel, entirely surrounded by walls and ramparts featuring nine towers: the Ropemakers' Tower, Butchers' Tower, Furriers' Tower, Tailors' Tower, Shoemakers' Tower, Ironsmiths' Tower, Clock Tower, Tanners' Tower, and Tinsmiths' Tower. The Clock Tower was the loveliest, the Tinsmiths' Tower - the most dramatic, the Shoemakers' - the most mysterious, and the Ropemakers' one - the only officially inhabited tower in town.

The other sights within the citadel included: the Biserica din Deal (The Church on the Hill), Scara Scolarilor (the Covered School Stairway), Biserica Catolica, Biserica Avangelica, the Primaria (Townhall), and the inner gate at the Citadel Square.

One other sight, although fake, was the house of Vlad Tepes (aka Dracula). It was a lovely old house overlooking the Clock Tower, and had a nice little eatery inside, offering good snacks, cold beer and a wide range of desserts and ice-cream cups.

Accommodations:
The Junior Suite at the Pension am Scheiderturm
The Junior Suite at the Pension am Scheiderturm
I booked a junior suite at the Pension am Schneiderturm, right at the walls of the upper old town. The hotel was an integral part of the Tailor's Tower, one of he gates to the upper old town. I used the http://www.booking.com and paid €110 for two nights in a spacious and wonderfully rustic suite, complete with hyper-modern bathroom. The place was thoroughly scrubbed and the bathroom (it actually had a shower cabin behind glass wall) was spotless. The wooden floor was uneven, probably due to a water spill. The room was nicely furnished with a few tall wooden semi-circular tables standing against the walls. The bed was comfortable and the bed linen was fantastic - fresh, crispy, snuggly. Breakfast was included in the price and featured ten types of home-made cheeses from the region, organic juices, jams and milk, home-made bread, cereals, local sausages, home-made cocoa cake, and spectacular home-made sirups from local fruits (edelflower, raspberry, blueberry) to dilute with water.

Nightlife:
Inside the Club B, in the cellars of the Townhall.
Inside the Club B, in the cellars of the Townhall.
The Club B in the cellars of the Townhall had a small bar offering Ciuc larger from draft, two rooms with pool tables, darts, a few gaming machines and a number of tv sets showing various sport shows - mainly football, classical wrestling, and boxing. They had a good number tables and there was free wifi. The main drawback was that people smoked there and the cellars did not have good ventilation. For someone coming from civilised world (I mean where smoking in public areas and places of work is banned) that was rather unbearable. I did not last long there.

The Jo Pub in the lower old town, located on a large terrace overlooking a small park, was a very popular place. Action took place on the terrace on warm nights. Otherwise, there was not so much space inside, where decor was rather pleasant. Concordia, right opposite, had similar offer.

The hippiest spot in the old town was the Corona Pub located in the old gate. It was frequented mainly by teenagers, who smoked heavily. Shame!

Hangouts:
The Tailors' Tower at night.
The Tailors' Tower at night.
Two spots in Sighisoara felt great for stopping, soaking the atmosphere, relaxing, and one of them was also great for people watching. It was the table at the Piata Cetātii belonging to the Casa cu Cerb dating back to 1603. At noon, it was already in the shade. A jug full of cold Romanian lager on the table only enhanced the attractiveness of the spot. The table was well positioned for the view of the magnificent Clock Tower.

The other hanging out place that made it for me was the green Piata Cizmarilor (The Shoemakers Square), which offered views of the most dramatic and the only inhabited tower amongst all of the surviving towers and gates of the upper old town - the Shoemakers' Tower. It definitely had a character that stimulated imagination of how the medieval Transylvania might have been. Its loft, about half of the size of the entire tower, could easily be home of countless bats and a family of vampires.

Restaurants:
Pizza and lager at the Jo Pizzeria
Pizza and lager at the Jo Pizzeria
The very helpful owner of my pension already warned me that those restaurants on the Piata Cetāti Square and in the adjacent alleys were at least twice as expensive as those in the lower old town, and the food quality was the same. So, following his advice, I descended to the Piata Hermann Oberth and visited the Jo Pizzeria. They had a good selection of very promisingly looking pastas (RON11-17), pizzas (RON13-18) and suspiciously looking pub-grub garnished with chips. They also had a few local lagers and wines. I went for pizza cappriciosa with hot chilli washed down with two fabulously chilled bottles of Transylvania's best lager - the Timisoreana. My bill came to RON24. The restaurant had a large terrace with red parasols and faux-reed tables and armchairs. The service was very swift and the waiting staff spoke good English.

I also tried the Concordia next door, which also made pizzas (considerably larger ones) but had much greater choice of pasta.

Other recommendations:
Outside walls of the Targu Mures citadel at night.
Outside walls of the Targu Mures citadel at night.
The closest Airport was Targu Mures, about 55km away. It was a very small airpot with limited facilities. An ATM accepting international cards stood in the departures hall! I noticed this strange phenomenon in other south European airports. Few taxis waited outside and their drivers were very cheeky. When I asked about the fare to Sighisoara, they wanted €50! That was obviously a rip-off. And I told them that. One of them responded RON2.80 to my question how much it was per kilometre. So, 55km x RON2.80 was RON154 and that was about €37! Not surprisingly, they agreed to that.

Targu Mures as a city was an intersting one, too. It was much less picturesque than Sighisoara, yet a short afternoon stroll in the old part of town would be an option if one had a time to spare. The most interesting sights there included 2 townhalls, 3 churches, a palace and a citadel. The citadel, however was in desperate need of renovation inside. The outer walls looked superb. Taxi from the airport was RON35.

Published on Wednesday June 8th, 2011


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Mon, Jul 18 2011 - 06:13 PM rating by bootlegga

Excellent report Kris!

Thu, Jul 07 2011 - 09:30 AM rating by szidonia

Krys, next time come to Odorheiu Secuiesc, too! just 50 km far from Sighisoara. A really good report, liked it, congrats!

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