Traveling deeper into the historic region of Transylvania we stumble upon Sighisoara a colorful, lively old town and birthplace of Vlad Tepes. Founded by German craftsmen and merchants known as the Saxons of Transylvania, the colorful old town remains fortified by stone walls, and very well preserved.
Designated as a world heritage site the city’s citadel was built in the 12th century. Walking through the Citadel’s hilly cobblestone streets, secluded squares and observing the colorful medieval architecture is a magical experience.
The quaint main square inside the Citadel was a hustling bustling spot in the old days for markets, craft fairs, public executions and witch trials. Today the markets, witches and public trails have been long replaced with quaint cafe’s, small shops, and horse and buggy rides.
Sighisora’s main attraction Council Tower is a two plate clock that has been running continuously since the middle ages. One dial looks over the Lower Town, while the other faces the citadel. Figurines carved from linden wood sit at the top of the tower and are moved by the clock’s mechanism. Each dial’s figurines have different meanings.
On the side facing the Citadel a different figurine has been carved to represent peace, time, justice, law, day and night. At 6 AM an angel figurine symbolizing day appears and a 6 PM an angel carrying two burning candles appears to represent night.
The dial facing the lower city features seven figurines that represent the pagan gods who personified days of the week. A spire at the top of the tower features a small spiral meterological clock which helps predict the weather.
Until 1556 the clock served as the meeting point for the city council but since 1899 it has housed the history of the museum. For a small fee visitors can view the museum and climb the wooden stairs to reach the top. This is where I decided I should get back into climbing towers. Viewing the colorful red rooftops of the city makes the climb worthwhile.
Traditional Cultural Festivals
While we were in Sighisoara, we were all treated to traditional Transylvanian music and dance by local children. Some of the kids clearly were bored but they did a fantastic job of entertaining everyone!
The Scholar’s Stairs
Speaking of climbing things these stairs exist to connect the Citadel Square to the church on the hill. Built in 1642 this medieval structure was built to protect school children and church goers during the 200 stair climb to their destination.
The house where Dracula was born features a restaurant and a tour. While it isn’t confirmed he was born there, it is confirmed that he was born in Sighisoara and that his father owned this specific property in town. We didn’t stop in but noticed the location had a nice gift shop on the corner. Browsing the handmade Romanian items in the shop was nice but when traveling with small suitcases we are forced to scrutinize additional purchases and nothing made the cut.
We’ve mentioned Vlad Tepes, Vlad the Impaler, and Vlad Dracu but have failed to define the man behind the name. Unlike Brahms Stoker’s fictional character Dracula, Vlad Dracu is the real man from whom the author based his character profile. Perhaps the only thing they share in common is their taste for blood.
Vlad’s father was inducted into a Knightly order nicknamed “The Order of The Dragon”. This designation earned his father the surname of “Dracul” stemming from the old Romanian word “Drac” for dragon. Vlad would later become known as son of “Draculea” in old Romanian. In new Romanian the word “Drac” refers to a feared creature such as the devil.
Later in life Vlad became the Viovode (prince) of Wallachia and eventually acquired the nickname Vlad the Impaler as a reference to his preferred method of execution. He had spent time held captive by the Ottomans and it is said (but not confirmed) that he learned about the art of impalement during his captivity. Later he used this method to psych out his opponents by displaying impaled bodies of prisoners in the forests and hills surrounding the battle ground.
Casa Cu Cerb (Stag House)
This 17th century house situated inside the medieval fortress was inhabited by people of high function administrative, judicial, clerical, and religious. The name of the building is explained by the exterior wall painting, representing a deer in size, and head trophy mounted on the wall. It is one of the oldest buildings inside the Citadel and currently features a hotel and restaurant.
Homesick In Sibiu
While we enjoy traveling it was bound to happen that we become unexpectedly far from home during a time of concern for other family members. Adding to that I was not feeling well myself. Based on my own self diagnosis I needed a round of low grade antibiotics. In Sighishora we started at the pharmacy. But with good reason they wouldn’t cave to my request. Instead I was offered three other over the counter pills along with advice to drink more water. A search for cranberry juice come up empty handed.
We headed to Sibiu, Romania. By this time the over the counter meds were not doing the trick. I definitely needed to see a doctor for a quick test to confirm my diagnosis. Luckily our Airbnb host worked for the clinics and arranged everything for me. He even went above and beyond by driving me to two different hospitals to get the test, and the antibiotics I needed.
The public hospital in Sibiu was very surgical in appearance. Stuck in a past era we could have been standing on a movie set. Nobody spoke English and we were glad to have our host navigate the waters for us. I offered to pay for the visit and the test but they wouldn’t accept my money. Instead I paid $5 for my antibiotics at the pharmacy across the street and was on my way.
5,252 miles away we learned that my father needed unplanned open heart surgery. Our hearts sank as we learned of the news because we wanted to be there. We had already booked our return flight to the United States but it was not anytime soon. Working with family who could be there we received constant updates in the form of text messages and phone calls on the progress. If something was obvious we were prepared to cancel our flights and make plans to be there as quickly as we could.
We walked around Sibu but with no agenda other than to take in the beauty of the town and plaza. It deserves another look but because we weren’t completely feeling 100% we stayed low key and rested before heading to our next stop – Budapest, Hungry.