Walking around in strange neighbourhoods can be breathtaking just as much as they can be a rewarding experience. I’ve often found that walking around in unknown villages are particularly thrilling in environments where there is a dearth of tourists.
Such a venture is Sighisoara. A small and fortified medieval town in the Mures County of Transylvania, Sighisoara has historically played an important strategic and commercial role in the periphery of Central Europe for several centuries.
The town is developed on a plateau which is developed over a crystal clear little river known as Tirnava. It was built in the 13th century by Hungarian sovereigns who wanted to protect the border of the Carpathian mountains.
The notable element of Sighisoara is its architecture- perched on a hill, the historic center of this town can be reached by a ramp staircase of 175 steps that has been protected by a wooden roof since 1642.
If the ancient feel of medieval isn’t cool enough, add this on for size: The houses are laid out simply, most of them only two or three stories and built from stone and brick, topped with high tiled roofs. They have a distinct facade with an L- or U-shaped layout with a tiny facade on the street, and provides a picturesque and postcard-worthy vacation, where men sit outside dilapidated buildings at the top of the village and play the violin mournfully for a time that seems to have passed them gloriously by, but there are few paths that are meandered, except for a handful of tourists, who, like you, seem keen to be on their way along their own adventures.
Sighisoara, hence, is a paradise for those who need a moment to think, and to get away from it all.
I arrived at this town exhausted after the halloween party at the faux-Dracula castle at Bran, but within a day, the clear air which surrounds this sleepy little town with a scattering of restaurants along a sleepy one-main road highway, captivated me.
I wasn’t alone for the entire journey of my trip to Transylvania, I answered the petite pension owner at the end of the village where I was staying.
I would go back and stay in Sighisoara at the same pension, should I go back, simply because of the courtesy shown to guests, along with the ample maps, the complimentary fruit, breakfast, and wifi, all of which made the sloping roof over the bed’s headstand appear cosy in the light of the evening lamp.
What’s more, there is a lot of exploring that can easily be done in this pretty little mountain town.
Autumn, of course, is a fantastic time to be in any mountain range, and the Carpathians, hence, are not any different, but I have also been told by my Romanian friends that the town is wonderful in both summer and spring.
On top of the citadel at the back lies an old graveyard.
“Dulce et decorum est, pro patria mori,” says some of the weathered gravestones, and I am left to wonder about Owen’s poem. “The Old Lie,” my memory taunts, as I ponder the depth of patriotism and country, even to the old Transylvanians.
I move on. There is much to see, much to ponder, and from the faint Byzantine murals to the crypts at the bottom of chapels that are eerily empty, Sighisoara keeps me entertained by day, just as much as the ale, the Spanish tourists passing by, and the broken English in a town where three loaves of bread are equivalent to a dollar, keep me amused by night.
When I return to Budapest, my friends ask me how the trip was.
But there is little about Sighisoara that can be explained on paper.