Romania – Sighisoara

Another day trip that we did from Brasov, was to the Unesco World Heritage site of Sighisoara (Sig-he-swore-a).  It is an ancient, medieval village that was founded as far back as the 12th century when the King of Hungary, who ruled the Transylvania region, invited German craftsmen and merchants to settle and defend the region.  A document from 1280 tells of a town with a six-sided wall built on a former Roman fort.

This village was the center for kings by 1337 and artisans, from throughout the Roman Empire, visited it.  The German merchants and artisans dominated the economy and in the 16th and 17th century, there were estimated to be 15 craftsman’s guilds.

Today, with its beautifully preserved buildings, Sighisoara is considered one of the best examples of a medieval fortified village.  In Eastern Europe, it is one of a few existing fortified villages that are inhabited today.

Upon our arrival in Romania, a young lady suggested that we try to visit this charming town and I am so grateful that we did!

It was a 2 1/2 hour train trip from Brasov.  There were some interesting sites along the way that gave us a “peek” into Romanian life.

Evidently, in the small villages, the communication system between the train and the station isn’t modernized.  When we passed through a village, a railroad employee would come and hold a paddle that had a round green dot on one side and a red dot and the other side of the paddle.  I assume that if he held up the red side of the paddle, the engineer needed to stop the train for a passenger or packages.  If he held up the green side, it meant to continue on.  This man had just held up the green side of the paddle, and we didn’t stop.fullsizeoutput_2bf8

We passed through some villages.  Some parts of them didn’t appear to have electricity to the houses or running water.  I saw some young girls getting water at a public water faucet.  The houses near the tracks were very small and they had outhouses in the far corner of the yard.fullsizeoutput_2bf6fullsizeoutput_2bf7

Some of the things I saw, I wasn’t able to get a picture of.  There were a couple of fields that were being plowed by men with teams of horses.  Several times, we passed herds of cows and sheep being tended by a shepherd.  I saw several horses and wagons being used in the field and on our return trip to Brasov, I finally got a picture!IMG_7261

Slowly, Romania is getting modernized. I did see a few tractors plowing fields.  From what I heard during our travels, the northern region of Romania still does farming in the traditional way.  I think that it would be great to go and visit that area to get a feel of Romania from years gone by.

Once arriving at the train station, we started walking.  The streets are lined with beautiful rose bushes that were in full bloom and smelled lovely.  IMG_7254At the end of this street, we made a left and walked past this majestic Romanian Orthodox Church….The Holy Trinity, built in the Neo-Byzantine style from 1934 to 1937. fullsizeoutput_2a9aAfter walking past the church, we crossed the Tarvava Mare River on the footbridge and got our first view of the medieval village on the hill!

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It doesn’t look very old, does it?  The church on the right is the Roman Catholic church that has been there since 1865.  It burned in 1984 and was rebuilt in 1985.  I am not sure what the building to the left is used for.  Behind that building, though, are the steeples for the Church of the Dominican Monastery originally built in 1289.  It was rebuilt after it was damaged by the Mongols and the Tatar’s invasions 1482-1515,  Once again, after the great fire in 1676.

My first impression was a little bit of disappointment because I was expecting turrets silhouetted against the blue sky.  Everything I had read about Sighisoara was it was an enchanting, fairy-tale place!  That view didn’t look very “fairy tale” to me!

There is a wide path that winds gradually up the hill to get to the old town.  This was the view looking back from where we had just come from.

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The Holy Trinity Church and the footbridge crossing the Tavarra Mare river.

My impression changed as I walked through an opening in the old city wall and there was one of the 14 original towers.  It is the Cobbler’s Tower.

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The Cobbler’s Tower. Today, it is a private residence.

These towers add to the charm of the village but in the 14th and 16th century they were used to defend against Turkish attacks.  Back then, various guilds were responsible for keeping the towers stocked with weapons and emergency supplies.  Today, there are nine of the 14 towers still standing.

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The Ropemaker’s Tower – a private resident

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The Butcher’s Tower – closed to the public.

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The Leather Craftsmen’s Tower – today it is a shop selling leather goods.

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The Tinsman’s Tower – unique for the roof that appears to be tin and the octagonal upper level.  It is closed to the public.

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Finally, this is the Tailor’s Tower.  They were the richest guild as is evident from their tower.  It was originally as tall as the Clock Tower.  In 1676, the gunpowder for the town was stored in this tower and exploded.  The fire destroyed much of the town, including the upper part of this tower.   Today, it is one of the two access roads into the village.

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One of the gates at the Tailor’s Tower

The Clock Tower, also known as the Council Tower, is the main focal point of Sighisoara.  It was built in the mid-1300s and later expanded in the 1500s.  After the fire of 1667, Austrian artisans rebuilt the roof of the tower to the baroque style you see today.  The colorful, tiled roof was added in 1894.

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The Clock Tower

Walking away from the Clock Tower, you will pass “Casa Vlad Dracul”.  The house, now converted into a restaurant, is said to be where Vlad Tepes (aka Dracula) was born in 1431.

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For a small fee, you can see the room where Vlad was born which I find interesting because my guidebook said that the building has been completely rebuilt since the days that Vlad was there!

Continuing up the street, you come to Citadel Square that used to be used for market and craft fairs.  It is the center of Sighisoara and was also used for executions, impalings and witch trials.

Market Square

Today, things are more peaceful and it is a lovely place to take a break at one of the many restaurants located in the square.

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We enjoyed sandwiches and shared a piece of cheesecake from the International Cafe, one of the restaurants on the square.  It was difficult to decide on what sweet we wanted to indulge in, they all looked so good!

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This was our sandwich. It was made with cheese and “zacusca” which is a vegetable spread made with tomato sauce and vegetables.  It was very good.

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The inside of the International Cafe

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Since it was a nice day, we decided to eat outside and enjoy the warmth and sights.  Notice the white building on the corner…..

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This is a close-up of the decorations on the building.  It is called the Stag House because of the stag skull on the corner.  The building was built in the 17th century and recent renovations uncovered the stag body painted on the wall.  It was a private home in the 1600s. Today, it is a hotel.

Continuing past the Stag House and up the hill, you will come to the Scholars’ Stair.

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This stairway is also known as the Schoolboys’ Stairs. It was built in 1642 to protect the children going to school at the top of the hill and the people attending the church that is also located on top of the hill.

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Originally, there were 300 stairs but now there are 175 stairs.

We hiked up the stairs to see the Church on the Hill.  This building houses a school.  It is not certain exactly when the school was established but records found, at the University of Vienna in Austria, suggested that approximately 100 students studied at university level from 1402 to 1520 at the School on the Hill in Sighisoara.  Official records record a School on the Hill from 1522.  Personally, I tend to lean towards the findings at the University of Vienna because of the history of the Scholars’ or Schoolboys’ Stairs that I mentioned above.

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This building is still used as a school today.

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Church on the Hill

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It was impossible to get a good picture of the whole building as it was massive and there wasn’t much room to step back to get a good shot.

Inside Church on the Hill Gothic Style

Inside the Church on the Hill

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Originally, the inside of the church was completed painted with these frescos.  Most of them were destroyed in 1776 with the understanding that they would be reproduced on parchment paper to be reproduced later.  Sadly, the copies were lost and the paintings were never replicated.  It makes me curious why they decided to destroy them. Was it before the time of being able to do restoration on frescos and this was the way that they restored the frescos?  I don’t know but how sad!  This is a fragment of a fresco from the 1400s.

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Part of the Saxon Cemetery located next to the Church on the Hill.

Parting shots from around the town….

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I love this picture!  I think it is so cute that the groom was carrying his bride’s shoes!

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Traditional decorations

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If you look hard enough, beauty can be found just about anywhere!

Return trip to Brasov on the train

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A stork’s nest

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As we passed this church I saw the date inscribed on the roof.  At first glance, I thought it said “1965”….Then, I looked closer – oops!!  It was 1265 – Wow!!!

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Incredible clouds!

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Mountains near the city of Brasov

Until the next time,  may you be blessed, filled with joy and sparkles! ✨✨✨

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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