For our visit to Romania, we decided that instead of spending a long weekend exploring only the capital city as we often do, we’d spend a week and check out some other parts of the country as well.

We flew into Bucharest on a Saturday, picked up a rental car, and drove to the city of Brașov, where we based ourselves for the next six nights.

After checking into our hotel-apartment, I opened up some windows and was immediately greeted by a cacophony of barking dogs.

That was one of my first impressions of Romania.

No joke, everywhere we went we encountered stray dogs, barking dogs or both.

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I never saw the dogs bother anyone and vice versa, but that doesn’t mean I’d recommend trying to pet one.

There was a supermarket not far from the apartment so we drove over there on our first night to stock up on essentials – food and Romanian beer – to have on hand during the week.

Breakfast was included with the apartment, so the next morning we ate in the hotel restaurant while watching Lassie on television with Romanian subtitles.

Sufficiently fueled, we headed off to the city of Sighișoara, about a two-hour drive each way from Brasov.

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On the way there and over the course of the week I made several other observations about Romania.

One is that hitchhiking is an acceptable and common form of transportation.

We saw men and women of all ages standing in the road, sometimes in the middle of nowhere, with thumbs out looking for a ride.

Which leads me to yet another thing I couldn’t help noticing.

Track suits are an acceptable and common fashion statement.

Again, we saw people of all ages – from toddlers to octogenarians – wearing them everywhere.

And oh yeah, before I forget.

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You have to share the road with horse-drawn carts in Romania.

Anyway, back to Sighișoara.

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Both it and Brașov are in the Transylvania region of Romania and yes, I will be talking about Dracula.

Sighișoara was settled by Germans in the 12th century.

At the time, the region was part of Hungary and the Germans were invited to settle there by the king of Hungary himself.

There is still a small German population in Sighișoara today, and the city seems to attract a lot of German tourists.

I ended up being very surprised at the German influence across Transylvania in general.

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At a graveyard called Cemetery on the Hill, for example, the markers have mostly German names.

On informational signs, the second language after Romanian was usually German.

German retail chains were common sights.

Back to Sighișoara again, the upper part of it is a well-preserved medieval fortified city that is also a UNESCO World Heritage site.

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Most visitors are there to see the fortification/citadel, which sits on a hill overlooking the other part of the city.

We parked at the bottom of the hill, where there is a pay-to-park area that is free on Sundays, and walked up to the citadel.

Almost one of the first things you see after entering the citadel are signs like this one.

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We did encounter beggars in other parts of Romania but not so many in Sighișoara, maybe due to the weather.

I had read before traveling there that giving money to them is actually perpetuating abuse so we refrained, although it’s sometimes difficult.

The citadel is full of residences, shops, restaurants and points of interest, including the Clock Tower.

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If you climb the stairs to the top of the Clock Tower, formerly the town hall and one of the original defensive towers, you get a birds-eye view of the lower part of the city.

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At the top of the tower, little directional plaques are nailed to the railing.

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Again you can see the German influence; Dinkelsbühl is a small town in the Bavaria region of Germany.

After our two-hour drive and walking around in the cold and the rain for a while, it was time to warm up and get a snack.

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We stopped into the Restaurant Messerschmitt.

Sounds a little German, doesn’t it?

Here’s another observation about Romania.

By U.S. standards, it’s very cheap.

The Restaurant Messerschmitt, for example, is on a central square in a touristy city, so you know you’re going to pay more than the average.

Well, we paid about 10 U.S. dollars for the following: The chocolate crepes you see above, a slice of cake, a cappuccino, a hot chocolate and a glass of Baileys Irish Cream (that last was to put in the hot chocolate, of course).

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Compared to Western Europe prices that is really inexpensive, especially given the location of the restaurant.

Continuing on our tour, we ran across this blood bank.

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I kid, of course.

Get it?  Transylvania?  Dracula?  Blood?

I’m planning on writing a few posts about Romania, and sadly that may not be the last bad Dracula joke I make.

Speaking of Dracula, here he is.

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The literary character of Dracula is loosely based on Vlad Tepes, otherwise known as Vlad the Impaler.

Ol’ Vlad was born in Sighișoara way back in 1431 so yeah, Dracula really did sleep there.

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They really play up the Dracula theme in Sighișoara – check out the bloody lettering.

The house he was born in now has both a restaurant and a museum but we skipped both.

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His statue is right near the impressive-looking town hall, built around 1885.

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From in front of the town hall, you are treated to some lovely views over Sighișoara.

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Yes, like that one.

If you remember back to the beginning of the post, the part of town we were exploring was formerly a citadel.

It had defensive walls and towers around it, and each tower was built and manned by a different craft guild.

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That one is called the Bootmakers’ Tower, so you can guess which craft guild build and manned it.

It now houses a radio station.

Of the original 14 towers, 9 remain.  Aside from the Bootmakers’ Tower, 7 craft guild towers remain: those built by the Ironsmiths, Tailors, Furriers, Butchers, Ropemakers, Tinsmiths and Tanners.

The 9th tower is the Clock Tower that you saw earlier.

It was a pretty gloomy, rainy day when we were in Sighișoara, but luckily the citadel had some brightly-colored buildings to make things seem a bit cheerier.

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Our next stop took us to this covered staircase.

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Its 175 (give or take – I’ve seen it listed as 173, 175 and 176) steps lead up to The Church on the Hill, one of the largest Gothic churches in Romania

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There is also a school on the hill, and the staircase was built to protect churchgoers and students from the elements during their climb.

The staircase is believed to be the oldest original construction in Sighișoara.

We paid a small fee to go into the Church on the Hill and listened to a little live presentation, in English, of the church building and its history.

The 15th-century frescoes inside the church were painted over in 1776, but fragments of them have recently been restored.

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Next to the Church on the Hill is the Cemetery on the Hill that you read about earlier.

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The cemetery and church grounds offer gorgeous views over the lower town.

Walking back towards town, I noticed this odd little sign.

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Apparently there is no bugle-playing allowed in that area.

One of the last defensive towers we ran across was the Tinsmith’s Tower.

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You might be able to make out how pock-marked the tower is and those are the scars from when it was under siege way back in 1704.

Leaving there, we ended up back at the Clock Tower where we started the tour and walked back down the hill to start the drive back.

Our main reason for visiting Sighișoara was because we wanted to see at least one UNESCO site in Romania, but having lived in Germany for five years now, we also enjoyed seeing the German connection there.

If you’ve been to Sighișoara, leave a comment to tell us what you thought of it!

 

About the author: Trish

 

Website: http://travelsandtipples.com