Braşov to Sighişoara; Vlad Ţepeş' birthplace; Folk dancing; The Tinkers' Tower; Sheryl finds her palinca at last; Sighişoara to Sibiu via Mediaş; Two days of down-time in Sibiu; Doing nothing in the park; Epic thunderstorm

We’d originally planned to go to Sibiu from Braşov, but the train times didn’t work - the 9:30 train we’d planned to take wasn’t running, for reasons unknown, so we changed plans and decided to go to Sighişoara first and then re-evaluate. Sighişoara has Romania’s best-preserved medieval citadel, and is well-known as the birthplace of Vlad Ţepeş, inspiration for the Dracula legends. It took a couple of hours on a medium-speed train to get there. We had no idea if there was a place to stay in Sighişoara, or even if we’d want to. Another backpacker in the train station told us about a woman he’d stayed with, so we kept that in the back of our minds, put our packs into the left-luggage office at the station, and went off to the citadel. It took maybe twenty minutes to walk there, and we stopped at the tourist office for a map and a list of things to see in town. As we were looking for a shop, two high-school kids cornered me and asked me to answer a survey. I said okay, to be nice. The first question was “Are you in town for the festival?” and I said “What festival?” and that was the end of the survey. Apparently there was some sort of pan-ethnic goodwill festival in town at the moment.. We were no wiser after that, but saw a poster at the tourist office. Folk-dancing and what-not.

Sighişoara’s citadel is very cool. It was a hot day and the narrow little streets and alleys were crowded with food stalls and vendors. Wandering in all the little nooks and crannies really felt quite medieval. We got a chicken from one of the food stalls, and wolfed it down. They gave us some garlic sauce to go with it, so the vampires wouldn’t get us. After lunch we spent half an hour watching the silly folk-dancing. Apparently there were kids there from all sorts of countries to show off their own particular style of ethnic folk-dancing. I’ll be honest, though, I couldn’t tell any of the dances apart, they all looked the same to me - lots of kicking and curtsying and dancing round in circles. The costumes were fun, though - but very silly-looking. Between the silliness and having to dance around in the heat, I felt very sorry for all the dancers.

Sheryl went into a craft distillery and bought half a litre of plum brandy, which she’s been eking out since. It was the cheap stuff (though not the cheapest), but they gave us a taste of the old five-star brandy - amazingly smooth. Sheryl had an awful lot of samples and was rather merry afterward. It was an incredibly hot day, so walking through the steep streets did us in. We went up the 400-year-old covered stairs, which I think had spiderwebs of that same vintage thickly covering the ceiling beams; and up to the the hill in the middle of town to take a look at the church and the graveyard. On the way back down we decided to pursue some destinations from the tourist map, which led us to such not-to-be-missed prizes as the House With The Stag, the House With Shingles, and the Tinkers’ Tower. After that we were wiped out, and the last thing we could do was to find the building in which Vlad Ţepeş was born, now a restaurant, and have a drink. We were still full of chicken and still very hot, so our drink was only water, but still - it’s the thought that counts. We took a quick look in on the Orthodox church on the way back to the train station - it was notable for the absence of no-photography signs, which I was happy to see - or not see, as the case may have been.

The train onward to Sibiu was a bit of a trial. The first leg was from Sighişoara to a town called Mediaş on a Personal train which looked and felt at least sixty years old. It took an hour to get us thirty kilometers. At Mediaş we had a two-hour wait for the train to Sibiu. All our plans for the day had been so much changed that we were getting to Sibiu much later than we’d planned, and we were hoping the hostel wouldn’t give away our beds to someone else before we got there. I walked around to find a wi-fi connection so I could send them an email, just in case. There was no guarantee they’d get it in time, but they weren’t answering their phone so it was the best we could do. We finally got to Sibiu at around 11:30pm. The hostel was an absolute haven, and hadn’t given away our beds after all. It was brand-new, in a fun building with a courtyard and a full kitchen, and relaxed staff and quiet guests. After the last two hell-holes we were happy to have it.

Sheryl was feeling very poorly the next day - another sinus infection was setting in - so she spent the day in bed while I took myself off to the park. I spent the day there, moving from table to bench to grass as the mood took me, and watching one wedding party after another take their pictures around the central fountain. It was very relaxing and for the first time on the trip I really felt like the unemployed bum that I am.

We spent two days like that, in the end - not seeing very much of Sibiu except the hostel, the central square and the supermarket, cooking good dinners and just generally chilling out. Sibiu is a nice, bland town in which the Austrian influence is overpowering, and which is fairly characterless as a consequence. If we’d thought Braşov was westernized, Sibiu was far more so. There wasn’t an awful lot of interest in the town, so we didn’t feel guilty about relaxing for a couple of days. The second day was very rainy anyway - all day long. In fact, all afternoon there was one of the most spectacular thunderstorms I’ve ever seen. Huge rolling crashing thunderclaps, with a black sky and lots of lightning - and huge hailstones. Some were a centimeter and a half log.

I’d hoped that we’d get to bed early and have a good night’s sleep on the 24th, because the next day we’d be heading out to the Făgăraş Mountains for some hiking, and I knew it was likely to be very difficult - plus, I was worried about Sheryl, who was still feeling poorly. It wasn’t to be, though - we sat up talking with a nice French girl named Vanessa until far too late.


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Chris Liberty - Dispatches from a Gentleman Adventurer
Being the internal dialog of a vagabond who chased his own tail across five continents for 4 years and 2 days from May 2008 to May 2012, in search of something that never really became clear.
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