Romanian Roadtrip – Part 4

Turda to Sighișoara

Sighisoara skyline
Sighisoara skyline – our view each morning

There’s 106 miles to Chicago, Sighisoara, we’ve got a full tank of gas, half a pack of cigarettes, it’s dark out, and we’re wearing sunglasses. Well, actually…..we loaded up the Dacia Logan and headed east toward Sighișoara, along the (by now) good old E60.

Hit it.

Romanian roads are an improvement on Albanian, but even so. As is the case everywhere, roadworks impede progress, and many crews doing god knows what are dotted about, standing looking at something in the ground and smoking, while one guy holds a crowbar and thirty cars wait. The monotony is relieved however, as local folk patrol the line of captive cars, offering a veritable smorgasbord of merchandise to tempt…. Mismatched glassware, used CDs, bed linen and partially used cigarette lighters were amongst the tempting offerings.

More interesting are the teams of gypsies, offering mushrooms and trays of berries. They were always friendly, and I admired the fact that they were actively doing something. I badly wanted to take photos, but didn’t feel it would be welcomed, especially as Steve had a deep mistrust of mushrooms sold by gypsies…

A few detours were on the route, to see something other than the “major” towns. Firstly we drove into Mediaș, and discovered a lovely square again with the Saxon architecture and “roof eyes” evident. Had a great simple lunch and the locals were gobsmacked that two Australians (no, not Austrians) were visiting…. Mediaș was where the first Romanian Gymnastic club was formed and the town was purported to have been founded in 1146. Can’t even get my head around that.

We pushed on to Biertan, where a UNESCO listed fortified church was the drawcard. We got out of the car, avoided the many stray dogs, and went to the office – which, according to the hours listed on the door, should have been open. A group of travelers – Germans – also arrived at the same time, and we gesticulated at the door, knocked on the door, and Steve (the domestic saboteur) led an advance scout party (including me) on a wild goose chase around the perimeter, which terminated in a dead end, where we all had to backtrack. Eventually the sundry Vendors around the church found someone with a mutual language, and it emerged that the person with the keys was sick, come back tomorrow. “What if she is sick tomorrow?” I asked. A shrug. Universally understood by all.

So, some discussion took place with the locals about Melbourne Football Club Team’s chances in the finals, along with some sundry purchases, and sampling of Palinka (homemade plum brandy – with many a head shake from the older ladies, who knew its potential effect…). I took photos of the storks nesting on the chimney tops. Steve ate homegrown apples and talked world issues with the old lady who grew them. I took pity on the dogs and got a couple of packets of dry biscuits from the car, whereupon I suddenly had a pack of around 20 dogs around me. Poor things. A man aimlessly yelled at things, and people. The lady selling applies implied he was not quite right in the head, with an accepting shrug – just part of the local scenery.

We headed off to Sighișoara, and found it quite busy. We located our digs, which were beautifully located in a laneway right next to the police station and happily opposite a hair and beauty salon, so some maintenance items were attended to in between the hair stylist’s cigarettes.

hairdressers taking a cigarette break in the rain Sighisoara, Romania
ciggy break at the hairdresser

As it was getting toward dusk, we contented ourselves with a short reccy walk and dinner. We ate a nice meal and upon making our way back to our digs, met an Austrian team (wearing Lederhosen)- entrants in the Pot Hole Rodeo, the rules of which were to buy a car under 500 Euro, make it go for the duration… some funny stories were told and it made me realise that there are so many creative opportunities to get out and have fun. The teams were heading the next day to Moldovan orphanages with books and toys, to bring some fun and joy to both them and the kids… Nice vibes surrounded the enterprise.

Pothole Rodeo debriefing session
Pothole Rodeo, now with Lederhosen

Sighișoara is famous as the birthplace of Vlad Tepeș, inspiration for Count Dracula. It is so much more than that.

A UNESCO listed 16th century town, it is simply beautiful. Not manicured beautiful, but its one of the few places where you feel like you have time travelled. Cobbled streets and a tumble of rooflines, with pastel fading paint. Saxon craft guilds erected towers throughout the town and nine of the original fourteen still stand. The photo is of the Bootmaker’s tower…. Romania benefits from its past isolation in that much of its architectural history has not been altered, and now, in an era where (hopefully) we value the authentic, it is an absolute gem.

If you would like to join us at the beginning of the roadtrip, here are the links for Part 1, Part 2 and Part 3. Its a great story – Let me know if you enjoyed it.

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Is it too late to have a gap year in your late 50s? To take back some time from our day to day working life to travel - unplanned, unescorted, unfettered? To take that leap? It was a defining year - liberating, challenging, humbling, scary. It was many things, but it wasn't a holiday.

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