Exploring Romania Part 2: Sighișoara/Bucharest

There is a place where the buildings are brightly painted, cobblestones line the streets, and grape vines grown in every yard.  The place is a little town called Sighișoara, found deep in the middle of Romania.  The town claims the birth place of Vlad Tepes Dracul, better known as Vlad the Impaler or Dracula. 

Sighișoara (pronounced “see-gee-shore-a”) is a small medieval village in the Transylvania region of Romania.  It is home to an ancient citadel on the hill in the middle of town, which contains churches and towers.  Both inside and outside the citadel, the streets are lined with all ranges of color.img_0843This is the second post on our Romania excursion as part of our trip around the world.  Make sure you first read our Exploring Romania Part 1: Brasov post, which provides relevant information to this post.  We visited Sighișoara for three nights as part of our ten night trip through the country. 

We traveled to Sighișoara via train from Brasov, which is operated by the Romanian State Railway, CFR.  The train took around two hours and forty-five minutes, and was reliably twenty minutes behind schedule.  Our second class train tickets cost around 34 RON per person.  We also took  this train all the way to Bucharest after our stay.  The return trip was five and a half hours long and cost 94 RON for a first class ticket.  The second class tickets were sold out the day before our trip so we splurged the extra 31 RON.  Our total trip cost for this area $1,054.71, or $95.88 per day.

We stayed in an Airbnb near the citadel, which more closely resembled a farm stay.  We were hosted by an older couple who had an impressive garden brimming with all types of fruits, vegetables, nuts, and flowers.  The perimeter was lined with grape vines, creating a very picturesque setting.img_1034Throughout our visit, the owners showered us with homegrown veggies, fresh foods and homemade wine.  The Airbnb title is “Room in our cosy flat”, which has certainly been our favorite place to stay in the world.

Using vegetables they gave us from their garden, we made a delicious chicken and vegetable ratatouille.  This lasted us our entire stay and we had no need to eat out.  As if to top the crepes, tarts and wine, they also had two very sociable kittens and one happy puppy which kept us company.

Sighișoara is home to a famous medieval festival which seems to be one of the largest draws to the area.  The festival occurs annually at the end of July.  Unbeknownst to us, we happened to be in town during this celebration.  The streets both inside and out of the old town walls were filled with actors of knights, maidens, musicians and dancers.  We felt this was more authentic reenactment being in the ancient citadel in Transylvania.  The actors seemed more real while performing weapon demonstrations with swords, axes, maces, clubs, bow/arrows and shields.  There were merchants selling   handmade crafts, medieval themed foods, flowing beer and best of all no entry fee!img_0956img_0968

We took the opportunity to explore the old town citadel at the beginning of our stay, including the Clock Tower, Scholars Stairs and Church on the Hill.  Unfortunately, there was no free walking tour offered in this area. 

The Clock Tower provides an impressive view of the surroundings, and includes a small museum on several floors leading to the lookout at the top.  You could also see the clock mechanism on display.  The museum was established by a doctor, thus there were some pretty cool medieval medical instruments and pharmaceuticals along with relics and artifacts.  An adult ticket costs 14 RON.img_0965The Scholars Steps were built in 1642 to provide a covered walkway for children to access school and church on the hill.  There are currently 175 steps, down from the original 300.

img_0827We also took an afternoon to hike to the neighboring Breite Ancient Oak Tree Preserve.SighisoaraThis is an area Southeast of town which houses oak trees ranging in age from 200-800 years.  The round trip from the citadel square is just under five miles.  The trail is marked with red and white blaze indicators making it easy to find your way.img_0915

Part of the draw to this city is the brightly colored homes found throughout the neighborhoods which create a picturesque setting for a visit.  As the buildings are renovated, more and more colors spatter the neighborhoods. People also take great pride in their gardens, with plants and flowers filling the yards.  Many households seem self sustainable with homegrown fruits, vegetables and animals.

We stayed in Bucharest briefly before leaving Europe for Africa via a short stop in Dubai. We spent the majority of time during our stay preparing for our upcoming five weeks of safari.  We did not plan to spend much time here based on feedback from other travelers and our own research.  Bucharest is large and not as well kept as other European cities which we have visited.  Compared to the mountain areas of Sighișoara and previously Brașov, we also found Bucharest to be much more hot and humid.

Despite our short visit, we were lucky to partake in the Armenian Festival, a theatre festival, and listen to a string quartette concert outside on the Southeast corner of the University Square.  While in town, we took another free walking tour with Walkabout tours which was excellent.  They conveniently offer a 6pm walk after the heat of the day.  It was interesting to learn about the city and the effects of the former communist rule.  During the 24 year dictatorial rule of Nicolae Ceaușescu, many of the old historic buildings were destroyed.  Communism has had a lasting impact on this country and its inhabitants.

At the end of our stay, we took the 783 express bus from the city center to the Bucharest airport.  Tickets have to be purchased from an attendant at a bus ticket window which are very hard to find.  You have to purchase non-reusable electronic card and two tickets at a time (not one) for 8.60 RON total. 

We are excited for our upcoming trip to Africa where we will visit seven countries through the east and south portions of the continent.  Stay tuned for posts from our upcoming Safaris.  

Please share our site with someone who would like some travel inspiration!  We have a lot of information which we have learned on our travels which can help or inspire other travelers.  Also make sure to take a look at our first post explaining why we left our careers to explore the world.img_1111

Restaurants we enjoyed in Bucharest:

  • 3Kombinat – A great burger place with a nice terrace.
  • Sharkia – Delicious Mediterranean place with homemade pita/bread and daily lunch specials for 35 RON.
  • Buoni e Bravi – A quick, cheap pizza joint with focaccia style crust.
  • Gigi – Our go to bakery in Romania.  We tried many others, but this is still our favorite.
  • Puro & Bio – Delicious home made ice cream, yogurt, and sorbet’s.

What we learned while traveling in Sighișoara:

  1. Use CFR train over the bus network.  We chose to continue traveling by train after our early experiences on the Romanian bus network.
  2. Visit Sighișoara during the July Medieval Festival.
  3. Staying with families in Romania gives you a much more rewarding cultural experience and a chance to try local food and drinks.  Stay with families through Airbnb or other sites.
  4. Walk through the neighborhoods to observe the colorful homes.
  5. Hike to Breite Ancient Oak Tree Preserve.
  6. Food from the grocery store is the cheapest we experienced in Europe, but food at restaurants is higher than expected compared to other Eastern European countries.
  7. Skip Bucharest, but you could use it as an entry and exit point.  We would recommend no more than 1 full day here.  We would have explored Sinaia, Sibiu, and/or the Black Sea with more time.

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