Posted by: Alex MacGregor | June 18, 2015

Into the Countryside

In order to see all of the places in the last post, I joined a semi-organized group tour. Although these have their upsides (and can occasionally be totally awesome!), I was ready to spend the next day exploring my own way.

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This meant renting a car! Always an endeavor with some degree of risk in another country.

Repeat readers might remember a certain nightmarish set of problems that befell Caroline and myself last time a rented car entered the picture, culminating in a police bribe and getting the car stuck in the sand on a beach notorious for robbery.

But that was the Domincan Republic–completely different continent. What could go wrong in Romania?

My hostel actually advised against renting a car. “There’s a bus and a train going to Sighişoara”, they said, referring to my stated destination. But my sporadic Google Earth explorations over the years, which have in the past uncovered some pretty fascinating places, inclined me to push ahead and rent a car. Better yet, I managed to rope someone else from the hostel into my hair-brained adventure!

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About 45 minutes outside of Brașov, the first fruits of renting a car came into view: Rupea Castle.

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Rupea resembles strongly Rașnov Castle–a startlingly similar circular citadel on top of a lonely mountain.

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Rupea has a bit more of a Lord of the Rings feel about it, with rolling plains off in every direction…

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…and the town unfolding below.

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Rupea has undergone an almost identical rehabilitation project to Raşnov, and the restored houses are ready-made for tourist stalls. However, the tourists haven’t materialized at Rupea, and thus neither have the tourist stalls. Yet another example of the ultimate traveler’s contradiction: you want to go places with tourist infrastructure, but without the tourists!

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The next roadside attraction we bumped into on our journey to Sighişoara: the UNSECO-listed town of Sachiz! The fortified church here has a pretty incredible tower–something straight out of Castlevania.

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There’s a citadel up on the hill that’s completely unrestored, and has nothing but a footpath up to it.

Upon entering the church, an interesting thing happened: upon asking if the person at the entrance spoke English, she said no: just Romanian and German.

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It started to become clearer this wasn’t happenstance. Although the German population in Brașov is largely gone, the descendants of the Saxons in the Transylvanian countryside retain a lot of their German identity.

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A German map of Transylvania (obviously I fixate on any map put in front of me).

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The altar.

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Inside the church.

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This church very much has the feeling of being part of the community foremost; its role as a tourist attraction is secondary.

 

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UNESCO means rules, apparently!

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Finally, after taking far longer than expected on the journey, we reached Sighișoara.

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The town truly looks like it’s out of a fairy tale, with an almost Suess-like clock tower rising out of the main square.

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But you know better than to think those four spires at the corners are just a touch of whimsy, right?

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A large covered staircase leads up to a big cathedral.

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The crypt.

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The graveyard, with clear German influence.

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Sighișoara definitely scores big in the panoramic views department!

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