28th November 2016
So we arrived into Sighisoara, passing the orderly rows of Saxonesque houses, emerging from the terrifyingly dark and steep mountain roads, at almost eleven o’clock at night. It seemed eerily quiet and a little spooky walking from the station. The fact that this was Dracula’s hometown – and the bats circling the Orthodox Church – probably didn’t help. But we made it to the centre and were soon walking around empty (but better lit) streets.
The town was settled by people who were promised land in return for stalling the Ottoman army’s advance on Austria. They were left to defend themselves. In Sighisoara, this had taken the form of a fortified town, defended by 14 towers (each inaccessible to the others) and a defensive, hill-top citadel.
Voices floated into a square dominated by a fortified church, the Clock Tower and a few thick-walled buildings; voices in Spanish. We asked directions to no avail and off they went, singing and chatting.
Eventually we came across a local who spoke wonderful English. She was walking her dog (who we soon discovered was almost deaf and almost blind) and she led us down side streets and alleyways to our hotel. Along the way we passed a Roma (“he’s always drunk,” she confided), with whom she left her dog.
At the hotel, we found a glorious wooden building, with exposed beams and clay-clad walls. It was warm inside but gave on to views of snow-lined rooftops. My friend promptly fell into a deep sleep and I opened the window and read my book. From outside, our gypsy friend (now relieved of dog-sitting duty) played his violin and sang the occasional verse. The tower was lit and the solitary voice in an otherwise silent town was beautiful.
29th November 2016
In the morning, I walked to the station to buy a ticket to Hungary. It was less creepy by daylight but my Romanian hadn’t progressed much. I managed only by writing down hours and minutes and by being able to pronounce the capital as Budapesht. Gestures filled the gaps.
We ate in the old town in one of the hotels. The food was warming and delicious, especially so after having missed dinner and voided lunch the day before. Glüwein greeted us as we came out of the cold. I had a schnitzel and my friend ordered a pasta dish; winning choices when heading back out in to sub-zero cobbled streets. When we emerged, full and warmed, snow had begun to fall.