30.12.2008 - 31.12.2008 -3 °C
Another couple of hours on a fast train saw me arrive in Sighisoara, a town in heartland Transylvania.
It was well after dark when I arrived, but that didn't stop me from just dumping my stuff at the hostel and going for a wander. It didn't take long and I found a wonderful wee cafe, Cafe Julius; old skool blues playing on the sound track, good coffee (another two coffee moment), a tasty omelette, interesting looking people engaged in intense discussions, a nice space to sit.
The town itself is fairly nondescript with a fairly low key main street:
although I found its banks quite interesting:
and it did have a rather nice church:
I did pop in to take a look; it took me a wee while to work out that the group gathered in the centre of the church was gathered around a body in a coffin - I retired discreetly.
But I was not there for the town; I wanted to look at the Citadel, this hilltop fortress that sits above Sighisoara, yet another UNESCO World Heritage site I have been to. In the day time it was not quite so spectacular:
but as I was walking up through these ramparts, maybe a bit after 8 at night, and then through the homes within the Citadel (166 families still live there, along with a bunch of guest houses, hotels, bars and even a YHA):
I was thinking that this is the coolest place on earth, at least of the places I've been to. So, I decided to have dinner up there, had a very nice paprika and pork dish with dumplings and a Cuic, a particularly nice Romanian beer.
I'm obviously not very observant, because when I went back up the next day, I realised that I had dined in the house next door to that of someone a few may have heard of - Vlad the Impaler, or Count Dracula. This is his house, where he was born:
I had to go in and have lunch, one of the worst meals I have ever had (a paper thin pork shop and cold chips - old Vlad would have had the cook beheaded, and he would have been right to do so):
Here is his church, well the one that is about 50 metres from his house:
Other random images from the Citadel (by the time I found the perfect location for an external shot, it was too dark for me to get a good one - stupid 4:30 darkness!):
After my lunch, I had pretty much exhausted what the place had to offer. Curiosity did get the better of me when I saw a hole in the wall and a few steps - it turned out I had quite a climb in front of me, to a church which was well above the Citadel. Going back down into the Citadel, I decided it was beer o'clock (it was New Year's Eve, after all) so went in to the YHA, which had a very pleasant bar and finished off Irvine Welsh's Filth about a cop who is disintegrating without even realising it (and being attacked by a tapeworm that is more capable of a coherent sentence and feeling than he is, very odd).
I was really looking forward to seeing what Sighisoara would have to offer in terms of a New Year's Eve celebration. Turns out that they do things a bit different here; by about 6:00 p.m., EVERYTHING was closed, all the bars, all the cafes, all the restaurants, even the pizza joints. I did see signs of activity in some, so poked my head in, only to see platters of food being laid out in set places and to be told it was "reserved". So, I had two or three fruitless circuits of the town before I gave up, and went to the "non-stop" - basically a 24 hour convenience store (ironically, closing at 10:00) and got myself some snack food and headed back to the hostel. There was a definite air of anticipation in town - I could see people people moving as if they had places to go, but I didn't know what was up.
So, I spent my New Year's Eve sitting in the hostel, starting in on the strange genius of Malcolm Lowry's Under the Volcano and wishing I was in Mexico. There was a bit of a party happening in the hostel, but no-one speaking English, all rather more loud and drunk then me, so I didn't really feel part of it. Besides, I had a train to catch; I'd booked the 00:45 sleeper to Budapest. Around 11:00 I headed to the railway station, which turned out to be a good move - at midnight there was a 15 minute firework show, along with lots of smaller (I'm presuming private) efforts, and the railway station was a grand place to see it all. So, that was a nice way for Romania to say goodbye to me.