Sighisoara and Sibiu


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September 14th 2011
Published: September 20th 2011
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We have each settled into a morning routine. It's nice to have separate bedrooms and two bathrooms. Only one shower, tho. And what a shower ... it is a tiny stall shower installed in a corner of a small bathroom. It is a removable shower head, and we discovered that the reason it's removable is because it's otherwise impossible to get far enough away from the shower to rinse off. The shower stall also leaks very badly, so that when you are done showering there is half an inch of water on the bathroom floor. Conveniently there is a drain built into the floor for all this water.

It is also nice to have the kitchen. Leslie gets up first, makes a pot of coffee. (I made the coffee once and we will not speak of it again.) I do my yoga then have coffee and yogurt and fruit, then get ready for the day.

Florin met us outside at 8am, and we did not get home until 7:30. Very long day!

The weather has been stunning all week. Every day gives us a brilliant blue sky, warm temperatures, sometimes a few clouds. We hear that it's cold and rainy back home. Romanians tell us this is unseasonable weather --- that it's warmer than usual and a little rain would be expected. But we seem to have brought phenomenal weather ... and way too many warm items of clothing!

We started out with a drive to Sighişoara - 120 km; that's about 75 miles. But you do not average 60mph on these roads, not even if you are Florin. So it took about two hours.

We talked of religion as we neared Sighişoara, Florin gave us a bit of an overview of religion in Romania. He is Greek Orthodox, and he was about to bring us to a Greek Orthodox church. We stopped on the opposite side of the small river from the old city center and parked the car.

As we walked up to Biserica Sfânta Treime, it became clear that there was a ceremony in progress. Today is September 14, 2011 which is the "Exaltation of the Holy Cross". On the steps of the church two Gypsy boys approached us, clearly asking for money. They were probably about 8 and 13. Florin put himself between us and them, and began to lecture them. I only understood a few words, but we talked to him more about it after we left the church: he was telling them that they should be in school, that this was not a good life, that if they wanted to change their lives they should go to school.

We walked into the church behind Florin, some of us (ahem) a bit hesitant to intrude. But Florin insisted and we followed.

I took photos of the outside of the church, but not inside. It was very extravagantly decorated, with many painted icons, very red and gold and lush. There were Romanian words painted on the wall above the altar, I could not read the words but could tell they were the imperative form of verbs. Behind the priest was a very ornate screen with archways and ikons and doors. Every inch of the walls, columns, ceiling, and dome was decorated, and it is all clearly full of symbolism.

As we entered there were two cantors singing/chanting in very deep voices, and the congregants were signing along at certain points. We saw Florin get into a line and realized that there were lines at various places of the church. There are no pews; everyone is standing or waiting in line. The lines ended at icons, and worshipers were crossing themselves and kissing the icons. I saw a few people (I think perhaps all older women) follow a more complicated ritual involving touching the floor and then kissing the icon again (the first time I thought the woman had dropped something!) I saw a man lift his young daughter up for her to kiss an icon.

As we left the church, Florin crossed himself many times while walking out of the church backwards. I could not help but think that I would be sure to fall down the church steps if I were to attempt that maneuver.

It was very interesting to be able to go into the church with Florin; without him we would never have been so presumptuous to enter the church during a service. But no one in the church seemed to mind at all that we were there. Also of note: there were not any restrictions/rules regarding clothing or head coverings of women.

We drove for about five mintutes and parked near the old city, Florin walked us to the main entrance (more "up"), but entry here was not allowed. He talked to the security guards; turns out a movie is being filmed so that way was closed. He showed us a different way up. Like children we sneaked over through an alley to spy on the movie making – and we were sternly motioned away. Florin led us up a steep cobblestone walkway to the base of a tower. He left us there, said to meet him back at the car in 2 hours. We started by climbing stairs to the top of the tower, which was also a history museum. We enjoyed the guild room the most. The view from the top was stellar, including a view of the movie scene being filmed.

We walked a bit, walked through a picturesque piața – at Leslie's command I took 360 degree photos and will piece them together at home. Carrie and Linda got a tourist map, and we started with coffee and croissant (a card on the table proclaimed this special to be "happy coffee") at a little cafe. Then we walked up 175 stairs within a covered staircase. This was a bit of a warm-up for Poenari.

At the top of these stairs was the “School on the Hill” and beyond that was the “Church on the Hill”. We started out at the church. It is a Lutheran church, so very different from the Greek Orthodox church we were in this morning. There is a tower here, really a small house on the hill overlooking the town, with pretty flowers; someone apparently lives in this tower. We also explored a very large Saxon cemetery. After this we walked back towards the covered stairway and high school was letting out for lunch. Kids are kids the world over. Jeans and backpacks and girls talking about boys and boys flirting with girls, and a few kids off to the side smoking. The same in any language.

We walked back down to the modern part of town. Leslie was walking a bit of head and called back to be sure she was going in the correct direction; I called up that she should turn right and she said "OK!" just as a little girl about 8 years old was walking past. She smiled at Leslie and said cheerily, "OK!" And then kept saying it over and over and laughing to herself "Okay! Okay! Okay!" As we watched her walk past we could not help but notice the Hannah Montana backpack.

I caught up to Leslie just as a bicycle barreled past -- I said "Watch out for the bicicleta!" Leslie said "Fiets!" (the word for bicycle in Dutch - an oft-used word during our visit to Amsterdam) just as three teenage girls were walking past. They immediately started mimicking her ... "fiets, fiets, fiets!" slapping each other on the back and laughing uproariously.

Good that we can amuse the children of Romania!

We had lunch with Florin at a traditional Romanian restaurant and I'm pretty sure I'm done with traditional food. This time my vegetables were not so good.

Next stop was Sibiu (another 100km), and again Florin parked, walked us in a bit, then said he'd meet us back at the car in 2 hours.

Sibiu is very picturesque; three squares joined by cobblestone pedestrian-only avenues. We walked to the furthest square first, and visited a gothic church that is quite old, originally built in the 1300s. Mihnea Vodă cel Rău (Prince Mihnea the bad) is buried here - Vlad the Impaler's son who was apparently murdered in the courtyard outside of the church.

We walked around a bit more; not enough time (or frankly, energy) to go into any of the museusms, so we settled down in a cafe on Piaţa Mare for a beer and some people watching.

After that Carrie and Linda did some shopping while Leslie and I walked the long way back to the car in order to walk past an Orthodox cathedral built in 1906 and extolled by the guidebook as a "miniature copy of Istanbul's Hagia Sofia".

[As Leslie and I were walking across Piata Mare, I remarked that the buildings in this square of Sibiu reminds me a bit of Venice without the canals and she said that it reminds her of Prague. We observed that our favorite places are often the places that do *not* remind us of anywhere else we have been, those places that cause you to exclaim, "I have never seen anything like this before!" South Africa gave us that experience. And (cue foreshadowing) I was to utter those very words in about 14 hours.]

We had a long drive back to Brasov --- 145km. We all slept!

When we got home we were all too tired to make the trip into the city center. Leslie and I decided to shop for dinner at the minimarket downstairs; I also bought the makings for a picnic lunch for the next day. We had some leftovers from the night before and made do. Linda and Carrie went out to eat at someplace nearby.

Tomorrow we part ways for the day. Leslie and Linda will sleep late and explore Brasov some more. Carrie and I will be meeting Florin early once more, this time to head to Poenari and Curtea de Argeș.


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