Sighisoara, a medieval gem in Romania

Just under 2 hours away from Brasov, Sighisoara surprises its visitors with beautifully maintained and refurbished medieval buildings and streets. Said to be among the most beautiful and also very well preserved medieval towns in Europe.

Truly lovely to walk around and think of the history behind the walls and pavement. It’s a small town in Transylvania, with a lot of charm and perfect for a day trip.

I really enjoyed seeing the tourist attention it gets. You can hear all sorts of languages while walking around, including groups of Japanese with their friendly smiles and enviable cameras.

Not surprisingly it’s also a World Heritage Site by UNESCO, due to its 16th century constructions like: 9 towers, cobbled stone streets, beautiful churches, etc.

Another fun fact is that it’s the place where Vlad Dracul was born (Vlad Tepes – Vlad the Impaler), who ruled for about 10 years in the 16th century.  Vlad the Impaler was the source of inspiration for Bram Stoker’s book, Count Dracula.

This precious town was last on our road trip list and we were quite tired by the time we got there. So, here’s what we got to see:

  • Sighisoara’s Citadel (Cetatea Sighisoarei) built in the 14th-16th c. with the purpose to protect the settlemnt from the Turkish attacks. It’s inside this place where many of the other attractions are: squares, towers, churches

 

  • The Clock Tower (Turnul cu Ceas) erected in the 14th c. is the town’s principal attraction and used in the beginning as meeting place. It currently hosts the History Museum. From the top you have a great view of the city

 

  • The Scholars Stairs (Scara Scolarilor) it’s a 2 minutes walk from the citadel’s square to the Church on a Hill. The 175 steps covered black stairs is more than a 2 minute job for the unfit 🙂 Its prime aim was to keep safe the kids going to the school on the hill and the Church on a Hill’s congregation.

 

  • The Church on the Hill (Biserica din Deal)

 

  • The Stag House (Casa cu Cerb) the name speaks for itself 🙂

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  • The Citadel Towers (Turnurile cetatii) part of the defense wall of the citadel. You will see them walking around.

I loved Sighisoara and it’s bohemian feel. I encourage you travelers if you go about visiting The Bran Castle (Dracula’s Castle) just make the extra 2 hours to see this beautiful town.

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Glance of Brussels’ architecture

Glance of Brussels' architecture

Brussels is the best place for Art Nouveau. On top left you have a perfect example of the architectural gems you can find in Brussels. On the bottom-left you have the cathedral St-Michel et Gudule, Brussels. Right side is down-town on Belgium’s national day, thus the flag 🙂

Romania’s Black Sea in a few words

In our road trip to Romania, we passed by the Romanian seaside for a few days. We booked a hotel in Mamaia, the hypest resort currently and we explored a few places around.

View from our hotel room

View from our hotel room

Mamaia is actually part of Constanta, it’s a strip between a lake and the Black Sea. If you drive for about 15 minutes you’re seen it all. What’s special about it is that it’s a boulevard with hotels on both sides, raging from motels to 5 stars hotels. So, there’s something for every budget.

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I was surprised how beautiful and clean the water was. I’ve only been once to the Romanian seaside, more tan 10 years ago and I remembered it differently. Instead I have found a first class seaside location, sandy, sunny and pretty.

We have seen a bit of Constanta, which is also one of our most important ports. It has a number of tourist attractions, but I recommend walking around the seafront, enjoy a meal watching the water and get drinks on the many cool bars the city has. The most remarkable landmark is the now the almost derelict casino. There are also a few beautiful churches and some ruins, which are not very well emphasized.

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Next, we wanted to see a less developed and more funky beach, so we went to see Vama Veche. It’s the last village just before the Bulgarian border. Mostly frequented by younger people who camp in tents on the beach and are there to enjoy unpretentious seaside. It was pleasant, but I’m not a fun of camping, I like having my bed and warm, clean showers 🙂

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I really enjoyed our few days at the seaside and even got to do some sunbathing and relax on the warm sand. Although the water was extremely cold, we enjoyed our strolls in the sun.

Bucharest in a nutshell

If you are a Romanian and you are not from Bucharest, you really dislike this city. I guess it’s a normal syndrome not to be fond of your capital. But, my non-Romanian husband and dear friend Sara who lives in Bucharest helped me see it in a different light.

Bucharest is the capital of Romania and before the way too many decades of communism it was quite a hype place to be in Europe. It used to be called little Paris and much appreciated by the aristocracy of Europe. Today, it’s a bit of a melting pot of many Romanians coming from all parts of the country and increasingly more and more foreigners. It’s a charming, sometimes rough but very intriguing place to be.

Before going, my husband was warned by all the Romanians that he should be very careful and that they actually don’t see the point of wasting our days there. As a reply he said:”If you go to New York, do you go visit the Harlem or Bronx, or do to hang out in Manhattan?”. And he’s right, of course all cities have its crappy sides, but most of us visit its pretty and safe attractions. And so we did.

We have spent two days in Bucharest and enjoyed its best places, tourist attractions, restaurants and coffee shops. To my surprise I have found the best cappuccinos in Europe, right next after those in Italy. We went to popular restaurants, cute and full of personality cafes and generally explored the old center of the city.

So, here’s what we got to enjoy:

Tourist Attractions:

  • Historic Center, Lipscani is a gorgeous, little neighborhood. It’s perfect for any time of the day. I really enjoyed the cafes and architecture.

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  • The House of the People (Casa Poporului) until recently used to be the second largest building in the world, after the Pentagon. Now, it’s third, since the Chinese announced that they built the biggest building. This is one of the most ostentation legacy of our former dictator Ceausescu. It’s also the heaviest building in the world and most expensive maintenance for an administrative building. It actually hosts Romania’s House of Deputies, among others. Needless to say it’s really impressive and has a lot of quirky facts. Our former dictator destroyed an entire neighborhood just to built this and in front of it a boulevard imitating Paris’ Champs Elysee.

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  • Romanian Athenaeum (Ateneul Roman) is another landmark of the city, but its primary purpose is being a concert hall. I managed to snatch a picture of the inside. It’s quite spectacular.

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  • Beautiful Church: Stavropoleos Church, Russian Church, Coltea Church.

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  • CEC Palace is the national savings bank.

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  • Romania’s National History Museum (Muzeul National de Istorie a Romaniei)

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  • Cercul Militar (CCA) hosts the house of culture of the Romanian army.

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Restaurants:

  • Caru cu Bere: this place can’t be missed. It’s a real experience with it’s exquisite delights and amazing architecture.

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  • Manuc’s Inn (Hanul lu Manuc) for an authentic food experience and feel.

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There are plenty other places to go to, restaurants to try and attractions to visit, but we had a very limited time. Nevertheless, we had a very pleasant and relaxed stay. I re-discovered Bucharest and I have to be honest I would gladly go back and explore some more.

Romania trip: bits of history (Samisegetuza) and culture (Brancusi)

Our first stop in our road trip in Romanian was Sarmisegetuza. This place is very important piece of Romania’s history. “Sarmisegetuza Regia is the name of the capital of pre-Roman Dacia* (before the wars with the Roman Empire). Today, it’s a tourist attraction comprising of a complex of sanctuaries, situated in The Mountains of Orastie, at an altitude of 1,200 meters”**

It has six citadels from which the most noticeable are Big Rounded Sanctuary” and The Andesito Sun”. The former is quite surprising as it has quite similar to Stonehenge.  It’s thought that they have the same architect. The later is said to be similar to the famous Maya calendar.

We got to see the ruins of a few temples, a fountain, Roman forum and so on.

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I was really excited that I got to see it with Fernando and he got a glimpse of Romania’s history.

Next stop was Targu Jiu, a city that fosters some of the works of our greatest sculptor: Constantin Brâncuși. His works are spread out around the city, but the most famous ones are found in two parks. We spent a few hours walking around and taking pictures and admiring his works of art.

Unfortunately, us Romanians are not that good at promoting our achievements, inventions and so. But I am very proud to say that Brâncuși is considered as “the patriarch of modern sculpture.” Today, his works are in greatest museums all over the world, like London, New York, Paris, etc.

His most known works of art are: The Kiss (1908), Prometheus (1911), Mademoiselle Pogany (1913), The Newborn (1915), Bird in Space (1919) and The Column of the Infinite (Coloana infinitului), popularly known as The Endless Column (1938)***

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I was very excited to visit this place. I have seen some of his works in London and Paris, but not in Romania. This was one of the high points of the trip for me.

*Dacia: It was situated north of the Danube in the area of the Carpathians and Transylvania. The approximate territory of current Romania. In the year 106 it was conquered by the Romans. That’s why today we speak a Roman language 🙂 Might I say it’s one of our best traits

**Source: http://www.romanianmonasteries.org/romania/sarmisegetuza

***Source: http://www.metmuseum.org/Collections/search-the-collections/210006973