The first stop was meant to be the walled church and citadel of Biertan BUT turns out if was Sunday and Pentecost so the church just decided not to open! So we could only get to see the central part of the village which was pretty and the outside of the citadel with its three layers of fortification (used to defend themselves from the invading Ottomans at that time) walls clearly visible.
As we were deciding whether to hang around or give up on the citadel opening my guide got chatting to a local who made his own wine and he invited to go to the next village to visit his house and have a look at his renovations and taste his wine. This seemed like a good alternative to me so that’s what we did.
This seemed like a good idea and this young man showed us how he had restored the house and how they made wine using the oldest methods known from the area. It wasn’t bad – especially after the fourth glass and gorgeous house Reno’s too.
Saxon Citadels abound around here and this is another one we passed by at Rupea. They are always built at the top of a hill so visibility for marauders is excellent!
We continued through the beautiful Carpathian Mountains to Sighisoara which is the first of a few Saxon towns (as in towns originally built by Germans from the Saxony region) – primarily Lutheran. According to the myth this is also the town that the Pied Piper of Hamelin took the children to after he and his music lured them out of Hamelin when their parents refused to pay him for ridding the town of rats!
Sighisoara has an upper and lower town with two squares and we walked the very long scholar’s staircase to get up up to the upper part which has the citadel fortress – again closed as Sunday:(.
This town is also the place where Vlad the Impaler was born so there are lots of Dracula references all over the place. In fact Vlad was a cruel tyrant of a king who did impale people and do lots of other horrid things to keep strong control over his subjects as he was always under attack but he didn’t drink (much) blood but probably liked to suggest he did to keep his subjects scared. Turns out Bram Stoker never even visited Romania so his book his based on what he was told by a friend who visited often.
Firstly I should dispel a myth – Gypsies don’t come from Romania – they just adopted the word Romany a long time ago when they migrated here to sound as if they were Romanian. In fact the originate from Rajasthan and the Punjab in Northern India where they were the lowest caste and as a result regularly kicked out of places and hence they become nomadic eventually living in various parts of Europe like Spain, Hungary and Romania.
Also gypsies don’t live in colourful caravans anymore – they have houses – they are still colourful as are the skirts worn by the women.
The maintain their traditions regardless of the law. This means that their children – especially the girls – often only have 2 or 3 years of school; they are betrothed very young and can marry from age 14. The first family we were due to meet cancelled as their daughter had been betrothed to a young man and part of the tradition is to live – chastely – together for a year before marriage. If the daughter is returned to the home it is a huge disgrace for the family of the bride to be. This had just happened in the family we were due to visit and the father had reacted by being permanently wasted due to the disgrace! Don’t even get me started…….
Anyway we met another family who are blacksmiths (6th generation). They were shoeing their horse when I got there – never seen that before (being a townie) and then one of the brothers made me a mini lucky horseshoe. Fascinating stuff but I am not going to run away with them any time soon……..
Ps. I keep surprising myself by understanding the odd sentence in Romanian. Turns out Romanian is 70% similar to Italian and much more different to the other Balkan languages eg. Bulgarian which tend to be more Slavic in design. Who knew?