July 19, 2008Posted by on
While at home this summer I wrote a mini-series on Romania, born out of the question that bugged me during a trip through Northern Europe: “how does what I saw there compare to what we have at home?”
In short, if you look at size, architecture, importance in European history, it doesn’t. We don’t have anything like the urban architecture of the city of Tallinn, for example. Or, to be precise, nothing at that scale.
So then, why would anyone want to go to Romania? I asked myself, if I was a foreigner, would I?
Well, yes. Because the “apples with apples” comparison is not the only one you can make. You don’t go to Romania if you want to find something better than in other places, but to find something different. What makes powerful impressions is not he size (except the Parliament Palace and a few other things) or the quality, but the context. And the context, sometimes and for some people, makes all the difference.
So as a foreigner I would go to Romania to find a) places, people and buildings outstandingly surprising in a geopolitical context and b) the charm of the untouched, unknown, off-the-beaten-track discoveries, and that in the middle of Europe (at least geographically).
So what I tried in those days spent in Romania after the Nordic trip was to look at the country with eyes as fresh and unbiased as I could get them, trying to see what a foreigner could find interesting.
Let’s start with Sighişoara.
Next to Braşov, Sibiu and, to some extent, Bucharest (yes, Bucharest – I’ll get back on that), Sighişoara is definitely a top 5 architectural attraction in Romania.
Unfortunately, in the last few years the city has been scarred by seemingly never-ending infrastructure refurbishment activities, turning it into a big dusty construction site. It starts at the entrance to the medieval citadel,
underneath the Tailors’ Tower
but yes, I agree with this tourist,
there is plenty of material to be photographed in the Cidatel Square,
even though it is almost suffocated by cars and terraces.
Is it good, is it bad? On one hand, it’s nice to hang out for a drink in the square, on the other hand, it’s small, so you don’t see much of it because of the umbrellas.
The street leading to the high school and church on the hill is also clogged with cars, most of them customers of the two hotels.
If they’d ask me, I’d forbid car access to the entire citadel and organize some sort of efficient public transport for tourists to the hotels. But I’m not the Maire, so for the time being the 270 degrees view looks something like this:
This tourist info kiosk was not there last year. A good initiative.
I gladly notice some things never heard of in this city before, but popular elsewhere, like walking tours, audio guide tours, free city maps. Finally a “standard” European tourism offer!
A bit more cheered, let’s continue the walk
through the much-photographed streets of cobbled stone,
The Vlad Dracul house
flags reminding of the medieval festival,
and quite a few people walking around,
tourists but not only. A look at “Downtown”,
and then down to it. Underneath the Clock Tower,
passing by controversial commercial offerings
through the Old Ladies’ corridore, also affected by constructions
as well as the street leading up from downtown to the medieval citadel.
Passing by the terrace with pizzerias
we are finally downtown, which is actually one street
which offers some good panorama points of the citadel.
Unfortunately, i dont know for how long we will be able to see these panoramas, because there are some constructions going on in front of the citadel,
which are likely to disturb one of the best panorama angles you get.
From the same spot you can click away on the Orthodox Cathedral across the Târnava river
and then head back
up the stairs
to check out some new accomodation facilities: medieval houses turned into small inns,
but also a decent hostel,
where you can drink some local wine from the Transylvanian hills
or mingle with tourists
and click some more pix.
Bottom line, if I were a foreigner, I’d be glad to have seen Sighişoara.