Romania part 7
Daniel drives us out of the peaceful village of Viscri and the next stop on our Romanian journey is the city of Sighisoara. More beautiful landscape lies between Viscri and Sighisoara. A flock of sheep is sprinkled like puffy marshmallows across a green knob of a hill. A colorful herd of cattle grazes above a lonely church whose only company is the cemetery studded with crosses.
We arrive in the German Saxon city of Sighisoara where Daniel parks the car, pays the parking fee and we begin to climb many stairs that will take us to the Medieval Stronghold that is referred to as the Citadel. The Citadel is the historic center of Sighisoara. We tour the 13th century clock tower which houses a small but interesting museum of history. Once we have perused the items ranging from old clothes to beautiful furniture, we climb more stairs that lead to the guard walk where we enjoy a 360 degree view of Sighisoara from on high. The lofty perch doesn’t disappoint as we gaze over the clay-tiled roofs of the city. On the street directly below us the people look like miniature figures as they go about their business.
We return to ground level and Daniel takes us to a unique covered staircase built-in the 1600’s to shelter teachers and students from bad weather as they walked to school. The covered staircase, containing 172 steps, also leads us to the church on the hill and its cemetery. Arriving at the Church on the hill, slightly out of breath, we pay a small fee to enter the church and are told that no photos are allowed. The inside of the church is cavernous and as all churches we have visited quite beautiful. It occurs to me that Paul and I have been inside or near more churches in Romania and England on this trip than we have been in churches at home for the past ten years or more!
Leaving the church we walk through the shaded cemetery before entering the city again where Daniel leads us down narrow cobblestone streets that are lined with brightly colored houses. Upon reaching a small park the three of us decide to sit and relax on a wooden bench. After a bit I find the sunlit bench too warm so I move to a bench that is shaded by a tree. A woman is walking by and begins to speak to me in Romanian. I just smile and say, “American”. The woman gets completely flustered and puts her hand up to her cheek and says “sorry, so sorry”. I’m not sure if the lady meant she was sorry for thinking I was Romanian or that she felt sorry for me because I was an American:).
Our next stop is Biertan, a small village that is famous for its enormous 16th century fortified church built by the German Saxons. This imposing structure has three defensive walls surrounding it and neither Paul nor I took a photo of the imposing structure!! When we arrive at the church entrance we find that we have arrived during the staff’s lunch hour and the church is closed! Well this is a bit disappointing but we are still able to walk the church grounds which are quite impressive and from atop this hill we are able to look over the quaint village of Biertan. We also visit with a young man who is working on restoring the frame of a window; in fact there is a lot of restoration work being done here. The craftsman speaks English quite well and we find out he also does some guiding for tourists too.
As we continue on our journey we make a quick stop at a roadside farm store which consists of tables full of wares along with items piled on the ground. The tables and the shirtless proprietor are shaded by a blue plastic tent top. The man has about everything a farmer might need by the looks of it. There are horseshoes, chains, buckets, bolts, tools, pitchforks, wooden handles and on and on. Paul had wanted to see a farm supply store in Romania, he just hadn’t figured on one that was moveable!
Daniel, knowing how interested Paul and I are in agriculture and that we raise Angus cattle, has arranged for us to visit an Angus ranch, one of two (I think) in Romania. Again it takes us out of the preplanned route but Daniel seems to enjoy visiting places that he hasn’t been to and is ever gracious about taking these side tours. Mountains are visible again but these big boys have much more snow on them then the other mountains we were near. On our way to the ranch we see a deer walking in the distance through a field and I zoom in on the animal to get a photo that verifies our sighting!
Daniel has called ahead just prior to our arriving at the ranch and a young man, who doesn’t look all that pleased with having to entertain visitors, is waiting for us next to the house. The snowy mountains make quite a back drop to the ranch with the green pastures in the foreground. We spot a Black Angus cow among a mixed herd but the young man says that those are the neighbor’s cattle. The ranch hand takes us to the finishing shed where there are several red Angus bulls mixed in with crossbred bulls and a whole bunch of young water buffalo. These odd-looking critters try to compensate for their poor eyesight by pointing their noses into the air as the intently peer in our direction.
Daniel is busy translating questions to and answers from our young guide as we curiously ask about the ranch. We are told that all the animals in this feeding floor are being raised to provide meat for the restaurants owned by the rancher. The rancher raises and fattens the beef, has a locker plant on the ranch to butcher the finished animals, and then sells the meat through his restaurants. There are absolutely no middle men in this ranch to plate operation. Eventually we run out of questions for the young fellow, who does manage one delightful smile during the whole time we are there, so we thank him for his time and leave the beautiful ranch behind.
Daniel is taking us to Sibiu so we can walk through the city’s historical center and since the Angus ranch has a restaurant in Sibiu, we decide to eat dinner there. It is a little early for dinner when we arrive in Sibiu so Daniel takes us to an open air museum that has displays of different houses, machinery, and windmills etc. depicting ways of life in the past. The large park has a walkway that is tree-shaded and a small lake is situated in the middle of the park adding to the pleasant atmosphere. There is hardly anyone else in the park which is also a plus. Many of the historic houses have been locked up for the day although we are able to enter one or two. My favorite part of the open air museum was the different types of windmills we saw.
After our visit to the Open Air Museum we are ready for dinner. We enter the restaurant which is called Hermania and the main room is airy and comfortable with its high ceiling, fireplace, and a bar in one corner. A few customers are dining in this room but Daniel takes us to a second area which is more casual. Most of the tables are full of locals who are chatting, eating and drinking. Paul and I decide to share a meal of sliced steak that is cooked in a cream sauce. The meal is very tasty although the meat is on the chewy side, which doesn’t surprise us as the bulls we saw were probably one and half years old. Also, if we understood correctly, the beef is not aged like our homegrown beef is. It was fun to follow-up our ranch visit by eating at the ranch’s restaurant. You have to admire such an enterprise.
Daniel drives us to the old part of the city and we wander into a city square lined with historical buildings. People are strolling the square or sitting around enjoy each other’s company. As Daniel explains what the different buildings were in the past and what they are now, he points out some odd structures on the roofs of some of the buildings. I tell him the roof structures creep me out and Daniel laughs because evidently many people have this reaction to the weird roof fixtures. I can’t remember exactly what the air vents are called but they are likened to eyes that are watching you, and they do appear to be staring at you.
We leave this lovely square and walk into an adjacent city square where even more people are promenading. There is a band playing lively music that makes the little children dance and jump to the tune. We stay for a couple of musical numbers and join in with the rest of the people in giving well deserved applause to the band members when they finish playing a song. Daniel takes us to a bridge that is humorously called the “bridge of lies” because many people become engaged and make promises to each other that most supposedly don’t keep. There are a lot of padlocks fastened to the bridge with the lover’s initials written on them. We saw this practice of padlocks cementing ones devotion to each other in Russia too.
We still have a ways to drive before we reach the guesthouse so we must leave Sibiu. I really liked this city as it had a small town feel to it similar to what we experienced in Cusco, Peru. It is late when we arrive at Ileana the guesthouse where we will spend our last two nights in Romania. Our host opens the gate for us and Daniel drives in and parks the car in front of the house. Dorin shows us to our rooms and invites us down for a nightcap. It is late and Paul and I are tired so at first we refuse the invitation but upon seeing a look of surprise on our hosts face at our refusal, we change our mind.
When we have deposited the luggage in our room we exit this wing of the guesthouse, walk back to where the car is parked where the entrance for the main house is. Dorin takes us into the dining room and a bottle of Horinca except in Transylvania the home-brewed liquor is called Palinea or Plinca, (I have both versions written down and I’m not sure if either is right), is set before us. Dorin’s wife Ileana and the girlfriend of their son are also joining us in the nightcap. We all raise our glasses, heartily say “Noroc”, and take a sip or in some peoples’ cases a gulp of the white lightning. I must be getting used to this alcohol because I don’t gasp quite as loudly and my eyes aren’t watering too badly. We visit with our friendly hosts and find that Dorin has quite a sense of humor. Dorin and the young woman (whose name I have forgotten) both speak English, Dorin fairly well and the young woman is fluent. We learn that she is a translator for a couple from Texas, who are ranchers that have purchased a house in Romania. The couple visited here a few years ago and fell in love with the culture and the country so they live here for part of the year. I can perfectly understand their decision to do this! Finally, we say goodnight and leave this pleasant company to retire for the night. Nancy