This morning we packed up our bags and left them stored at the guesthouse while we continued to explore Brasov. Our first stop was the interior of the Black church. For a change, it is a Lutheran church and way less ornate than the Orthodox ones we’ve been seeing, but had numerous Turkish rugs that were given to the parish as gifts. No pictures. Bummer. seems to be common. Zoe had a blast finding ‘our seat’ again…she chose number 33 since it matched the address for the guesthouse. We sat and sang a few songs. She loves to make up songs about what we’re doing….this one included lines like, “there is a dragon holding up the arch” and “singing for the organ; it is not on”. After that we pretended to open up books and read good things God told us to do. She said, “God taught us not to argue.” good lesson since she put up quite the fight when it was time to leave the guesthouse this morning. The last part of our little play-service was walking to all the giant pillars and touching the plaques. It was cute. Avi had fun walking around with Bethany checking out the paintings on the pews. Seems that people used to be assigned pew seats based on their talent guild.
When we left the church, the local schoolkids were all out playing. The school is right beside the church and it was so interesting and fun to see them on break just out and about…no fenced area, no worry about snatchers, no kids running off into town (at least that we saw). Zoe wanted to play too, and ran around a bit until she almost got trampled by some bigger boys. Avi squealed and kicked. He loves watching big kids run around and especially when people come at him. Our next stop was some late breakfast – we tried to find a cafe, but I really needed wifi. The only available was at McDonalds so we ate there an early lunch. The kids played in the tiny playplace with I checked email and got some details for our next stop.
To finish our tour of Brasov we walked along the old city wall along the Tampa mountain. It was really fun! Along the way, in the old watch towers are themed displays and artisans selling crafts. The first was a woodworker. Bethany and Zoe went in to see the items for sale and were then able to climb to the top of the tower and see all the woodworking supplies and a nice view. I waited out with Avi in the stroller. The next was a hunting – themed tower. Zoe and I went in to see all the taxiermy animals, and small hunting themed crafts. We climbed the stairs and then a ladder up to the top where we could see more displays about hunting attire and a great view. It was fun! The last tower was a rope-making theme. It was early afternoon by the time we got back to the guesthouse. We cleared out our stuff, took a quick trip to the local playground, and got in the rental car.
The kids fell asleep instantly as we made our way from Brasov to Sighisoara (siggy shora) by driving through the heart of Saxon Transylvania. The scenery was impressive – we decended out of the Fagaras mountains onto the high plataeu and rolling hills of farmland. There were way more horsecarts, old ladies in long dresses and scarves, and sheperds out with their flocks. Even the architecture changed – no more munsters homes, the ones here are small basic block homes with an attached courtyard entrance for the animals. They all seem to feature a dipped -down peak at the roof and come in a huge array of once-bright colors. Kind of a cross between Bavarian homes and those we saw in Tibet.
We took a nice detour along a rough dirt road to the town of Viscri – our first experience in a ‘Saxon’ town with a fortified church. These are the attraction here. Tiny agricultural towns with people from a German-Saxon heritage, and their old fortified churches. We’re still not exactly sure on what they were protecting themselves from….we think from the local Romanians, but also the Turks on occassion. Anyway, it’s amazing to see an old church protected behind 2 huge walls. The one at Viscri was incredible and we could climb all over everything! Some places were certainly not safe, and at one point we were a bit nervous about the stability of the hundreds-year old wood floors we were on. The church has an outside wall and then another inside wall that is also made up of rooms on the inside. Winding in and out of these we found all kinds of old artifacts from daily life – spinning looms, clothes, a “Saxon bed” (it’s a single bed that is about 5 feet off the ground with a pull-out drawer containing a lower bed), and lots of other farm stuff. Very cool. Zoe had a blast climbing the stetchy ladders to the top of the wall to look out and Avi loved the cold wind that blew over the top. He squealed at it. Inside the church was the highlight, though. It was so old, with old wooden benches, and an old balcony. The crazy part, though, was the trek up the bell tower. We walked up two flights of stone stairs through what seemed like a cave and then up 3 flights of very open very falling apart very shaky wooden stairs up to the tower. THEN, out on the tower balcony onto the super old wooden slatted landing. Zoe was a bit wigged out, and felt alot better with Bethany helping her along. It even made me nervous to walk on – worried about the woods integrity and ability to hold me while I held Avi. Whew! back inside we made our way down and out. I had to visit the, ahem, facilities – a true outhouse. Then we drove out of town, past all the chickens and horses and people hoeing their yards, and back onto the main paved road to Sighisoara.
We got here late in the afternoon and checked into our guesthouse. We are staying with the Casa Legenda Pensiune (pension), but in a separate apartment called the Grandma’s House. I wasn’t sure exactly what to expect when I booked it, but it has turned out wonderfully! There is a large bedroom with two double beds, a single, and a sitting area, then a dining area with a table and couch, a hallway kitchen, and full bathroom. It’s amazingly old. The furnishings are a mix of antiques and old odd things a grandma would have. The heat is in old wood burning stoves that have been modded out with gas….stetchily put in. The old wood burning stove has also been converted to gas. When the owner showed me around she turned on the heater in the bedroom and then in the kitchen she turned on a burner and put on the cover, but opened the little door at the front to let out the heat and expose the flame, “for the baby” she said. I said thanks. I know she meant to heat up the place since we had young ones, so I left it until she was gone and then promptly closed the Avi-eye level open door with flames and shut off the gas to the burner. I guess kids used to have to figure out quick what was hot and not. It’s a fun little funky place to be.
This evening we wandered around the town. Our place is up on top of the hill inside the old Citadel. So, it’s inside the wall of a former fortress or walled city. There are a few churches and a couple hundred homes all scrunched in and on top of each other. As dusk and then dark came it was fun to walk along the old wall, see the old buildings, explore the side streets, and walk across the town square. The hightlight is, of course, the birthplace of Vlad Tepes, later known as Vlad Dracul or Vlad the Impaler. Yep. Dracula himself was born here. We are, after all, in Transylvania! So, we decided to visit his birthplace by dining at the restaurant that know occupies the home. Our guesthouse also provided a 25% off card. They have the tone set in their – dark colors, dark wood, ornate decor, and a fancy-but-gothic vibe. However, they were playing crazy 80’s pop tunes like Yes and Aha. The food was expensive and not that awesome, but it was fun to eat there regardless. We all had a soup with bread and a few side dishes. It wasn’t crowded so Avi ate his mush and then crawled around a bit. One hassle about travelling has been the utter lack of high chairs at any restaurant – we’ve only encountered one so far in the McDonalds in Istanbul. Both he and Zoe did pretty well at the restaurant, but were sleepy by the end. Zoe was lounging on the seat cushions and Avi started to fuss as we left and walked back along the cobbled hill street to Grandma’s House.