Travel Journal: Return to Sighisoara, Ten Years Later

Sighisoara, Romania

The first time I ever heard about Sighisoara as more than a name one runs across in passing was in my final summer holiday in university. A good friend of mine invited me to tag along and visit this medieval stronghold for its annual Medieval Festival. It was a pretty normal student affair. We put our tents in some nice people’s back yards, and they did not charge us an arm and a leg. We ate whatever we brought with us, some pretty good pizza (we might have been hungry though), and all the glazed apples on sticks we could afford. Oh, yeah, and we drank cheap beer.

Sighisoara Panoramic View

Ten years later, I returned. Very different experience from the get go. Instead of a single student out with her friends, I was part of a couple’s travel thing. And the other big difference? No festival. And it had also been ten years since my first visit.

We stayed at this really cool inn type of thing, only three hundred meters away from Sighisoara’s historical center with its citadel, cock tower, and walls that have been protecting this city since the 13th century. No wonder this place, the only still inhabited medieval citadel in Europe, is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. It also just happens to be the birthplace of Vlad Tepes (Vlad the Impaler), so the creepy feel is guaranteed.

Small Plaza in the Sighisoara Citadel
Small Plaza in the Sighisoara Citadel

The difference between the Medieval Festival and normal, tourist season Sighisoara is shocking. Or at least it was to me. Sure, there are tons of people visiting the central citadel, going up the clock tower to see the museum and see Sighisoara from up top, but it never felt crowded during the five days I spent there. Not when compared with my memories of struggling to walk through hordes of people. it was so busy, I couldn’t throw a freaking needle without hitting someone.

Sighisoara, Evangelical Church
Sighisoara, Evangelical Church

The good thing about this was that we could actually take our time and experience everything. And I could enjoy my favorite place here, the Covered Stairway that takes you from the hotels and houses within the citadel, up to the Evangelical Church and Cemetery. Imagine that, going up and down and taking pictures, and not trying to squeeze yourself through because it was raining and that was one of the few places where all the half or fully drunk students could take cover.

Sighisoara, Covered Stairway
Sighisoara, Covered Stairway

Because we visited when there was no festival, it meant our walk through the citadel after 11 p.m. was a little creepy. It all seemed deserted, and suddenly the tunnels and walls got this menacing air. I was pretty much waiting for some supernatural being of the ghost variety to jump me. Sighisoara is however absolutely beautiful by night. You should definitely try it.

Sighisoara Citadel by Night
Sighisoara Citadel by Night

Although I had time to see everything without straining myself too much and took all the pictures I wanted, I still want to return during the Medieval Festival (it’s sometime in September this year). I want to see those crowds again, the crazy outfit, the non-stop events, and hopefully, maybe, the glazed apples will return!

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Travel Journal: Return to Sighisoara, Ten Years Later

79 thoughts on “Travel Journal: Return to Sighisoara, Ten Years Later

  1. Oh this is so wonderful…..yes a whole other experience when you get to go back ten years later and see the same place with less noise and people, and from a different more life experienced and mature perspective. Hope you get to go to the festival again in September.

    1. Thank you, Sheri! So glad you liked it! I did expect it to be different, but it was a bit of a shock. And the biggest blow was not finding any glazed apples on a stick… 😀

  2. Sighișoara looks like a great place to visit, I love medieval towns!
    I haven’t had the chance to visit Romania, so thanks for making me discover this place 🙂

    1. I also love medieval landmarks of all kinds, and that’s why I enjoyed this so much. If you ever have the chance, you should definitely visit! There are a lot of castles to be discovered here 🙂

  3. Lucky you to be there again after a span of 10 years. The medieval times celebration should be fun from your words. Hope you will be lucky to see them in future.

  4. I admit my ignorance, I had to google Sighisoara to understand where it is located 🙂
    And this because with your post, you made me willing to go there and visit this cute little city! Now it’s on my ravel wish list (and on my travel whish bucket on pinterest too!)

    1. Paola, the UNESCO link has the exact location (and maps) 😀 I didn’t think I needed more than that, and the location tags at the end of the post – Transylvania and Romania – because Sighisoara is not that unknown to foreign travelers. Mostly because of the Dracula connection :)))

  5. Same as Paola! I googled as well. I had no idea such a place existed on this planet. It is such places that sparks my inner desire to travel more and more and learn more about the world.

  6. It looks like a very nice place! but aagghh the pidgeon, I hate those rats. In any case, it happened the same to my about crowded places. I visited this beautiful castle when there was a fair, and it seemed magical, though extremely crowded. When I went there next summer, the experience I got was completely different, the vibes, the people… Anyway, nice post! Another place to add to the bucket list. I don’t know how but it keeps on growing =)

    1. Hahaha, I love pidgeons 😀 They’re cute and friendly. There aren’t too many in Sighisoara, so they don’t really feel like a pest. Was it the Medieval one? If yes, that’s super advertised and popular. It’s been happening for a long time and it always, always pulls in large crowds.

  7. Every visit to a place will be different, more so if you visited the same place twice or thrice. And also I think the age factor is a factor, too since as you get older you learn to appreciate new things of the same place that you might have otherwise ignored when you’re younger. I like the differences you’ve indicated from your visit as a student and the recent ones. And yeah, the place kindly look spooky a bit!

    1. The difference in age is certainly a factor! While I do still enjoy some of the things I enjoyed in college, a lot has changed. My travel style has changed as I got older as well.

  8. I have the same feeling about crowded places: I can’t seem to fully enjoy them and I get angry with the amount of people that have nothing better to do than stand in my way, haha. I experienced Dubrovnik like that… i loved it in the morning, at sunrise, when there was nobody on the streets and I hated it as soon as the first cruse ships arrived and there was no more space to throw a needle in the entire town.

    1. Back then, I didn’t feel it was too much or hindering me in anyway. We were there for the festival in the end, and it was all so unusual, as it was my first medieval fest, I didn’t care about the rest.

  9. Did you visit a lot of the places you did when you first visited Sighisoara? What about accommodations? I like the architecture and style of the churches and buildings.

    1. The first time I spend most of my days enjoying the festival. And camped in a tent in someone’s back yard 😀 I will post a review of the small hotel I stayed at though!

  10. I love compare and contrast posts 🙂 Both experiences sound really fun – especially camping and partying! But I can definitely see the appeal of returning and actually getting to enjoy the sights without being squashed 😛 Want to visit someday!

    1. Tae, I agree, the original visit was a thrill! But this second time was when I got to enjoy it properly. And couples’ travel is a thrill in itself 😛

  11. I think visiting destinations in the off-season is the best. Fewer crowds, cheaper prices, more relaxation. Plus, the benefit of not having a ton of tourists in all of your photos! 😀

    1. Well, true, but this was during peak season. More so than during the festival (which is usually in September, after summer vacations are over). I did expect larger crowds, to be honest. It was just perfect in the end.

  12. I understand theres always a kind of nostalgia attached with places that you visit after sometime. I was born in Mumbai, India and plan to visit it in 2017 after 23 years.

  13. Cities at Night have such a different charm that during the Day. I love a good night walk, but alone well sometimes that can be a little scary. That Medival Festival sounds fun, what time of the year is that?

  14. (might want to mention where this city is?)
    I liked the photos of this place, and it shows why anyone would want to come back. Compare and contrast posts can always be good.

    1. Thanks for the tip, Tom! The UNESCO site has the exact location, and since I liked to it, and added the Transylvania and Romania tags visibly to the post, I assumed that would be enough.

  15. The nighttime pics were gorgeous! I love medieval towns so much, and it must have been wonderful to revisit a place after ten years and find it less crowded!

  16. I had not previously heard of Sighisoara. I can tell it must have been a really special place to want to come back after so many years and with someone special. I love visiting places during festivals. I can imagine the difference in the city must have been so shocking when you visited the town again when one wasn’t going on.

    1. It is shocking indeed! The festival is at the end of the tourist season, and this was peak season. I did not expect the difference in crowds to be this big, honestly 😀

  17. I’m always down for a creepy tour, especially when it involves history. I would have loved to attend a medieval festival, I went to one in Kansas City, MO and it was actually quite fun. I can only imagine how it would be in Sighisoara.

    1. Yeah, the setting does help a lot, so the Medieval Festival is quite unique here 😀 As for creepy, you have to see the torture chamber and see where Vlad Tepes (the Impaler) was born 😀

  18. I had never heard of SIghisoara either but it looks so beautiful! It’s always interesting to return to a destination under different circumstances and see what new ways you can explore. How great that you got to go back!

    1. Even if Transylvanian destination are a bit more popular than other spots in Romania, some of them are still not well known. I am guessing the medieval festival and the Dracula/Vlad Tepes connection are what will drive popularity up for Sighisoara 😀

  19. It’s amazing how things change as do our preferences over years. Glad you got to go to a place and relive some moments. Sounds like an amazing place…

    1. Yeah, it’s a unique experience, revisiting 🙂 Sighisoara is great for history and architecture lovers, that’s true, but even without a specific interest in history, it will still mesmerize you.

  20. I love Sighisoara and I agree that it’s beautiful by night. My father’s family is from Romania (Brasov) so I wanted to go and explore Transylvania for myself. I am glad that I had a chance to see the amazing medieval architecture and explore my roots.

    1. Stella, I love Brasov! Been so many times, and we actually stopped there on our way back. I am not done exploring Transylvania, to be honest. So much to see and enjoy!

  21. Sighișoara looks so amazing in your picture. I didn’t know that there are so many wonderful things to explore out here. Glad to know that you had so much fun visiting there after 10 years!

    1. Thank you, it’s been awesome. Yeah, there are more than even I thought 😀 i’ll go into details soon, but for now I wanted to focus on the experience itself.

  22. The Citadel looks really beautiful and maybe because of the creepy vibe to it, the place looks even more interesting to me. I had read about this place once when I came across an article about Mr. Vlad 🙂 Nicely written article this one

  23. Home sweet home..my parents are form romania and I am in love with the country…Sighisoara is by far one of the cutest cities in that area…I just love the laid back atmosphere as if time stood still^^

    Did you travel to any other citys in Romania? =)

    1. I like it a lot, it’s got its unique charm, quite different from Brasov or Sibiu or Clug 🙂 Well, it’s my home country, so I’ve been to a lot of its cities.

  24. Its really interesting to return to places after so long. See how much they change etc. I have fond memories of the same experiences in a few cities. Great post!

  25. I’ve been back to places, but have of course encountered different experiences as being so young the first time around. The history of this place really is something though. Must have been so special to visit again. 🙂

  26. Well, that’s my favorite post as I live very close to Sighisoara in Sibiu. Since I was in university, I went many times in Sighisoara for the Medieval festival. The small historic center changed a lot, I hope its beautiful architecture will survive a potential mass tourism.

    1. Iuliana, they seem to be able to preserve it, at least they have so far! I envy you for going to more festivals 😀 My first was amazing. And yeah, even ten years ago there were people saying the previous year had been much better 😛

    1. I don’t exactly hate crowds, well, not on festivals anyway. And I certainly liked them a lot more ten years ago 😀 But yeah, I enjoyed discovering Sighisoara at a leisurely pace.

  27. There’s nothing better than returning to a place with fresh ideas and seeing how it’s changed since the first time you visited. I really enjoy returning to somewhere and noticing things I missed the first time around!

  28. Sighisoara? I probably the only one who doesn’t know where it is. But you mention Vlad the Impaler, so this probably is in Romania, right? The dracula castle is on my bucket list though! I like creepy place so this will probably sit alongside the castle as soon as I find out where exactly is this place! Thanks for sharing! Definitely a new inspiration to me!

    1. Hi Clarissa, it is in Romania (Transylvania to be more precise). I only tagged the location, because I linked the UNESCO page with the exact location – including county. The Dracula castle, if you refer to the one in Bran, has nothing to do with Dracula, other than some recent decor 🙂 Sighisoara is however where he was born. You can visit his room and the house is turned into a quite popular restaurant.

  29. It’s so interesting to return to a place years later and discover it in a different way. The architecture looks lovely, I’ definitely be interested in trying Sighisoara by night despite, or perhaps because of the slightly creepy vibe!

  30. I admit I have mixed feelings about Sighisoara and that I want to visit it OUTSIDE the festival (not really a fan). From the photos I see it has potential – and it is special in itself as it is a medieval city still inhabited. I hope I will be in the area one day 🙂

    1. Now that I’ve seen in both during the festival and when it wasn’t happening… I truly want to go back and experience the festival again. Just curious how much of a difference in perception ten years make :

    1. Hahaha, yeah, it’s creepy enough, especially if you go after 11 pm. It just feels like everyone deserts it. And you expect ghosts to start running wild 😀

    1. That sounds awesome! I did go up the spooky steps when we visited at night. But we gave up on our plan to go into the cemetery for a little stargazing. It was a bit too creepy-looking for me 😀

  31. This is my first time hearing about Sighisoara and I must say, I’d definitely like to visit now. I’m curious to go during festival season and non-festival season to see just how stark the contrast is.

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