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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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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