Tuesday, November 17, 2015

a long drive through the mountains

so we started out with a walking tour of Sighisoara-

During the 12th century, German craftsmen and merchants known as the Transylvanian Saxons were invited to Transylvania by the King of Hungary to settle and defend the frontier of his realm. The chronicler Krauss lists a Saxon settlement in present-day Sighișoara by 1191. The city played an important strategic and commercial role at the edges of Central Europe for several centuries. Sighișoara became one of the most important cities of Transylvania, with artisans from throughout the Holy Roman Empire visiting the settlement. The German artisans and craftsmen dominated the urban economy, as well as building the fortifications protecting it. It is estimated that during the 16th and 17th centuries Sighișoara had as many as 15 guilds and 20 handicraft branches.

The Wallachian voivode Vlad Dracul (father of Vlad the Impaler (Dracula), who lived in exile in the town, had coins minted in the city (otherwise coinage was the monopoly of the Hungarian kings in the Kingdom of Hungary) and issued the first document listing the city's Romanian name, Sighișoara.

After World War I Sighișoara passed with Transylvania from Austria-Hungary to the Kingdom of Romania.  Central Sighișoara has preserved the features of a small medieval fortified city. It has been listed by UNESCO as a World Heritage Site.

Sighișoara is considered to be among the most beautiful and well preserved inhabited citadels in Europe with authentic medieval architecture. In Eastern Europe, Sighișoara is one of the few fortified towns that are still inhabited. The town is made up of two parts. The medieval stronghold was built on top of a hill and is known as the "Citadel". The lower town lies in the valley of Târnava Mare river.  The houses inside Sighișoara Citadel show the main features of a craftsmen's town. However, there are some houses that belonged to the former patriciate, like the Venetian House and the House with Antlers. (wikipedia)

so as I mentioned at some point - this is the town that was alleged to be the birthplace of Vlad Tepes (Vlad the Impaler- alleged model for Dracula)

this is what he supposedly looked like (remember the painted head from yesterday afternoon?)

and of course - tacky souvenirs abound-

right next door to lovely quiet courtyards where you can have tea...LOL

this town too has a covered stair up to the cathedral on the top of the citadel hill-

as with any tourist spot there are things for kids - a "girl" group of baskets and a "boy" group of baskets-

In 2001-2003 the construction of a Dracula theme park in the 'Breite' nature preserve near Sighișoara was considered but ultimately rejected, owing to the strong opposition of local civil society groups and national and international media as well as politically influential persons, as the theme park would have detracted from the medieval style of the city and would have destroyed the nature preserve

THANK GOD FOR SMALL FAVORS!!!! otherwise there would be even more things to remind us of Count Chocula! LOL

then after we left town we had a really long day of driving up and over and through the mountain range that separates two parts of the country from each other- Transylvania from Moldovia... not to be confused with the country of Moldova next door and still a few days of our trip away...

here is what out itinerary said about the day-

After the tour of Sighisoara, transfer to Gura Humorului. It will be a long travel day, but worth it to get to the spectacular region of Bucovina, a remote province in northeastern Romania.This was once the heartland of the Ashkenazi Jews, and today is famous for the beauty of its deep Carpathian forest and Orthodox monasteries. The route goes through immense Bicaz Canyon. The road through Bicaz Canyon hugs the banks of the Bicaz River, which twists and turns among 700-foot limestone cliffs. At the bottom of Bicaz Canyon is Lake Rosu, Red Lake,formed when a rockslide dammed the Bicaz River in 1837.  

the wikipedia entry also give roughly the same information- 

The Bicaz Gorge is a gorge in Romania, located in the north-east part of the country,  and is part of the Cheile Bicazului-Hășmaș National Park.

The gorge was excised by the waters of Bicaz River and it serves as a passageway between the Romanian provinces of Moldova and Transylvania.

It is a noted location to see the wallcreeper, an uncommon cliff-dwelling bird.

The road along the five miles of ravines, often in serpentines with rock on one side and a sheer drop on the other, is one of the most spectacular drives in the country. Also within the gorge is Lacul Roşu (the Red Lake), with its traditional cabins, hotels, and its famous lake caused by a landslide in the 19th century.

the pass through the mountains is twisty and has many hairpins turns and an occasional narrowing to a single lane between giant rock formations- quite impressive.  We are on our way to the area of the painted monasteries - and this night would be spent in Gura Humorului when we finally arrived.  

after passing through the incredible canyon - we stopped along the way at another monastery- this one Agapia Monastery had top reviews in TripAdvisor for being so peaceful and full of flowers and we did find a clean WC for use after a long day on the road ...LOL

Cornl notes that this is a place for nuns (rather than monks) and says the grounds are always nicer when the nuns take care of them...LOL

the candles are lit in two places- one for the living (VII) and one for the dead (MORT)

one perfect rose- despite the lack of TLC from the monks LOL

we pull into town late in the day- tonight it is the Best Western Bucovina for us... and unfortunately that is where dinner is as well- we do get to order from the menu but the meal is lackluster and the next morning the breakfast it worse - it was soggy cornflakes for me... however tomorrow is not only another day it is a day of stunning UNESCO sites and amazingly well preserved outdoor frescoes... so stay tuned!

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