Sighisoara, in central Romania, is one of those places where nothing seems to happen in much of a hurry.
It started with the train ride. It’s only about 120km between Brasov and Sighisoara, yet the trip still took a couple of hours. The bullet train this was not.
Walking out of the station onto one of the main roads, pedestrian traffic was non-existent. Vehicle traffic was even less.
There was nobody else in our dorm room when we arrived. It was too early to check in, so we dropped our bags and wandered along the river towards the centre of town. Slowly.
Searching for one restaurant, we came across another instead. The food was decent, the beer was better and the service was relaxed. Nobody was in a hurry. It was that kind of day, in that kind of town.
And that was just how we liked it.
We had been moving fast – too fast, really – through Central Europe and the Balkans during the previous weeks. City after city, only two or three days in one place. It isn’t how I usually choose to travel, and although we’d seen a lot, all that movement was becoming exhausting.
Sighisoara is small, only around 20,000 people. Everything worth seeing from a tourist perspective is helpfully clustered in and around the town’s main attraction, the remarkably well-preserved citadel. You could probably see everything in a couple of hours if you rushed.
Instead, for once, we took our time. Rather than heading straight for the citadel, we lingered over lunch. The town was too small to need a map, so we just walked around with no set agenda, down random streets and alleys. Colourful old buildings were everywhere, each new turn a delight as I proceeded to fill my memory card.
Old women stuck their heads out of shuttered windows, chattering to each other as they kept an eye on proceedings below. Two minutes from the main strip of shops and restaurants, there was nobody to be seen. Finding a parking space for your horse anywhere in town didn’t seem to be a problem.
Late in the afternoon we finally got around to climbing up the small hill to the famous fortress. I didn’t really know where to aim my camera – hell, even the old path that led up there was photogenic.
A few people were lazing around in the sun at the top. A couple cuddled on a bench. Students read books in the shade of a nearby tree. I seemed to be the only person interested in moving as I explored a church and its surroundings, and I wasn’t setting any speed records in the process.
Approaching the citadel’s central square and 13th century Clock Tower – Sighisoara’s most-visited attraction – we finally found the one place in town that was busy. It was almost a shock to see more than ten people in the same place, and we didn’t stay long. The noise and bustle were an unwelcome intrusion into our chilled-out day.
Walking past the tower and towards the town hall, though, the crowds disappeared within 30 seconds and we were once again left almost alone. The urge to sit and watch the birds and insects exploring the manicured gardens took over, so again we stopped for a while, delighting in the feeling of having not much to do and all day to do it in.
Our intention to go out for drinks that night somehow morphed into coffee and ice-cream as an evening chill took over from the afternoon sunshine. It took forever to get served – finally, the one time when things were a little too slow in this town – but the wait was worth it.
History and horses, beer and beauty, churches and coffee. All of it at a wonderfully slow pace.
If there was a better way to spend a day in Sighisoara, I really couldn’t think of it.
This trip through Central and Eastern Europe is made possible by the good folks at Eurail.com.