My flight from Dubrovnik, Croatia to Budapest, Hungary was 2 hours late, so unfortunately I wasn’t able to spend any time in the city of Budapest prior to rushing to the train station to meet my brother, Peter. We were scheduled to take a train journey from Budapest to Bucharest, Romania, beginning with a night train into the region of Transylvania.
Set aside any starry-eyed visions of the Orient Express – this Romanian train was old-school, Eastern bloc style.
We shared a private cabin with 2 bunks and its own little en suite bathroom and shower, though the last thing we considered was actually taking a shower. The smell coming from behind the door was reminiscent of a port-a-potty and that’s all I’ll say on the subject. Despite the smells, we were both famished and made our way to the dining car for dinner. When we slid open the door, we were both almost knocked over by cigarette smoke. Apparently, Romania has yet to pass a clean air act…but we went with it and ordered dinner, which was a bit difficult to taste, despite the waiter/chef’s constant assurances of how fresh and delicious all of the food was. Lots of wine was definitely in order…
After a short night’s sleep, our train pulled into the station in the town of Sighisoara (pronounced SIG-ee-shwara), and we were very happy to quickly de-train and breathe in some fresh Transylvania air!
Founded during the 12th century, Sighisoara is considered one of the best-preserved medieval towns in Europe. Designated a World Heritage Site by UNESCO, the well-preserved fortified town features nine defensive wall towers, cobbled streets, colorful burgher-style houses with tiled roofs and several ornate churches. It is also the birthplace of Vlad Tepes, also known as Vlad the Impaler or Vlad Dracul, who inspired Bram Stoker’s Count Dracula.
We spent the day wandering around town checking out the sights, including climbing up the Clock Tower which afforded great views of the old town below and walking the 179 covered steps up to the Church on the Hill, built originally as a Catholic church and changing to Lutheran when the Anglo-Saxons invaded in the 14th century.
The next morning, we felt we had seen most of the town, but enjoyed a couple more hours strolling around, hanging out together.
In the afternoon we boarded another train (it was 2 hours late) south where I hopped off in the town of Brasov and Peter continued on to Bucharest to catch a flight back to Amsterdam.
Brasov is 30 minutes from Bran Castle, a picturesque multi-turreted construction with ties also to Vlad the Impaler. He supposedly spent some time imprisoned there and it served as the inspiration for Dracula’s castle in Bram Stoker’s book.
En route to Brasov, I had a panicked moment when I realized my phone was missing. For the first time, I was really out of contact with the rest of the world and worse still, unable to take any pictures, as I used it as my camera as well. But, hey, whatcha gonna do? I shrugged my shoulders, toured around the castle and then took a cab back to the train station to take yet another night train (this one a bit better than the first), back to Budapest.
Upon arrival in Budapest I logged on to a wi-fi connection and managed to track my iPhone back to Sighisoara (yep – the Find My iPhone app really works!). It was located a few miles outside of town, and surprise, there were no replies to the pings I sent to email me immediately. I resigned to the fact that it was a goner, and ended up remotely erasing it. To my knowledge, my little iPhone is still residing somewhere in the countryside of Transylvania. RIP.
Next up: A train (or, more precisely, 3 trains) to Ljubljana, the capital of Slovenia.