About a week ago I was off on a trip to the Transylvanian region of Brașov-Sighișoara. This area is by far the most popular region with tourist in Romania, after the capital of Bucharest, due to its medieval Germanic origins and the association with the myth of Dracula, which is oh so popular nowadays. This was my second visit to Sighișoara, town I had visited once before some 7 years ago. Wandering about the narrow cobblestone streets of the old citadel, one cannot help themselves falling in love with the colorful walls, the red tiles roof tops, being completely mystified with all the history that lies between the centuries old walls of the fortress city. There is much to be said about this medieval gem hidden in between the Carpathian mountains, I’ve gathered some information and you can find below a list of the most interesting things I’ve learned about Sighișora.
Interesting Facts about Sighisoara
1. The town was founded by Transylvanian Saxons during the 12th century and it still stands as one of the most beautiful and best-preserved medieval towns in Europe. The German name of the city is Schassburg.
2. Germans from the region of Saxonia were brought here during the Austro-Hungarian occupation period in order to build fortifications that would protect the empire’s border from the Ottomans. Germans were recognized at the time for their skills in building such type of fortified cities and villages. There still is a small Germanic community in the area.
3. Sighișoara’s Historical Centre was added to the UNESCO list of Cultural World Heritage sites in 1999, having have been described by them as follows: “founded by German craftsmen and merchants known as the Saxons of Transylvania, Sighişoara is a fine example of a small, fortified medieval town which played an important strategic and commercial role on the fringes of central Europe for several centuries.”
4. The criteria for naming the town a world heritage:
- Sighisoara is an outstanding testimony to the culture of the Transylvanian Saxons, a culture that is coming to a close after 850 years and will continue to exist only through its architectural and urban monuments.
- Sighisoara is an outstanding example of a small fortified city in the border region between the Latin-oriented culture of central Europe and the Byzantine-Orthodox culture of south-eastern Europe. The apparently unstoppable process of emigration by the Saxons, the social stratum which had formed and upheld the cultural traditions of the region, threatens the survival of their architectural heritage as well.
5. It is also the birthplace of Vlad Dracula, also known as Vlad Tepes (Vlad the Impaler), ruler of the province of Walachia from 1456 to 1462. It was he who inspired Bram Stoker’s fictional creation, Count Dracula.
6. The house where Vlad Țepeș was born represents one of the many attractions of the old citadel and it is located just next to the clock tower. It has been turned into a restaurant and a souvenir shop, either of them being low range priced. You can visit the room where Vlad was born in exchange of a small fee.
7. The clock tower is another popular attraction and can be visited. It hosts a history museum of the medieval town. At the very top you can observe the old clock mechanism and take a look up close to the figurines dancing when announcing the time. There is a great view of the town from up here, making it the best observation point in Sighișoara.
8. The historic centre of Sighişoara is composed of a fortified site spread over a steeply sloping plateau and dominated by City Hill, and the Lower Town with its woody slopes lying below. These two sectors form an indissociable group corresponding to the historic boundaries of the medieval town.
9. Nine towers of the original 14 still stand and can be distinguished by their shapes. These are: the Clock Tower, the Shoemakers’ Tower, the Blacksmiths’ Tower, the Tin-Tower, the Ropemakers’ Tower, the Taylors’ Tower, the Butchers’ Tower, the Furriers-Tower and the Tanners’ Tower.
10. Besides the nine towers mentioned, other attractions are the Church on the Hill with its 500-year-old frescoes, the 13th century Venetian House and the Church of the Dominican Monastery, known for its Transylvanian renaissance carved altarpiece, baroque pulpit, Oriental carpets and 17th century organ.
11. The city played an important commercial role due to its guilds of craftsmen and its position on the trade routes between Central Europe and the Ottoman Empire. It is estimated that during the 16th and the 17th centuries Sighisoara had as many as 15 guilds and 20 handicraft branches.
12. Sighisoara was not the biggest or richest of the seven Saxon walled citadels* in Transylvania, but it has become one of the most popular. A walk through the town’s hilly streets with their original medieval architecture, magical mix of winding cobbled alleys, steep stairways, secluded squares, towers, turrets and enchantingly preserved citadel, is like stepping back in time.
13. The seven walled citadels populated by the Saxons of Transylvania were known in German as the Siebenbürgen. The other Siebenbürgen citadels were: Bistrita (Bistritz), Brasov (Kronstadt), Cluj (Klausenburg), Medias (Mediasch), Sebes (Mühlbach), Sibiu (Hermannstadt).