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Transylvania

After leaving Brașov, I headed to Sighișoara, another historical Saxon town. I stayed in a hotel near the train/bus station although the staff didn’t speak any English! An afternoon was spent exploring the historical citadel with its clock tower, which I climbed. There is also a Germanic church from 1298 and wooden covered stairs which eventually lead to a church on the hill.

My next destination was Cluj. The bus for some reason was gone so I took a very slow and hot train to Cluj-Napoca, Transylvania’s largest city. A university town with large squares and many activities. My first evening was spent with a Dutch backpacker and Larisa, a local girl, sampling the sights and enjoying the evening sun. The following two evenings were spent absorbing local music and entertainment. On my final day, I took a bus to Turda – a historical town with a large salt mine. The mine was used and built between 1690-1930 for mining salt for the Austrian empire. Some of the tunnels are named after Austrian royalty. It was really cool, 12 degrees in the mine and my guide and I descended to a depth of 120 metres (400 feet) during my tour. At the mine’s lowest level is a lake and an island with rides available in plastic canoes. Much of the salt is crystallised and the echo in some of the chambers is tremendous.

After Cluj, I visited Sighetu Marmației near the Ukrainian border. Again a hostel with no English speaking staff. I met some more backpackers and spent a day exploring the city centre, visiting the former prison, now a museum to those who were political prisoners and died during the Communist period. I also briefly visited Eli Weseler’s house, now a museum to the Jews. I then attempted to travel to Suceava, but the only bus of the day was full. Eventually I learnt a night train was available with a change in Salva during the night.

In the early hours of Friday I arrived in Suceava and headed 7 km out in the suburbs to stay at a lovely family run hostel in the countryside. The couple of course spoke no English but were kind and helped me organise a tour to visited the painted monasteries. With rain in the air and mist on the horizon, my guide and I drove around the area visiting four historical 15-16th monasteries, and I had their paintings on both exterior and interior described. Biblical scenes of Jesus on his journey to the crucifixion and resurrection, a last judgement scene, and in one church, the siege of Constantinople in one scene! At last, I boarded a bus and three hours later crossed into Ukraine at the city of Chernivtsi, where I now reside. More to follow later.

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