One of our last stops in Transylvania Romana was Sighisoara. This walled town was founded in the 12th century by German craftsmen and merchants. The town, built on the site of a Roman fort, grew rapidly and became one of Transylvania’s most important commercial and artistic centers. Its growing role required enhanced fortifications, including towers, many of the 14 of which were built by many of the town’s 15 crafts guilds. Many of the fortifications, including nine of the original towers, and many of the buildings that were rebuilt after a huge 1676 fire (not to speak of subsequent military occupations and plagues over the next hundred years). Not only were they quickly rebuilt, but they remain and continue to be inhabited. This makes Sighisoara one of the oldest, and one of the most scenic fortified towns in Europe, not to speak of a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
The town is made up of two parts. The medieval citadel built atop a hill and the lower town which is more conveniently situated next to the river. Among the citadel’s primary attractions are the:
- Clock Tower, originally built in the 13th century as a defensive tower, the top two floors, plus the clock and Austrian Baroque-style dome were added in the 17th;
- Several of the original craft guild towers, including those of the shoemakers, leatherworkers, tailors, furriers and butchers;
- Monastery Church, a Gothic style building that was originally part of a monastery and whose interior walls are decorated not by wall paintings, but by hand-woven Anatolian rugs;
- Venetian House, a large, 16th-century building (named for its Gothic-style window frames rather than its overall style) that was originally the mayor’s residence and office, but is now a parish church office;
- Dracula House. While the town of Bran incorrectly gains fame as the home of Dracula’s castle, not only did the sadistic Vlad Tepes actually live here; he was born here! While the first floor is now divided between a traditional arts galley and a restaurant, a short climb to the second floor (not to speak of an admission charge) allows you to see the room in which he was born.
At least as interesting as these sites, however, is the overall character of the town as characterized by the practical, unadorned homes of the German craftspeople who settled and built most of the town; typically two-story homes, many of which have workshops at ground level and living quarters above. Most are painted in pastel colors and many have walls that are tilted inward at the base to improve stability. Many, as would be expected, have been repurposed as souvenir shops.
From the center of the Citadel town, you reach a long, 400 year-old, covered stairway that takes you to the top of the top of the hill to the 14th-century, Gothic-style Evangelical church and the Butchers Tower.