Is This The Least Discovered Square In Europe?
Our Easter tour of Romania and Transylvania held many surprises – one of the best was Viscri, a 12th century church and fortress still run by a tiny old lady who’ll tear your ticket and share stories. Reaching this out-of-the-way spot along an avenue of mistletoe-covered trees and finding such an untouched and barely visited place was a treat.
Sighisoara proved another highlight – it hosts famous music and arts festivals, and has a complete medieval town centre, another World Heritage site with covered walkways, a site unchanged in over a thousand years, minimal disturbance by tourism and friendly people.
Obviously no trip was complete without a visit to a graveyard – they’re everywhere, along with hand-painted statues of the Crucifixion, although not as ubiquitous as wood-gathering – in bundles, on carts, chopped and stacked outside houses, being pulled by horses – a national obsession.
Somehow we ended up in Dr Jekyll’s Pharmacy being served drinks in beakers, but I can handle crossover fiction.The day’s big surprise came with my arrival in Sibiu. At first sight the town looked awful in the rain, run-down and decrepit, until we passed into the old town and a whole other world, with wide boulevards and elegant buildings that make the main square in Brussels look like Peckham.
My problem with the town squares of France and Italy is how badly they have been wrecked by popularity – some of Italy’s urban beauty spots have vanished beneath a rising scum of neon junk food takeaways like McDonalds, Pizza Hut and Subway. Sibiu is unspoiled and graceful, like many elegant squares in Spain. Most townfolk speak two languages, and there are many cultural, arts and music events to take in. It deserves to take its place in the ranks of Europe’s most grand squares.
Tomorrow, that Dracula tat in full…