An erect willy is a part of the chef's special in Sighişoara's smartest dinery. Made from pork meatloaf, it salutes Vlad the Impaler, the Translyvanian hero whose birthplace is just around the corner. The town is the best preserved medieval citadel in Europe, old MittelEurope alive and well in Transylvania. The impressive Tolkienesque clock-tower houses a good museum. Climb to the top to gaze down on the pan-tiled roofs, cobbled streets and ancient covered walkways that link nine defensive guild towers. And the willy was delicious, thank you for asking.
The place to stay in Sighisoara is the Casa cu Cerb - the name translates as the Stag House and the hotel is easy to find: on the front of the building there's a painted rearing stag, complete with real antlers that project into the small main square.
A face behind reception may look familiar; this is where Princes Charles has stayed on trips to the area. HRH is apparently related to Vlad the Impaler but you wouldn't guess, a friendly autographed 'Charles' portrait welcomes you to Translyvania. Ask for a room overlooking the square: you can watch the Transylvanian world go by, see and hear the clock-tower, listen to the echoing chacks of jackdaws, and almost don't need to leave your room. The top floor rooms are the best value.
The hotel is not quite what it seems, dig a little deeper to discover that in 2001 it was restored to an extremely high standard (a traditional wooden staircase is particularly superb) by the Messerschmitt Foundation www.schloss-anras.com/messerschmitt_eng.html. Established by Willy Messerschmitt it is dedicated to preserving the best of German architecture. The link between Germany and Transylvania, if you're wondering, is that the region was formerly peopled by the Saxons, their churches and villages remain today. (You should also know for politeness at least, that until the first world war Translyvania was very much Hungarian and for many, still is.)
Two must-see-dos (as well as the pork willy) in Sighişoara are a) a walk up the covered walkway (protection against winter snow) to the defensive church and graveyard at the top of the hill. An old horse-drawn hearse parked round the back adds atmosphere, as if it were needed. Then b) is a little pizzaria, San Gennaro, near the main square. Baked in front of your eyes, the pizzas are thin and fresh and delicious and costed us two euros each. There's a garden at the back to enjoy them with a beer if the weather's good.
To aid in creating a sustainable new Translyvanian rural economy Prince Charles bought a couple of farmhouses and converted them into self-catering accommodation. These are managed for HRH by Count Kalnoky www.transylvaniancastle.com/kalnoky/kalnoky.htmlwho who also welcomes guests to his own estate in Miklósvár - a typically Translyvanian agrarian village. We stayed there in a 'gingerbread' cottage with maize cobs hanging under the eaves. Meals including breakfast are usually served al fresco under a wonderful grapevine-covered loggia, or in the evening in a very atmospheric ancient dining room (think dark night, Dracula, flickering candles, intriguing fellow guests, Dracula ...)
The last stronghold of the European Wolf is Translyvania; there are an estimated 3000 still roaming the forests, more than the rest of Europe combined. There are also brown bears and lynx. Count Kalnoky organises guided nature trips into the woods and forests. We first met sheep, with their shepherd, and our guide issued a sheepdog cautionary - speak softly and carry a big stick (you may look like a shepherd). The dogs are large and can need watching, their role is, after all, fighting wolves and bears.
We found ammonites in a forest stream, saw really beautiful insects, and picked and ate delicous wild raspberries with our picnic which included the ubiquitous strong plum spirit. This was enjoyed in a meadow alive with grasshoppers and birdsong. The raspberries you also see being sold at the roadside by gypsy women and girls along with baskets of some luminously yellow fungi. In the middle of nowhere on a wooded hill we came across an American archaelogy professor plus students excavating a Hunnish 4th century settlement. But the very best came last, as we crossed a stream on the way back, there glistening in the mud were the very recently formed spoor of a large brown bear.
Casa Cu Cerb
Str. Scolii, 1, Sighisoara, Mures, 545400
+40 265 774625
Google map: bit.ly/WOXqd8
The Hotel Sighisoara is a good hotel next to the square with a separate outdoor restaurant with good quality food where the aforementioned chef's special is good value, five or six meats served on large wooden board. A meal to remember. www.sighisoarahotels.ro/
Pizzeria San Gennaro - just opposite the Casa Cu Cerb. Baked to order delicious thin pizza, garden in the rear. Was 2 euro for an eat-in pizza.
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