Hi all, this is a continuation of my trip report from the Maramures region forum.
Sighisoara old town is beautifully restored, and quite small. The shops and restaurants in the old town seemed to be very touristy, but was pretty quiet the few days we were there. I had previously asked a question regarding cycling from Sighisoara to Apold in another post so I'll also put that review here.
We hired good mountain bikes from the tourist centre in the old town with the aim of cycling through Saes to Apold to see the fortified church. I am under 50kg, about 160cm tall female, quite unfit, and I only ever ride when I'm on holiday. My toes could touch the floor with the smallest bike at the tourist centre. The route to Apold is on asphalt the whole way, sharing with cars/buses/trucks but it felt pretty safe as there's always a little bit of gravel on the side to stop. I think the slopes were very mild but I did have trouble on some of them and had to get off and push the bike - mainly because I can't remember how to stand up to pedal, and my thighs were burning pretty quickly. There was beautiful scenery along the way and people were quite friendly when we greeted them. Unfortunately the fortified church in Apold was unattended when we arrive - I suggest that you don't go anytime around lunch hours. Interestingly, when we stopped to take photos in Apold, a little gypsy girl came up to say hi (i think?) with a sweet smile, and she stood very close to me, almost between the handlebars and my legs. One of the villagers started speaking to her in an angry tone and she backed off, but came back again after the villager left. Nothing happened, and we said our goodbyes and went off back to Sighisoara. Anyone know what was the deal? She didn't ask for money, didn't try to do anything bad, just stood there smiling sweetly at us.
On the way back, I had to stop and rest half way because I was starting to feel faint, and by the time we got back to Sighisoara I was absolutely knackered, but for comparison, my husband was totally fine. There would have been no way I could have made it through Vulcan (off-road) and back to Sighisoara. The ride to Apold is 12km one way, with distance markers along the way.
We took a minibus from Sighisoara to Sibiu via Agnita, recommended by the tourist office for the beautiful views. The views were indeed beautiful however the ride was pretty uncomfortable - it was a warm day, the minibus was full and there were no windows, let alone aircon. Add in the crazy weaving and overtaking on 2 lane mountain roads and you've got some carsick passengers - a local mum+daughter got really sick. We stayed in Sibiu for 3 days and I felt it was much less touristy than Sighisoara. The large square is beautiful and the eyelid roofs stare at you all around town.
We chose to catch the train to Brasov after the bad bus experience. Brasov centre had a nice little market in the square, with local produce and craft.
The highlight of this part of the trip was visiting the gypsies and some Romanian farmers with TziganiaTours. We caught a bus to Vilcele and met with our guide, Chuck, who spent a day introducing a family of Romanian farmers in Vilcele and riding a horse and wagon with a gypsy family through a forest and over a mountain to their home in Hetea. We picked mushrooms with the lovely gypsy family, and had a bbq meal on a fire that was built immediately, then went to Hetea to meet the rest of the family and see the community. We felt very safe and well looked after throughout the whole trip. After a chat and eating some of the mushrooms that we picked, the gypsy family took us back to the farmers, who cooked up a rabbit stew on a cauldron in the garden. Everyone was really friendly and this day trip was truly an amazing experience.
Tzigania Tours is a non-profit company that is trying to build up some awareness about the difficult gypsy situation in Romania. Chuck, who created and runs the show, is a very busy man with lots of ideas and projects in a large geographical area, and as a result there may be some delay in communication or logistical issues to solve but please be patient if you want to visit, it's worth it! I'll try and write up a proper review elsewhere on the tripadvisor site.
This was the conclusion of the trip - we are now back to our reality of desk jobs in Australia. Hopefully we can visit this beautiful country again!