There are two more fortified churches near Mediaş that are recommended to visit: Richis and Biertan. We decided to visit both after leaving Bajel on our way onwards. Getting there provided us with a scenic drive through green rolling hills. We even found another rather nice church on the way. Richis was a bit of a disappointment and the church quite small without any fortifications. Maybe our info was incorrect or we expected a bit too much. Anyway we drove on without stopping to Biertan. The village greeted us with a loud pop music and a market on the main square. After paying the 12 RON entrance to the church we walk up a long staircase with a wooden roof. The hall-style church was very nice but as it was protestant, it was not overly decorated or painted. One noteworthy and stand out feature was the door to the sacristy and its impressive lock. Actioned by two keys, there are no less than 19! bolts and hooks denying access to any intruder. We wandered around the inner wall ring admiring the views up and down the valley. Over time, the church was protected by up to two and a half wall rings plus towers. The two full rings are still standing but only parts of the second one can be accessed. It was a bit sad that we could not climb up any of the towers for even better views.
Back on the square we spent some time talking to a wood carver and bought a lovely heart bowl made from willow. He told us that his son travels to christmas markets as far as Heidelberg to sell original Romanian craftsmanship. The market seems to be held every weekend during tourist season.
Two hours drive later we arrived in Sighişoara; a small town famous it’s medieval center and for being the birthplace of Vlad the Impaler. The center is surprisingly big and completely surrounded by walls. Entrance and exit still happens through two big gatehouses. The southern gate also has a big tower (approximately 20m tall) which houses a town history museum. Apart from the slight lack of English information except for some very basic descriptions it was worth it. It was also the first time we were able to watch a big clock work mechanism in operation. The gallery on the top offers grand views in all directions. Since the tower is only roughly one and a half storeys taller than the nearby houses view over the center is somewhat limited but still worthwhile. We gave the church next door a miss and climbed up the so called ‘school staircase’ up to the highest point of the historic town. The name stems from the fact that it that received a roof to protect pupils from the elements as they climbed up the 180 or so steps to school. Once at the top we immediately went for the first shade to escape the scorching hot sun. Apart from the school and some administrative buildings there was also a small church at the top. After sneaking a peek inside we decided to remain church free that day and walk back down. Another thing Sighişoara seems to be very popular for is weddings. While we were exploring we almost photobombed no less than two newlywed couples within 40 meters in the same street.
Both the owners of our last campsite and some of the guests had recommended to us a campsite adjacent to a spa in Sighişoara but we decided to spend the time on the road instead because it was a long drive to Braşov, our next destination. Matthias picked a place called Rupea as a potential camping spot due to the fact that it was roughly halfway and the only place with some small side roads. As we drove around the corner of the valley before the village we were very surprised to see a very nice looking castle on a hill dominating the valley. While driving up to it we thought it looked very much original, but soon found out that it had undergone major restoration works in the 20th century. Unlike some other castles we have seen, here they had used the same materials for their work as to what already existed which gave Rupea castle a very natural feel. Inside the castle were some signs but sadly they contained very little information. We also could not quite understand how somebody spent a lot of time and money repairing a lovely castle and then leave all the buildings completely empty. So far it was the first castle on our trip that was completely void of any exhibitions, furniture or other historic items other than the bare buildings. This made the whole experience very sterile. By far the best point were the views we got from the castle walls. Since the whole place was very quiet we decided to stay on the lower of the two car park levels from where we were lucky to watch the disappearing sun painting the whole castle red and pink. As it got darker we watched a little owl marking its territory on the outer wall before an impressive thunderstorm moved in and gave us a bit lightning show