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After enjoying breakfast with our host families, we assembled at our bus near the center of Sighisoara. Our plan for the day was to spend the morning exploring Sighisoara before traveling to Brasov, where we would see Castelul Bran.

Our host for the tour of Sighisoara was a certain Dr. Peter, who had hosted some of us in the empty rooms in his clinic the night before. Dr. Peter, who had met with President George W. Bush on several occasions, was eager to impress us with the attractions of this beautiful town. He spent time telling us about of the history of the town (it was settled in the 1100s by Germans, and some of its populace still maintains their German heritage and language).

He then turned us over to the joint custody of a traditionally costumed tour guide and the organist from the medieval German church that sat atop the hill in the center of town. The organist took us to his church, a beautiful Gothic building that was completed a few years before Columbus discovered America. We took advantage of the amazing acoustics of the church to sing several of our songs and then enjoyed a very short private organ recital. The piano players among us enjoyed the opportunity they were granted to try their skills on the organ as well, and the rest of us enjoyed listening as they played.

From the church, we went back down the hill to the main part of the old town, which consists primarily of restaurants, gift shops, and museums lining cobblestoned streets that were used almost exclusively by pedestrians instead of vehicles. By this time of the morning, most of us were primarily concerned with finding the nearest public restrooms, which turned out to be squalid little rooms that we had to pay two lei for the privilege of using. After taking care of that issue, we spread out for a while to do some shopping for drinks, snacks, and souvenirs.

When most of us had regrouped, our tour guide beat his drum and told us to follow him, then led us into some of the museums, including a torture chamber and a watchtower which offered beautiful views of the city. After the museums, he again beat his drum and told us to follow him, so we trustingly obeyed. This time he led us to a medieval restaurant, where we were served a medieval feast, courtesy of Dr. Peter. The main course was a huge bread bowl full of a hearty soup, followed by a gigantic slab of a custard cake of some sort. Not one person succeeded in totally cleaning their plates, despite being offered financial incentives to do so.

Dr. Peter had also decided that we should see the Sighisoara synagogue, so that was our next stop. The local Jewish community had abandoned this synagogue about thirty years ago, but it was restored several years ago by one of Dr. Peter’s friends, a lawyer from Washington, D.C. who was there at the same time we were. Dr. Peter spent a long time here telling us about the history of Jews in Romania and about the history of this synagogue and encouraging us to make efforts to befriend those who are different from us. We sang “Unclouded Day” here, then thanked Dr. Peter for all that he had done to give us an enjoyable day. Then, since we had a 2 ½ hour bus drive ahead of us, we all took our turns using the restroom in the tiny house of the old man who lived next door.

Our 2 ½ hour bus ride took us to Castelul Bran, which is popularly known as “Dracula’s Castle”. According to some, visiting such a sinister-sounding place on Friday the 13th was a frightful proposition. Although folklore has associated this castle with the blood-thirsty vampire tyrant of popular lore, there is actually no connection between the real Count Dracula – Vlad the Impaler – and this castle. It is simply a beautiful, well-preserved castle sitting on a hilltop in the lovely Transylvanian countryside. We got to the castle just in time to get inside before closing time. We had plenty of time here to explore the castle and do some shopping in the souvenir markets nearby. We then had another relatively short bus ride to our destination for the night, a lovely little hotel beside a mountain stream in a narrow valley. Here, we ate a nice supper and then retired for the night.

Tim Kauffman