The start of the journey

August 24, 2021 | Written by Apold Apothecary

The return to Transylvania June 2017

Despite spending my childhood summers in Transylvania, whilst there, I didn’t hear the name Dracula once. My return in June 2017, was perhaps the time to look more closely into the legend and also to report on any vampire settings or low flying bats!

Transylvania, in central Romania and bordered to the east by the Carpathians, is a unique land steeped in history and shrouded in mystery. Its old world charm transports you back in time and its slow pace of life enables you to connect with nature. If you are staying in a village, there’s no need to pack an alarm clock, as you are likely to be woken by cockerels and you’ll be telling the time by the church bells.

My father was born in the picturesque Saxon village Apold, close to the beautifully preserved 13th century fortified town of Sighisoara. During the middle of the 12th century, the Saxons, or Germans, came to central Romania from the Rhine and Moselle regions. They named their new home ‘Siebenbergen’, after the seven major walled towns they built in the area. After arriving by invitation from King Geza II, they remained for 800 years. In return for defending his country, the King awarded the Saxons great privileges and granted them freedom form serfdom. Arriving in a strange country, surrounded by enemies, they had tremendous strength of character enabling them to survive. Within a short space of time they developed a unique way of building communities and villages, surrounded by high walls. Today, these villages and churches within them attract large numbers of tourists wanting to sample a more basic lifestyle, alongside the hospitality of the open and honest Romanians.

On this, my first trip back to Apold with my own family, we flew from Liverpool to Cluj Napoca. Our journey from the airport to the hotel in Sighisoara took approximately two and a half hours. The excellent roads took us through quaint but well maintained villages ablaze with colourful summer blooms. We passed groups of Romanian girls in bright headscarves, long flowing skirts and old women busy gossiping on benches outside their homes. Intricately embroidered cloths hung high on the craft stalls in the villages, gently billowing in the breeze. Once or twice our hired mini bus came to an abrupt halt, firstly behind a heavily laden horse drawn hay cart and then a gaggle of hissing geese, three abreast strolling down the road. The spectacular scenery outside the villages, of endless green pastures, dense forest and a sea of wildflowers had left us in awe of this breathtaking land.

As we neared our destination, a charcoal grey sky began to shroud the sunshine and gave a hint of the impending storm. A rumble of thunder, followed by a loud boom made us jump. Jagged bolts of lightening flashed above and we wondered if Count Dracula himself was welcoming us to Sighisoara.

Following our sombre welcome from the Count, for the remainder of this holiday and return to Apold, the sun shone relentlessly. We had an amazing time exploring towns and villages of Transylvania and making new friends along the way. In my next blog post I will introduce you to the hi lights of the town of Sighisoara, a UNESCO world heritage site and widely known to be the most beautiful and well preserved inhabited Citadel in Europe.