Sighisoara: off the beaten path

This Labor Day, we drove into Sighisoara and we decided to see it differently from the way most of its visitors see it. The typical route is to park at the bottom of the hill, walk up the stairs, see the clocktower, tour the piazza, buy some trinkets and go back down…

We drove into the outskirts, climbed up one of the adjacent hills, found a clearing, and got some interesting views of the city that way.

Afterward, we went up into the fortress to see if we could see some spots we hadn’t yet seen, and after walking up a well-known side street, were rewarded with the open gates of the rectory. We went right inside the courtyard and had a marvelous walk up into the gardens adjacent to the fortified walls.

We were greeted by a very pregnant and friendly kitty in the courtyard, who acted as our host for the duration of our visit.

The human hosts saw fit to ruin the architecture with polycarbonate sheeting as cover and communist-era poured concrete as a rude balustrade for the balcony. The satellite dish is apparently a modern pre-requisite.

Back to our walk in the beautiful garden.

In this view of the fortified tower, you can see the city and the river in the background.

Our feline host got a belly rub, which made her very happy indeed.

She then accompanied us to the gate.

We stopped at one of the local establishments for some lemonade.

Here are some more photographs from the streets of the Old Town.

The C&O Canal in Georgetown

The C&O Canal, about which I’ve written in the past, was a favorite place to visit and spend a quiet afternoon while we lived in the DC area. We had our sections of the canal, which we visited over and over, to hike and bike. The scenery was picturesque, it was quiet and conducive to relaxation, and the people we met while on the hikes all had smiles on their faces.

These particular photos were taken while we visited the 0 Mile Marker in Georgetown. It’s the place where the Canal starts to wind its way into upper Maryland. You’ll be able to see the first lockgates which allow the barges to climb upward as the elevation rises. You’ll also be able to see Georgetown from the C&O Canal, which is an interesting way to see it.

The NPS (National Park Service) organizes barge rides up the canal. They don’t go very far up the canal, but it’s far enough to give you a good idea about the unique and hard way of life on the barge, which peaked and fell during a century of use.

Not only did an enormous amount of work, performed by underpaid and overworked people, go into making the Canal, but a lot of work had to go into its upkeep and operation.

Each lock gate (there were 74 in total) required a lock operator, which meant the provision of a household at each gate, because the gates were in out of the way places.

Barges were expensive, which meant the barge owner’s life savings had to go into its purchase. Space was at a premium on them, and entire families would live in those tiny cabins you see in the photos, while hauling heavy loads of coal, grains and other stuff up and down the canal.

The barges were pulled along the canal by mules, which were chosen because of their hardy nature. They’re more manageable than jackasses but will not work themselves to exhaustion like horses; they know when to stop, which is a very good trait indeed when you have to pull a heavy barge all day.

I recorded a couple of videos while riding the barge, which have the honor of being the first videos I uploaded to YouTube, back on August 16, 2006:

Cruising the C&O Canal (Part 1)

Cruising the C&O Canal (Part 2)

Enjoy!

On the streets of Georgetown in 2006

The same day we visited the Old Stone House, we walked the streets of Georgetown, enjoying the sights, then we stopped for a hearty lunch at a nice restaurant (see last photo below).

The historic Seneca Schoolhouse in Maryland

If you should drive into the Maryland countryside, along River Road, the Potomac River and the C&O Canal, past farms and mansions, you’ll find a lone building made of red sandstone, standing in a meadow. This sign will be next to it.

The building is the one-room Seneca Schoolhouse, the only school in the area during the later part of the 19th century, after the Civil War. The schoolhouse was established by a local farmer and miller by the name of Upton Darby, who generously provided the land, stone and wood for the building. Local families contributed money or skills for its construction.

I love the cozy little building. It’s wonderful architecture. I love the door knob especially, though I doubt it’s the original one, as it says “City of New York” on it…

There’s more information at the schoolhouse museum’s website, including visiting and contact info. When we stopped to see it, the light may have been perfect but nobody was around to show us inside, so all we could do was to walk around.

The Old Stone House in Georgetown, DC

I’ve been in love with early American stone architecture since college. One of the reasons I chose to go to my alma matter, Middlebury College, was its wonderful stone architecture. I find such buildings to be as natural and organic as possible. Stone, wood and glass are to me the best-suited, most recyclable, most natural and best looking building materials one can use.

The Old Stone House is well known in Georgetown and is visited by many tourists and locals alike. It is the oldest standing building in DC, because it was built in 1765. A cabinetmaker by the name of Christopher Layman built it and lived in it. After his death it passed through the hands of various owners, until it was bought by the National Park Service in 1953 (almost two hundred years after its construction) and restored to what is believed to be its initial condition.

The house itself is fairly simple and fairly small. The interiors are spartan, as is the case with most early American architecture. But the exterior looks great and the gardens are lovely. I heard stories that the gardens were turned into a parking lot in the 20th century, because the house was a used cars lot, and that the NPS did quite a bit of work to get it back to its initial state. Kudos to them.

An antique Audi at Tess Auto

We were at Tess Auto in Ghimbav (near Brasov) for service to our car recently, and we saw this beautiful antique Audi on display in the showroom. The car was so old the logo still said “Auto Union” across the four circles.

They sure don’t make cars with these designs any more. About the only company still around who makes such beautiful cars is Morgan.

I realize these designs aren’t aerodynamically efficient and they aren’t meant for high speeds. It’s also possible that the drag coefficient may be higher, meaning fuel efficiency could be better. But cars like these had something modern cars can never have: life — an organic feeling to the design which gave them life and draws our eyes to this day.

A snowy evening walk in Medias

Ligia and I went on a refreshing evening walk with friends last night, during a wonderful snowfall which lasted through the night and covered everything in about a foot of snow by morning. We enjoyed ourselves thoroughly and of course I took photos, lots of them.

Continue reading “A snowy evening walk in Medias”