Doors of Brașov, Transylvania, Romania

We began looking at doors from Brașov, this 800 years old city from Transylvania, Romania, with a church door and a short story. We went lucky to visit that fascinating place, once more, during a holiday in 2019.

Work on the building of the Black Church of Brasov began in 1383 – 1385 and one of its benefactors was John Hunyadi (do you remember him from our visit to Hunyadi Castle, or Corvin Castle?)… but if you listen to the whispers of the wind, it says that Vlad the Impaler, Vlad Tepes also had a word in the building of this church, completed soon after 1476.

For the building of this church Bulgarian workers were employed, and craftsmen who proceeded to establish a Brașov Bulgarian colony in Șcheii Brașovului. But Scheii name has nothing to do with the Bulgarian workers arrived here in the 14th century. Scheii was formed when the slaves settled here, centuries earlier. Schei was the old Romanian word used for slaves (Bulgarians included).

Scheii area was first named Catun, designating a small enclosure right under Tampa fortress, on Tampa mountain. This was an area left outside of the Brasov fortress walls when the walls and Bastions of Brason were raised in 1455. So the Romanian guards of Brasov fortress lived here, outside the fortress’ walls. Because of their military duty they were called schei, pardoned iobagi or serfdoms (farmers once bound to land and the will of the landlord).

Here are a few doors from today’s Scheii Brasovului.

Doors Brasov Transylvania Romania
Doors Brasov Transylvania Romania
Doors Brasov Transylvania Romania

Below are two modest shrines from Brasov. Do you see the cross on top? This universal symbol for Christian faith, a constant reminder of Jesus’ death for our sins and of His joyous resurrection.

Shrines such as these can often be found in Romania, build so that weary travelers, or passer by with a heavy heart, can have a moment of peace, for thought, for prayer, for palliation. Before reaching the Black Church, down the winding road.

a shrine from Scheii, Brasov
Brasov, crucea troita din Scheii
This cross was raised in 1761 by Gh. (Gheorghe) Anania and restored in 1992.
troita, Scheii, Brasov
Doors Brașov Transylvania Romania
casa in Brasov

Thursday Doors is a weekly feature connecting door lovers from around the world through photography. You can join by creating your own weekly Thursday Doors post and sharing the link in the comments’ on Norm’s site, anytime between Thursday morning and Saturday noon (North American Eastern Time).

As always, you can find my books on Amazon.

Angela Gheorghiu performs Tatăl Nostru in a deserted Bucharest

Renowned Romanian soprano Angela Gheorghiu performed ‘Tatăl Nostru‘, Pater Noster or the Lord’s Prayer, accompanied by Romanian violonist Alexandru Tomescu in front of the Romanian Atheneum, in a deserted Bucharest.

I would like to share her performance with you and take you through a few places of my native Bucharest.

The recording was made on 19 April 2020 by Pro TV, Romania’s most watched private television network.

‘During such times, I wish everyone courage, love and hope!’ (Angela Gheorghiu).

Alexandru Tomescu performed on a Stradivarius Elder-Voicu violin on loan from the Romanian government until 2023 – a privilege won through a contest. The violin is listed as a national patrimony item. It was manufactured in 1702 and purchased in 1956 by the Romanian state to be used by violinist Ion Voicu. In 2007, it was estimated at USD 1.2 million.

Composer: Anton Pann
Producer: Sabina Ulubeanu
Sound: Andrei Kerestely
A PRO TV (2020) production.

I have to admit I am a big fan of Romanian soprano Angela Gheorghiu. I think she is not only gorgeous, but talented too. Nothing comes without hard work and sacrifice though, and she proved it more than once. Since her professional debut in 1990, she has performed in leading roles of several operas at New York’s Metropolitan Opera, London’s Royal Opera House, the Vienna State Opera, Milan’s La Scala, and many other opera houses in Europe and the United States. She has a substantial discography primarily with EMI Classics and Decca and is especially known for her performances in the operas of Puccini.

The Romanian Athenaeum is the-most-gorgeous-concert-hall-ever. Of course is located in Bucharest! The building was designed by the French architect Albert Galleron, for the Romanian Atheneum Cultural Society and built on a property that belonged to the Văcărescu family (one of the oldest noble families of Wallachia, now Romania). It was inaugurated in 1888. The construction showcases the neoclassical style typical for the era with some romantic touches. The Romanian Atheneum is a symbol of Romanian culture and an European Heritage Site as well as one of Seven Wonders of Romania.

Bucharest is my home town so this recording is special to me. I have never seen this city so deserted during day time. If you don’t know, Romania is one of the safest countries to live in.

Follow me through the video.

Calea Victoriei walking towards Lipscani and Dambovita River. On the left is a Pizza Hut we love to visit whenever we get a chance.
Regina Eisabeta Street towards Mihail Kogalniceanu square. The Cismigiu Park must be on the right side.
View from the Romanian Atheneum towards the Royal Palace hoousing the National Museum of Art (left) and Athenee Palace Hilton Bucharest Hotel (right). Stirbei Voda Street ahead.
Angela Gheorghiu in front of the Romanian Atheneum. Notice the Ionic columns on the right. Their proportions are similar to those of the Erechtheion Temple on the Acropolis.
Angela Gheorghiu accompanied by Alexandru Tomescu in front of the Romanian Atheneum. Note the neoclassic facade.
View from thee Romanian Atheneum towards the Royal Palace and George Enescu square.

Romanian Atheneum above, Cismigiu Park below – I have never seen Cismigiu so deserted. Cismigiu is lovely in summer for a stroll in the shade or a leisurely row and fantastic in winter for ice skating all day long and under the spotlight in the night.

An amazing view of the Romanian Atheneum in the center, its park in the front with the round cupola, Athenee Palace Hilton Bucharest Hotel in the left with a reddish roof.
Angela Gheorghiu accompanied by Alexandru Tomescu in front of the Romanian Atheneum in the afternoon light. Athenee Palace Hilton Bucharest Hotel in the background. A gorgeous contrast of light and creeping shadows.
Hats off to Sabina Ulubeanu and the camera crew.
Calea Victoriei at Revolution square, the equestrian statue of King Carol I, Royal Palace on the right.

Rafik’s Journey in Silent Heroes. The Hindu Kush Mountains

Hind Kush Mountains in Silent Heroes

Rafik, the youngest character from Silent Heroes is forced to leave his home village of Nauzad, alone. Somehow during his trip, no spoilers here, he ends up at Camp Bastion, then is forced to wonder through the Afghan desert and he even takes a drive in the US Marine’s Oshkosh vehicle, a short moment of respiro before his life is endangered again.

We are now approaching the emotional ending of Silent Heroes.

‘Conde immediately took in the mountain sight in front of them, the one shooting towards the sky. There was only one thing higher, the cerulean sky above.’

Silent Heroes by Patricia Furstenberg
journey Hindu Kush mountains
The majestic Hindu Kush Mountains

‘If mountains could, Kent asked himself, would they choose to close their slopes and crush the intruders coming in with wicked thoughts?’

Silent Heroes by Patricia Furstenberg

The Hindu Kush mountains, a natural maze of valleys and peaks blocking all satellite signals are the preferred hiding-spot for the Taliban, their secret lair. Very few locals know how to find their way around.

‘Marcos noticed the zig-zagged pattern of her approach as she followed a barely visible path. For the untrained eye, it looked like nothing, a maze of greenery and rocks. But Marcos saw the trail, wider where the shrubs were missing and the rain had softened the soil, narrower in the rocky passes. In places, it looked like a disturbance in the dirt, like a child had sketched a line with a stick. Nevertheless, it leads upwards, towards the Taliban camp.

As if to mock them, a spring ran on their right side, rushing down the slope, singing and jumping from rock to rock. The steeper the slope, the more cheerful the stream whooshed.’

Silent Heroes by Patricia Furstenberg
fortress - Taliban - journey Hindu Kush mountains

‘A skinny figure detached itself from the tight group approaching the Marines, his eyes dancing on a dirty face, streaked with dust and blood.

‘You came, you came!’ it chanted then hugged each one of them not minding their weapons poking his ribs. ‘I knew you will come,’ the boy said then turned towards the small crowd in an out-pour of words and gestures.

The bouncy body, the cheerful eyes?’

Silent Heroes by Patricia Furstenberg
An Afghan boy about Rafik’s age, eight years.

‘From between the trees, a skinny Afghan boy bounced more than ran down the path and he didn’t stop until he reached the girl. He jumped around her, waving his arms up and down, not sparing any cheer. His cheeks were strung with tears, yet his mouth showed all his teeth in a wide grin.’

Silent Heroes by Patricia Furstenberg

Has Rafik found his people’s peace? Is the young boy finally reunited with his small family – whatever was left from it after the Taliban’s attack on their village?

I wished I could hold his hand, my youngest character, but I could not. Life and war threw insurmountable challenges at him. He was asked to perform missions that put him in life-threatening situations. During his journey he was exposed to an IED field, got lost in the desert and ended in the Hindu Kush Mountains.

But this is war. This is life during wartime. And Rafik made it to the last chapter.

Will his heartwarming nature and willingness to help be something you will take with you when you close the book? I hope so.

I hope that Rafik’s long journey culminating with the Hindu Kush Mountains spiked your interest. You can BUY Silent Heroes from Amazon UK, Amazon US, Amazon Australia, Amazon Canada, or Amazon Worldwide: link here to your preferred Amazon website.

To Marvel at the Medieval Towers of Sighisoara Fortress

marvel medieval towers Sighisoara

Let’s further our historical journey and marvel at the medieval towers and walls of Upper City Sighisoara, the fortress, Vlad the Impaler‘s birth place. If we walk clockwise around the citadel’s defense wall or rampant, still 14 meters in height in some places, we’ll admire, in this order:

Sighisoara fortress - marvel medieval towers fortress. Tanners Tower

The Tanners’ Tower is one of the oldest, original towers dating back to the 13th – 14th centuries as it suggest its position too, retracted behind the wall. Its roof, slanted towards the inside of the fortress, suggests the same. It was built to guard and protect the courtyard of the Clock Tower nearby.

 Tanners' Tower Sighisoara, 13th - 14th century. marvel medieval towers fortress
Tanners Tower, Turnul Tabacarilor

The Tinsmiths’ Tower & bastion. At 25 m of height it has a specific shape: square at the base (the original foundation), then becomes pentagonal (probably late 15th century), and it ends octagonal at the top, while the roof has a hexagonal plan. It had one of the strongest defense systems of the Sighisoara fortress. One can still see the traces that Hungarian bullets left during the last siege, that of 1704.

The Tinsmiths' Tower & bastion, Sighisoara. Turnul Cositorilor. marvel medieval towers fortress
The Tinsmiths’ Tower & bastion with Riflemen’s Gallery – Turnul Cositorilor

Do you see the Rifle-men’s Gallery, adjacent to the Tinsmiths’ Tower – left side? It has a unique architecture in the Sighisoara fortress.

The Rope-makers Tower is high up on the hill and today houses the cemetery guard. But 200 years ago, the first family allowed to make a home here had to sound the church bells three times a day, at 7 am, at noon and 7 pm, and look after the cemetery.

Rope-makers Tower - Turnul Franghierilor
Rope-makers Tower – Turnul Franghierilor

The original fortress’ wall between the Rope-makers Tower and the Butchers’ Tower still stands. The Butchers’ Tower has a bastion as well and it dates from the 15th century. Initially, it was an octagonal prism, but during the 16th century, it was rebuilt on a hexagonal floor plan and raised to make it easier to defend the west side of the Citadel. For this reason alone, the Butcher’s Tower was armed with five arquebuses (a lighter type of musket and one of the first hand-guns with a trigger), and at least one cannon (as the cannonballs and gunpowder discovered here attest).

The Butchers' Tower. Medieval Sighsoara - Turnul Macelarilor
Butcher’s Tower – Turnul Macelarilor

Did you know that it was the Romans who discovered that towers made it easier to defend a walled fortress? Towers made it easy to give covering fire for the walls during an attack.

The Butchers’ Tower and the Furriers’ Tower saw many sheep a-counting while guarding the Törle gate in between. It was through here that each evening the shepherds returned with their flock from the pastures and proceed to count and separate the sheep. Of course, they would have had at least one dog to help them round the flock, to head them off or hold them up just by standing in the road, blocking the sheep’s way, and barking, to remind the woolly beasts who’s the boss.

The plain, square floor plan of the Furriers’ Tower dates its construction back to the 14th century, although it was rebuilt various times, latest at the end of the 17th century. Worth noticing are the narrow window-slits on the top, fourth level for dousing invaders with hot liquids. Over the centuries, fighters armed with spears, halebards, arquebuses, and even a small cannon manned this tower.

the Furriers' Tower, medieval Sighisoara, 14th century - Turnul Cojocarilor
The Furrier’s Tower, Sighisoara – walking into the fortress – Turnul Cojocarilor

The Weavers’ Tower was located between the Furriers’ Tower and the Tailors’ Tower. The Weavers’ Tower was demolished in the mid-19th century together with the fortress wall stretching between the Furriers’ Tower all the way to the Shoemakers’ Tower.

The Tailors’ Tower is a massive baroque-style construction, first mentioned in 1521. Located opposite the Clock Tower it marks the second entrance in Sighisoara fortress. Nowadays is the only access way for cars. It was rebuilt after the big fire of 1676 and today it looks like this:

Journey in medieval city sighisoara. Tailors' Tower, medieval Sighisoara - Turnul Croitorilor
Tailors’ Tower – Turnul Croitorilor – source

Look at the two passageways. They do suggest a 12th – 14th century construction and so are the two ancient porticullis, the metal latticed gates, that lock by sliding vertically to fortify the access way into the fortress.

As mentioned, this tower went up in flames taking with it the adjacent corridor where there was a storage area for projectiles and gunpowder apart from grains and halbards.

The Shoemakers’ Tower, standing since 1522, is quite a spectacular view, proving once again that the strength of a guild lies in its demand. Reconstructed after the fire of 1676 (when it exploded due to the large amount of gunpowder stored inside), it picked up the baroque architectonic influences of the late 17th century.

Shoemakers' Tower Sighisoara plaque - Turnul Cizmarilor - marvel medieval towers fortress
“Shoemakers’ Tower – although it dates from older times, it gained the shape you see today in 1681.” – Turnul Cizmarilor

This was my favorite tower! Do notice the small observation tower (lookout turret if you wish) on the roof visible in the picture below (there are two such towers), and the large windows, so not in the style of the Middle Ages.

Shoemaker's Tower - street entrance - marvel medieval towers fortress
Shoemaker’s Tower – the back entrance

These windows are post World War Two when, for a spell, the tower was turned into a depository of archival documents. The outside wooden staircase is very recent, since 2001.
Today it houses a local radio station.

Shoemakers Tower - roof. Medieval Sighisoara
Note the slanted roof to fend off piling of snow during heavy snowfalls
Shoemakers Tower, Sighisoara - new, wooden staircase
Shoemakers Tower, Sighisoara – the new addition, a wooden staircase

And if you climb the stairs you’re treated to a colorful view:

Shoemaker's Tower view on Sighisoara - marvel medieval towers fortress
A charming view from the balcony

One last look up the Shoemakers’ Tower before we move on, certainly a sight to marvel at as not every day we get to see such medieval towers and Sighisoara fortress is a place far away for many tourists.

Shoemaker's Tower - looking up. marvel medieval towers fortress
Looking up at Shoemaker’s Tower, Sighisoara Fortress

The Locksmiths’ Tower and bastion nearby were part of the main defensive system. This area has seen an explosive history: blown up during a siege in 1706, hit by lightning and burned down in 1809, demolished at the end of the 19th century, making way for the construction of the present Church.

The Ironsmiths’ Tower is a massive tower built in 1631 to protect the fortress and the nearby Monastery Church.

Monastery Church, Sighisoara Fortress - marvel medieval towers fortress
As we spied on the Monastery Church, nestled in the medieval Sighisoara fortress

The tower we see today dates from 1631, raised on top of the Barber’s Tower and rebuilt after the big fire of 1676. At the end of the 19th century it was repurposed as a fire-station. Medieval elements worth noticing are the consoles at the top, protecting the windows, and the machicolations (the floor openings between the corbels, the stones jutting from the wall at the top), and the slits and holes.

marveling medieval towers sighisoara / Ironsmiths' Tower, Turnul Fierarilor
Ironsmiths’ Tower as we saw it, Turnul Fierarilor

And looking up at Ironsmiths’ Tower from the pathway surrounding the fortress:

Ironsmiths Tower medieval Sighisoara  - Turnul Fierarilor - marvel medieval towers fortress
Looking up at Ironsmiths’ Tower from the pathway surrounding the fortress

Looking back – and suddenly it doesn’t look that massive, does it? Perhaps that’s why many attackers thought that they might take it on.

A snow covered path outside the walls of Medieval Sighisoara - marvel medieval towers fortress
Looking at the past…

And with one last look over our shoulder, thinking of its medieval atmosphere, with medieval horns, dark staircases and eerie views, we marvel one last time and bid farewell to the medieval towers of Sighisoara fortress and a snowy winter.

Remember to visit more medieval castles of Romania: Corvin Castle or discover if, without Mircea the Elder, we would have even had a Vlad the Impaler.

Medieval Horns, a Dark Staircase, and Amazing Photos from Sighisoara

medieval horns, dark staircase, photos of Sighisoara

Welcome to our journey through medieval Sighisoara as we discovered it not so long ago. So far we climbed the Clock Tower and visited the house where Vlad the Impaler was born. Let’s explore some more and see what are these medieval horns adorning one of Sighisoara’s oldest houses, as well as climb a medieval staircase to Sighisoara’s hill for more amazing winter scenes and photos.

The City Square, once the center of medieval life

The City Square, within easy reach, is a must-see. All around there are the houses that once belonged to the noblest families of Sighisoara.

Glimpse from the City Square towards the Clock Tower, Sighisoara

During medieval times, City Square was the place in Sighisoara. Food markets as well as public trials took place here.

A look from Sighisora'a city square past the house where Vlad the Impaler was born, towards the Clock Tower

Also, the pillar of infamy rose here as well, where public hangings took place. And if you were part of the city’s nobility you could witness the executions seated at your dining table, not mingling with the peasants in the square.

medieval staircase Sighisoara photos

The Stag House

The Stag House showcases an authentic late renaissance – early baroque architecture as well as authentic stag antlers.

The Stag House showcases an authentic late renaissance - early baroque architecture as well as authentic stag antlers.

The Staircase Way, Strada Scarii, is the way towards the medieval staircase of Sighisoara, for great views and amazing photos

Strada Scarii, Umweg, sign

Turn left at the Stag House and you will see a stone-paved street winding towards what looks like a covered entrance. Dare you go in?

The Scholar’s Stairs

The Scholar’s Stairs are 175 covered steps leading to the School on the Hill and the Church Hill. Built during the 17th century, the stairs protected the school-going children during long winters.

“Scara acoperita construita in anul 1642” = the covered stairs, built in 1642:

Strada Scarii, Scholar's Satir, Sighisoara, with inscription:  "Scara acoperita construita in anul 1642" = the covered stairs, built in 1642:
Looking down past the covered Strada Scarii, Sighisoara
Bottom entrance in Strada Scarii, Scholar's Sairs, Sighisoara
Strada Scarii - dare look down?
dare look down?

Finalized in 1619, the first and smallest building of the School on the Hill went by the name of New School, Naye Schull. It was only in 1793 when the main school building finally rose.

This medieval staircase of Sighisoara was one of my favorite places to visit and take photos of. I imagine it holds a multitude of stories, spanning centuries.

The Church on the Hill

The Church on the Hill, devoted to Saint Nicholas, is a symbol for Sighisoara’s history, being the most iconic landmark of the town and one of its most valuable architectural building. It ranks third in size between all the Gothic churches in Transylvania, the biggest Gothic church in Transylvania and the whole of Romania being the Black Church in Brasov.

medieval city Sighisoara. The Church on the Hill
The Church on the Hill

Historians have discovered that the church, built in 1345, was raised on top of a Roman chapel dating back to 1200. Here, on this hill, was the safe place where the people who lived in this area before the Saxons’ arrival would have gathered in case of invasions.

The Church on the Hill, Sighisoara, looking up

The church’s bell tower would have been the tallest building, most probably used as a sighting spot.

The Church on the Hill

The Church on the Hill as we know it today was first mentioned in 1345 in a letter stating that the people of Sighisoara were loyal to King Ludovic 1st and have built a church dedicated to Saint Nicholas.

The Church on the Hill and statues guarding the church's roof

Somehow, these statues guarding the church reminded me of Notre Dame of Paris.

Yet the church that first used to stand here was later turned into a crypt.

Behind the Church on the Hill is the Evangelic Cemetery on the Hill.

Here, trees as old as the fortress itself guard the tombstones of some of the first Saxons settlers. Their headstones carry the inscription of their name as well as that of their occupation.

In a secluded area, lined up as for parade, are the graves of a handful of local soldiers.

medieval city Sighisoara. Evangelic cemetery
The Evangelic cemetery

In their youth, they probably attempted climbing the fortress’ walls or its towers and chased up the School’s stairs in the last minutes before the bell rang. Until the Great War started and they went to fight, to defend their country, not knowing that the last time they will see their native Sighisoara will be from the top of the hill, during their endless sleep.

Den toten Gelded. Jedes Heldengrab ist heilige Erde. Alle storben dass uns Friededn werden. To the dead soldier. Each hero's grave is holy ground. They died so that we have peace. Sighisoara cemetery

“Den toten Gelded. Jedes Heldengrab ist heilige Erde. Alle storben dass uns Friededn werden” ~ “To the dead soldier. Each hero’s grave is holy ground. They died so that we have peace.”

The Monastery Church

Across the Clock Tower is the 15th-century monastery church with its tombstones, a Gothic-style holly place renowned for its sculpted altar. During the 14th century here was a monastery for Dominican monks and near it a convent for Franciscan nuns.

Sighisoara, Roman-Catholic church near the Clock Tower. house Vlad Tepes born
The Roman-Catholic church near the Clock Tower

Inside the Monastery Church 35 old oriental carpets were discovered – proof that Sighisoara had economic ties with Persia.

Gothic window detail emphasizing vertical space
Gothic window detail emphasizing vertical space

The monastery was first mentioned in 1298 in a document signed by Pope Boniface the 8th. In the place where once the convents stood, now rises a Roman-Catholic church.

Medieval Sighisoara. The place where once a monastery for Dominican monks and near it a convent for Franciscan nuns once stood.

Lower City: Romano-Catholic Church Saint Iosif

This beautiful church was raised at the end of the 19th century in the place of a medieval convent for the Franciscan nuns.

For a true journey through the medieval city of Sighisoara try to attend the Medieval Festival of arts and theater – during August.

More spectacular views of our journey through the medieval city of Sighisoara

Sighisoara view from the top of the Clock Tower
Sighisoara is a colorful, charming medieval city
A typical  pointed roof viewed from the top of the Clock Tower, Sighisoara

Today, over 200 people still live in the medieval citadel of Sighisoara.

Medieval Sighisoara with its colorful houses
Medieval Sighisoara with its colorful houses

And plenty of birds too.

And we also saw a cat with gamboge eyes, in winter:

And an immortal doggy:

I am sure that, in the midst of winter, this street makes a perfect sleigh slide:

journey medieval city sighisoara

The significance of Sighisoara City

Searching beyond its gray rampant walls shadowed by a tumultuous history, and remembering its Saxon merchants and shepherds, as well as its prominent, Draculesti leaders (Vlad the Impaler and his father before him), a journey through the medieval city of Sighisoara is sure to unravel the fortress’ high status. To this contributed its perfect location, at important crossroads between the roads connecting Moldavia with Wallachia, and Transylvania with Western Europe.

Although they did not leave their mark on the fortress’ walls, during the Late Middle Ages 95 students from Sighisoara went to study abroad, in Viena and Cracovia, spreading the fame of this fortress.
The two evangelic churches, the Monastery Church and the Church on the Hill, also showcase proof of the rich cultural center that Sighisoara became during and after the 16th century. Painters, sculptors, woodworkers, masons, and organ builders arrived here from Salzburg or Tirol to work alongside the local baroque sculptor Elias Nicolai, as local architecture and even gravestones still stand proof.
General Melas of the Austrian army, who defended Napoleon Bonaparte at Marengo was born near Sighisoara.

The Orthodox Cathedral

Located across Tarnava Mare River, in the ew, Lower City, is the Orthodox Cathedral I must include. Look at its perfection, unlike a snowy castle reflected by icy waters, it is a place of emotional warmth and rich traditions.

the Orthodox Cathedral reflected in a frozen Tarnava Mare river

I hope you enjoyed our journey through the medieval city of Sighisoara, looking at strange horns on buildings, at a dark staircase and snapping some great photos in between. Its history spills into the present in an enchanting way, and this is a place to visit more than once, a town that reveals more secrets with each trip.

I, for one, can’t wait to go there again.

If you like castles, a medieval staircase or two and photos, although not of Sighisoara, you might like to visit Corvin Castle.

If you like all castles, then visit Peles Castle too.

For more stories and adventures, do check out my books on my Amazon author page.

Rafik’s Journey in Silent Heroes. The Afghan Desert

A story of deep humanity and thrilling action, Silent Heroes has impressive locations, like the Afghan Desert.

Rafik is the youngest character of Silent Heroes, a brave boy of about eight years of age with a big heart. He is an Afghan boy who takes a physical journey, but one of self-discovery and growth as well. Rafik is like any other civilian caught in a war zone. He is uprooted from his home village and what he does, traveling on a mission, is out of an instinct of self-preservation and desire to help.

Have you followed his journey so far? After arriving as an emergency at the medical facility of Camp Bastion Rafik ends up in the desert…

Away from his friends and their worry-free childhood.

children in Afghanistan -  silent heroes afghan desert

At his mother’s desperate request, Rafik leaves the false safety of his village behind yet his plans spin out of control and he ends up at Camp Bastion, later named Camp Shorabak, an international military camp in Afghanistan with a state the art medical facility.

Rafik should have only went from his home village of Nauzad to the hamlet nearby. Yet he is now further south, near Lashkar Gah city and fortress. The fortress is on the banks on the Helmand River, hidden from direct view by a hill. Lashkar Gah has a rich history behind it, once was even the winter capital of the Ghaznavidi Empire. It belonged to the same Turkish dynasty that conquered Afghanistan a thousand years back, bringing Islam along.

Rafik's journey - silent heroes afghan desert

Along these brown, rocky hills live farmers who breed sheep and camels, but Rafik meets none.

And he runs again… a little boy on a mission. I cannot hold his hand, he has to do it all on his own.

“A sense of foreboding took over him and his eyes shot open with a will of their own. A pair of grubby feet in dusty, old sandals and the edge of a filthy shalwar kameez appeared in his eye field as a menacing hand grabbed hold of his shirt collar, throwing him aside.”

Silent Heroes by Patricia Furstenberg

Run, Rafik! Run!

“The boy stopped dead after rushing through the last row of doors, blinded and dazed by the bright daylight. His eyes hurt, his body overwhelmed by the outside temperature as if he had hit a solid, arid wall of heat and sand. ‘Where am I, where had they gone?’

Behind him, the vacuum noise of the hospital doors sealed the insides in an encased gigantic hangar.

Ahead, past the perimeter fence, the deadly desert. Five flags, barely soaring in the wind, rose to one side. One of them, bright red like his mother’s best dress, displayed a white cross with a snake. Past the five flags, two dark silhouettes were marching in a cloud of dust, heading towards an unkempt gathering of mud-walled compounds that sprouted along a field of opium poppy. Above their heads and heading north, two Harrier jets roar, having just taken off from Camp Bastion’s airfield, their wingtips luminous against the clear sky.”

Silent Heroes by Patricia Furstenberg

And Rafik is gone again. Is he one of the Silent Heroes, soon to get lost in the Afghan desert? Not the right time, as it is the beginning of the long, scorching, and arid Afghan summer. Here, over the course of the year the temperature typically varies from 35°F to 108°F.

“Behind everything and everyone, dragging his feet under the midday sun and with only a gush of wind for a company came Rafik. Now crawling, now running, now letting himself fall to the ground in an attempt to conceal himself, looking more like a desert dog than a human being. For each stride the men took trough the sand, the boy’s wobbly legs took two, yet he pushed on, his eyes on the twin menacing shapes, his attention wrestling an army of questions, his legs moving forward with a mind of their own.

Silent Heroes by Patricia Furstenberg
Afghan desert military area - Silent Heroes
The Afghan desert is not your stereotype of rolling dunes and golden sand.

Where will help come from? What shape will it take?

“As he stood above him, the dog seemed twice as big as the child due to his shaggy mane, thicker around the neck, and his reassured posture. His shoulder blades moved accentuating his strong physique, yet for all that muscle he was as gentle as the moon. In seconds, the boy’s face was covered in slobber, the dog’s sandpaper tongue sliding all over the pale skin, doing a perfect job at cleaning all the dried-out blood.”

Silent Heroes by Patricia Furstenberg
military working dog

Desert symbolism

Because of their isolation, deserts often symbolize clarity and revelation. Purity too, as they are unspoiled landscapes. Yet the desert is a difficult terrain, threatening, challenging. It is a symbol for challenges, both physical and spiritual. It is a struggle calling onto the traveler’s deepest reserves.

Yet there is no adversity between the spiritual and the physical. Although deserts have been seen as the ultimate purging landscape by hermits, prophets, seers, the ultimate holy ground, it is the spiritual strength they enhance in humans that eventually augments the individual.

Thus deserts, through the personal conflicts they call upon, bring humankind the closest to heavens.

Rafik’s journey through Silent Heroes does not end here, in the Afghan desert, with the mere warm support of a friendly military dog. There is more for this young boy to encounter and survive to before he can call his home a home again. Before he can close his eyes and fall asleep feeling secure in his own bed.

Silent Heroes

You can BUY Silent Heroes from Amazon UK, Amazon US, Amazon Australia, Amazon Canada, or Amazon Worldwide: link here to your preferred Amazon website.

You might also like to have a look at these 30 Photos From Afghanistan That You Won’t See In The News.

Medieval Sighisoara and the House where Vlad the Impaler was Born

medieval Sighisoara, House where Vlas the Impaler was born

What turns a house into a home? Is it the light that peeks inside through its windows? The scents rising from the kitchen? Or is it the people, the mingle of generations, of shared laughter and tears?
While we visited the house where Vlad the Impaler, Vlad Tepes, was born, I asked myself: what was the light like inside? What street noises reached every morning to little Vlad’s room and woke him up? What childhood memories he kept locked in his heart that reminded him of his mother and home – while imprisoned by the Turks? Or when he was fighting them, surrounded by the sights and the stench of war?

Imagining the medieval Sighisoara fortress at the time Vlad Tepes was born

Imagine 164 houses and thirteen public buildings up on a hill, within the protective walls of a fortress. Tall or short, stone or wood, depending on the wealth of their owners, the houses have one floor, some two. But not more.

Sighisoara - narrow streets stone paved.
Sighisoara – narrow streets stone paved.

Well worth looking up, their roofs have sharp slopes to reduce the weight of the snow in winter, as well as a small window acting as a watchtower, for protection. One can see far away from the tiny, dark attic as well as keep an eye on whoever approaches the house. Friend or foe?

Sighisoara - slanted roof and a peep-window
Sighisoara – slanted roof and a peep-window

The doors are narrow and so are the windows – functionality and safety are paramount. If the house has an extra floor, then the inner stairway is narrow and most probably dark.
The homes are built close together, often sharing a wall, making for narrow, dark streets and passageways. Comfort, as we know it and understand it today, meant a shelter overhead and safe, strong walls during the Middle Ages.
Yet shiny stones pave the streets and there are gutters too, aiding to the drainage of rain-water, melted snow, and – how else – the household’s gray water.

Sighisoara - typical house

The city has only eight wells for drinking water, not enough for the increasing number of inhabitants or siege or fire hazard situations. But it is fresh, clean water, and it is almost enough for their families’ usage during peaceful days, when they can also up the supply from the river.

Let’s meet little Vlad, his family and the house where Vlad the Impaler was born.

The house where Vlad Tepes was born

As you leave the Clock Tower behind, just ahead and on your left, on the corner of Cositorilor Street (Tin-makers Street) stands a tall terracotta house with clean lines. Today it rises with two levels above the ground floor plus a dark attic. You will want to have a good look at it as, although not supported by plenty of historical documents but letters signed by Vlad II and written from Sighisoara , so not impossible, it is the house where Vlad Tepes was born, also known as House Paulinus after its 18th-century owner.

The house where Vlad Tepes, Vlad the Impaler was born - A house like any other.
A house like any other.

But when it was just built in the vicinity of the Clock Tower, out of river stones and with only one level, this house belonged to the guards protecting the main entrance into the fortress.

Vlad’s family was well-off, his father, Vlad II, a first-class member of the Order of the Dragon and lawful prince of Wallachia but without a kingdom at this stage. They settled in Sighisoara and rented guestrooms in a house of stone, awaiting the right moment to raise an army of trusted boyars and reclaim his land.

This is the house, the oldest one in the fortress and still standing because it was built of stones thus withstanding the big fire of 1676. The round vault on the ground floor is the original one, constructed with the stones picked from the nearby rivers, Tarnava Mare especially. Its second floor rose much later, during the 18th century.

The round vault on the ground floor in the house where Vlad the Impaler was born
The round vault on the ground floor in the house where Vlad the Impaler was born

It appears that in the basement of this house there was a coin mint at that time – when the coinage was only the monopoly of the Hungarian Kings ruling the Kingdom of Hungary. This is another proof of Sigismund’s trust and respect towards Vlad Dracul II as Vlad II minted his own silver ducats, the “new ducat”. He did this in preparation for his expected ruling. These coins were first used in Transylvania, then in Wallachia too (yay!). They had the eagle on the head side and a winged dragon on the coin’s tail.

Vlad II Dracul ('the Dragon') coin, struck circa 1445-1446. Eagle standing, head right; cross above / Dragon advancing to the left, its wings spread
Vlad II Dracul (‘the Dragon’) coin, struck circa 1445-1446. Eagle standing left, head towards the right; cross above / Dragon advancing to the left, its wings are spread. Source

It was now, during the time Vlad Dracul II spent in exile in Sighisoara preparing for his rule over Wallachia, that the Romanian name of the fortress appears in writing for the first time. Double yay!

Vlad Tepes was born in 1431 (or some sources state 1429), the middle son of Vlad Dracul II, Prince of Wallachia and son of Mircea cel Batran (Mircea the Eldest) from the Basarab Dynasty. King Sigismund of Luxembourg held Vlad Dracul II in high regard, awarding him, as mentioned before, the Order of the Dragon on the 8th of February 1431 in Nuremberg, for ultimate services in the gruesome fight against the Ottoman Empire.

Dragon order insignia
Dragon order insignia

The Order of the Dragon (Societas Draconistarum, Society of the Dragonists) was a monarchical chivalry order awarded only to selected members of the nobility. Founded in 1408 by the Hungarian King Sigismund von Luxembourg (later Holy Roman Emperor), it was similar to the military orders of the Crusades. Its members were expected to defend Christianity against all enemies, especially the Ottoman Empire.

The Order of the Dragon on a medieval sleigh
The Order of the Dragon on a sleigh

I liked the dragon featured on the sign above the door, I thought it is a great reference to the Order of the Dragon.

a dragon on the house where Vlad Tepes, Vlad Dracul, Vlad the Impaler was born

The symbol of the Order was a dragon with the tip of its tail coiled around his neck and a red cross on his back, the Red Cross of Saint George.

Calling him Vlad Dracul, correct or not?

Before 1475 Vlad III signed his name simply Vlad. But from 1475, before his third ruling as Prince of Wallachia, he signs as Ladislaus Dragwlya (or Dragkwlya, Drakulya) which appears on his seal too.

Hence Vlad the Impaler’s nickname Dracul (and identical with the Romanian word for devil) or Draculea, his ancestors named Draculesti, from dragon, or Drachen in German.

Vlad’s mother was also of Romanian royal blood, Chiajna Musatin, a Moldavian Princess and the eldest daughter of Alexandru cel Bun as well as aunt of Stefan cel Mare (Stefan the Great), of the Musatin Dynasty.

So, Vlad Tepes and his parents hopefully lived in Sighisoara until 1436. Just imagine, young Vlad might have used one of these cups to drink fresh milk.

medieval ceramics found in the house of Vlad the Impaler, Vlad Dracul
Medieval ceramics found in the house of Vlad the Impaler, Vlad Dracul

Vlad would have been five or seven years old when his parents moved to Targoviste when his father took over Wallachia (the principality located south of Transylvania) and was – finally – crowned the rightful Prince of Wallachia.

In the middle of the 20th century, a hidden mural was discovered in the house where Vlad the Impaler was born, that of a man resembling his father, Vlad II.

Comparing Vlad II with Vlad III, Tepes, the Impaler. Notice similarities.

A Sad Reality

Without saying too much, here are some pictures from the upper level of Vlad’s house as it looked when we visited. No skulls here, just misunderstood advertisement.

inside house Vlad Impaler born
inside house Vlad Impaler born
inside house Vlad Impaler born
inside the house where Vlad the Impaler, Vlad Dracul, Dracula was born

A Secret Entrance into Vlad the Impaler’s House

Most tourists are familiar with the front entrance of the house where Vlad the Impaler was born.

house Vlad Impaler born

Yet if you play “what if” and follow the narrow street on the left, walking underneath the arch connecting the two buildings and feeling tiny compared to their height…

house Vlad Impaler born

You will soon discover the back entrance, through a small, walled yard:

house Vlad Impaler born

We took this way in.

The back entrance in the house where Vlad the Impaler Vlad Dracul, was born
The back entrance in the house where Vlad the Impaler Vlad Dracul, was born

Sighisoara City: Coat of Arms and blazon symbology

Sighisoara’s coat of arms is so fitting for its rich medieval ancestry. It depicts a rampant golden lion and a silver fortress with three towers on a red shield topped with a silver crown with five crenelated towers.
The lion, facing right, dexter (with respect to the person carrying the shield), wears a gold crown, his tongue sticks out and holds a gold sword.

Sighisoara's coat of arms today
Sighisoara’s coat of arms today

The fortress on the shield symbolizes the medieval Sighisoara and its crucial economical and military strengths as well as the cultural and religious roles it played. The lion, through the way it is depicted on the shield, symbolizes the judicial autonomy Sighisoara held, having the right to decree the death penalty, the right of the sword, jus gladii. The lion also symbolizes strength, generosity, and beauty.
The crown shows that today, Sighisoara is a municipality.
It is worth noticing that the lion’s hind legs are apart, symbolizing stability.

Medieval Sighisoara has much more to reveal besides the house where Vlad the Impaler was born, with its history and secrets.

Moving on from it, our eyes fell upon a beautiful building with clean lines and… a pair of horns.

We’ll open the door to this story next time.

Sighisoara, a medieval door

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