With cartoon clouds, pixels as raindrops, and yellow, zig-zag bolts of lightning featuring heavily on the internet's forecast all week, we were less than enthusiastic about visiting the UNESCO World Heritage city of Sighişoara, our destination for the day.
The medieval town (our third in a row) is supposed to be beautiful, but rather than strolling around trying to appreciate the city in a downpour, we decided to take advantage of its nearly-direct train connection to Munich, Germany. We would ride 90 kilometers to Sighişoara, and catch a train the same day! More details about why we are going to Germany can be found here.
In preparation for another long ride, I picked up some food at the grocery store for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. As I did so, Tyler carried all of our belongings from our room to the street, and re-assembled the bikes.
Back at the hotel, I loaded croissants, yogurt, carrots, green onions, and a whole roasted chicken into my now-roomy cooking pannier. In doing so, I realized that yesterday's thief had also stolen my bag of spices. In the Grand Scheme of Things this is not a big deal, but I was a little bummed. Hopefully the thief's meals will be less bland, though.
At 9AM (quite early for us) we left, very glad to distance ourselves from the depressing and dingy accommodations of our hotel. Excited about our upcoming trip to Germany, we cycled out of Sibiu over splashy potholes and muddy lanes, our breath freezing in white puffs. Oh rain.
Just at the edge of town, the road began to climb, completing my trifecta of cycling horribleness: cold, rain and hills. It took some encouragement from Tyler to get into the groove. He changed my iPod from random to Brian Eno's ambient masterpiece Music for Airports and said, "Look around you. We're in the mountains of Transylvania! It is very likely we'll never see this again, so enjoy it while you can!" Of course, he was right. It worked.
The hills eventually died down, and we began to follow a riverbed. By this time, the riding had warmed me up too! It wasn't so bad, and the saturated green landscapes made up for any discomfort. Transylvania really is epically gorgeous. During our time here we cycled through one historic town after another, each with its own stone fortifications, distinctive church clock towers, and unique sights. If it weren't so rainy, we would've stayed longer.
As we rode, our thoughts went out to Catherine, the National Geographic photojournalist we met in Sibiu. We wondered how she was doing, slogging through the rain, and how well her photos were turning out.
Though I was ready to be complete with Romania, I was also awash with nostalgia about leaving. Where else would we see peddlers wheeling wooden carts around, piled high with various and sundry objects? Gypsy wagons? Fairy tale forests complete with woodsmen and old grannies? Not to mention all the friendly folk we've met who have shown us so much hospitality? And where else in the world have we come across coppersmiths selling their wares along the roadside?
We stopped to chat with this craftsman, and he consented to a photo, in exchange for some chocolate which we happily gave him. Hopefully it brought a little cheer to his job of standing outside all day in the rain.
Around noon, we took a break for lunch. Sitting on our walkstools in a patch of wet grass by the side of the road, we dug into our whole roasted chicken like a pair of hyenas. Now fed, but soaking wet and chilled to the bone from sitting still, we hopped on our bikes again, ready for the final 40 kilometers of our ride.
With cars whizzing by, passing on blind curves and overtaking one another on hilly one-lane roads, I was a little relieved to be heading towards one of the most cycle-friendly cultures in the world.
As we approached Sighişoara, and my energy began to wane, Tyler teased me about our speed. Calling out from behind (I lead and set the pace these days), he pointed out that we are always "an hour away" from our destination. When we are thirty kilometers away, we're going thirty kilometers an hour, by the time we reach twenty kilometers, I've slowed to twenty, and so on.
About five kilometers from town we were treated to another series of slow-going five kilometer-an-hour hills. Like some depressing calculus problem, we were ever approaching, but never reaching zero! At very long last, we rolled into town and headed towards the train station. After a long day of riding, it will feel good to put our feet up and enjoy an effortless form of transportation.