In the fast 21st century, parts of the Romanian region Transylvania thankfully remain horse-and-cart country. Sighisoara, with the region’s best-preserved Saxon fortress, is a good base to explore. BinderBubi Hotel and Spa is the town’s leading hotel.
From the BinderBubi hotel you can see the spectacular 13th-century Clock Tower around which the small medieval town is built, and it is just a 10-minute walk.
The landmark Clock Tower is on the front cover of our “Transylvania” guide book. The centre of Sighisoara is said by the book to be Europe’s most beautiful and well-preserved inhabited citadel, with nine remaining towers, and it is listed by UNESCO as a World Heritage Site.
BinderBubi is of a more recent vintage, having opened in 2009. Binder was a Saxon settler in the region and Bubi was his nickname. German craftsmen and merchants now referred to as the Transylvanian Saxons were invited to the region in the 12th century by the King of Hungary to settle and defend the frontier of his realm.
If Transylvania translates from Latin as “beyond the forest”, rather a lot of forest is on display in the heavily wooded BinderBubi Hotel and Spa. Immediately upon entering the high-ceilinged and much-panelled reception area, the astute may notice a distinct Tyrolean atmosphere. It transpires that all the extensive pine panelling and the great majority of the furniture and fittings throughout the hotel were brought in from Austria, to ensure quality.
The hotel’s five-star rating is allocated by the Romanian Ministry of Regional Development and Tourism, and apparently the nearest five-star is 56 kilometres away. By the by, 56 kilometres is a good hourly distance by car on a main road in Transylvania. Narrow highways through urban settlements are the norm, and really rural roads are heavily worn: about 20kmh if you don’t want to bust your suspension.
Trundling horses and carts were still much used by the well-dressed not so long ago. These days there are fewer and the occupants seem to be just the poor. Even if you don’t see a cart for a while, horse droppings are on the edge of the road. For us, it is good to see this old way of life has not been obliterated yet by “progress”.
Back at the BinderBubi after a day viewing Saxon fortified churches, in our experience this hotel is a modest five-star, being exceptionally clean and comfortable but dispensing with the fripperies of the heavy-duty hotels – the grand piano in the lobby or bar, the cigar room with multi-euro lung-busters and the credit-card-testing food and drink,
This is a big advantage, meaning you can dine where you’re staying for a price competitive with outside establishments in the town. And the menu won’t allow you to forget where you are, as it includes Transylvanian lamb chop, Transylvanian vegetable soup, Transylvanian beef sour soup, Transylvanian stew with polenta, and deer and wild boar pot with dumplings.
Another big attraction for us is our sizeable “Confort Suite”, with comfy chair and red and gold upholstery bench, two tables, lots of natural light, second toilet, safe, coffee maker, free wifi and a traditional tiled heater. Apart from the pine cupboards and panelling, the cornices are also wood and the doorways to all 45 rooms and seven suites have a welcoming wooden surround. Like a good hostess, our very large room gives a nice first impression and makes you feel right at home; that you could never outstay your welcome.
A reminder of the old Transylvania can be found in the hotel corridors, where pre-machine-age implements and objects that could be museum pieces, all wooden, are on display: butter churns, a primitive “washing machine”, a mangle, scales, a wine press, and hand-painted chests, cupboards and wall panels.
BinderBubi Hotel and Spa has three conference rooms for trainings, workshops or business meetings. They hold 15, 40 or 70 people and one of them, Galileo, has perfumed pine panelling giving a constant aromatic atmosphere.
In its Blumengarten Spa, the standard saunas, Jacuzzi, massages and relaxation room are augmented by a hay bath, where when you inhale the flavour of the hay capsules, researchers say a deep relaxation of nerves and muscles takes place and a noticeable improvement of the breathing process is obtained.
Down in La Pastorella wine cellar there is room for 85 guests and the walls are decorated with paintings inspired by Pieter Bruegel the Elder, the great Flemish painter of the 16th century. On the terrace, four white statues of cherubs watch over us as we try Ursus, a Romanian beer.
Too soon, our stay in Sighisoara is over. German, Hungarian and Romanian cultures have crossed paths here. Many Hungarians still probably prefer to stick to the town’s old name, Segesvár, lost nearly a century ago. And of course “Erdély” for Transylvania. Something to do with the First World War.
BinderBubi Hotel and Spa
Str. Nicolae Balcescu 8
Sighisoara, Mures County, Romania
Tel.: (+4) 0372 088-888
Website: www. binderbubisighisoara.ro