Cities / Towns Visited: 69
Countries Visited: 19
Steps Taken Today: 11,653
Steps Taken Around the World: 2,319,724
Today would see us say goodbye to Brașov and make our way onwards to our next home; Sighișoara. However, we had booked train tickets for later in the day, as we had one last place we needed to visit before our departure, somewhere which had been in view for our entire stay, and sat just a short walk from our front door; Mt Tampa. This towering mountain abuts the south of the city, and its most notable feature is the Hollywood style ‘ Brașov’ sign with sit nestled amongst its trees. Now, you can in fact hike up the mountain, but with limited time, and with forboding clouds hovering overhead, we decided the most sensible form of ascent would be the cable car, thus we made a beeline for it.
Buying our ticket, it was only a short wait before we were zipping up the wire in the tiny pod to the summit. Stepping out we ventured outside the station and onto the hiking trails which lead you along the ridge of the mountain. It seemed that we were amidst the very clouds themselves, with a gentle mist hanging in the air around us. With that said, there was still some measure of clouds above us, recognisable by the fact we were still being rained on lightly from above. Undeterred, and with umbrella in hand, we took the right hand path and headed out along the slippery rocks which line it, doing our best to be as sure-footed as possible, but often looking more akin to a somewhat over-intoxicated mountain goat.
A short stumble and we found ourselves perched just beside the aforementioned white lettered sign, looking down on the endearing red tiled roofs of the city. It was an ideal way to bid our farewell to a city which had treated us so kindly, and would stay in our hearts even after our departure. From here we continued to the end of the ridge. At this point we took a seat on the edge of a wooden platform which protrudes from the edge. As picturesque as that sounds, we were completely shrouded in clouds and the town was hidden from view. To top it off, it was then that said clouds bestowed upon us heavier rain, and we tucked ourselves beneath the umbrella as best we could, hoping it would blow over soon. Fifteen minutes came and went before it eased and the mist cleared enough for the town to creep back into view. Just then the sound of brass instruments, as you would expect from a marching band, danced through the air from some indiscernible location in Brașov. By now everyone had scattered because of the rain, and we were left with a quiet moment to share, just us, as we lingered a little longer.
Finally though, we had to make a move, and it wasn’t long before we were piling back into the cable car for the quick descent. With a little time to spare we took the chance to grab some Belgium fries and a couple of corvidogs for lunch, and finished our visit with an ice cream. I’m a sucker for interesting flavours, and found a place selling pistachio and passionfruit frozen yoghurt, and mulberry sorbet, and of course took it upon myself to try both.
With our train departure looming, we grabbed our luggage and caught the bus to the station. As we arrived at our platform we were soon to realise that we were going to be stuck on a rather questionable train. You see, when waiting for the train the previous day we had looked across and seen a graffiti covered train, filled with gypsies and what I’m sure the media would describe as hooligans or undesirables. We’re talking forcing the doors open and sitting with their legs hanging out of the carriage while it trundled off. We had jokingly looked at each other and said ‘I hope ours isn’t like that’. In that moment we seemed to have jinxed ourselves, as here we were boarding that very same kind of train. Now I must point out that this is one of the slow services, which runs the same line as the faster trains but trundles you in at a pace which feels slower than walking speed at times, and takes an extra hour. The only benefit being that they are dirt cheap tickets to purchase and we had time to spare.
As we boarded we settled ourselves into some free seats, and did our best to keep away from the raucous of the entire family of gypsies, with their mountain of bags. As the train pulled away and the ticket check began we were unsurprised to see that the aforementioned folks were not in possession of a single one, and thus were ejected at the next stop. To be fair I imagine that is simple the most cost effective way for them to get from place to place, as no fine is seemingly issued for their lack of tickets. I’m not sure if that is the norm, or the train officials just know it’s a lost cause trying to squeeze a cent out of them. Either way, they were off in the next town now, spruiking their wares to earn a few dollars. Its a life I do not understand, but clearly it works for them.
Eventually we made it to Sighișoara, and a short walk found us at our hotel. We had been forced to fork out the extra money for a room at one of the Hilton owned hotels, as everything else close by had seemed to be booked out. A fact that seemed odd, but would become blazingly obvious the next day; that’s a story for the next blog though. A decent meal at the hotel restaurant and we were soon tucking ourselves into bed.
As I thought about our day as we lay in bed, my mind paused, slightly randomly, on the mulberry sorbet. It was a flavour, and a fruit, you simply don’t see around much in Australia, and yet it had tasted so familiar. It tasted like the smell of a mulberry candle I had burnt while I studied in my last year of high school. It’s funny how powerful the connection of smell, and subsequently taste, can be. It can take us back to specific moments in our past almost instantaneously. The taste of mince pies plonk me down at my grandparents house on Christmas with the mountains of food that would feed us for the next few days; a waft of French onion soup and I’m a kid again, eating my mum’s lamb chops, squabbling with my brother over who gets to lie closest to the heater in the depths of winter; the smell of rotisserie meat, and I’m back on another busy Saturday night service at work with the clatter of pots and pans, amongst organised chaos; and the taste of that sorbet and I was back at my desk at home, finishing my maths homework while The Mighty Boosh DVD cycled through for the third time in the background.
Memories are easy to lose as we age, but those which are connected to smells and taste tend to remain much stronger. This is because we create more connections in different parts of our brain when we are using more than just sight to build a memory. The olfactory bulb is closely connected to the parts of the brain responsible for memory creation and thus they are intrinsically linked. Memory is more than just a figurative file in a tiny box, stacked somewhere in a dusty corner of our minds; it is a holistic experience, and when we can find the smell of it, often the others parts of the memory come racing back. Something as simple as a smell can result in an overwhelming sense of emotion. You might smile at the smell of popcorn, but the smell of rosemary might make your heart break all over again. Recent research has found that a decrease in the sense of smell is a true physical indicator of the onset of dementia, and yet if you were to ask most people which sense they would give up if they had to choose one, I think the majority would select smell. We take it so much for granted, that we don’t quite realise just how important it truly is, not just for the correct function of our sense of taste, but for the production and upkeep of our memories.
Our individual memories are what make us who we are, they shape how we act and how we perceive the world, and they are the built in manual of what to, and not to, do. These blogs, as tedious as they are to fit in sometimes, will stand to remind me of my adventures when old age begins to steal my senses. I have watched one of my grandmothers fall into the pit of dementia and be stolen from this Earth unable to recognise me, and barely akin to her own children. It is not a fate I would wish on anyone, but I take comfort in the fact that whatever period of her life her mind took her to in those final months, her sister (of whom she had lost to cancer some fifteen years earlier) was there with her, as she muttered her name often in present tense form. Sometimes I curse the acuteness of my photographic memory, and the overwhelming strength of my emotional memory, as it causes me to struggle with letting go of painful past truths. Regardless of this, I will endeavour to keep my mind active and sharp throughout my life in the hope my memories will never leave me, for without them we are left with but one question, who am I?