I spend most of my days sitting out on the porch with a mug of beer, staring at the Church on the Hill, an iconic landmark in the citadel of Sighișoara, in Transylvania. I planned to be in Romania for a month while I researched Țuică, a sweet and strong plum brandy, for a future article. Four weeks after I arrived, COVID-19 began wreaking havoc across Europe. Instead of returning to Berlin, where I’m based, I decided to hole up in a guesthouse overlooking the lower town.
While I’ve come to love this place, with its ties to the Dracula myth (it’s the birthplace of Vlad Țepeș), I find my mind wandering back to Bundoran, a small surf town on the West Coast of Ireland that I’ve been visiting on and off for the past five years. I yearn to drink cans of Tuborg at Rougey Lodge or Bundoran Surf Co. I miss walking into Simpsons after a trip to town and being greeted by one of the staff with a “welcome home.” I think about The Chasin’ Bull, where I’d go to see my friend Cian and Huib play music. Or the Bridge Bar, where I’d end up drinking a pint or two after running into friends on one of my daily walks around town.
There is one bar, though, that I brood over more than the others. I never got to have my last pint of Guinness at Brennan’s Criterion Bar on Main Street. It was an old-school pub, operated by two sisters in their late 80s and early 90s, Patricia and Nan Brennan, where music and swearing were not allowed. If you broke the rules, they’d toss you out—no questions asked. Even though I was constantly blowing in and out of town on a visa, Brennan’s made me feel like a local. “Welcome back,” they’d say. “How long are you with us this time?” I guess I knew Brennan’s would close eventually, after Nan died in the summer of 2017, leaving only Patricia to run the bar. But I still held on to the hope I’d have one more summer there with my friends—one more opportunity to hear Patricia say, “How long are you with us this time?”
This summer will be the summer of solo drinking instead. Bars have reopened in Sighișoara, but I don’t feel comfortable; the vibe is too dystopian, masks too sparse. I prefer the porch, overlooking that 13th-century Gothic church, a mug of beer and perhaps a glass of the sour cherry brandy I’ve begun making. You’ll find me here until my visa runs out, and then I’ll move on. Maybe back to Berlin, but more likely to Bundoran as my heart yearns to go back to the place I call home.