After our bike trip ended, we found ourselves in Croatia, sans bikes and without a plan. We took a bus east to Belgrade, Serbia. I loved it but Drew didn’t (he later regretted leaving because he missed the food). We took a bus to Timisoara, Romania, not really sure where we were going, but convinced that Romania would be a good place to spend a few months. A few people recommended Sibiu to us, so we took the train over.
Well, we tried to take the train. First we took the wrong train. We got off at the first stop we could, about two hours away, but what we didn’t know was that the train we were on was running late, and our correct train, the train we would sit waiting for at a random train station, had already passed us by. We were offered to buy tickets to go to a totally different city, then switch trains there, to catch a new train to Sibiu. It was mid-morning and we’d get in by midnight. Instead we just got back on the next train heading back to Timisoara, and when they asked for our tickets we showed them the ones to Sibiu and spent 5 minutes playing dumb with the train conductor until he gave up. (Maybe I am just stubborn but when the train station employees stick you on the wrong train, then tell you to get off that train, only to miss your correct train because the trains aren’t running on schedule, then no, I don’t feel like I should have to buy yet another ticket just to return back and start all over again). Back into Timisoara we went back to our hotel and booked the bus instead.
On the long bus ride, everyone around us kept feeding the kids, and I spent the entire ride with Stella on my lap and holding handfuls of food passed across the seats.
I had a connection to Sibiu, albeit obliquely. I knew a Romanian blogger Cezar Dumitru (www.imperatortravel.ro) who knew Tudor Popa (www.cemerita.ro) and in turn put me in contact with Razvan Pop (www.razvanpop.ro) who is the Director of the Department of Culture and National Hertiage in Sibiu. Beyond local issues like approving permits for changes to historical houses (you can update things but the look and style has to stay the same) he’s also incredibly well-educated and knowledgeable about Sibiu history, down to the lineage of certain buildings. I got the chance to walk around the city with him, which was fascinating — so much so I have now promised myself to try to find the cultural director in every place I visit.
Sibiu was the 2007 European Culture Capital, so there’s sort of breathless enthusiasm about their future. Romania is not even on the radar of most travelers, and certainly not as a cultural center, so I felt like I was at once discovering something new (it’s only new to me though) and stunned by how beautiful it is. Above is a photo of the Brukenthal National Museum, which has the largest fine art collection in Romania.
The main plaza is perfectly restored with a water fountain built into the pavement (it sprays water on a timer).
It’s interesting because until recently, Sibiu was mostly German owned in the city center. The city has a German name too: Hermannstadt. So you’re in Romania but it looks very much like cities you’d see in western Europe.
For me though, I love the bits that are a little less perfect. The aging paint, the cracked concrete, the way time has turned these buildings into unintentional works of art.
Like this. I love this kind of thing.
This street alone, made me love Sibiu. There’s two parts of the city, the upper and lower, with ancient ramparts along the way. It’s all tunnels and fortifications which is why the Ottomans never were able to invade the city (and perhaps why it’s so well-preserved).
The Orthodox churches are so beautiful. We have one across the street from us and I love the chiming of bells to announce Sunday mass (which is four hours long, involves lots of singing and everyone stands… there are no pews).
In about 200 AD the Romans left but there’s this one Roman wall left with an inscribing.
It’s still a quirky city, not all history and culture.
I just love walking around this city. So after a week, we looked for a place to stay. Sometimes a place just captures you. I never thought I’d spend almost three months living in Transylvania, but there you go.