For me, at least, the highlight of Sibiu was a beautiful hike we did on a cold morning. On the trail for nearly two hours, we saw just two other hikers, which makes it pretty nice.
Still in Transylvania we stopped for two nights in Sibiu, another pretty little Germanic town with a great Medieval feel to it. Sibiu was the capital of Transylvania for much of the 18th century and again briefly in the 19th century. More recently it was named Europe’s Capital of Culture in 2007, so we figured it must have had something going on. As late as 1945 the city was primarily German and known by the name Hermannstadt but after the war most Germans emigrated to Germany or Austria leaving only a very small German minority there. One of the Germans who remained, however, was Klaus Johannis who was elected mayor in 2000, the first ethnic German mayor of a Romanian city since the Second World War. Apparently he did well as Mayor as today he is the President of Romania.
How did we spend our time in Sibiu? Well, the one full day we were in town we left, driving about an hour to the town of Paltinis to go for a hike. It had been a little frustrating because I’d asked at the hotel desk about hiking in the area; the woman there said she didn’t know of any trails. Yet if you Google “Sibiu hiking” you get to the county’s tourist website that opens by saying “With over 500 marked hiking trails, the county of Sibiu is truly a hiker’ paradise.” That’s the stuff a hotel is supposed to know.
A view from the trail
At any rate we had an absolutely lovely hike around Paltinis up in the Carpathians and still got done in time to get back to town for lunch. We’re still not enamored of Romanian food as we’re finding it just too heavy and Germanic. Somehow, though, we’re not starving. Beyond that there was an interesting art museum that was worth an hour, a beautiful orthodox cathedral, and – as we’ve learned to do so well – hanging out in cafés.
And just like that after two days we’re back on the road, off to another cute Romanian town.
Liar’s Bridge is a Sibiuan landmark. There are a variety of legends about how it got its name – from the market people who once worked near by and couldn’t be trusted, from the creaks and moans the older wooden bridge would emit if someone was lying while on it – but whatever the basis it’s supposedly the oldest cast iron bridge in Romania.
A quirky feature of Sibiu’s architecture is the weird third-floor windows you can see on buildings here. When I first saw them I thought they looked like eyes and sure enough, they’re called the City’s Eyes. Never seen anything like them.
Sibiu is a diverse city in terms of religion. Lutheran is the biggest religion but they account for less than half the population. There are sizable populations of Roman Catholics, Eastern Orthodox Catholics, and even some Jews. The Lutheran churches, though, are largely boring inside. This is the Orthodox Holy Trinity Cathedral and it was stunning. I’m thinking that means the Orthodox God is better than the Lutheran God.
One of the challenges we’ve had in this tour of the Balkans is that because we’ve done very little advance planning often the hotels we would like to stay in are full. In Sibiu we ended up in a distinctly inferior place, perhaps because we were there during Cibinfest (Sibiu is on the Cibin River). That’s a very German-sounding Oom-Pah band playing to a pretty big crowd that was hogging all the good hotel rooms.
The Brukenthal Museum is housed in the one-time palace of Samuel von Brukenthal, once the Habsburg governor of Transylvania. The museum was nice; I particularly liked the way they mixed the art collection with furniture and other stuff from the period when von Brukenthal was governor. What annoyed me is that although the entry ticket was a little over $5, a ticket that would allow you to take pictures would have cost over $30. I asked about the disparity and was told in essence “Because we want you to buy a book about the collection instead.” I honestly didn’t know I wasn’t supposed to take pictures when I snapped this but I was annoyed anyway.
A statue in Sibiu
And finally, back on the trail, just because it was my favorite part of the stop
We saw the most amazing mushrooms on our hike, and even saw a small family leaving the trail just as we got on it with buckets full of wild mushrooms. Mark suggested it would be unwise for us to try our luck with them.