The city of Sibiu, European capital of culture 2007 no less, was our first real taste of Romania.
We came to Sibiu by train from the lively city of Cluj Napoca which was a fairly straight-forward journey. There was one change to make, in a place named Copşa Mică, which sounded like a nice, quaint little place to kill 45 minutes while we waited for the next train…
…Or not as we discovered on the approach. A dirty, grey, industrial smear on the landscape is what it was, billowing plumes of toxic matter from myriad chimneys. Several vacant-looking people of all ages, who looked as grey as their ashen surroundings, got on the train to Sibiu when it turned up, presumably to escape this poisonous hell hole.
Imagine everyone’s relief when we arrived in beautiful Sibiu. We had a room booked at the Happy Day Pension and it certainly was a happy day when we finally made it, particularly if I gloss over the bit where the taxi driver almost killed us en-route.
A ten minute walk from Happy Day Pension took us to the beating heart of Sibiu; it’s beautifully preserved old town.
Most of the colourful buildings that border the three main squares and surrounding alleys are 0ld and crumbling, yet characterful and charming in the way that faded glamour always is.
As we enjoyed food and drink and a good bit of people watching from one of the many outdoor cafés, it became apparent that we were also under surveillance… Look up anywhere in the old town and the curious rooftop peepers look back at you.
These weird and wonderful windows keep watch over the chilled out street life as they have done for the last 500 years. How things must have changed in that time.
Speaking of how things were in this part of Romania, if this is something that interests you then definitely find time to visit the ASTRA Open Air Museum, 3km south of Sibiu. There are countless buildings built in the traditional style and showcasing Transylvanian country life as it was, surrounded by acres of tranquil and cool forest.
Back to the strongholds and turrets of Sibiu’s old town, really get on top of the place by climbing the rickety old wooden steps of the Council Tower. This really is the best view of Sibiu, especially when it’s in the throes of one of many spectacular thunder and lightning storms that sweep over Transylvania on a regular basis.
Sibiu is a jewel in the middle of Romania that should not be missed and when you get there, you’ll most probably want to stay for a very long time.