It took me a long time after emigrating from Romania to become interested in exploring the land of my birth. Being born there, Romania wasn’t at the top of my list of European countries to visit. But I have to confess that every time I came across other people’s posts about my country of origin I felt a little jealous and ashamed. So here I am, trying to undo my betrayal.
A couple of months ago we took a road trip to Sibiu. Also known as Hermannstadt (in German) the city was the center of Romania’s German minority since medieval times. But the Transylvanian German population started decreasing after World War II and the process continued during the Communist Era. After the collapse of Ceausescu’s Regime in 1989, over half a million Germans fled to Germany. Today less than 2% of Sibiu’s population are Germans, about 3% Hungarians and the remaining 95% are ethnic Romanians. Sibiu is located in the Southern part of Transylvania and has one of the most authentic and perfectly preserved historic centers. In the Middle Ages Sibiu was a very powerful city, surrounded by the fortified walls and 39 defense towers, some of which still exist today.
After visiting The Medieval Citadel of Sighisoara, we liked Sibiu even more. The historic center was recently renovated and it looks absolutely spectacular, with an ensemble of three squares surrounded by Gothic and Baroque buildings.
The Large Square is paved with granite tiles and surrounded by some important medieval edifices, like the Brukenthal Palace, the Catholic Church, the Generals’ House and Haller House. During the Middle Ages the Square was used for important events, such as public gatherings and executions.
The Small Square is divided into two parts separated by Ocnei Street. The second part descends under the Bridge of Lies towards the Lower Town. The buildings in the Small Square were mainly craftsmen shops where the merchandise was displayed.
A very picturesque corner of the Square is the Goldsmiths’ Stairway, located next to the Council Tower.
The Council Tower was once used to defend one of the entrance gates of the city. The Tower can be visited for a minimal fee and offers a great panoramic view from the top.
From the top you can see all the landmarks of the historic area, so I would recommend starting your tour here because you can use the view as a tour guide. On the first platform of the tower there is a beautiful exhibition of photography featuring old Romanian costumes and traditions.
Huet Square is the smallest of the squares that make up the historic center. Here you can see the Evangelic Church, the Bruckenthal High School and the Parish House. Some days there is an open market here where you can buy fresh produce, lard and some tasty local cheeses .
Places to Stay
Romanian hospitality and friendliness is known worldwide. People there will go a long way to please you and make you feel at home. Like many other cities in Transylvania, Sibiu is not short of great accommodations, ranging from hotels, hostels, to inns and bed and breakfasts. Rooms are clean and nicely furnished and prices are very reasonable, ranging from $30 to $95/night. We stayed in a Bed and Breakfast where we paid only 100 RON/night (about $32) and were extremely satisfied with the service. The room was impeccably clean, bathroom had been remodeled and the full breakfast they served was fresh and tasty.
Restaurants and Cafes
There is a big range of restaurants, pubs and cafés in the historic center of Sibiu where you can enjoy good food from the local and international cuisine. One of the most famous restaurants in the Old Town is Crama Sibiul Vechi, that serves excellent traditional food at very good prices.
The restaurant is located in a cellar and features live music. The restaurant is relatively small and always crowded, so you need reservations. However, there are so many other excellent places where you can enjoy good food and excellent service, that you almost can’t go wrong anywhere.