After leaving Bucharest we headed north on a train to Sibiu, Romania. Taking my dad’s advice, we booked first class tickets in order to have a reserved seat. It was worth spending a little more on first class as we noticed the second class cabins were packed with people, leaving many with standing room only. The ride took six hours because the train speeds are relatively slow compared to those in other countries but we were fortunate enough to see parts of Romania’s countryside and mountain ranges through the window. I passed the time by reading Michelle Obama’s book Becoming, which I recommend. It was very intriguing to learn about her years in the White House, and she is an easy woman to admire.
The primary motivation for making the trip to Sibiu was to visit my dad’s eldest sister and her husband. My aunt and uncle last visited America in 1998–needless to say, I have very few memories of them. Worried we would not be able to recognize each other after 21 years, my aunt messaged me the details of the outfit she was wearing. As soon as we got off the train, I instantly spotted her black hair and maroon colored clothing. It felt so good to see her and to study the facial resemblances she shares with my dad.
If I did not have family in Sibiu, we probably would have made the mistake of skipping over the city. We didn’t know much about Sibiu other than it is in the mountains and it was going to be colder than Bucharest. We did not pack for cold weather nor did we plan on being in cooler climates. I accepted the drop in temperature as soon as I saw the city center. Sibiu is quaint and charming, and made me feel like I was back in Germany.
My aunt was incredibly thoughtful and hired an English-speaking guide to show us around and explain some of the history behind this part of Romania. The city made me feel like I was back in Germany because much of what exists today was built by the Germans. At one point in time the Germans not only inhabited but ruled over Sibiu. They are responsible for the large brick wall encompassing the city, as well as the architecture found within its boundaries.
The City Center
Sibiu has unique rooftops, characterized by the “eyes” peeking out through the tiles. Once my aunt pointed out this famous feature, I couldn’t help but notice “eyes” everywhere.
It’s not hard to fall in love with this city.
The Bridge of Lies has myth but maybe some truth behind its name. The story tells that soldiers used to bring their dates to the bridge, making promises they would never keep.
Nestled in the middle of the town is Council Tower. It once was used to defend the city and now offers a panoramic view to anyone willing to climb the narrow and winding staircase.
Not far from the city center is Dumbrava, a park filled with houses representative of different regions and specifically different villages in Romania. The homes are donated, typically by those who inherit them from their family. While some of the older generations continue to reside in villages, the younger generations have been leaving to pursue schooling and other opportunities in the urban cities. As a result of these generational differences, young people are willing to allow their inheritance to be moved to Dumbrava Park for display.
Romania’s currency is in lei, and pictured on the 10 lei bill is a photo of one of the houses from Dumbrava. We were on a mission to find it but were unsuccessful and ran out of time. Dumbrava is huge, and we were unable to cover the entire park even after being there for a few hours. What impressed me most about the homes is that they were not replicas–this really made them come to life for me. I also think it’s really neat people are willing to donate their family homes, rather than knocking them down for a fresh start.
Before I wrap up, I should introduce you to my uncle, Vasile. He is the sweetest man, evidenced by the beaded alligator in the photograph below. I do not remember but I made the alligator and gave it to him when he visited America in 1998. I couldn’t believe he not only kept it after all those years but still has it hanging in his house. Aside from his kind spirit, he is hilarious and kept us laughing every moment he could.
I showed you just about every angle I captured during our weekend in Sibiu! I feel Sibiu is an undiscovered gem, and definitely has enough allure to compete with the more well-known European cities. I hope after seeing these photos you too fall in love.