I have traveled to quite a few cities in Europe, including some of the greatest such as the City of Romance – Paris and the Queen of Cities – Prague, but there is no city that has captured my heart like the city of Sibiu.
Sibiu was the European Capital City of Culture in 2007 and after spending a mere ten minutes in the city I could instantly see why. So why is Sibiu the city I love above all others?
I will start from the top, the Upper Town. When you walk down the main street – Bulevardul Nicolae Bălcescu – lined with pastel-colored houses, and patios full of people on either side dressed in bright colours it feels like walking down the aisle. You can walk down the middle because there is so much space and everyone wanders at his or her own pace; stopping for an ice cream, a covrig (big pretzel – pronounced cove-rig) or a gogoasa (homemade donut filled with jam – pronounced go-goa-sha). I tried all three over the course of my visit.
When you make it to the end of the street, you stand before Piaţa Mare (big square – sounds way better in Romanian: Pi-at-za Mar-ay). You will see the children screaming with delight as the water sprays up from the ground in the center, moving your gaze up you will see the Council Tower built in the 14th century and continually rebuilt to become a symbol of the city.
To the left is the Brukenthal Palace built between 1777 and 1787 as the main residence for the Governor of Transylvania Samuel von Brukenthal and is now the National Brukenthal Museum. The Museum itself still looks like a Palace inside with its rich decorations, antique furniture and lovely paintings.
The first painting you see upon entering was done by one of Romania’s most famous painters: Nicolae Girgorescu. I particularly liked the display of handmade carpets because I could finally see them up close because in the Black Church in Brasov, you can only see them from below as they hang from the top balcony. It’s amazing to see how old they are and the minute details of the patterns. After seeing many of Romania’s cities and this museum, I have to say the Romanian’s are one of the most artistically talented cultures I’ve seen. It makes me want to visit many more museums on my future trips. In the Brukenthal Museum you will also find a painting of a notorious French Queen.
There are so many astounding things to see in Sibiu, you might want to plan out your days in advance if you’re on a strict timeline. If you want to take in the beauty of Piaţa Mare try the famous Perla café, but be prepared for an overload of sweetness whether it’s an expresso topped with a mountain of whipped cream or a decadent bowl of ice cream.
After admiring the square from below, it was time to take it to the top of the Council Tower. Climbing the stairs to the top floor, you can peak out the windows on the lower levels. I haven’t yet mentioned that it was over 30 degrees when I visited, so just to warn you that the inside of the tower can feel like a sauna so getting a bottle of water before ascent is advisable. When you reach the top, you will be tempted to spend a few hours overlooking the Upper and Lower town. You can see Piaţa Mare on one side (Upper Town) and Piaţa Mica (small square in the Lower Town). The Evanghelical Church, built in the 14th century, peaks out from behind Piaţa Mica and its roof glitters in the sun.
You may notice that the windows in some of the roofs of the buildings look like eyes half-closed. I imagined that they were eyes heavy with sleepiness from the heat. Its just one detail that shows a glimpse of Sibiu’s character. Beneath the Council Tower is a passageway from Piaţa Mare to Piaţa Mica.
It’s the Lower Town where I really started to fall for Sibiu. I don’t want to rush through the post and it will be too long to fit it all in here so you will have to stay tuned for Sibiu Part II – The Lower Town next week.
Have you been to Sibiu? Which city have you been to that you fell in love with? What are the things that you like so much about your favorite city?
© Nicole Basaraba. Content and photos.
Read about my love for the Lower Town of Sibiu, here.