I spent three nights in Sibiu, arriving late at night the first night at the very far away bus station rather than at the one a five-minute walk from the hostel. Taxis are cheap in Romania however and the taxi driver was more than happy to use the meter. This always makes me happy – it’s a little thing, but I’d rather pay the right price than have to negotiate and still get ripped off.
My first full day in Sibiu I hit up the town, visiting the main sights and enjoying some small museums. It was the weekend and yet the centre was quiet. There was supposedly a big film festival happening, but I didn’t see any evidence of this. The main square of Sibiu seems like a vast empty space with a little caged well to one side with a few teenagers sitting by looking glum and a gypsy woman with a baby begging; a few cafes had some tables outside, but overall there wasn’t a lot going on. I went to the tourist office and they gave me a few helpful maps. Walking around the town was pleasant enough; pastel-painted buildings with churches on every other corner, couples with prams moving slowly along the boulevard, overdressed twenty-somethings ducking in and out of fashion stores – often with a little dog in their arms.
I visited a couple of churches, and it seemed like it was Sibiu Wedding Day – in one church I watched a couple being married, and ten minutes later they were out the door and another couple took their place. Yet another couple was waiting outside! Like in many churches in Romania, photos were not allowed. However, I spotted a few brides and grooms having their wedding photos taken around town so took some sneaky shots. I could probably fill an album with sneakily taken photos of newlyweds – I seem to find them everywhere I go! I can’t help myself.
I climbed up the Evangelic church tower, 194 steps, as it had been a while since I’d seen a city from above. The church itself was being restored, and most of the interesting things were hidden by scaffolding.
The first museum I visited was the Muzeul de Istorie a Farmaciei – the history of pharmacy museum. As I’ve mentioned before, I like pharmacy museums. I’m not entirely sure why, but I like seeing all the beautiful old jars and bottles that medicines and minerals were kept in, as well as the lovely old cabinets. This museum had a small but detailed exhibition on homeopathy which was quite fascinating, as well as a collection of seventeenth and eighteenth century surgical kits which looked quite terrifying. Many of the tools used appear to have changed little in the last few hundred years, but I don’t like thinking about the boxes of different bone cutting saws. I don’t think I would enjoy having a limb amputated [let’s face it, who would?] in a modern hospital under anaesthetic, let alone two hundred years ago conscious, with a bottle of brandy and some opium if lucky.
I also checked out the Ethnographic Museum, which I’d been hoping would focus on Romania. It didn’t, but I still enjoyed it. It had an exhibit of African tools and sculptures and head pieces, as well as an Australian boomerang and an Egyptian mummy. On the basement level there was a small photography exhibition which had some beautiful pictures about religion in a small Orthodox village, all in black and white.
The last museum I visited that day was the Museum of History. It was absolutely brilliant. You start from prehistoric times in a brand new section of the museum that traces the earliest occupants of the region, with reconstructions of different types of houses and crafts. As you explore the museum you move chronologically through the region’s history, with a few rooms dedicated to the medieval guilds of the city. This was probably my favourite part. The rooms dedicated to the locksmith’s guild was amazing – they had the most beautifully complex locks that I had ever seen, and I was cursing the no-photography rule. I set off a few alarms getting too close as I was trying to study the intricacies of these marvellous creations [I swear I wasn’t trying to steal them – this did cross my mind, however a twenty kilogram lock mechanism simply was not going to fit neatly in my pocket…]. The giant keys that opened these locks were equally detailed and lovely. For some reason I have a bit of an obsession with keys and antique locks. This probably goes along with my love of old doors.
The next day I decided to visit the ‘Muzeul Civilizaţiei Populare Tradiţionale ASTRA’- better known as the Folk Village Museum. This museum is located outside the city in a park, and it’s easy to get there – buses leave from the stop in front of the train station every half hour, with hourly buses going all the way to the site. The others stop about a ten minute walk before the museum. It takes about forty-five minutes to get there by bus.
The forested park, centred around a lake, contains relocated original village houses and churches from all around Romania, and they continue to add more. They demonstrate the wide range of home styles in the country. There are also areas full of windmills, and others which show the buildings used by potters, blacksmiths and other craftsmen. Unfortunately all the houses are locked and you cannot enter any, only look at the outside. Peering into the windows usually shows you that some are used for storage but most are just empty – the houses are not set up inside as they may have been when in use. This was the most disappointing thing for me. It’s interesting to see the outside, but I would have liked to see a little bit more of how people lived. To me they seemed a little like empty shells.
What I really liked was the churches, and the local crosses that were erected by communities for protection. These would often be placed at the entrance to a village, and while some were very elaborate others were of a very naive and simple style reflective of the community they served.
I’d taken some fruit and snacks with me, and I sat on the edge of the lake here enjoying a late lunch. There’s no complaining about the view!
I also managed to spot yet another pair of newlyweds having their wedding photos taken. It seems that there is simply no escape!
I enjoyed Sibiu. The town was quite pretty, and it had some great museums. It had some good food too – following the recommendations of the hostel was a good idea and I ate very well. Here’s a few more pictures I took around town.
And, finally, some tagging that made me laugh. I’m thinking that this guy is too lazy to hang around the street looking for takers and figured this might make life easier!