“I rubbed my eyes in amazement,” wrote Walter Starkie of Sibiu in 1929. “The town where I found myself did not seem to be in Transylvania, for it had no Romanian or Hungarian characteristics: the narrow streets and old gabled houses made me think of Nuremberg.”
Sibiu (Hermannstadt in German) was the largest and wealthiest of the seven walled citadels* built in the 12th century by German settlers known as Transylvanian Saxons. The riches amassed by its guilds paid for the construction of both impressive buildings and the fortifications required to protect them.
Sibiu’s Old Town retains the grandeur of its earlier days when rich and powerful guilds dominated regional trade. Like Sighisoara and Brasov, it has a distinctly Germanic feeling. Sections of the medieval wall still guard the historic area, where narrow streets pass steep-roofed 17th century buildings with gable overhangs before opening into vast, church-dominated squares such as Great Square and Little Square. The Great Square is the site of the Roman-Catholic Church and the Brukenthal Palace, where you will find one of Romania’s most important art collections. The square is linked to the Little Square by a passage beneath the Council Tower, which is worth visiting for the excellent views over the town. The third square, Huet Square, is dominated by the Evangelical Cathedral.
The Astra Museum of Traditional Folk Civilization in Sibiu. ASTRA celebrates and presents the village lifestyle of Romanian civilization down to the wood planks of homes and stones of churches. Covering over 230 Acres of land, it’s the largest open air ethnographic museum in Europe. The museum is broken up into six sections, each dedicated to a “skill” important to Romanian life such as mining and clothing manufacturing.
This place really surprised me. About 30 minutes from the city center, on the outskirts of Sibiu. Traditional Romanian homesteads have been expertly preserved and recreated. Some were removed from their original locations and moved here
Most months have myriad things going on, from festivals (more festivals here than any other city in Romania), exhibitions, theatre and opera, as well as plenty of cafes to people-watch in the city’s three main squares. Sibiu has a bohemian yet stately ambience, which is perhaps what makes it so appealing; its back streets of wilting pea-green houses with their distinctive eyelid windows watching a cast of artists, visiting guildsmen and buskers bustle below them, just as they did back in the 18th century when the city really blossomed.