Sibiu (Hermannstadt) has been on my bucket list for quite some time now. It is 2009 and I get to know some Romanians on a sustainable tourism project in the city of Portoroz in Slovenia. We became friends and they told me a lot about their hometown Sibiu in Romania. At that time my inner voice told me that I should go there. Now, six years later, on my cycle tour through Eastern-Europe I can finally fulfil this mission.
In the early evening the train from Sinaia enters Sibiu, the capital of Transylvania. The slow approach makes me feel as if the city is already awaiting me; a mystic and intensive moment. I get off the train and place my foot on the place that has been going around in my head without a concrete image for a long time.
We head for a drink in a cosy cafe in the old picturesque market place together with the craftsman Camillo who we have met on the train. Around midnight we meet Bianca who I got to know via LinkedIn. She invited us to stay with her during our stay in Sibiu. Unfortunately, many of my friends from those days do not live here anymore; except Dumitru. He welcomes us with a big smile and is delighted that we had travelled this long way. Specially for us he took a few days off.
Exploring the heart of Transylvania
The next day, Babs and I cycle to the salt lakes in Ocna Sibiului in Transylvania. We enjoy floating in salt water at 36 degrees and nurturing body, soul and spirit in mud baths after the stress of the past weeks.
The next day we are deeply relaxed and find ourselves at a traditional Romanian wedding together with Dumitru, a lot of wine and local specialities. We join the wedding guests walking through the streets of the small village behind the groom who is on his way to the bride`s house by horse where he will court her in accordance with ancient customs. The small village of Sibiel lies on the edge of the Carpathian Mountains. Customs and traditions have barely changed here. You can also find the unique and almost forgotten art of mirror-inverted glass painting in this town.
It is getting late. The small town of Rasinare impresses us with its colourful houses. Here you find carriages instead of cars and street stands instead of supermarkets. I try pigskin for the first time; spiced with a lot of salt -tastes interesting! In the evening I review the day and am overwhelmed by what I have already seen in only two days. My mission is in full progress.
The next day: I am sitting on one of the highest mountains of the Carpathians at a height of around 2000 m at Lake Balea. I am surrounded by the deathly silence of the glacial lake and completely engulfed in thick clouds. Nothing seems to be important up here, except for the Here and Now. It is exactly these moments alone with Mother Nature far away from home that I often yearn for. Now I start to realise why my inner voice has led me to this place.
The clouds dissolve as quickly as they appeared and now Lake Balea and the mountain road Transfogarascher are clearly visible in front of me. This street is accessible only during a few months in summer. For most parts of the year it is buried under metres of snow.
At the foot of the mountain we follow a lively river course with jumping brook trout. I feel like going back to get my fishing rod. After a while we end up at a huge lake that we drive along before we stand on top of one of the biggest dams of Romania – the Vidraru dam, in the middle of the Walachia. That really is the regular name of this region!
Although I am not religious at all, the next highlights during my time in Sibiu are a bit church-intensive. I am standing in an old church in Reichesdorf where the more than 70-year-old Transylvanian Saxon Mr Schaas tells us about the history and myths of the fortified churches in Transylvania in his ironic and amusing way. He is a great storyteller!
Next cultural highlight is the visit to the Curtea de Arges monastery where King Carol I and Queen Elisabeta as well as King Ferdinand and Queen Maria are buried. They have shaped Romania in a very positive way. To look down on their graves in this Orthodox Church decorated with its gold and mural paintings makes me feel like being a silent witness to something very great.
And what would a visit to Transylvania be without dropping in to see the Count!? Exactly, nothing! Therefore, last stop: Sighisoara! I am standing in front of Dracula´s’ birthplace. This however feels rather like an embarrassing tourist moment for me. However, I play the game and pose with appropriate clothing. At the end we are having dinner outside the city in Dracula Danes Domain. Perfectly touristic!
A big thank you to Bianca and Dumitru for your hospitality, companionship and support! By the way, Dumitru is also working as a tour guide. So, whoever finds himself on the same mission as I did and wants to travel to Transylvania should definitely contact him via his facebook page. Dumitru knows everything and is familiar with all the interesting places! The next big adventure is just one click away.