The eyes of the city
As you explore the older parts of Sibiu one thing will surely strike you – the rooftops appear to be looking at you! These distinctive small windows are sometimes referred to as the “eyes of the city”. Our tour guide Adela told us that it was sometimes claimed that these were a deliberate device of the German occupiers of this region, so that any local who didn’t obey their laws would feel that there were spies on the lookout for such bad behaviour! True or not, the effect is striking and I found myself taking loads of photos of these roofs as I walked around the city
Next tip: more about Sibiu’s attractive old houses
- Historical Travel
The Dracula connection
One person we did not meet in Sibiu, despite being in Transylvania, was the infamous Count Dracula! Unsurprising perhaps, as he is a fictitious character, created by Bram Stoker in his novel “Dracula”. He is a centuries-old vampire, sorcerer, and Transylvanian nobleman, descended from Attila the Hun, who lives in an ancient castle in Transylvania. He has supernatural powers and preys on humans, sucking their blood to maintain his strength. He attempts to take over the world, starting in England, but is eventually foiled and killed by Jonathan Harker, one of the novel’s heroes.
While this is pure fiction, it is generally held that some aspects of the Count were inspired by the 15th century Romanian general, Prince Vlad III the Impaler, who was sometimes known as "Dracula". He ruled Wallachia from 1456 to 1462, protecting the region from the Ottomans. But he was renowned for his cruelty, and in particular, as his nickname suggests, for his habit of impaling his enemies. It is said that he was responsible for the deaths of tens of thousands. Wikipedia quotes a contemporary German pamphlet:
"He let children be roasted; those, their mothers were forced to eat. And (he) cut off the breasts of women; those, their husbands were forced to eat. After that, he had them all impaled.”
Unlike Stoker’s creation, he did not live in Transylvania but did carry out raids here. I had expected that, given the popularity of the fictional Count (as depicted not only in the novel but also in numerous films), that Sibiu might make a bit of a tourist-focused deal of the connection. Not at all – the figure shown in my main picture, spotted outside a sports bar on the Strada Nicholae Balcescu, was the only glimpse. Just the same, you may want to protect yourself, in which case this garlic (photo two) spotted in the produce market, might come in handy!
Next tip: traditional costume
Almost everything I have read about traditional costume in Romania talks about brightly coloured clothing, but the costumes I saw in and around Sibiu were mostly black and white, as seen in my photos. The first two are of a woman we met on the Pasajul Scarilor and the other of our hostess at the Norica Pension in Gura Raului, where we had lunch during our Saturday tour of Marginimea Sibiului. It is this use of black rather than a bright colour that distinguishes the costume in Sibiu and the surrounding area from that of other regions, although red is also sometimes worn here. As the website linked below says, “The Sibiu folk costume shows the timeless beauty and elegance of black and white”.
Next tip: a tour in Marginimea Sibiului
While visiting the produce market in Piaþa Cibin this colourful yellow herb caught our attention. We had seen several people in the town carrying large bunches and were keen to find out what it was and what it was used for. So I posted the query (and this photo) on Facebook and my VT friend Tim (budapest8) came up with the answer:
This is Lady’s Bedstraw or Galium verum. Our visit to Sibiu coincided with Midsummer Day on 24th June, and the night before, Midsummer Eve, is traditionally thought of as Fairies Night (as William Shakespeare knew well). In the middle of this night there falls a moment of silence, when all the elements are balanced, and this moment is a rare point of contact between our world and theirs.
In Romania this night is known as Sânziene. Herbs such as these (and this is the most beloved of flowers here) are thought to protect against the spells of the fairies and thus are traditionally gathered and placed around the home. Young women also traditionally weave the lady’s bedstraw to wear as crowns, and the next night place these under their pillow in order to dream of the man they are to marry. But it is not a good for a man to walk at night during Sanziene, as the fairies do not like to be seen by males; if you should be unfortunate enough to see them you will be maimed, or they may take your hearing or speech, or make you mad.
Another custom dictates that the girls’ crowns should be thrown over the houses, and whenever a crown falls, it is said that someone will die in that house; if the crown stays on the roof of the house, then good harvest and wealth will be bestowed upon the owners.
Whether or not such customs are fully believed these days, it seems from all the lady’s bedstraw we saw being sold and carried that they are alive and well and definitely practiced here in Sibiu.
In my next tips I will describe the various restaurants we ate in while in Sibiu, starting with our first night dinner at La Turn
THESE "EYES" ARE WATCHING YOU
One of the most "eye-catching" characteristics of many old Sibiu buildings are the "EYES" that appear to be watching you. I was fascinated by these little windows or skylights. I included a few pictures that I took of these windows, with the first one being my favorite. The second "eyes" house was located in Goldsmith's Square. The third - green house on the right - was located near Bridge of Lies. The fourth pic is of the Binder Museum which has the distinctive "eyes" on the roof. Sibiu's oldest house, located near the Stairs Passage, also features the "eyes".
Man with a sickle?
When driving through the rural areas of Romania, seeing a man carrying a sickle or other farming implement became a quite common sight but I was a little surprised when I saw this guy walking down the street in Sibiu with a sickle over his shoulder. Notice that I'm on the other side of the street :-)
Palinka is a fiery fruit brandy. It has been brewed since the middle ages in the Carpathian mountains area.
Under a 2008 “Hungarian law” only Palinka made with a mash of ripe fruits produced in Hungary can be legally called Palinka.
Palinka has its own patron saint, Saint Nicholas.
It is a very strong tasting drink and I enjoyed it, (not as much as Vishnada)
I dont know if you ll benefit or not... But if you get to go you ll have a great time. Rumanians like to go to the forest in week ends and just make a fire and cook some meat and mich with mustard. Great places they have here.... amazing landscapes to eat, drink some house made wine and have a siesta under a tree.
I'm not sure this is the right place to put this bit of information, but......
Facts about Roma:
1. Roma are an ethnic group. 'Roma' or 'Romani' is an overall term for people of this ethnicity but there are different groups as well as clans within those groups.
2. Despite a great deal of misunderstanding and deliberate misinformation, Roma do not originate in Romania. They originated in, roughly, what is now northern India,. Around 1000 years ago they began to migrate across the continent, eventually settling in almost all European countries as well as those in between India and Europe. There is now a community of around 1 million Roma in the USA as well as smaller populations in Brazil, Canada and South American countries.
2. Roma are often called 'gypsies'. The word 'gypsy' comes from 'Egyptians'. In the Middle Ages (when Roma first arrived in north-western Europe and the UK) they were wrongly thought to come from Egypt.
3. Roma have their own language (and many dialect variations within that language) and their own culture, including many strict rules about cleanliness and purity which are thought to derive originally from Hinduism.
4. Traditionally, Roma are highly-skilled metalworkers and at least one village in the area around Sibiu has many Roma houses (yes, houses) where metalwork (copper utensils in this case) is displayed for sale by the roadside. Roma are also known for their skill with and knowledge of horses.
There are large Roma communities both in Sibiu and in most of the surrounding villages, as well as throughout Transylvania. You will almost certainly see Roma in Sibiu itself, and may be lucky enough to see some wearing traditional costume. Men and boys from one particular Roma clan in this area (there are lots of clans) wear flat-brimmed black hats and it is members of that clan (not always in traditional costume) whom I photographed at various times as I wandered the city.
Are Roma a particular threat to you? No, of course not. There are pickpocketing and thieving Roma just as there are pickpocketing and thieving members of all other communities, everywhere. Just take normal commonsense precautions with you cards & cash and don't judge by appearances. The most successful pickpockets and thieves look just like everyone else!
- Arts and Culture
The Bridge of Lies
This is one of the attractions of Sibiu. The Bridge of Lies is very old and it is said that if someone tells a lie while standing on it, the bridge will collapse. Fortunately, that hasn't happened yet!
This is the entrance to the Brukenthal Museum, named after baron Samuel von Brukenthal, governor of Transylvania from 1777 to 1787. The Museum includes a large collection of paintings, antiques, coins, and rare books. The Art Gallery was opened to the pubolic 1817 with over 1,000 paintings from Brukenthal's personal collection. The Art Gallery is particularly strong in the Flemish and Dutch schools. There is also an Ethnography and Folk Collection, including significant collections in pottery, textiles and fabrics, and folk costumes, among other things.
What is your impression when you at first see this pic?
An eye like structure?
Some sort of modern art??
Well this is frequently seen on the rooftops of Sibiu (in fact it's small windows)and while you notice it then it's great fun as it looks like huge eyes staring at you!
The Christmas Market in Piata Mica features stalls selling seasonal delicacies and decorations and attractions for children, including a merry-go-round.
- Family Travel
- Road Trip
Houses with Eyes
The characteristic windows in the roofs of Sibiu's medieval houses resemble eyes keeping a careful watch on the city.
- Historical Travel
And then you as a westerner are finally getting rid of your stereotypes of Eastern Europe, and that's when they organise a LADA meeting on the main city square!!
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