The pedestrians-only Strada Nicholae Balcescu links the Large Square to the western fringes of the old town. The casual stroller will see the many welcoming cafés, with tables set outside in the shade, and a variety of shops – small local businesses and also some chains such as Billa (supermarket) and Zara. But look beyond these and you are soon aware that most of the buildings date back to an earlier time.
In fact there has been a street on this line since 1492, when it was called Platea Heltensis. But the majority of the houses found here today date from the second half of the 19th century. They are Baroque in style and have their shorter side to the street – that is, they go back a long way and are much larger than they appear. As is traditional here, they are built around a central courtyard and have a large gate opening on to this. Today the houses are occupied mostly by shops on the ground floor and by a number of families above, having been turned into apartments during the Communist era if not before. It’s possible to peek through many of the gates and to get a sense of what lies behind the grand facades.
My photos show several of these once-grand buildings. Photo two is of one of the most ornate, no. 16. It dates back to 1870 and in the past has been a bookshop, a doctor’s surgery and a school for girls. It still retains many of its original features including the Corinthian columns that support the first floor balcony and the window casements. And it again today is home to a bookshop.
Photo three is of a detail of no. 25, which has a pair of such figures above each of three ground floor windows and the archway leading to the courtyard. The building is a mix of 18th and 19th century elements, but my guess is that these figures date from the latter. The building is nowadays a bank but was once a textile factory showroom.
In photo four is one of the earliest buildings on the street, no. 42, dating back in part to the 17th century. It has just two storeys, the upper one of which is as ornate as this detail would indicate, but the lower rather plain and I suspect much altered over the years.
Photo five shows the rather drab courtyard of no.5 Strada Nicholae Balcescu. From the street however this too is a rather grand building. A number of plaques near the arched entrance to the courtyard refer to famous former inhabitants. These include the composer Timotei Popovici and an eminent local doctor, Lucian Bologa.
Next tip: a walking tour of Sibiu
Strada Nicolae Balcescu is Sibiu's main pedestrian thoroughfare and connects Piaţa Unirii and the new town to Piaţa Mare and the old town. It is a favourite place for evening promenaders.