The Serene Charm of SibiuFriday, September 23, 2011 Sibiu, Romania
Interested in a Music and Markets Tour? We'd love to hear from you! Next on the itinerary: Mozartfest in Bath, England
All aboard the bus as Cultural Romtour introduces us to their part of the world. It's a long drive - 4 1/2 hours - to our first stop, the Cozia monastery. The first part of our trip is 150 kilometers of highway, just about the sum total of highway in the country, even though there has been abundant aid designated for transport received from the European Union. The rest of our travels will be on national roads, usually two lane. The highway tale is just the first of story after story we hear about corruption in the country: millions of euros diverted from their intended purpose, leaving the infrastructure suffering.
The peaceful property of Cozia houses Romania's oldest historical and art monument, an orthodox church complex from the 14th century.
Cyrillic writing was used in Romania until 1861, and the centuries-old frescoes are notated in that exotic-to- us script.
Beyond the loggia, the first room of the three room church, in the Romanian Orthodox tradition, is frescoed with the 365 saints days of the year.
The next room is where the worshipers stand, and beyond, the iconostasis (icon wall) separates us from the altar, hidden beyond.
Curious haystacks dot the countryside, lopsided, with long sticks poking out of the top.
As we were landing we could see how surrounded the capital was with farmland, and sure enough we drive through mile after mile of fields of hay, corn, cabbages and fruit trees.
We stop at the Hilton Sibiu, a beautiful new property, to drop off our suitcases (in the huge elegant rooms - our Aix apartment would fit in the room!) , and enjoy a quick tour of the hotel, including their new- build barn, a typical country style for the popular restaurant.
The buffet features cut-your-own sausage, just pick up a knife and hack off a piece of the hanging hot dogs.
Historic Sibiu is a charming gem in the Transylvania region, a 2007 European City of Culture filled with colorful homes and buildings protected through the centuries by three fortified walls. Not much of the ancient walls remain - here is a stretch with three towers, each one named for a guild of the city.
Eyes peek out from the rooftops,
the eyelid vents an ancient feature that allowed air to circulate in the attics where the famed local sausages hung to dry.
The historical town is arranged around two squares, the Big and the Little Ring.
In the center, the curve of the inner walls can be clearly seen as we cross a bridge and stroll a quiet lane.
What a pleasant town - we would love to return and stay for a couple of days to soak up the charm.
But now it's time for a drive out along winding roads to a tiny village, where a horseman in traditional dress greets us at the gate of a country home.
The welcoming family has dinner waiting for us - fresh produce from their garden, a hearty soup, and homemade wine. We leave with a "Merci" - how convenient that one of Romania's words for "thank you" is the same in French - we can handle that!