Sibiu is a city located on the Cibin River in Transylvania (or Siebenbürgen, if you like the German name better), around 20 km from the Fagaras Mountains. At present it has about 160 thousand inhabitants.
The city was established near the Roman settlement of Cedonia, and the first mention of it comes from the Vatican documents from 1191, in which it is called Cybinium, from the Cibin River flowing nearby. In the 13th century the Hungarian king brought the Saxons, who settled, inter alia, in Sibiu destroyed by the Tatars in 1241, to Transylvania.
At the end of the 14th century, facing the rising power of the Ottoman Empire, the inhabitants raised massive walls, which resisted many Turkish attacks, and Sibiu became most important of the seven main cities of Transylvania, from the number of which, by the way, the name Siebenbürgen comes.
After Siebenbürgen was annexed to Austria in 1699, Sibiu played a role of the region’s capital. In that time the German name of the city – Hermannstadt – took root. It was used alongside with the official Hungarian one – Nagyszeben.
After Austria-Hungary lost the World War I, Siebenbürgen was annexed to Romania in 1919, but still a big part of Sibiu’s population constituted Germans. After the Second World War most of them emigrated to the FRG (Federal Republic of Germany) and today in Sibiu there are around 2% of both Germans and Hungarians. Curiously enough, at the moment of my writing it, the mayor of the city is just a German – Klaus Johannis.
In Sibiu we can see a very well preserved old town with beautiful Saxon little tenement houses; we will find here examples of the baroque, the renaissance and Art Nouevau, beautiful churches, fragments of defensive walls, bastions (there were as many as 40 of them!), gates, narrow alleys, as well as the oldest iron bridge in Romania – the Liar’s Bridge, built in 1859...
The Large Square (Romanian: Piata Mare)is dominated by the baroque Brukenthal Palace from the second half of the 18th century. Samuel Brukenthal has a prominent place in the history of Transylvania. In his palace, he amassed a rich collection of works of art, which gave origin to the museum opened to the public in 1817. There are paintings of Titian and of renowned Italian, German, French, Spanish and Romanian painters, as well as other works of art and a library with a priceless book collection.
At Strada Mitropoliei No. 35 there is a beautiful Orthodox cathedral of the Holy Trinity, inspired on the shrine to Wisdom of God (Hagia Sophia) in Constantinople. The idea to build the cathedral arose in 1857, then for many years means for it were raised, to finally put the corner stone in 1902. The construction was finished in 1904, and on 13 December of that same year in the towers four bells were installed. The temple was consecrated two years later – in 1906.
On the exterior the cathedral may not be particularly conspicuous, especially that when strolling down the narrow alleys it is hard to encompass it entirely with one’s sight, but it is a must to go inside, where a spacious and bright interior, decorated with beautiful neo-Byzantine frescoes by Iosif Keber and Anastasie Demian, waits for us.
We enter it through semicircular door to the porch, from which we go under the arcades supported by columns to the main nave. The cathedral is 53 metres long, almost 25.5 metres wide and almost 35 metres high, not including the towers, which are 10 metres higher.
Right at the entry to Sibiu from the direction of Brasov, a stone’s throw from the open air museum, there is a very nice, three star B&B Dumbrava (Romanian: Pensiunea Dumbrava Sibiului). For a quite large room for four people we will pay here 180 lei. One can surely find something cheaper in Sibiu, but if you didn’t want to lose your time for searching, then you may make your way straight towards this hotel.
Once in Sibiu, it is a must to visit the "ASTRA" Museum of Traditional Folk Civilization (Romanian: Muzeul Civilizatiei Populare Traditionale “Astra”) created here in the local Dumbrava Forest. It is the biggest and the richest open air museum in Romania, extending over an area of 96 hectares and crossed by alleys with a total length of 10 kilometres. Undoubtedly, a centrally situated little lake adds charm to this place.
In the open air museum a very rich collection of various types of buildings: houses, mills, windmills, inns, churches, as well as farm equipment from all over Romania have been amassed.
Basically, but for the notice boards, one could forget that it is an open air museum only...It’s a pity that it is not possible to live in the museum for one day; of course, on condition of leaving all mobiles and suchlike inventions...One would get a little suitcase with traditional clothes and all indispensable equipment...
In the morning work in a mill, and perhaps in a barn, a sawmill or a bakery would be awaiting us, and in the afternoon we would stroll in the neighbourhood to talk with nejghbours, or we would sit on the threshold of the house and, carving wooden toys for children, we ourselves would be waiting for our neighbours, who would come to talk with us.
Such inhabited live open air museum would be perhaps even more interesting also for those tourists who would only call round here for an hour or two...Who knows, maybe in the future somebody will take the plunge...I'm giving the idea away for free; I only ask for information that it is realised somewhere. :)
At the end – some practical information: the museum is open from Tuesday until Sunday, from May until October (from 10am to 10pm) and from November to April (from 9am to 5pm). For the organised groups, on special request, an additional attraction is arranged – sightseeing at night! In 2010 a ticket for an adult cost 15 lei, and a family ticket (parents + children) – 40 lei.
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