Saturday, February 14, 2009

In Sibiu

In Western Transylvania, 150 KM south-southeast of Cluj-Napoca, surrounded today by snowy peaks of the Carpathian mountains, is the 2007 European Capital of Culture, the city of Sibiu. In 2008 Sibiu was listed in as eighth on a list of "The most idyllic places to live in Europe." Here is that citation:

No. 8 Sibiu, Romania

In the heart of Transylvania lies Sibiu, an important but little known city of 160,000. Outside Romania, Transylvania is best known as the sinister setting of Bram Stoker's novel Dracula. Yet within Romania, the region is known for the outstanding beauty of its Carpathian mountain landscape and its rich and significant history. In 2007, Sibiu was the European capital of culture, and apartments surrounded by cobbled streets and pastel colored buildings can be picked up for under 50,000 euros ($65,000).

Those two international events of recognition may have altered forever the prices of real estate here, but they have not changed the city center's wonderful architecture. A high brick defensive wall dating from the 15th Century used to surround Sibiu. Large stretches of the wall still stand, perforated only by its original arched gateways, and punctuated by three large towers, which were once a total of thirty on the entire wall. Behind the wall are many medieval buildings built by Germans, who were for centuries Sibiu's dominant inhabitants. During the Dark Ages they called the city "Hermannsdorf" until it was destroyed by the Tatars in 1242. About 1350, the rebuilt town was mentioned in a document as "Hermannstadt," its German name, still. There is a significant Germanic population in the area, which explains the prominent Reformed Church (Lutheran) in Piaţa Huet, although since World War II the population of Ethnic Germans in Transylvania has shrunk by 90%, from over 400,000 to some 40,000. Still, however, it is not uncommon to meet Romanians in this region whose second language is German.

Charles Harris is our resident Fulbrighter here, where he is teaching at Lucian Blaga University in Sibiu (ULBS). I drove down this morning the three hours from Cluj to see Charles, and to accept his invitation to show me around his city. We toured today, and will have dinner tonight with his Romanian friends from the Law School at ULBS, Sebastian and Anda Spinei.

1 comment:

Flying Katrina said...

I have ever been in Sibiu twice, it's really nice small city, totally different with Bucharest!
In Romania, there are some other special cities, like Sinaia, Brasuve... maybe I spelled by mistake :P