We’ve loved Sibiu these past two weeks. I choose this place the same way I choose most of the places we will be visiting – randomly searching town names and looking at images. They say never judge a book by its cover but I’m definitely guilty of judging a town by its pictures. In this particular case, Sibiu didn’t disappoint. It’s an adorable town with tons of charm.
Our apartment fits the feel of the town perfectly. It’s a two bedroom with huge thick stone walls and beautiful old wood beam ceilings. You can check it out here. Of course, Nu was drawn to the antiques right away and took a special liking to an old record player. Our street was literally packed with second hand stores (actually the whole city was) and had a corner store that had an amazing wine dispensing machine. We never had the pleasure of tasting this wine but judging by the few bottles of Romanian wine we tried you’d probably have to be very thirsty to drink this one.
Relaxing in the salt lakes
On our first day here we decided we needed a little R&R after our long drive to Transylvania. I started searching for hot springs but instead found salt lakes known for their therapeutic properties in a place called Ocna Sibuilui. The lakes are the product of salt mines that were abandoned back in the 1700’s and have a history dating back to the 13th century, when Ocna Sibiului was along the ‘salt route.’ There are 15 natural lakes here and they are the saltiest in Europe.
When we arrived we knew we were going to have a true Romanian experience. There was not one foreigner to be seen but there were a ton of senior citizens in speedos, people covered head to toe in mud, a very sketchy massage center that doubled as an emergency clinic and regional pastries, called kurtos kalacs, being baked on a spit over an open coal fire. We choose our lake and headed down into the pit. We weren’t able to touch the bottom because the lakes are extremely deep (44 m) but the water is so salty that you don’t have to move at all to float.
Taking a step back in time at the Museum of Ethnology
The next day we visited the outdoor Museum of Ethnology, which is like a little Romanian town from the 18th century. One thing we learned was that people were shorter back then and that Sami would have broken a few door frames had he lived in this era. Nu had a nice time playing in the town’s church and we found a new travel crib idea for him.
The Cheapest Zoo ever!
We visited the Sibiu Zoo, which was amazing mostly because of its entrance fee – a whooping 75 cents. Nu had a great time and was screaming at all the animals, signaling that he loves them. We got really close to a Romanian Brown Bear, which Sami now fears running into in the woods.
Searching for Dracula
We wanted to see some of the surrounding towns in Transylvania so we decided to
visit a place called Sighisoara. On the drive we passed through many small Romanian villages where we got a taste for the rural way of life. We saw families being pulled in carts by horses and old ladies looking out their windows. I guess you could say it was exactly as we pictured rural Romania to be.
Sighisoara is known because its the birth place of Vlad Dracula, whom Bram Stocker loosely based his character, Dracula on. Its very touristy for this reason but nonetheless, very picturesque.
Whenever possible we like to do our groceries at a local market instead of the grocery store and there are great outdoor markets everywhere. Here we got huge shovels of berries (yes, there are just huge piles and they shovel them into bags), huge blocks of the local cheese that tastes something like the sheep equivalent of unripened goat cheese, and these huge orange tomatoes that we had never seen anywhere else. As we were leaving we also saw what they do with all the old fruit. They throw it in big plastic bags, let it ferment and make moonshine!
Bathing in Sibiu
We had a few rainy days and on one of them we went to the public baths. Sami was quite pleased when we arrived because he hadn’t listened to anything I told him the previous day and was under the impression I was taking us to a community center pool. The pubic baths, or the Baia Populara as they are known here, were built in 1904 and are actually an exact replica of the public baths in Munich. Nu thought this experience was just awesome and had a great time splashing around with the other kids. We also had several old Romanian women take him right from our arms, to which he willingly agreed. I guess he hasn’t developed that stranger danger thing yet!
Heading to the hilltops
Since we arrived in Sibiu we had been talking about the amazing views of the Transfagarasan highway and had decided we needed to return to do a hike. We set off with an ambitious plan of doing a three hour hike where we would descend 1000 meters from Balea Lake to Balea Cascada (waterfall) and then return on a death trap of a cable car to Balea Lake. What originally looked like a marked trail ended up not being a trail at all but really just a way you could throw yourself down a few mountains. Instead of risking our lives, we sat down and ate our sandwiches after only ten minutes. We officially called it quits as soon as the hail started. What weaklings we are!
These pictures really make us look like hardcore trekkers. Instead we drove the 1000 m descent to Balea Cascada and tried on a number of fur fashions and ate smoked cheese. Not a bad trade off in my opinion.
Last night, on our last night in Sibiu, we went for dinner in the mountain town of Paltinis. This place is known as being the highest resort in Romania and we could definitely feel the temperature change. It was only 8 degrees! The food was amazing but the best part of this outing was that the hotel had a kid’s zone. We absolutely love watching Nu interact with other kids his age and he made fast friends with everyone there. He cried anytime someone would leave the room. I’m pretty sure he would have been happy if we just stayed put and moved into this mountain hotel for the next year.