Friday has quickly become one of my favourite days of the week. The weekend is on the horizon, there’s a chilled vibe in the air, and we have another local telling us all about their hometown. This week, we’re learning about Sibiu in Romania. Are you ready?
1. Could you tell us a little about yourself and where you come from?
I am Iuliana, a former architect and currently a travel writer from Romania. I was born and raised in Bucharest (the capital) but moved to Sibiu almost eight years ago. By that time, I was researching my Ph.D. in cultural heritage and tourism, and Sibiu seemed a more calm and peaceful environment for my work. Things have changed since then, and you can see the results by reading my travel blog Authentic Travels.
2. What do you love most about your hometown?
Sibiu has the largest and best preserved historic center in Romania. Ceaușescu (our former communist dictator) partially demolished many of the old historic centers of the country, but luckily, the ‘89 revolution occurred and Sibiu managed to keep its heritage intact. The old town is a genuine marvel to wander around. I always enjoy strolling its old streets and each time, I discover something new that triggers my attention. In short, the old town is very picturesque, colorful, and has good examples of quality architecture.
3. Is there anything that frustrates or annoys you when tourists visit Sibiu?
Usually, I like seeing and meeting tourists when I am at home and don’t travel. It connects me with the ‘traveling’ mood and I feel joy right away. I dislike, however, to see that people rush, check the key sights, and then move on as they travel only to add another destination to their ‘was-there list’. When I tell them that there are many other places to see around and that Sibiu/Romania is more than what’s written in a guidebook, they seem not to care too much. Not everybody is like that, though.
4. In your opinion, which places should be at the top of any visitor’s wishlist in Sibiu?
Sibiu is a small town that can be easily visited on foot. The key sights on top of any visitor’s wishlist are in every guidebook. As a local, I want to add more value to that and recommend some places that are usually ignored. Stroll through the Lower Town of old Sibiu. It’s a neighborhood only with houses but very picturesque, full of colors, and a peaceful atmosphere. In an afternoon, a half hour hike will bring you on top of Gușterița hill (impossible to miss as it has an illuminated cross on top). It’s the nearest lookout point and from there you can see not only the whole town of Sibiu but also its hilly countryside and the backdrop of the snow-capped mountains. In summer, in Astra Park you can join the local men and play board games with them.
5. What foods must visitors eat when in your hometown or wider Romania?
In Romania, you must try the tripe soup and in Sibiu, you can find the best one at Kontiki Restaurant. Besides that, try polenta with local cheese, ham, and eggs (bulz), meat cabbage rolls (sarmale) or small fried kebaps (mici). As for dessert, we have a wide choice of pies (with apples, cheese, apricots etc) or fried donuts with jam (papanași). Keep in mind, though, that we always eat the second dish in the same time with the salad, so the salad is not a separate dish for us.
6. What advice would you give to somebody moving to Romania from another country?
Romania is not a wild and dangerous country as it is believed in many parts of the world. However, your wallet may not be very safe in your pocket if you travel by bus or by train (your luggage either). You’ll have to double-check how much money you receive when you exchange currency, or you’ll have to carefully check the bill when you pay in a restaurant. This will shock you at the beginning if you come from a western country; otherwise, these things happen in other parts of the world, too. On the flip side, Romania (and especially the surroundings of Sibiu) are very beautiful; the landscape is very picturesque, and in many places, you’ll experience an authentic lifestyle and meet many hospitable locals.
7. If you could describe your hometown in just one sentence, what would you say?
Sibiu is an 800 year old medieval town, with colorful and peaceful houses, cultural events, and a provincial atmosphere.
8. If tourists were to know one thing about the Romanian culture, what should that be?
Romania is at the crossroads of many cultures – coming from the East and from the West. Thus, Transylvania has more western traditions such as old German architecture, while Moldavia is very conservative with religious traditions for example. Somewhere in Dobrogea (near the Black Sea), we still have influences from the former Ottoman Empire. Romania is a cultural mix, you have to travel to each region of our country in order to understand this unique mosaic.
9. Do you have any interesting traditions that you’d like to share with us?
In theory, we are Christian Orthodox and the most important celebrations are Christmas and Easter. For Christmas, we slaughter a pig and make sausages, ham (slănină), and barbecue from its meat. For Easter, we paint eggs and clink them two by two before eating them. Also, traditional for Easter is to slaughter a lamb at this time; otherwise, lamb meat is not very popular in Romania. ”Pig is our healthiest vegetable”, we say.
Thanks Iuliana – we’ve loved getting to know you and Sibiu better!
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