Sibiu, a German city of firsts

Sibiu, commonly called by its German correspondent, Hermannstadt, is one of the most important cities in Transylvania. It was twice the capital of the Principality of Transylvania in the 18th and 19th century. Even before, Sibiu always managed to bring Transylvania and Romania into prominence, representing one of the most important cultural scenes. It even became the European Capital of Culture in 2007, a year later to be ranked as one of “Europe’s most idyllic places to live”. In other respects, Sibiu, as a city with a history of over 900, was the pioneer that provided Eastern Europe with many premieres in virtually all domains.

Sibiu records its first identity in 1191 under the name of Cibinium, confirmed by Pope Celestine II, who also mentioned the existence of German settlers. By the 14th century, it had already become a relevant trade center and the biggest German city in Siebenbürgen, the seven citadels that form Transylvania. With World War I’s effect upon the Austro-Hungarian Empire, Sibiu became part of Romania and withheld a majority of ethnic German population, Romanians being only a community. Between the years of communism, this phenomenon reversed, leaving Sibiu with a heartbreaking percentage of 1.1 Germans.

Nevertheless, Sibiu constantly put itself on the map through acts of pioneering. It was the place where the first hospital, the first library, the first school, the first pharmacy, the first paper mill, the first book store, the first theatre, the first museum, the first cast iron bridge, the first beer factory, the first Zoo garden, the first open-air cinema in Romania opened. And those are just a few of the firsts that took place in Sibiu.

Sibiu, along with its surroundings, sums a vast collection of museums and parks. The Museums are divided in two main categories. The ASTRA National Museum Complex (muzeul Astra) displays a large collection of ethnographic richness, while the Brukenthal Museum (muzeul Brukenthal) focuses on art, history and pharmacy and other sciences. Some of the biggest and best maintained parks are the Dumbrava Sibiului Natural Park, the Citadel Park and the Sub Arini Park. But these are just a quarter of green space that Sibiu lays out.
The city extends its touristic aspect with the Paltinis and Arena Platos ski resorts, two of Romania’s favorite winter holiday destinations.

The main attractions of Sibiu are distributed in two main areas, the Upper Town and the Lower Town. The Upper Town seems to have been the wealthier part; it is organized in three squares and it contains the main sights of the city. The Lower Town might have served as the manufacturing area and its architecture is quite rustic. This lower part of town takes in the oldest church in Sibiu, dating back to 1292.

The Grand Square has been the center of the city since the 15th century. There lays the Brukenthal Palace, a Baroque monument erected in the 18th century, former residence of governor Samuel von Brukenthal, now a museum carrying his name. Also on this northern side are the Moringer House, which bears the old coat of arms of Sibiu, the Jesuit Church, and an Art Nouveau building which now houses the city hall. Another city symbol here is the 8 centuries old Council Tower. On the southern side of the square there are some two-to-three-story houses that bear small windows on the roof, the “city’s eyes” as tourists like to call them.

Narrow passages connect the Grand Square to the Lesser Square, where the infamous Liars Bridge lies since 1859, as Romania’s first cast iron bridge. To the right of the bridge of lies Sibiu there’s the House of the Arts, on the left the Luxemburg House and under, Ocnei Street, which gives access to the Lower City.

The third square is Huet Square, which distinguishes itself from the other two by its Gothic buildings, such as the Evangelical Lutheran Cathedral in its center, and the Brukenthal Highschool.

Sibiu is one of the most fortified cities in Europe, having multiple rings built around it. All of the walls are connected through tunnels, passageways and bastions.

Another thing that keeps Sibiu on the map is the events held here yearly. The most reputable are the Sibiu International Theatre Festival, the Artmania and Rockin’ Transilvania festivals, the oldest Jazz Festival, and of course the Sibiu Medieval Festival.

The city of Sibiu is conveniently placed in the middle of Romania. This makes it the ideal starting point to all other major attractions of the country either by car, or via its international airport that has over 9 routes.

With excellent accommodation conditions, a great deal of green spaces, dozens of events spread throughout the entire year and, naturally, its everlasting architecture, Sibiu leaves little or no reason not to be visited.

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Stefania Tripe
“Description begins in the writer’s imagination, but should finish in the reader’s.” ― Stephen King.

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