Balkans: Romania: Sibiu

We had a fabulous time in vibrant Sibiu. A comfortable train trip which gave us green as green views of fields and villages brought us here from Sighisoara.

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From the train station in the middle of town, it was just a short walk to our apartment where we met Florina, aged 26 who owns the apartment we rented. She’s done an excellent job renovating it to include a bedroom, kitchen and bathroom. Not an easy task when the building is heritage listed; it was built in the 1800s and there is much structural work still to be done. She lives with her engineer father, mother and grandfather on the second floor and intends to buy another apartment with the aim of renting that one out too. Florina represents the way that tourism is headed in this most attractive Transilvanian town. A definite positive in renting an apartment is meeting the owners and engaging in some good conversations.

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Sibiu is described by Lonely Planet as ‘awash in aristocratic elegance’. Lonely Planet got it right; the architecture is wonderful.

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The windows on the building left resemble half closed eyes

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Bridge of Lies – a tiny pedestrian bridge. Lots of myths surround the name. Probably best not to tell a lie while you’re on the bridge.
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Tower and fortress wall

A couple of hours drive away is Salina Turda, an abandoned salt mine which closed in 1932 after operating since the Middle Ages. From 1992, the Romanian government has thrown millions of lei into its transformation and today it’s a highly entertaining sight. There’s a one kilometre walk from one entrance to the other where the walls are lined with thick, wet, clammy salt. The temperature is a cool 10 degrees.

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In the main hall, boardwalks along the edge allow you to peer over the edge and view the enormous cavern below. An elevator (there is a queue) or steps (no queue, quite easy going down though harder walking up) descends 100 metres deep into the cavern. The sight of a ferris wheel and other forms of entertainment are slightly at odds with what you would expect in a salt mine. However, it works well and on the day we visited; the first day of the three month summer school holidays, a number of children were making their way into this wonderland. It is possible to venture deeper to the bottom of the mine where there is a lake with small rowing boats. It really is a spectacular place to visit. Hats off to the Romanian government for taking a disused salt mine and doing something fabulous with it.

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Boardwalks on either side

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Row boats on the lake
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The crivac lifted salt rocks to the surface
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Salt Stalactites
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Salt build up

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June is festival month in Romania and Sibiu had just started their week long Performing Arts festival when we arrived. The Square was full of people and performers.

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Florina recommended this downstairs restaurant to us. Her family eat here. The food was good, the owner friendly and chatty and the piano accordion and sax – just perfect.

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Next stop: Timisoara

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