After being cooped up in Bucharest for a period of time long enough to be worthy of using the term “cooped up” it was like a breath of fresh air (literally) to finally pull away from the outskirts of the city. This is the first leg of what is to become our road trip around Romania. Read The Introduction To This Series Here. We fueled up our car and our stomachs just past AFI Palace Cotreceni Megafun (or to those of us with marketing sense; AFI Mall) and hit the road bound for Sibiu. Knowing that we were facing a tall order – prove to Romanians that the drive to Sibiu is NOT an all-day event – we wasted no time getting back on the road. Actually we set our odometer to begin the trip after leaving the filling station at 3pm. We made great time towards Pitesti despite the fact that we had torrential rainfall that made the oncoming traffic (in our lane of course) barely visible. Incidentally, our impeccable windshield wipers had been courteously replaced with sandpaper by some passer-by while we were parked roadside in Bucharest the evening prior. Apparently this is how the windshield wiper salesmen on the sides of the roads fund their [lucrative] businesses. Glad we could be of service.
The roadside attractions along the way consisted of nothing more than sunflower seed farms and oil refineries. Thought that would be worth mentioning. After stopping a total of 4 times for snacks and bathroom breaks, we pulled up to the center of Sibiu around 6:30pm. The distance from Bucharest to Sibiu was roughly 170km, so we averaged around 50km per hour plus or minus. I guess you could say it was “smooth sailing” aside from a few slowdowns (or a few Dacias as we’ll say).
Welcome to Sibiu, Romania. As Sibiu is one of the more popular destinations in Romania (and also Eastern Europe) a lot of you are already aware of the “Sibiu Basics”. Read Our Article “One Night In Sibiu Romania” to learn more. Being a German settlement within Transylvania, one will see this influence everywhere on the streets and behind closed doors in Sibiu. The long-time mayor himself, Klaus Johannis (last we looked) is himself a German. Signage everywhere will indicate Sibui’s German name, Hermannstadt, as well as its’ Hungarian name, Nagyszeben.
Sibiu’s main focus is of course the old town which is also considered the city center (although geographically that is up for debate). This area (comprised mainly of pedestrian streets) contains restaurants, shops, exchanges, corner markets, a few other basic needs stores, and last but not least, the World’s collection of amateur photographers and tourists. You can’t park anywhere near old town unless you wish to go to one of their little “kiosks” and purchase parking validation. I have no clue how much it costs, nor do I care… we found a much better option; the parking lot of the nearby hotels.
Because this was a budget trip (and also because we were Americans that tend not to think ahead) we found the nearest Shaorma sales center, grabbed a bite to eat, and then drove around in circles to “see what we could see”. We had a great map of Sibiu we picked up at Diverta the night before, but alas, maps are for wusses. We new we needed to find a hotel, so what better way to locate places in a city than to drive to high ground and look for signage. Typically, it is the “name brand” hotels that cost an arm and a leg, so we stayed away from them…. at first. We drove to the Ibis, inquired about rates (yeah we walked in) and were blown away at the fact that we needed to cough up 90 Euros per night per room. Yeah… umm… no thanks. Next stop, some boutique hotels. Not worth mentioning their names, too expensive and sorely lacking on typical hotel amenities. As we were driving around “the loop” for the third time, we decided to spend a moment to run in to the Continental Forum hotel, on the top of “the hill” that is adjacent to the main pedestrian entrance to old town. We hadn’t bothered to stop here at first, as we thought it surely must be the “expensive” hotel of the bunch. Not so. Upon walk-in, we were greeted by a warm reception staff, and the mindbogglingly low price of 52 euros per night per room. Don’t quote us on this, as surely prices have changed in the past months, BUT it is our recommendation as to which hotel to stay at. Hands down. We quickly booked our rooms and brought our luggage up to unpack. The rooms were great, no complaints. Climate control that works, a room safe, mini-fridge, great bed, and an excellent view. Sounds good. We showered and walked out for a night out on the town. We were also getting hungry again and needed a real dinner.
So, here we are in Sibiu for a day or two, so now we must find out what to do in Sibiu.
We began our stroll around old town (having already seen the communist buildings and political mansions from our earlier “hotel hunting”) and we’re looking for anything the catches our eyes. The expensive camera equipment is in the hotel room gathering dust, so for this evening journey we’ll be dealing only with the ultimate in cameras; the iPhone. We are looking for interesting architecture, interesting coffee shops and tea shops, interesting shops, and last but not least, interesting restaurants. Within the old town, we indeed locate all of the above. When in SIbiu there really is no reason to be anywhere else but old town. If you find the need to leave the center, you may as well just leave the town (I sometimes wonder if those who deemed that Sibiu is the next best thing since sliced bread ever ventured beyond the old citadel walls). As we wandered around and passively looked at the endless pastel coloured facades, “tourist shoppes”, and the endless variety of foreigners, we noticed a little “hole in the wall” restaurant solely by the placement of its’ “Daily Specials” board propped up along the side of the street. The name of this restaurant is Pivnita de VInuri Weinkeller. For those of you that have yet to figure out what that last word means by the time you’ve completed this sentence, it means “Wine Cellar” in German. We entered by walking down a couple of sets of winding staircases behind the church in the center. If you’re over past the bridge near the school and church you’re headed in the right direction. We walked in to this restaurant, and were welcomed by the owner and chef. This was clearly a “wine cellar” as we had to slightly duck our heads to enter in to what used to be the brick-lined barrel vaulted storage rooms belonging to the home above (our assumption). Check out this video of the restaurant. We borrowed it from their website www.weinkeller.ro. I am sure they won’t mind the promotion.
The food here was absolutely amazing. We each ordered three meals plus a couple of starters with the intent of splitting everything. We did, and everything was excellent. We were able to have our polenta with eggs, cheese, and sour cream that we love so much, but also a plate of stroganoff some meats, and a German soup. Prices were excellent, so low indeed for the service and quality of food that we ate here for dinner throughout the stay in Sibiu. Around near Piata Mare, where the big fountains are, you’ll see a couple of pizza venues that are great for a quick bit for lunch if you haven’t already filled up on the salted pretzels you can get for 1 lei around the village. Breakfast however was a different story. The rooms at the Continental Forum include the most amazing of breakfast buffet’s we’ve had in Romania. Everything you can imagine for breakfast is prepared and ready for you. If you’re not an early riser, then that’s okay, the breakfasts seem to still be available around 9:30-10 in the morning. We were able to fill up and last most of the day on this. That made the continental Forum that much more of a deal.
Well after our second day in Sibiu (with overcast skies) we decided we’ve seen about all we desired to see. The city was great indeed, and we definitely see how people are drawn to the area, with its’ stereotypical European Village architecture, the cobble-lined pedestrian streets, and the melting pot of various cultures. But two days here was about enough. We did see the beginnings of a sound stage set-up in the Piata, so it did appear as though a weekend night life was unraveling, but alas, it was time to get back on the road and head to our next destination.
As an expat traveler, definitely plan for 2 nights in Sibiu with two full days to walk and drive around. You’ll want to eat at the Wine Cellar one or both nights, maybe grab a pizza another. Stay away from the local “Romanian” restaurants in the old town as their prices are high and their food caters towards tourists. Not a good combination. It looks as though Sibiu will have something to do on the weekends, but likely only in the Summer months and around the Holidays. Christmas time is a good bet, as you’ll see the streets lined in lights… but book well ahead for the best hotel rates. Send us the photos you take during your stay in Sibiu!