Splendid Drive to Sibiu – A Transylvanian Treasure
The day is Saturday the 28th of September, and Iggy the Hymer motorhome is sitting at a slant, across from the park in Sibiu, Romania. ( 45.796975, 24.157754 ) The morning sun is bright through the blinds, and I type quickly, trying to jot down the events of the previous day, before they are added to by the new one just beginning.
This time yesterday I awoke early to a fog filled morning in Curtea de Arges, at the beginning of the Transfagarasan highway. If we were going to take the route over the mountain I would need to wake Jay and get us on our way. We’d decided that to do the route in one day we would want to be on the road by eight o’clock. We wanted to take our time with the drive, and do plenty of stops at the sights along the way.
Starting any later would mean we’d want to stop for the night at the top of the pass, and do the descent the following day. But there were two problems with this. Most importantly we didn’t really want to take two days, as the clock was ticking down to 16th October when we had to catch a ferry to England. And the other reason was that the next day was Saturday, and that meant the road would be much busier, and not as much fun to drive.
I peered out of the window at the drizzle misty morning. Hmmmm. I checked the weather forecast again for the mountain and nothing had changed overnight. They still reckoned it was going to rain until the afternoon up at the top. I see-sawed back and forth with indecision as the minutes silently slipped by. I really wanted to push myself to do the challenge of the high mountain pass, but what was the point if all we could see was rain slashing off Iggy’s windscreen?
FInally I chose. The Transfagarasan would have to wait for another day. We would take the lower route through the foothills to Sibiu today. And the Transfagarasan would be our reason to have to return to Romania. A promise for another day. Another tour. But, sadly, not today.
Decision made I opened my laptop and started to work through the photos from our days in Bucharest so I could get a post ready to put up on the Travel Malarkey website. I had two hours before Jay’s alarm would wake him, and the time flashed past as I patched my journal entry from Thursday together with the photos, building the final article as swiftly as I could.
I was still putting it together when the beeping of the alarm drove the sleeping one from his slumber, and the quiet part of the day was done. Feet hit flooring, taps turned, teeth were brushed, kettle was boiled, Marley was walked and before you could say “We’re in Transylvania!” it was time to get Iggy on the road to Sibiu.
The freindly little pack of dogs were lying around the field as we prepared to leave, and we decided to give them a three kilo bag of kibble that Marley wasn’t keen on. We knew from experience though that you can’t give a stray dog food before you leave. They can wolf it down at an incredible speed, and then, quite naturally, run after you hoping you will feed them some more.
With this in mind we devised the plan that Jay would drive to the gates, I would hold them open to let him through, and then run back in and throw the food out. Then I’d jump in the van and we’d be gone up onto the road and away while they were still eating.
It all worked like clockwork. Instead of putting the kibble in piles I laid it out in a long trail on the ground. This way every dog got a chance to eat. Plus they were too busy hunting down the food in the grass to chase after me. All that is except for my little sweetie from the night before. Bless her, but she was more interested in me than in the food and ran halfway after me instead of chasing along the line of kibble for her morning meal.
What to do? I stared back at her from the van as we drove off and she hovered by the gateway. Daft dog! I coudn’t leave and her get none of the food. And so I made Jay stop, grabbed a double handful of Marley’s other dry food and jumped back out of the van. A double click of my tongue and the little one bounced into the air, tail wagging like crazy, and ran back to the gateway towards me. We met halfway, and I dumped the handfuls of food on the ground in front of her, giving one, swift stroke to her little head, as she gulped it eagerly down.
And I ran for Iggy, leaving her eating alone in the grass, as the sun burned the rain and mist away and we turned our backs on the Transfagarasan. On the Transfagarasan and one little doggy heart that I shall carry with me for as long as memory remains to me.
Leaving strays behind is, I guess, an inevitable part of life on the road. But it is always hard to do, and thankfully I had Jay to distract me by asking directions as we drove back through Curtea de Arges and onto the low road to Sibiu. I chose us a park4night spot by a little park near the historic centre, picked up my camera, and turned my attention to the world passing by outside our windscreen.
And what a world it was! If we couldn’t drive along the Transfagarasan today then all was not lost, as the road to Sibiu was surely not much less stunning than it’s famous rival. The next few hours were packed with the Wow factor as we twisted and turned through rural Transylvania. Picturesque villages, horses and traps, old men pulling hand carts. Monasteries, churches, long snaking rivers and lakes. Soaring mountains filling the sky as we followed our rattly, bumpy, ribbon of tarmac between them.
There was plenty for adrenalin junkies on this route too. A broken down lorry on a curve of S bends caused tailbacks of Romanians. All trying to push past at once with no room to do so. And then a few miles later two cars, crinkled together by a crash did the same. Obvious casualties of that self same, crazy overtaking, that the vehicles passing the scene were so desperate to do. Even as they witnessed the inevitable consequences.
The drive itself would have been enough fun for one day, but Sibiu was a delightful prize waiting just a few minutes walk from our door. Google had told me it was a Germanic style town and it had not told me wrong. The first thing we found being a remnant of City Walls and towers that took us right back to our lovely day in Mayen way back in August. Only it may have been Germanic style, but it had it’s own, different , Romanian nature as well.
We walked towards the towers past pretty old buildings and a small natural history museum. Stopping to take photos of the dinosaur models in the small garden, which Marley wasn’t too sure about at all. It was a great start to the visit, and any remaining tension from the scary parts of the day’s drive slipped away as we wandered further through the upper town and through a vennel into the main plaza.
As luck would have it we’d only gone and turned up in Sibiu right in the middle of their Oktoberfest festivities. A giant marquee filled a corner of the huge main square, and there were stalls galore as well as fun and games for the children. The day was getting on and we weren’t sure how long the market stalls would stay open so we started with a wander through their wares.
We’d not managed to buy any presents for the folks back home yet, but we picked up a couple of things at the market. Jay was tempted by the huge piles of strange Romanian sweets and cakes, but even his sweet tooth wasn’t enough to tempt him to try the “Wasp’s Favourite” as I called them. Clearly the sweetest, sweets of all judging by the swarms of wasps crawling all over them. And enough to make us decide to give the sweet things a miss altogether.
The buildings were enough for me, and despite it being a bit touristy, I was in heaven just wandering around taking in the beautiful architecture. It really is a fairytale kind of a place is Sibiu, with a lovely warm, relaxed atmosphere. In the old town anyway. And I could easily see myself living there, spending days writing by my window, looking out over the comings and goings in the beautiful plazas below.
The main plaza led through into another, smaller one, lined with cafes and restaurants, where we took an hour out to have an early dinner and watch the world go by. The rainy morning may as well as never have been, as we basked in the early evening warmth of the sun. The food and drinks were – like Bucharest – expensive for Romania. But reasonable by British standards, and of a good standard that we’d come to expect as the norm for these Eastern European countries.
Dinner over, the sun was starting to slide down the sky as we took up our wandering some more. There was plenty to see, with little side streets dropping away down flights of steps from the plaza. A stunning, mosaic roofed church, and a group of three German Journeymen sitting by a display of their work and storyboards of journeymen in Sibiu through the years.
We chatted with the young craftsmen who were all approaching the end of their wandering years. One planned to return to Germany just for a year or two and then move permanently to Romania. He had fallen in love with the country and wanted to settle there now. We wished them good journey, and they wished it back to us, as we all laughed and parted ways. Warmed as always by meeting fellow wanderers, and knowing we were not alone in our Nomadic ways.
And now the darkness had settled across the streets, and it was time to think of going home for the night. We popped our heads into the tent of the Oktoberfest in passing and were very tempted to stay. Rows of food and beer stalls lined a big entrance porch, and townsfolk filled trays with whatever they fancied, paying the stall holders for their purchases and then finding a space at the long trestle tables.
The band played bouncy, fun tunes, encouraging members of the crowd to dance and drink and sing. The atmosphere was light, clean, friendly. Children ran and played between the adults, and the only thing stopping us from grabbing a tray and joining in was Marley’s sensitive ears. She was doing well from our vantage point in the entrance way, but the noise was too much for a dog’s acute hearing. We laughed one last time at the merriment and slipped back out into the gentle warmth of the night.
The misty morning in Curtea de Arges seemed a long, long time ago as we strolled our way back to Iggy. A group of young people did young people things at the top of the small park. The loud sounds of children finding their way into adulthood. Harmless, and only looking for some fun before curfew.
The small fountain we had noticed in passing when we arrived was lit for the night. Dancing to outdo it’s gigantic cousins on the other side of the mountains in Bucharest. So we did the romantic thing and wandered over. Took a video. A picture or two. Exclaimed at Marley finding walnuts in the grass to crack open and gobble. Then stood quietly for a moment. Just holding hands and watching the waters dance. Two old teenagers, who’d found each other somehow along the way.
And that was the end, of another day.