Oh the people you’ll meet

23 06 2008

Sibiu, Romania

Being sick while traveling is something that every traveler dreads. Unfortunately we now know why. Both Gage and I took turns on the sick bed over the past two week in the beautiful city of Sibiu, Romania. In fact we spent two weeks here because my sickness caused us to stay inside too much and we wanted to explore more. Too bad no one told our virus that. One word of advice to future travelers, ibuprofen is expensive and acetaminophen is non-existent. Come prepared.

gages-sick-day

So now that you have my excuse for not posting earlier, it’s on to the main topic…the people you meet. I had read books about travel before that talked about the multitude of friends you make while traveling, but even that couldn’t prepare me for the never-ending stream of great people who have come into our lives. For instance, Gage and I arrived in Sibiu at about 2pm. By 6pm we were standing in a park with 5 new friends, three from the US, one from Australia, and one from Japan, and we’re all cracking jokes about the transvestite singing on stage at the local park as though we’ve been friends for months. There’s something about being in a vulnerable situation that makes people more open, more revealing of themselves. Of course sometimes this isn’t a good thing, especially when said open person is a belligerent moron, but hey, at least their home country is rid of them for a bit. The vast majority, though, are cool people with equally cool stories. Like Ryan and Brad who are are equipped enough to film a segment for the travel channel, but can’t seem to slow down enough (read: sober up) to update their website. Or Francois who is ending his long travels with a two week course in hang gliding. Or Sebastien who goes to college in Sibiu but happily interrupted his studies to join us for beers and frisbee. Or the old German that is biking almost all of Romania who we all adopted as our grandpa even if we couldn’t speak each others language. Or Will, a teacher from Australia who turned out to be our long-lost best friend. And these are only some of the friends we’ve made in Sibiu.

Will & Us our-german-opas Ryan and Brad

Sibiu attracts a lot of people from all over the world, and for good reason. When Gage and I first arrived we couldn’t help but notice that the pedestrian street seemed to be the Romanian equivalent of Pearl Street in Boulder. Little shops interspersed among the patio umbrellas that dot the entire road just beg you to explore every alley and window. Those explorations were often rewarded with amazing finds, like book stores with a shelf of English-language classics, talented tattoo artists (calm down dad, I’m ink-free), and my personal favorite, a Belgian chocolate truffle store. The two main piatas are often host to some sort of festival, concert, performance, or in our case, a 30 minute fireworks display. In fact one of the most popular gypsy bands in Romania was performing on Piata Mare and they stayed in our hostel. Of course this would have been a little more exciting if the gypsies did things like bath or even change out of the clothes that they wore for three days, even to sleep. Remember that scene in Shawshank Redemption where he crawls through the sewers to freedom? Yeah. But those few days aside, this city is a serious charmer full of entertainment, though we spent many days just wandering and eating.

Piata Mare Fountains

Of course we also spent a night dancing on tables in an underground nightclub. Romania has cheap booze and loads of bad American music from the 80’s and 90’s so it basically begs you to party like it’s 1999. Most especially for Ryan and Brad who hold firm to the philosophy that there is a party in every city and they’re not leaving until they find it. In fact many people have a hard time leaving Sibiu, even long after they have found the party. We witnessed four people who all tried to leave Sibiu, but ended up spending at least one extra night here because they couldn’t tear themselves away. Heck, Brad and Ryan currently have a month lease at an apartment. Even Gage and I fell victim to the vortex this morning when we attempted to run/jog/shimmy/limp with backpacks in-tow in order to catch a 5:52am train to Budapest, only to be told that tickets for that particular train could not be issued in under two minutes and that we could catch the train the next day. Apparently the travel gods decided that Gage and I were not done with Sibiu (or at least that we needed an extra day to update the blog). So hopefully this will appease them because the train station gods have a no-refund ticket policy. See you in Budapest!

Sibiu Recommendations:
– If you’re going the hostel route, The Old Town Hostel will make you feel like you’re living in a postcard. Just make sure you book online as this gives you a better rate than just arriving. And be forewarned, the beds are sturdy and the rooms are big, but smoking is allowed in the kitchen, there are only two showers, and the owner has no concept of ‘little extras’. With that being said, I’d stay there again just for the location.
– The best Romanian restaurant we visited in town (thanks to Sebastian’s recommendation) was La Dobrun, located on Dobrun Street next to a fitness club. Entrees run 15-20 lei and it’s worth it. The young waiters usually speak English and can translate the menu. Just make sure you eat inside to get the full experience.
– If you have such a great time in Sibiu that you never want to forget it, be sure to commemorate your experience with a tattoo at Transylvania Tattoo. Our buddies Brad and Ryan did it and I have to say that the work was pretty phenomenal and very reasonably priced. Their located right off of the pedestrian street, Nicolae Balcescu St. Look for the sign and head down the alley.
brads-tattoo
The Astra Film Studio holds a huge documentary film festival every year. They also keep each one of those documentaries in their office off of Piata Huet and have private screening facilities for anyone who wants to see one. Pick up a catalog at your hostel, the info center, or the studio itself then wander in any time during business hours and request the film you want to see. For 1.5 lei per student or 3 lei per adult they’ll pop it in the DVD player for you to sit back and enjoy.
– Pick up some English language classics at Diverto or Schiller Librarii located in Piata Mare. Diverto also has a great selection of art supplies as well.
– Romanians often go out for drinks instead of food so you’ll often find that the price of something like water is outrageous (and it’s all bottled water). But this is Romania so bringing your own water to dinner is totally acceptable. In fact we’ve seen people sit down at a restaurant table with fast food in hand as they order a drink.
– The Astra Museum is the largest open-air museum (and said to be the best) in Eastern Europe. If you want to save money, go to the museum on Monday when it is ‘closed’. Most people hop the fence and the security guard really doesn’t care. The houses are all closed, though you can see in the windows.

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2 responses

24 06 2008
Shannon

What a backwards place! Sounds very interesting though.

26 06 2008
Scott

Romain sounds so cool, sucks you two got sick. The people sound really cool and interesting, i wish i could be there with you two. Keep have fun

Scott

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