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Still baffled as to why I chose to visit Sibiu, Romania? The answer is simple: my high school friend, Mari-an, is taking a masters course there. Why study in Romania, you ask?! I know, right? While our classmates are shaking their heads wondering why oh why she chose that place, I’m glad she did. I had a wonderful time and as the entry of this blog says, I was indeed pleasantly surprised.

Speaking like a local: high school friend and soon-to-be Romania’s most sought-after English speaking tour guide

Anyway, so off to Sibiu I went (April 29 – May 3) and while the place looks like it’s been forgotten by time, it still had a lot to offer. There’s interesting nightlife with the usual pubs and clubs and restaurants. Or you can just hang out at the Piata Mare (big plaza) and people watch. By the way, you can do this both during the day and night. And almost every pub, club, and restaurant offers free wi-fi. For someone like me, that’s quite important! But there is one thing that I didn’t really like about Sibiu. There are still places where smoking is allowed indoors. (Yuck. My clothes reeked of cigarettes and it was so hard to wash off!)

Having coffee at Haller Cafe at Piata Mare (big plaza). Free wifi available here!

Ditch those heels as you’re bound to get a sprain walking these cobblestone streets.

Photo op time: Framed by Sibiu’s afternoon sun.

Sibiu is also known as Hermannstadt.

Mari-an, hoping that I would represent the Philippines by out-singing her friends at karaoke, dragged me to this karaoke place called Pasha. A “DJ” queues the music and singers stand on a stage and sing. Actually, I was ready to sing but unfortunately (or fortunately!) they didn’t have the song I wanted to sing. Hah! I’ll have you know that I’ve been practicing my “If I ain’t got you” by Alicia Keys. Ambitious much? Hell, yeah!

One difference I noted that night was that traditional Romanian songs were played – as intermission numbers between karaoke singers – and everyone in the club sang. I suppose those Romanian songs (mostly fast songs) are like folk songs that all Romanians could dance and/or head bang to. Can you imagine rocking it out with Bahay Kubo or Ati Cu Pung Singsing at Red Box? I guess it made me a little sad that Filipinos don’t value our heritage as much. I still feel there is a lack of nationalism there.

Singing La Isla Bonita (I think): Philippines, Spain, and Romania represent.

I forgot to tell you, there are a lot of stray dogs in Romania. Not so much in Sibiu, according to Mari-an, but you can see them everywhere and you’ll be able to distinguished a stray from a pet by the tag on their ear. Apparently, a few years ago, the strays were supposed to be collected to be put down but a famous movie star – Mari-an forgets – went to Romania and protested. The response against the mercy killing was so huge that the government opted to just tag the dogs and set them free. Now they roam the streets to fend for themselves. I’m not so sure if that’s a good idea but the dogs look like they’re fending for themselves pretty well and are friendly enough that they wag their tail furiously if you call them. When they cross the street, the cars stop so they don’t get run over. I wish Manila drivers would do the same! Hmph.

A stray dog decides to lie down close to our cafe table. It reminded me of one of dogs, Nemy, who passed away several years now. *sniff*

~~~

Prior to coming here, I knew diddly-squat about Romania except that there was a very famous Romanian gymnast, Nadia Comăneci, who was the first to ever receive a perfect 10 at the 1976 Summer Olympics. I was born in 1977 and had vague recollections of the 1980 Olympics from watching TV but I think at that time, my mother thought I might take up gymnastics and qualify for the Olympics. Yes, you may start guffawing now. HAHAHA.

If you didn’t know, Romania is within the historical region of Transylvania, being bounded in part by the Carpathian mountain range. I think you can guess the other famous person/character associated with this area. Later, I’ll tell you all about our trip to the birthplace of the real Vlad Dracul or Vlad Tepes.

Map of Romania with the different towns and their coat of arms. I feel like I’m looking at a map of Stronghold (the PC game) or something similar. It’s amazing!

There are a lot of Saxon remnants from the churches to the fortresses to the names of the places. On my first full day, Mari-an brought me, and a group of her friends, to the towns of Cisnădie and Cisnădioara. We all met up at 1:30 PM at the bus station to get to Cisnădie. It was a 30-minute bus ride from hell with the aircon not working on a day that the temperature rose up to about 30oC! Our first stop was this old church that also served as a watchtower against enemies. These areas were Saxon strongholds very many, many years ago. The tour guide at the church spoke in German and we were also with four other German tourists. One of them looked like an older brother/version of Alan Rickman. Haha. Anyway, good thing we had a German student with us, Mirjam, who graciously translated for our group. We looked like a United Nations contingent with Spaniards, Guille and Eva; Annie, Saba, and I-forgot-his-name, from Pakistan; Or from Laos; Nitaya from Thailand; Ken and Mari-an from the Philippines; Mirjam from Germany; Vlad from Romania; and me from Australia!

The international students on tour. That’s me on the far left, beside Guille (wearing blue). Photo by Mari-an.

The guide and the translator.

I like her, Mirjam. We got along very well and became walking buddies since we both walked fast and left the other Asians behind, mostly because they just love, love, love taking photos, or I should say, having their photos taken. We walked approximately 3km from Cisnădie to Cisnădioara, on flat road, at least, until we turned off to head to the church on the hill where it was all uphill. By this stage, I think I might have cursed Mari-an once or twice, but once at the top, all was forgiven. It was well worth the shaking thigh muscles.

Mari-an, Mirjam, and me.

This is but a fraction of what we had to climb. Maybe about 1/10th of the entire length?

It was past 6PM when we caught the bus back to Sibiu. We only had a few hours to rest and freshen up because this was also the cigarette smoke-infested karaoke bar night.

From that afternoon’s walking group, I only saw Eva, Guille, and Or. I also met two other Spaniards, Anghel (not sure if that’s how he spells his name) and Larissa. There were a few other Romanian girls at our table but I only knew Lily. She’s nice too and dances really well. Mari-an and I didn’t go out to the club with them after karaoke. Honestly, we were both very tired and I was particularly feeling my age. But that didn’t stop me from taking a few more night photos.

The Bridge of Lies, build in 1859. It’s said that if you tell a lie whilst standing on the bridge, it will collapse under your feet.

Good girls like me don’t tell lies but notice how I’m firmly on solid ground. Hehe.

Lucky shot. No post-processing was done on this photo because I don’t know how to use Photoshop.

I’m sure their pre-nup photos will be magical.

Oh, but before we “partied” that night, we also checked into Casa Baciu where I stayed. Obviously, Mari-an stayed at the room with me. She didn’t need much convincing to accompany me. My room was big and there’s Marius every morning. He’s cute but not my type.

Outside Casa Baciu.

To be continued…

P.S. Watch out for my photo albums. I haven’t got time to organise them but I will post links once they’re up.

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