|European Capital of Culture|
Sibiu – European Capital of Culture 2007Hermannstadt alias Sibiu, one of the most wonderful medieval cities in Romania, has been a sleeping beauty for many decades, which is awakening now. The city gets dressed up, in order to be a dignified European Capital of Culture in 2007. The historical Hermannstadt/Sibiu with its medieval houses of manufacturers and patricians and its spacious esplanades is worth seeing already now in its obviously most exciting period of total renewal.
The valuable structural condition from several centuries never has been damaged by enemies, but by the arrogance of the communist dictators, who rather preferred to build grey standard satellite areas around the historic district instead of caring for the preservation of the architectural treasure. Until few years ago the center looked miserable and decayed. “50 years of communism have scarred the city”, Klaus Johannis says, who has been the mayor of Sibiu since 2000. The Transylvanian Saxon, who was overwhelmingly confirmed in his office last year, wants to heal these scars in record time. He therefore has declared almost the whole city a construction site, not only the squares and alleyways are paved, but even 70 house fronts are going to be restored. “I am glad that the changes are already evident. Many buildings and quarters have regained the attraction for which Hermannstadt/Sibiu had been known“, Johannis says. The 101 hectares of medieval architecture have even impressed the UNESCO, which is now checking the possible acceptance of the historic city to the world heritage list.For the restoring activities and the expansion of the infrastructure Hermannstadt/Sibiu is ready to pay about 22,5 millions Euros alone this year, an enormous sum for Romania, where the average wages are at 150 Euros. The city fathers are supported by the Romanian ministry of culture, which now regards Hermannstadt/Sibiu as the calling card for the whole of Romania. The booming town is to representatively win favor in the West for this country, which is seeking for entry into the European Union by January 1, 2007. Due to that Hermannstadt/Sibiu has been granted several millions of Euros by the Romanian government for the extension of its airport.
The tower of the guildhall connects the great with the small market. From the tower you look out on a sea of red roofs of the concentrically grown Hermannstadt/Sibiu with its four esplanades. The towers of the four bigger churches protrude above the sea of roofs. Obviously the Protestant city parish church – its construction had begun in 1320 – is the most impressive building of the town. During the centuries the churchgoers have treaded out a hollow into the stony aisle between the close benches, in the so-called Ferula the memorial plates of important characters of the town are exhibited. The orthodox cathedral, a red and yellow brick building with a big dome and four turrets, is based on the Hagia Sophia in Istanbul. The Catholic city parish church and the reformed church are also situated in the center. Four religious cults and several national minorities have always been living together in Hermannstadt/Sibiu. Still in 1930 almost half of the town population was of German origin. Today mostly Romanians are living in Hermannstadt/Sibiu, 3.400 Hungarians, about 2.700 Transylvanian Saxons and about just as many Roma.Hermannstadt/Sibiu has even plenty to offer for people who are keen on adventure and party. During spring and summer months the city vibrates, the streets are full of life until late at night. Hermannstadt/Sibiu is famous for its festivals, which are internationally casted and especially popular with young people. There are the Jazz festival, the theater festival in May and the medieval festival in late summer, when the mayor himself appears in a historical outfit.The town is populated by young peopleThe town is very young. 30.000 students attend the local university and several private academies, a considerable number of cafés, bars and clubs have been opened. The restaurants in the cellars of the historic city are particular charming.“For a tour through all our good bars you need several days at least“, Radu Coica says. He is 27 years old and together with his team offers thematic guided tours through Hermannstadt/Sibiu and trips to Transylvania. His advice for people coming to Sibiu is to not only catch culture, but to also try other activity offers as well. “There are very beautiful hiking trails through the Carpathian mountains, around Sibiu it is even possible for you to play paintball, go skiing in Winter and much else.“ Cristian Valentin Cismaru (29), director of a travel agency, also points out to the geographically convenient location of Sibiu. “From here you are able to make trips into any direction of the country seven days a week.“Therefore the title „European Capital of Culture“ is not only an honor for the town, which is just awakening from its hundred-year-long sleep, but even a positive lever. It is to help creating sustainable culture and tourism offers, Cristian Radu says, in order that Sibiu remains a permanently shining spot on the map of Western tourists. The president of the “European Capital of Culture-office”, which is responsible for the organization of this event, likes to joke: Hermannstadt/Sibiu being a Capital of Culture will not start before 2008. Next year we just celebrate the birthday of a new born child. Important is, how it will be going on after 2007.
Hotel Parc, Str. Scoala de Înot 1-3, from 58 Euros. E-Mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
|Tea and cookies and Karaoke|
By Burkhard Straßmann „Die Zeit“ (German weekly paper “The time”) All German, even the neo-German, has come into vogue in Sibiu in Romania, the former Hermannstadt.A riddle: What is the name of the third European Capital of Culture? Number one is Luxemburg, of course. Even less known might be the Romanian Sibiu, a town of 160.000 inhabitants in the heart of Transylvania, in the middle of nowhere. And here is number three: Hermannstadt. A town so German like brown bread. It has the same geographical data like Sibiu, but is totally different. If you want to visit Sibiu/Hermannstadt you have to choose between “Buna ziua”, as recommended in the guide, or “Grüß Gott”. Both are possible. Both have their own consequences. Sibiu. Abandoned factories form the outer area around the town. Then crumbling slab buildings. Shabby green spaces. Broken streets. Old villas, which had their better times before communism. The hotel Continental, a concrete block, the pride of the bad years. And of course the lively emporium Dumbrava, where you may buy many kinds of kitsch and East Asian container goods. In Sibiu it is the same like in the rest of Romania: You have to grind out the beauties, the charms of the towns. All the way there the holy sidewalks are blocked by parking cars; you have to worry about your heels and ankles. But then you arrive at the Strada Nicolae Balcescu, and look: it is a pedestrian area! Clean, paved, painted, trendy cafés, Raiffeisenbank, shoe shops. Like in Krefeld, just Schlecker is missing. „Grüß Gott, Hermannstadt!“ Hermannstadt was lucky. Because the German history of the town had built confidence German enterprises began to invest here earlier than in other parts of the country. Entering the town at the industrial park the Hannoveran tyre manufacturer Continental waves his logo. On the right hand side the Mülheim discount Plus allures with its small prices. And there even is a natural foods store. In the hotel the guest is welcomed in German, in the bathroom he finds a soap made by Palmolive and Head&Shoulders shampoo. „Now come, savior of the heathens!“ Service in the Protestant city parish church at the Huet market next to the historic city wall. In gothic height the gas heating is hissing above the heads of the worshipers. The middle-class Hermannstadt is singing and praying. Not different from Bremen or Luneburg. Amazing is how crowded the church is. That young people are praying, too. And how well-behaved the children are. Pastor Hans-Georg Junesch preaches about those, „who have gone”, and he does not mean the dead, but the emigrated, the droves of Romanians of German origin, who have left their country after the turnaround. He talks about “us, the remained”, about injustice of 50 years of communism. And about a new beginning, the hope, which John the Baptist once spread. Today there was a hope of the future once again, this time a “Johannis”, whom the people expect justice from.Johannis – he is the German mayor. Klaus Johannis is considered as the figure of light in Sibiu/Hermannstadt. The German, married to a Romanian, became mayor in 2000 and in 2004 had been re-elected with sensational 88.7 percent of the votes. The Romanian majority had purposefully elected a Mr. Clean with the reputation of being solid, reliable and incorruptible. People do not build their hopes on their own politicians any more: The Saxon is going to make it. It is hard to believe. This man attracts German investors and European support money. The whole drinking water supply and the canalization have been renewed step by step, they had digged up even wooden pipes in some cases! The first houses have got – a Romanian miracle – a power connection with a protective earth. In the near future there will be a circutious road. And: you may trust the taxi drivers!How soft pastor Junesch pronounces the „r“: This makes you recognize the „Saxon“. For inscrutable reasons all Germans, who have come to Transylvania during the centuries from wherever, but not from Saxony, are called Saxons – with a sharp „S“ at the beginning. They had rather come from Luxembourg, somewhat explaining the coupling of the capitals of culture Luxembourg and Sibiu. There are still “Saxons”, which are able to talk to Luxembourgers in a dialect similar to the Moselle Franconian. But all of them are able to speak: German, a strange, oldfashioned German, which is about “breadwinning” and “straightforwardness”, without any Anglicisms. In the West this kind of language was spoken in the times of Adenauer, when women still met for tea and cookies. Service is over, they are going to stroll around. Stroll around? Stroll around the streets without being afraid of losing time? For that you must be able to forget that you are in one of the poorest countries of Europe, where teachers earn 200 Euros per month and the old have to use up their whole pension for heating. The perfect house fronts of Sibiu make it easy for the visitor to overlook the poverty.The roofs have almond-shaped eyes, a local characteristic. The Saxons call their main place „Big Ring“. Amply dimensioned and in a cheerful mix of different styles, with its colorful barocqe and neo-classical facades the Piata mare reminds of the cities of small towns in Palatinate or Frankonia. Save that from the roofs windows look down like almond-shaped eyes, a local characteristic. The historic city core is pleasantly conservative concerning advertisement and screaming shop windows. Everybody who is anybody and who can afford the racking rents lives here again: the mayor, the bishop, the party of the Saxons “Democratic Forum of the Germans”. Every house has its own history. Thus the baroque palace of the governor of Transylvania, Samuel Brukenthal, reminds of the times, when Maria Theresia’s influence came down to here. Today it hosts one of the best art collections of South Eastern Europe, including paintings of van Dyck, Rubens, Cranach and Rembrandt.
Historic city: The small market © Primaria Municipiului Sibiu Soon it will be 1000 years ago that Hermannstadt/Sibiu had been founded by German settlers. The so-called Saxons came from the Moselle and built the castles and the fortified villages of Transylvania – one of those was Hermannstadt/Sibiu, which quickly developed to be the cultural center of the Saxons.The Germans had been called by the Hungarian Kings, in order to defend the empire against the Tartars and the Turks. In turn they got special rights and privileges. At the end of the 17th century Hermannstadt/Sibiu had become an impregnable bastion, part of the fortifications can still be seen.After World War I Hermannstadt/Sibiu became part of Romania, after World War II many Germans were deported to Russian work camps. Since the 1970’s many citizens of Hermannstadt/Sibiu have moved to Germany, so that today only 1.6 percent of the 170.000 inhabitants are still of German origin. Nevertheless their culture still plays an important role: officially Hermannstadt/Sibiu is bi-lingual and the city limits and street signs are also written in German. The party of the German minority (DFDR) makes up for the majority of the city council, mayor is Klaus Johannis. There are German kindergartens, primary schools and the German “Brukenthal Lyceum”. Once a week the “Hermannstädter Zeitung (Sibiu Newspaper)” is published. Sibiu/Hermannstadt is in Siebenbürgen („seven castles“/Transylvania). The name traces back to the seven castles the Saxons founded at the command of the Hungarian king in order to protect the border. In medieval times the region was called Transylvania (“behind the woods”), a term borrowed from Latin. The Walachian prince Vlad III. Draculea was born as son of the princess Cneajna of Transylvania in the 15th century. He was an extremely brutal ruler – it is said that his favored execution method was impalement. Nevertheless, the vampire stories, which Bram Stoker’s “Dracula” link with Vlad Draculea, are pure fiction.Although the Walachian prince probably had never been there, the castle of Bran (Törzburg) is marketed as the castle of Dracula. It is situated Southeast from Sibiu in the South Carpatians.
Transylvania – wasn’t it the home of Dracula?