Pandemic travel: Sibiu, Transylvania, December 2021

On Saturday I walked around the Grand Square (visiting the ornate Catholic church) and the adjoining Piața Mică (Small Square – although it’s rather expansive as well). I had an appointment at 13.40 however, so time was tight. I needed a negative PCR test, taken within 72 hours of traveling back to Ireland. The clinic was based at the shiny and modern Promenada Mall about a half hour’s walk from the Grand Square.

Small Square

I arrived an hour early to the shopping mall. I knew and feared these buildings. I was right to be afraid. They are built to get lost in. Naturally I couldn’t find the test centre. Nobody I asked had a clue either. I rang the clinic. ‘Do you speak English?’ I asked. ‘No’ came the surly reply, followed by the click of the phone hanging up. The email instructions said ‘above ground parking’ according to Google Translate. I roamed the subterranean parking levels like a lost soul in Dante’s Inferno. To the plinky plonky soundtrack of cheesy shopping mall music piped in – to terrify me I suspect. I was now late. I got a lift to the shopping levels. What was this? A parking lot ABOVE the shops. I pressed the button and emerged to see a little prefab building called ‘PCR Tests’. The tester was standing outside having a cigarette, as his 13.40 appointment (me) hadn’t shown. Afterwards I ate my lunch in the Sparta cafe which specialised in tasty Romanian fare. I made my way back to town where I visited the Brukenthal National Museum on the Grand Square; followed by the Lutheran Cathedral on the small square. I dined that night on schnitzel in the Cafe Wien, beside a friendly Danish couple.

The houses have eyes in Sibiu

I woke on Sunday morning to the sound of phone beeping to tell me that I was negative for Covid 19. I would be travelling home tomorrow I had an excursion out of town that day. Not the Bran Castle unfortunately. This was the castle where Dublin writer Bram Stoker’s most famous, fictional character Count Dracula was meant to have lived. Public transport would have taken four hours each way. Seeing as my trip was brief I decided against that trip. Instead I walked to the ASTRA Museum of Traditional Folk Civilisation. Set in the Dumbrava Forest, four kilometres south of Sibiu, the museum is set over 96 hectares, with a ten-kilometre trail taking you past reconstructed dwellings, windmills, animal paddocks, workshops, churches, water mills and farms from all parts of Romania over the centuries. A fascinating place.

Bridge of Lies

Later that evening I visited the Christmas market in the Grand Square. I drank mulled wine, ate a Romanian hot dog and listened to festive music. The bloodhounds were delirious to see me as I returned to my lodgings that evening. I can still faintly make out a pawmark on my jacket.

ASTRA Museum of Traditional Folk Civilisation

On Monday morning I checked out of my apartment, and walked to the bus station from where I would be travelling to the airport that evening. Dropping my bags in a locker, I wandered the streets. I couldn’t visit any museums or galleries as they were shut on Monday. I visited the Opera House; the Orthodox Cathedral and spent some more time at the Christmas market. For lunch I dined at Crama Sibiul Vechi – a traditional Romanian restaurant in a basement setting, where the lamb stew was warming.

ASTRA Museum of Traditional Folk Civilisation

Getting through Sibiu airport was a bit of an ordeal. I had my proof of vaccination; and my negative PCR test as required. I’d forgotten to complete the passenger locator form for Ireland however. I was early so there was no panic. All the documents had to be shown again at Security upon arrival back in Ireland.

Stairs Passage to Lower Town

I arrived home safe and sound. Sibiu was wonderful. Hoping that 2022 takes me to new lands and adventures.

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