Sad to leave our bear friends behind but still with Ted as a guide we left the mountains to resume our travels through Transylvania. Now we journeyed west towards Sibiu. After a bit of research we opted to visit the ethnographic of ASTRA just south of the city. We arrived into Sibiu on a Sunday and unfortunately the museum exhibits are closed on both Monday and Tuesday. ASTRA has a huge collection of buildings from all over Romania arranged by trade. These include pastoral, fishing, mills, textiles, coopers, hunting and a pub to name a few. Entrance is just 17 Ron, and for an extra 3 Ron you can also visit the zoo. We paid our entrance fees and were given a bonus 300 page book about the museum in German. After Skanzen in Hungary we were expecting a lot of houses that looked similar but ASTRA was so much more impressive. Although they had about 20 mills and even more presses all the buildings were furnished to suit the profession of the occupants. There was also a market of traditional food and crafts. The museum is huge and centred around a large lake complete with a small theatre. We really enjoyed our day out at the museum and it gave us a great insight into traditional and historic Romania. ASTRA is well worth a visit. After walking up an appetite we found a busy restaurant and had a lovely meal including the highlight, papanasi. Papanasi are doughnuts made with cheese and served with sour cream and jam or chocolate. Despite the slow service, we enjoyed the food and avoided the huge downpour that took place. We even managed to camp for free in the car park before going to see Sibiu the next day.
Sibiu is a beautiful Romanian town even with the knowledge that most of it has been restored. We parked up outside the remainder of the city walls and walked through them to the pedestrian zone. Sibiu has a lovely relaxed atmosphere with pretty buildings and a strong café culture. One thing we did notice quickly was a number of Roma dressed traditionally and just generally loitering about. Romania has a fairly large Roma population and they are very different to the people we know as travellers in the UK. As described on one of our campsites ‘they are colourful people who make three to five times the salary of a hardworking Romanian just by begging and don’t pay taxes’. It seems they aren’t entirely different but we haven’t seen any convoys of caravans as here. They seem to be settled in villages or towns. We have no doubt that rightly or wrongly there is a stigma against the Roma but they seem to be tolerated. We saw one lady donate a huge bag of children’s clothing to a Roma family who were just wandering the street. The children were thrilled and immediately tried on their new outfits. The exchange definitely made for some interesting people watching while we had a coffee to wash down our Gogosi (fried dough filled with cheese/jam etc) breakfast.
Wandering the streets of Sibiu is a nice way to pass an hour or so. We also visited the bridge of lies and the church. The bridge of lies is wrapped in 3 different legends, the most believable of which is one about merchants being taken to the bridge and thrown off if they lied. There are a couple of museums to visit but nothing really grabbed our attention. Instead we opted to do some shopping at the local market where we bought lots of local produce for next to nothing. Food is still really cheap in Romania and lots of small producers bring their handfuls of onions, soft fruit and herbs to sell at the market. One thing we really enjoyed in Sibiu was the Gelato we found, so yummy.