Europe, Romania, Transylvania

Sibiu, a Saxon stunner

No Comments 19 June 2011

Sibiu, a Saxon stunner

Like a wooden stake into the icy heart of a vampire, the Monkey cut deep into Transylvania during his 2002 travels in Romania. With the obligatory vampire reference out of the way, the Monkey is pleased to share his photos from the atmospheric city of Sibiu.


Sibiu, Transylvania, Romania
Sibiu was the chief city of the Transylvanian Saxons, though few of them remain nowadays. The city was a major trade center in medieval times, and its Saxon inhabitants built strong walls to protect their enviable wealth from outsiders. The Monkey posed for a quick photo during his stroll through the backstreets of old Hermannstadt (the German name for Sibiu).

When Sibiu was in the hands of the Austro-Hungarian Empire during long periods of the 18th and 19th Centuries, the city went by its Hungarian name (Nagyszében) and served as the administrative center for Transylvania.

Sibiu, Transylvania, Romania
Only sections of Sibiu’s formidable 14th to 17th Century walls remain today. The Monkey stopped to examine one of the 39 towers that formed part of the fortifications. Different trade guilds were responsible for building and maintaining the towers; this one is the 15th Century Harquebusiers’ Tower. The Potters’ and Carpenters’ towers are visible further down the street. “What’s a Harquebusier?” the Monkey can hear you asking. A harquebus was a primitive gun supported by a tripod or suspended from a hook. The slits in the tower were for harquebusiers to shoot their harquebuses through. These defenses helped repel the Turks on three separate occasions.

Sibiu, Transylvania, Romania
A colorful street in Sibiu leading up to the old ramparts. Who is that mysterious figure lurking in the Transylvanian shadows?

Sibiu, Transylvania, Romania
The Monkey pauses for a shot by Sibiu’s Evangelical Church, the spire of which is visible from kilometers away in all directions. Construction on the church began in 1300 and wrapped up in the 1520s, and it was thus originally a Catholic building. The predominantly German nature of the 16th Century Protestant Reformation meant the Transylvanian Saxons caught wind of the confessional changes quickly, and the church soon became a Protestant one. The patterns on its tiled roof also show the Germanic influences at play in medieval Transylvania.

Sibiu, Transylvania, Romania
Sibiu is full of narrow alleys and concealed stairways. These served as additional defense mechanisms for the town, as they provided the townspeople cognizant of their presence with opportunities to escape or ambush invaders. Today, the Monkey feels they prove quite picturesque.



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Romania

   FAST FACTS


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Population:

22,246,862 (2008)

Land area:

230,340 sq. km.

Capital:

Bucharest (pop. 2,351,000; 2005)

Economy:

In 2006, Romania ranked 64th in the UNDP Human Development Index and 42nd in total GDP, with a per capita GDP of $5,645.24. Public debt accounts for 13 percent of total GDP, while 25 percent of Romanians are beneath the poverty line.

Main language(s):

Romanian

Monkey's name:

Maimuta

Fun fact:

During World War II, Axis-allied Romania helped the Nazi armies attack the Soviet Union in the hopes of reclaiming Bessarabia, a territory with historical linkages to Romania (among others). When the Soviets repelled the attacks and invaded Romania in 1944, Romania’s King Michael had a sudden change of heart and switched sides, joining the Allies. Angry over the betrayal, Hitler launched air strikes on Romania while the Soviet Red Army was still advancing on Bucharest, leaving Romania temporarily at war with both sides!



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