Sibiu : And I say thank you for the music...

Sibiu Travel Blog

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The Piata Mare (Large Square)

No.22 : ‘Everyone has the right to encroach upon eternity.’

Article 22 of the Constitution of the Republic of Artists.  It’s city ambassador and co-founder for the city of Sibiu, Gheorghe Igna.  Yep, George, a Transylvanian dentist and my kind Couchsurfing host for my time in his beautiful city.  Yep, you heard me right, a Transylvanian dentist so yes, you can take a ticket and step to the back of the queue with all the others lining up with predictable jokes involving over-sharp nashers and ‘remarkable dental care sir!’.  Fangs, but no fangs,  he’s heard them all before.

No.6 : ’Everyone has the right to love.

No.7 : ’Everyone has the right not to be loved, but not necessarily.’

Within minutes of arriving at his high-thrown flat George is proving a fascinating wealth of knowledge and facts about Sibiu.  Among the more eclectic are the following : The Periodic chemical Tellurium was discovered here in 1782 by the Hungarian born alchemist Franz-Joseph Muller von Reichenstein who was dizzyingly convinced he’d discovered the process of creating silver from base metal, but this proved not to be so.  Also home to the Transylvanian mathematics teacher Hermann Oberth who produced a groundbreaking paper in 1923 entitled The Rocket into Interplanetary Space chock full of nascent rocket science calculations and even a De Vinci-esque ahead-of-its-time design for a 35 metre tall bullet-shaped rocket with four tail fins.

Sibiu Facade
  His protégé Wernher von Braun would go on to develop rockets - the notorious V2 - for military purposes under the auspices of Adolf Hitler whilst all he wanted to do was to continue his teacher’s dream of a manned mission to the stars and Mars.

Sibiu is also home, George tells me, to Romania’s oldest surviving Holocaust victim.  Martin Hirsch who has reached a presumably ripe old age despite suffering two cerebral infarctions and a major road traffic accident since.  Yes, it seems Sibiu is a vibrant, creative, survivor city.

No.31 : ‘Everyone is capable of independence.’
No.32 : ‘Everyone is responsible for his freedom.’
No.33 : ‘Everyone has the right to cry.’
I sit in my pew at the Catedrala Evanghelica.

Catedrala Evangheliche where I attended an organ concert
  George said he might meet me here.  But he doesn’t.  He’s a dentist.  He’s busy.  It’s okay.  He’d drawn my attention to a cheap organ concert to take place here this evening and so for the first of a number of occasions George draws me towards the beautiful musical heartbeat of Sibiu, not only the Cultural Capital of Europe 2007, but a continually gushing fountain of cultural wealth and vitality.  Theatre, music (classical, contemporary, jazz you name it), art and art house cinema.  George himself will soon be opening a gallery as part of his work for The Republic of Artists. 

Everyone now sat in the pews.  Rigid backs.  Staring straight ahead toward the church nave and transept with its three slender, tall stain glass windows early evening light illuminating them - stood before them a tall wooden carved altar piece; a sculptural triptych with Christ upon the cross silhouetted at its centre and white marble relief tablets beneath enlivened by the fall of light depicting the Nativity, The Last Supper and the Ascension.

Catedrala Evangheliche roof (detail)
  A large sturdy structure of wooden beams arcs over our heads masking ongoing restoration works.  Facing forward, many with eyes reverently closed we all let the deep, sonorous melodies of the organ begin to wash over us, pouring forth from its concealment to the rear - as is the illusion often of organs - the illusion that the music emanates from the very stones and wooden beams of the cathedral itself.   It’s a great experience.  Powerful resonant music in such a setting.

No.21 : ’Everyone has the right to realise his negligibility and magnificence.’

Sibiu is a beautiful town.  My favourite of my brief time in Romania.  It has a rich and colourful physical presence as well as such counterpart qualities within its soul.

'Relax Sister'
  For Sibiu clearly has soul, and helps further to breathe a little life back into my own.  I adore walking through the many streets and residential backwaters of the historical centre of Sibiu with its large classical and early 20th century architecture.  Not too much of it (away from the central Piata Mare or ’Large Square’) too pristine.  The way I like it.  Beautiful pastel shade plaster facades with stucco décor humanised by Time’s constant attention to the endearing details of Age.  Neglected, rusty Art Deco iron gateways; sun-split and paint-chipped wooden garage doorways; cobble walkways and broken iron guttering running past broken slatted window shutters and the cracked, fallen plaster make-up of once perfectly composed abodes.  A former stage beauty staring bleary eyed into the mirror of your camera lens when all the starlet light bulb surround has long since dimmed with filaments blown and mascara running but the eyes still speak memories of past elegance and charm.
Sibiu Street Lamp (abstract)
  Enough for it to keep burning.  Always time for one more dance to the music of Time .  Beautiful.   

George had explained to me how Sibiu’s and generally Transylvania’s architecture was mercifully left largely untouched or ignored by the obsessional urban revisionism of the Ceausescu years.  Whilst he states that upwards of 75% of Old Bucharest was destroyed by the blight of what I’ve heard referred to as ‘aspirational socialist architecture’, Transylvania and its authorities were left largely to the be governed by the will of its own people.  Something the city is rightly proud of.

No.25 : ‘Everyone has the right to be of various nationalities.’

I’m sat in The Atrium: Classic Café.

Sibiu 'Colour and Shape' 1
  George said he might meet me here. But he doesn’t.  He’s a dentist.  He’s busy.  It’s okay.  I’m perfectly happy here.  Just me, Madame Bovary, my notebook and a glass of cold, cold Tuborg Gold beer.  And the music.  More beautiful music.  A quartet sit feet away from me.  Three lovely lasses and a lucky lad and begin to weave splendid music into the evening air for the pleasure of the few, like I, with drinks and thoughts gathered there.  It would be a moment of perfection were it not for the extreme rankness of my appearance right now.  A sweaty day of swaying between bright sun and rain, my skanky T-shirt with newly added olive oil stain offending the gentle elegance of the venue.  But I think ‘My clothes may be crumpled, but my soul tonight is happy and humbled.
Sibiu 'Colour and Shape' 3
  Soothed by the music. 

Many a fine song, an interlude and another beer later a grey-white shaven headed man of voluminous, nebulous physical boundaries sits himself behind the baby-grand piano and starts carving and keying out the most marvellous tunes, melodies and medleys.  A heavy set man with the lightest of fingers; they flit across the ivory to fuse Diamonds are a Girls Best Friend with Singing in the Rain and the Theme from The Pink Panther amongst others.  The grey-white shaven headed man’s face flows into flabby folds, lopsided and fleshy, on softly, seamlessly down into his neck which flows on into his body that parts and churns to the tributaries of his arms and onwards to his fingers from where his flesh transmutes through the music into airiness and out in to the night, transformed, as light now as can be… George turns up.

The Citadel Wall and tower.
  The music recedes.  We leave.

No.16 : ‘Everyone has the right to be happy.’
No.17 : ‘Everyone has the right to be unhappy.’
No.18 : ‘Everyone has the right to be silent.’

I love Sibiu.  The sun pulls the finest shades of pink, purple, yellow, egg shell blue, rusty red, orange and soft lime green from the building facades as I wonder circuitously around the back streets of old town that break away from 9th Mai and Faurului Streets completely addicted by now to taking ‘colour and shape’ photos of Sibiu’s cracked plaster building fascias.  Running along the south easterly flank of the Old Town is a stretch of the old citadel walls punctuated by three of the old towers.  A traditional blacksmith works operates in one and a carpenter in another.

Sibiu 'Colour and Shape' 6
  And even if you are ’churched out’ to the max when you find yourself in Sibiu do not neglect to visit  Catedrala Ortodoxa “Sfanta Treime” as the interior, though not of great age, is truly breath-taking! 

I return to the Large Square to sit sweltering in the sun.  Killing time ahead of another free concert that George has kindly drawn my attention to for the evening.  A gypsy mother and teenage daughter sit on the bench next to me wearing the most iridescent, spectacular traditional costumes I’ve ever seen but it’s too rude to reach for the camera.  Children keep running back and forth between their resting parents and a series of subterranean water fountains set in the centre of the square which erupt and gush with an irregularity of infinite excitement to their minds.

Sibiu back street doorway (detail)
  I muse on the unpredictability and soothingness of water and wetness and laughter therein as probably one of the purest joys in life.  Particularly where the kids are concerned.

No.13 : ’A cat is not obliged to love its master, but it must help him in difficult times.’

 I’m sat in The Sibiu Theatre.  George said he might meet me here. But he doesn’t.  He’s a dentist.  He’s busy.  It’s okay.  it’s the opening performance of the Carl Filtsch Festival.  A musical festival come competition for younger upcoming Romanian musicians that honours the memory of Carl Filtsch a child-genius pianist and composer born in this region of Romania whose life was tragically cut short at the age of 15 by an illness caught whilst touring in Venice.

Relaxing in Parcul Tineretului.
  A rare child student of Chopin who marvelled at the child’s abilities, considering him his finest pupil and best interpreter of his own music.

A string quartet takes to the stage after the introductions and I recognise that it’s my friends from The Atrium the night before, where they clearly play of an evening by way of a practice and paying their way in Sibiu.  The Intermezzo Quartet.  They play their way pleasingly through some Shostakovich, Brahms and Scott Joplin amongst others, looking far more elegant in black dress, sat on the theatres stage than they had the night before.  Yet more of Sibiu’s musical aura is seeping deeply into my bones and I am grateful and about to complete a full recovery from my recent, momentary travel blues. 

The Lonely Plonker’s Guide to Eastern Europe [see previous entries] had left me with no indication as to what a fabulous little treasure chest Sibiu was going to be.

The interior of the Catedrala Ortodoxa.
  George turns up.  We leave.  ’Yelp!’ it’s time for me to take the dentist’s chair!!!

No.15 : ’Everyone has the right to doubt, but this is not a duty.’
No.3 : ’Everyone has the right to die, but this is not a duty.’

‘For sure being a dentist must be one of the harder jobs around… I mean all those years of training, ya know.’  ’Yes, yes absolutely.  It is rrreally, rrreally one of the top five most difficult jobs in the world.  The knowledge, the technology you have to use, the steadiness and coorrrdination of yourrr hands.’  George explains.  ’And having to deal with very nervous or even terrified, jittery patients?’.

The Intermezzo Quartet open proceedings at The Carl Flitsch music festival.
  ’Oh yes, this can be verrry difficult.  You have to deal with the psychology of fearrr’.  Cripes!  I’m reclined on a dental chair in the practice of a Transylvanian dentist waxing lyrical about ‘the psychology of fear‘.  And yes, George has a regional accent that would please all your ideas of what such a man might sound like.  A rich, sibilant Slavonic lilt and a rrrolling of his ’R’s perfectly in chime with a century’s worth of hackneyed vampire movies.  Yes, he does actually pronounce his home region ’Trrrahnssylvahniaah’ although he doesn‘t supplant his ‘W‘s with ‘V‘s. 

And here I am.  Prone.  Maybe immobilised by fear.

Gheorghe my kind host in Sibiu and bone fide Transylvanian dentist.
  (Maybe exaggerating for poor comic effect).  I stretch my neck back as required by dentists the world over… but, heck, a Transylvanian dentist! … ya know what I’m thinking right?  The psychology of fear.  I’m not a man squeamish about dentists or dental surgery but it was believed that through what might be called ’a series of unfortunate events’ starting with an infection acquired at a dentists that my father lost his life.  And lying here now, far from home, for the first time ever as I look around the not-really-up-to-UK-standards surgery this is a note striking unexpectedly in my little internal symphony of fear… but there’s nothing else for it… can’t say no to free dental surgery… George I’d like to say calmed me by saying ’just rrrelax, lie back, you von’t feel a ssing’, but he didn’t… and he did a grand job, and I am grateful.
Beautiful skies over Piata Mica (the Small Square)
.. and I lived to tell of this tale and of the many and varied beauties of Sibiu.

No.39 : ’Do not defeat.’
No.40 : ’Do not fight back.’
No.41 : ’Do not surrender.’ is the fledgling internet home of The Republic of Artists of Sibiu and Romania

Marius1981 says:
great pics
Posted on: Mar 09, 2010
alitoronto says:
Love your pics!You've captured very well Sibiu's spirit!
Posted on: Aug 03, 2009
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The Piata Mare (Large Square)
The Piata Mare (Large Square)
Sibiu Facade
Sibiu Facade
Catedrala Evangheliche where I att…
Catedrala Evangheliche where I at…
Catedrala Evangheliche roof (detai…
Catedrala Evangheliche roof (deta…
Relax Sister
'Relax Sister'
Sibiu Street Lamp (abstract)
Sibiu Street Lamp (abstract)
Sibiu Colour and Shape 1
Sibiu 'Colour and Shape' 1
Sibiu Colour and Shape 3
Sibiu 'Colour and Shape' 3
The Citadel Wall and tower.
The Citadel Wall and tower.
Sibiu Colour and Shape 6
Sibiu 'Colour and Shape' 6
Sibiu back street doorway (detail)
Sibiu back street doorway (detail)
Relaxing in Parcul Tineretului.
Relaxing in Parcul Tineretului.
The interior of the Catedrala Orto…
The interior of the Catedrala Ort…
The Intermezzo Quartet open procee…
The Intermezzo Quartet open proce…
Gheorghe my kind host in Sibiu and…
Gheorghe my kind host in Sibiu an…
Beautiful skies over Piata Mica (t…
Beautiful skies over Piata Mica (…
Sibiu Colour and Shape 2
Sibiu 'Colour and Shape' 2
The cracked wood-paint sunshine do…
The cracked wood-paint sunshine d…
The Catedrala Ortodoxa Sfanta Tre…
The Catedrala Ortodoxa "Sfanta Tr…
Decorative metal entranceway (deta…
Decorative metal entranceway (det…
Sibiu Raddison Hotel (abstract)
Sibiu Raddison Hotel (abstract)
Tree Print (Sibiu)
'Tree Print' (Sibiu)
The Book Seller
'The Book Seller'
Jazzibiu - refers to a strong jazz…
Jazzibiu - refers to a strong jaz…
Sibiu Grafitti
Sibiu Grafitti
Sibiu Colour and Shape 5
Sibiu 'Colour and Shape' 5
Sibiu Colour and Shape 7
Sibiu 'Colour and Shape' 7
Sibiu Colour and Shape 8
Sibiu 'Colour and Shape' 8
Pigeons on a wire
'Pigeons on a wire'
Have a heart for Sibiu ;)
Have a heart for Sibiu ;)
Parked Car (abstract)
Parked Car (abstract)
Sibiu building roof (detail)
Sibiu building roof (detail)
The Catedrala Evangheliche
The Catedrala Evangheliche
Rrrelax, Im a professional! ;D
'Rrrelax, I'm a professional!' ;D
Chimney Nest
'Chimney Nest'
photo by: HelenP