We ended up leaving at 11:30 a.m. There was no need to depart eralier since that day’s program included a visit to the salt mine of Turda and then a night stop in Sibiu. Overall, then, we would not make more than 250 km.
We started heading towards Turda approximately 80 km away, a route without any particular interest, perhaps due to my impressions of those we had driven the previous days. Nevertheless, we met meadows, Mures river which accompanied us for some while and some interesting villages, making me change -entirely- my opinion for the Romanian countryside. Before, I used to believe that the architecture of the villages did have any remarkable beauty. Maybe, because I had in mind some villages seen on our way to Gurgiu, or the ones located near the capital. The villages we met -or possibly noticed more than any other time- gave me another picture of the province of the country and particularly of Transylvania.
Arriving, we followed the signs to the center and soon the first signs appeared for Salina Turda, concerning the rock salt mine. This small town took us by surprise due to its beauty and quaintness. Another characteristic Transylvanian town with imposing traditional houses, painted in intense colors, beautiful squares and cobbled streets. In other words, the historical center had nothing to do with the impression given to the visitor who simply passes peripherally! The mine is located outside the city, but in close distance.
Approaching the mine area, we faced a big crowd and hundreds of parked vehicles. I couldn’t believe that it was so well-known this place! We headed to the parking area in front of the new mine entrance, constructed in 2010. Having paid 20RON / person we entered the gallery which led to the interior of the mine via a downhill path. The temperature was close to 12 degrees. Some visitors had long-sleeved shirts, but for us it was just breezy.
Moving ahead we met blueprints of the mine and labeling for the points of interest available. The mine has a depth of 917m and its startup is dated around the 15th century. Over the years its length and depth were expanded. The place had also been used by residents as a shelter from aerial bombing, and later as cheese storage. The salt is in the mine walls.
We descended more than 1300 steps, via a wooden staircase which looked like a train staircase. Despite the crowd, we stepped down the 13 floors to reach the bottom of the mine. There, we found the basic negative point of this attraction: a recreation area like an amusement park!!!Unfortunately, that contributed part of the beauty and charm of the mine to be loast. Another negative was that in some places (eg elevator), there was a great que due to the crowd. To do it once, I understand, but EVERY time was an exaggeration, so we left the visit to the flooded room that also had boat for tours! We went up again the 1300+ stairs and visited some additional areas on the first level of the mine. Returning to the parking area, we noticed the presence of other motorcycle-travelers from Bulgaria, Spain, Croatia, Germany, Poland, Italy, realizing that the reputation of this sight had overcome the country's borders.
We left Salina Turda and -after crossing once again the city -, we continued our trip guided by the signs for Alba Iulia. We thought that it would be better and shorter to follow the route through Blaj - Copsa Mica to arrive in Sibiu. Moreover, the next day we would climb the Transalpina Road through the town Sebes, as a part of our route to Alba Iulia. Thus, crossing a flat area without any interest, except that in several places we were moving alongside the Mures River, we reached the village Teius, where shortly after we turned left towards Blej. The road had the same pattern with the only difference that we met areas with maize crops and that a bee managed to get into my sleeve and sting me! Arriving at Copsa Mica, we met the crossing with the Medias-Sibiu road. This was a trip we had made together with our friends from Brasov, when we visited Romania in 2011, leaving us the best impressions... Just before Rusi, the route became more impressive in terms of vegetation, but mainly from the villages we met, like Slimnic! Perhaps one of the most beautiful villages in Romania and the most characteristic one of Transylvania!
At 6pm we entered in Sibiu. The previous day we had done a search for accommodation but due to the increased tourist traffic almost everything was booked. We found out that the Hotel Continental Forum was nearby and close to the city center. Without second thought we made the booking and paid 75euro per double room. We arranged our stuff and went for a walk in the historic center.
The city is considered to be one of the most picturesque of Romania as it keeps intact elements of the medieval city. Sibiu is located almost on the passage from Wallachia to Transylvania. The city center features many listed buildings. The medieval area is divided into two parts, the upper and lower town. Medieval fortifications and towers are well maintained. The city has two major museums. The open-air ethnographic ASTRA museum comprising 340 buildings including windmills and watermills and Broukental art museum which exhibits works of very important artists. I had visited Sibiu before, in 2007 and the truth is that the picture was quite different then ... Of course since then it had been Cultural Capital together with Luxembourg, which resulted in having impressive growth. Our walk started from the popular pedestrian road Nicolae Balcescu, along which there are two-floor houses, painted in intense colors, with several German and Austro-Hungarian influences.
We encountered numerous stores on our path, until we reached the famous Piata Mare (= big square) where the festival "40 ani cintecul muntilor" was been conducted involving traditional folk music from Romania and from other countries participating. It was then, that we realized the reason of the high traffic. Crowds of people watched the concert and the dancers, while drinking and dancing. We continued passing the Turnul Sfatului, of the old commercial gate, which connects Piata Mare with Piata Mica (=little square) that has a more graphic character. Although it is quieter, it has more cafes and restaurants. There, is also the Podul Minciunilor (=Bridge of Lies). There are three legends about the name of this bridge:
-In the past, men of Sibiu in love went to this bridge and publicly declared their love. Since some cases were squealed, then they characterized the bridge as "Bridge of Lies."
-In the middle Ages, there were the so-called "witches" who foresaw the future. When their words didn’t become true, they were dropped of the bridge.
-In the past there also were vendors on the bridge, eavesdropping passengers discussions. In that way rumors were spread that most of the times were inaccurate. Whoever wanted to spread a slander or gossip went to the bridge.
We continued walking until Piata Heute square, where the Evangelical Church is located, and in which it is said to be buried the son of Vlad Tepes. There was also a romantic Viennese coffee; we listened to live classic music, while people enjoyed the whole atmosphere sitting in the courtyard of the church. At the same point, modern blacksmiths had set workbenches and presented their work "alive"!
We wandered for a while in the center and after eating, we sat in one of the coffee at the pedestrian road to enjoy a cold beer. Eventually, Stratos says: "... Sibiu is the most beautiful city of Romania that I have visited, while Romania is the most beautiful country in the Balkan Peninsula..."