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  • Writer's pictureKristin

Don’t Miss the Marginimea Sibiului Traditional Villages

After spending a few days in the Banat Region of Romania around the Danube river, we headed back to Transylvania around the town Sibiu. While Sibiu was a cute Old Town to explore, we were truly enamored by the surrounding area which was a great glimpse into the history of Transylvania, including beautiful scenery in the surrounding hillsides. We spent over half of the 2 full days we were in the area visiting the Marginimea Sibiu Traditional Villages.


Marginimea Sibiului

Starting just 13 kilometers outside of Sibiu is the Marginimea Sibiului region, which is the best preserved ethnographic area in Transylvania. The string of 18 traditional Romanian villages is located at foothills of Cindrel Mountains. These traditional villages were settled by either Romanian, Hungarians, Germans or Saxons. The 18 traditional villages of Marginimea Sibiului include: Boita, Sadu, Raul Sadului, Talmaciu, Talmacel. Rasinari, Poplaca, Gura Raului, Orlat, Fantanele, Sibiel, Vale, Saliste, Gales, Tilisca, Rod, Poiana Sibiului and Jina. Each village has an authentic and traditional feel to it, and the area is known for its traditional sheep cheese and meat delicacies. All the villages are located close together, with the one closest to Sibiu being Rasinari, which was the first settlement in the area.


Rasinari

We headed out on a Sunday morning to explore the string of villages. We didn’t make it as far as we had originally hoped because we had a really long driving day the previous day and the kids were getting tired of being in the car; however, if you wanted to go to all the towns, there would easily be lots to see and do. We started in Rasinari, which is supposed to have some of the best preserved traditional houses. There is suppose to be a community market held there on Saturdays as well.

Traditional and colorful houses in Rasinari, Romania in the Marginmea Sibiuliu
Traditional Houses in Historic Village of Rasinari

Poplaca & Orlat

Then we headed to Poplaca & Orlat – the drive on the road between these two towns was super scenic with the backdrop of the mountains and shepherds tending to their sheep or cattle in the fields.

Shepherd with several dogs attending to herd of sheep in the green fields outside of Poplaca, Romania in the Marginmea Sibiuliu region.
Shepherd & dogs attending to the sheep in the fields outside of Poplaca.

Since it was Sunday morning, we saw several locals heading to church or on their way home from church. One particular church in Orlat, rang the bell as the people proceeded out and we happened to be there at the right time - it felt a bit magical to witness it. We also stopped for some coffee at Conacul Maria Theresa; however, it looked like a great place to have a meal – the inside of it was so ornate and decorated with historical pieces.


Sibiel

We continued on to Sibiel, which is known for its apple orchards. Due to its apple production there is an Apple Festival that is held here each year in October; unfortunately, we just missed it. While there we stopped at the Biserica Sfânta Treime/Holy Trinity Church which is next to the Priest Zosim Oancea Museum. (There are some other different ethnographic museums located in some of the other towns as well, but we decided just to go to one.) The museum was 10 RON ($2.35 USD) per adult and kids were free and it showcased different traditional glass paintings. The museum set-up was pretty basic, but the paintings were beautiful, they even had a couple of rooms that showcased a traditional room setup for the people and some painted eggs. The kids enjoyed finding multiple paintings of the Lord’s Supper and the painted eggs. The museum tour also included a visit inside the adjoining church. However, there was a wedding party arriving as we got to the church, so we felt a bit awkward going in to check out the inside, so we just peeked inside.


Saliste

Next up was Saliste, which is home to the oldest church in the region built in 1674. However, we had a really hard time finding on the Internet which church it was exactly - there was one at the top of the hill that we weren't able to access with our car, so it might have been that one. However, we did stumble upon the "Birth of Saint John the Baptist" (Biscerica din Grui Sibiel), which was built in 1742 with paintings on the outside of it. We weren’t able to go inside the church, but the paintings on the outside were impressive, as well as it was interesting to watch the locals come and visit the cemetery. On our drive we had seen quite a few people visiting gravesites and bringing flowers, as it seems to be more of a ritual here, especially on a Sunday.

18th Century church and cemetery in the village of Saliste, Romania within the Marginimea Sibiuliu region.
"Birth of St. John the Baptist" or "Biscerica din Grui Sibiel" - Church in Saliste, Romania
Cristian

We actually didn’t see a lot of people out and about – other than coming home from church – as we drove through on the Sunday. However, after exploring Sibiu the next day, we decided to go for another drive in the area. We had hoped to visit Cristian Fortified Church, in the village of Cristian, which is normally closed on Sundays. However, even on Monday it was closed and it appears on Google as being temporarily closed, so we still weren’t able to access the inside.

Fortified church with walls in Cristian within the Marginimea Sibiuliu region.
Cristian Fortified Church in the village of Cristian, Romania
Gura Raului

Even though we couldn’t visit the Fortified Church, we decided to go for a bit of a drive and check out the village of Gura Raului that we had missed the day before. On a Monday afternoon, there was much more activity – we saw our first few horse & wagons on the road and ran into some ‘traffic’ as a herd of sheep proceeded down the road in front of us.


1 horse pulling wagon with two riders in the small village of Gura Raului, Romania.
Horse & cart on the streets of the village of Gura Raului within the Marginimea Region of Romania.
Old shed on the hillside with changing autumn colors on the surrounding hillsides in the Marginimea Sibiuliu area of Romania.
Views over the autumn field & hillside in the Marginimea Sibiuliu region.

We would highly recommend checking out the area of Marginimea Sibiului. It was a beautiful area to see and it was like time was frozen -- where traditions still held strong and things are still authentic. If you’re visiting during good weather or the summer season, it sounds like there are biking groups that come through and explore the region as well.


ASTRA Museum of Folkloric Traditional Civilization [Muzeul Civilizatiei Populare Traditionale ‘ASTRA']

Just located on the outskirts of Sibiu this outdoor museum of ASTRA Museum of Folkloric Traditional Civilization showcases the historical villages of Transylvania. The traditional houses and buildings are spread out in 5 different sectors or groups across its large grounds. (Visitors can actually bring their bikes or scooters in the Park!) There is some basic signage at most buildings to tell you what the building is, but there isn’t a lot of detailed explanations. In addition, most of the buildings aren’t accessible. A door or window might allow you a glimpse inside, but you can’t go in and explore. There are just a handful of buildings that are decorated on the inside as well. If you’re looking for lots of information, then it’s probably best to grab one of the booklets at the ticket office that take you on a type of scavenger hunt. However, it is still interesting to walk around and imagine what it might have looked like in these different communities.

Set of traditional windmills in a field at the ASTRA Museum of Folkloric Traditional Civilization in Sibiu, Romania
Windmills at the ASTRA Museum of Folkloric Traditional Civilization - Sibiu, Romania.

In the summer it appears as though there are more interactive elements and demonstrations that take place, but since we were there in October they have ceased a bit for the season. There is also a children’s area where they had a large mural that children can color, a playground, an area with hands-on water wheels and it even looked like a little cabin with programmed activities for kids.

Coloring mural at the ASTRA Museum of Folkloric Traditional Civilization in Sibiu, Romania
Coloring mural at the ASTRA Open Air Museum in Sibiu, Romania.

There are also a variety of animals, including a small herd of sheep, a donkey, some chickens and turkeys, as well as some cats that seem to have made their home at the park.

Entrance was 25 RON ($5.86 USD/$7.26 CDN) per adult and 7 RON ($1.64 USD/$2.03 CDN) per student.


While we enjoyed seeing the traditional towns surrounding Sibiu, definitely don't miss out on a visit to the beautiful Medieval Old Town of Sibiu.


Exploring Sibiu Old Town

The Sibiu Old Town is a walled Medieval Town that had been largely influenced and settled by the Saxons, persons of German descent, who settled in the Transylvania area from the mid-12th Century.


Sibiu Big Square & Council Town Tower

The Sibiu Old Town is centered around two different squares – the Big Square and the Small/Little Square. We spent most of our time in the Big Square, as the kids enjoyed chasing pigeons and even found a dog who wanted to join in on the fun! Between the two squares was the Council Town Tower that you can climb to the top for views of the two squares below, as well as a view of the Lutheran Cathedral of St. Mary and the Bridge of Lies. Climbing to the Council Town Tower was definitely worth it, as it was literally only a $1-2 per person to go to the top to get amazing views below.

Views from the Council Town Tower:


Bridge of Lies

This bridge was built in 1859 and there a variety of different legends behind it. The biggest one is that the bridge knows when someone tells a lie on it and will collapse upon hearing one. So make sure you're not lying!


Upper & Lower Towns

When the Medieval City was originally established it was built inside a wall, but it still had different distinct areas of it – the Upper Town was more for the elite, whereas the lower town was for the non-elite. These different areas of the town were separated by alleyways of stairs that led to literally lower parts of the town. Today, the lower levels are where many of the locals live and you can get off the tourist path by heading down to these areas to explore.

Little boy & girl walking down the steps to the Lower Level of the Sibiu Medieval Town in Romania.
Staircase between the Upper and Lower levels of the Medieval Town of Sibiu, Romania.

Lutheran Cathedral of St. Mary & Huet Square

Located near the small square, the Huet Square is home to this Evangelical Cathedral. The designs on the roof of the cathedral were impressive, and reminded us of other churches we had seen in Budapest and Zagreb. This church was built in the 14th Century over the existing 12th Century Catholic Church and was added on to over the years until the 15th Century. It was interesting to see a big Cathedral like this that wasn’t Catholic, as most of the big churches like this tend to be Catholic. The Catholic ones tend to be really elaborate and quite with a Gothic art presence, whereas the inside of this Evangelical church was still decorative, but not quite as elaborate. The church was currently under renovation when we where there, so we could only visit the sanctuary and the narthex at the back. However, the narthex was interesting in that it had different tombs of important individuals in the wall. There is also an option to climb to the bell tower for a view out from the Cathedral, but we decided to forego it because we had just climbed to the Town Council Tower.


Don’t Miss Yummy Romanian Treats!

As we were walking down the main pedestrian street of Strada Nicolae Balcescu, we came across lots of shops that were selling gogosi, which is like a donut, and covrigi, which is a type of circle pretzel. There were literally line-ups at almost all of them we came across, so we had to try it! The kids got a gogosi and I tried a Covrigi that was covered with sunflower seeds. The gogosi tastes like a light donut, but is flat like a pita. Clara got one that was filled with chocolate and Connor picked a plain one, but both were sprinkled with powder sugar. They were some of the tastiest treats and we definitely liked them more than regular donuts. Clara was on the search for gogosi for the rest of our time in Romania.

Two children eating the Romanian donut treat of gogosi in Sibiu, Romania.
Kids enjoying their Gogosi treats in Old Town Sibiu.

Lake Balea & Transfagarasan Road

One place that was at the top of our list to see in Romania was the Transfagarasan Road. Part of the road is closed during the winter, so luckily we just scraped by with a visit in October. Unfortunately, we planned to visit it on our drive between Sibiu & Brasov, but it was so cloudy and foggy that day we couldn't see a thing! Lake Balea, which is a glacier lake, is also up in the area. Even though we missed it, we hope you don't!


Our time in Sibiu and the Marginimea Sibiu Traditional Villages was a special place to explore! We are definitely are grateful for our time in the area and the opportunity to explore some of these traditional villages that showcase some of the traditional and authentic Transylvania, and we hope you include them on any future itinerary as well!

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1 Comment


Jorge Falcon
Jorge Falcon
Apr 24, 2023

Hello! Thank you very much for this article. My wife and I will be spending 2 weeks in Romania next October. We will have 1 full day in Sibiu, would you spend part of it (~3h) driving through the Marginimea Sibiului towns, or rather spend the full day in Sibiu and leave the towns for a future visit.

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