I have recently spent a short period of time in Romania, commissioned by Untravelled Paths to photograph a beautiful Ice Hotel in the Carpathian Mountains. Though the trip was only four days long, it was long enough to give me a real taste of what this beautiful country has to offer. The mix of pre-communism, communism and post-communism buildings makes for a very interesting evolution throughout Romanian cityscapes. This was evident in the city of Sibiu. The centre consists of the remains of a fortified city and around that is a fortification of communist era buildings. Similar to bouncers guarding a nightclub entrance, once you pass through this area the atmosphere improves.
Although quite a stark contrast, what stood out the most was how quiet this city was. The loudest thing I experienced in Sibiu (other than the evangelical church bells I was standing next to when they chimed) was the howling of neighbourhood dogs at 3am, as they each staked their claim to a patch of much sort after concrete turf. Coming from England, where even in the rural areas the population per square mile is pretty significant, Sibiu had a slight feeling of abandonment to it. Roaming the streets during the day and at night, there seemed to be a lull, but at the same time this was refreshing and relaxing. Being able to take in the sites of Sibiu without hordes of other people doing the same made it all the more fascinating to explore.
Having stumbled upon the entrance to the evangelical church in the city centre. I thought this would provide a great view of Sibiu and an opportunity to give it a sense of scale. The spiralling staircase eventually evened out, then ducking through a low passage we entered the tower’s interior. This grand room must have been forty metres high with ancient, fragile staircases wearily straddling the manmade chasm; like a withered spiders web trying to fill a hollowed out tree trunk. Quickly turning into a strong test for anyone with a fear of heights or falling, it wasn’t made any easier by the fading natural light which dribbled in through the tiny stone slits. The light outside was dim and murky, adding to the unnerving scene.
Soon enough we passed through a wooden floorboard, startled by an equally startled pigeon, and entered the top of the bell tower just as the bells bellowed out a chime. With ringing ears, we noticed another staircase going higher. This steep final ascent led to an equally gloomy room which had four compartments at each corner. In each compartment there was an opening with a series of windows. Though tiny and dirty, the windows offered a perspective on the city and how it sat in the landscape. Piece by piece, room by room, the tower allowed us to compilate a grand view of Sibiu.
At this time of year, snow is very much in the air, sprinkling quite a magical feel over everything. Marius, our guide, had arranged for us to visit a church as the keeper had kindly agreed to stay around for us on a Sunday afternoon. The elderly gentleman had been told why I wanted to visit and the benefit it would hopefully bring to the surrounding area, as the photos will be used to promote tourism to the region. However, there was clearly a thought of “is this the guy?!” when I came up to him excitedly with a big smile. Nevertheless he politely showed us into the little church and let me take a few photos of him.
Next blog I’ll be talking about my time in the Ice Hotel, until then here are a few more black and white images from Sibiu.