- Contrast Town
- German Culture & Heritage
- Riding With A Legend
- Palace Getaway
1. Contrast Town
We embarked on the tour, ready for adventure and sightseeing, cameras ready, laptops in the backpacks and a full gas of tank, to take us on a journey through three of Romania’s largest cities, seen from behind the wheel of some amazing vehicles. Simple and captivating, four days on the road, with meals where we could have them and hotel hopping, meant lots of work and tons of fun.
First stop on our journey, right after passing through Valea Oltului (Valley of the river Olt, one of the largest in the country), a wonderful mountain road, was Sibiu, an old town, in the heart of the country. Hidden between the Carpathian mountains, this place has a unique vibe, caught somewhere between old and a particular type of new, very different from the style of other big East-European cities.
Ever since Sibiu was riding on a high wave, in 2007, when it was declared the Cultural Capital of Europe, the path took a downhill course, with lots of young people leaving the city for other countries, while the tourist flow has decreased heavily, hitting annual peaks only for the Christmas Fair or the Theatre Festival. The contrast can be seen all around town, between shiny new buildings or restored ones and abandoned houses or former institution offices. The fact that the city still has a growing industrial area might be helpful from an economic point of view, but doesn’t do much for the overall image of the town’s progress. Perhaps this would be a good time for the local communities to take a stand and revive the place they call home.
2. German Culture & Heritage
Of course, there are tons of attractions, especially down-town, where a big neighborhood stands, filled with lovely old villas and churches, all surrounded by an ancient castle wall, meant to protect the city’s riches back in the day.
First referenced in 1191, the city of Sibiu, or Hermannstadt, by its Germanic name, was under Austrian affiliation for many years throughout its history, hence the influence of the central-european culture is abundant and visible on every corner, on every street. The homes that people have, the architecture, the bilingual plates on most buildings, it’s all deeply rooted in German culture and it will most likely stay this way for some time to come.
Walking the streets we uncovered museums, nice cityscapes, cathedrals and cozy terraces with courteous people, so for a quiet and relaxing city-break, Sibiu might be one of the best locations to come and enjoy some historical sightseeing and good outdoor meals. The fact that we stayed at the oldest hotel in Romania was definitely a thing to remember. We even made some new friends, while searching for the city’s treasures.
All in all, Sibiu was an unique experience, and although the town could use a spark to restart itself and bring more tourists throughout the year, it certainly has things to offer and it shouldn’t be left aside, especially by the lovers of art, history and German culture. As a plus, we got to see the cityscape by night, at the end of our first day on tour, and that’s something definitely worth seeing, no matter where you’re from.
3. Riding With A Legend
Second day of our tour, we met the garage queen that would take us through town and beyond, a true German icon, waiting for us with the engine warming-up and with hot coffee on the trunk lid, ready to show us what it can still do.
The car in question was a Mercedes-Benz 500 SEC from 1986, the pre-facelift edition, powered by a 5-liter V8 engine, all in perfect condition with original parts. A proper, big, mobster-like coupe, just like Merc used to do back in the day.
The car was salvaged from being taken to a scrapyard, somewhere near Stuttgart, and somehow found its way to Romania, where it is being cared for by the passionate people of Gorgandin, who love old timers (and also good wines, but that’s a story for another day).
To get a glimpse of the amazing vehicle we had for the day, the SEC was fully optioned, featuring electric seat belts, electric seats, AC, blue leather interior, assisted steering, automatic gearbox with lock differential and a Sport/Economy button. All these on a vehicle that’s 35 years old and still drives like a dream. On the tuning side of things, Gorgandin have fitted a complete coilover set for the stance suspension, from Lorinser, a Momo steering wheel (that’s actually their signature), and low-bed Rial R17 wheels, for a classy, clean, old-school look. Talk about a cool old-timer, it doesn’t get any better than this.
4. Palace Getaway
A final stop along our Sibiu part of the tour, before we head out to the next city, was the Brukenthal palace in Avrig, where we enjoyed a wonderful spring day and took some lovely outdoor photos. Of course, the big Merc was a joy to drive and ride in on the hillside roads and that’s an experience we’ll surely enjoy again, when we’ll be in Sibiu.
Having various owners throughout the years, with its destination changed time after time, the palace stands tall upon a hill and is surrounded by nature all around. Constructed in 1788 to resemble a smaller replica of the Schonbrunn Palace in Vienna, Brukenthal’s gardens, summer terraces and shiny colors were the perfect setting to say goodbye to this part of the country and be on our way, to the next destination.
Getting out of the city, in a massive old school coupe, elegantly tuned, and having lunch in such a classy place was the cherry on the top of our Sibiu adventure. But, as all things must come to an end, we said goodbye to this captivating part of our tour and onwards we went, where the next city awaits...
Written by Mihai Dumitrescu / Instagram
Photographed by Anna Dumitrescu / Instagram
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