When I first started planning my travels for 2014, I originally planned on cycling around Ireland for a while, then going on a road trip around Ireland with my friends Fee and Johanna, and after than spending the next month-and-a-half cycling around Scotland and England in the United Kingdom. But I didn’t like my time in Ireland very much. It was cold and I was actually kind of miserable there, so the thought of spending another month-and-a half in the same area, cycling around by myself and camping in the cold did not sound appealing.
I looked into renting an apartment somewhere in Scotland. That way I could at least visit Scotland and see some of the area, while at the same time getting some rest from the bike and some shelter from the cold, wet and wind. But I was unable to find any affordable apartments for rent in Scotland. They were all just a little outside what I wanted to spend. That’s when my friend Ryan (from www.pausethemoment.com) suggested I get out of the UK entirely and go someplace warm. It was such a simple idea, but until that moment I hadn’t even considered leaving the area.
I looked online at budget airlines leaving from Ireland and the UK and it didn’t take me long to discover that there was a $100 USD round-trip flight from London Luton Airport to Sibiu, Romania. I had been to Romania in 2012 and I absolutely loved it. Plus, I had been there at this same time of year, so I knew what the weather would be like (a whole lot warmer than in Ireland and the UK). So, while sitting in a small library in the middle of Ireland, I booked my plane ticket and made plans to cycle from Ireland to London, England and fly to Romania for a 1-month hiatus from my bicycle touring adventures.
I needed a break anyway. I don’t know if I would have enjoyed myself very much if I had spent that whole month-and-a-half cycling across Scotland and England. Even though I would have liked to have seen those places and I hope I will have the chance to return and bike tour across Scotland (especially) in the future, I was tired of cycling after four constant months on the road. Over the previous four months I had cycled across Hungary, Slovakia, Austria, Germany, Poland, Lithuania, Latvia, Estonia, Finland, The Isle of Man and Ireland. I was certainly enjoying myself, but it was time for a break.
Also, I have plans to meet up with my friend Kevin in Taiwan in mid-October and cycle around the island for a month with him. I was afraid that if I spent another month-and-a-half cycle touring around the UK that by the time I arrived in Taiwan I would be entirely burnt out.
For all these reasons, I booked my flight to Sibiu, Romania, took a ferry from Dublin to Holyhead, Wales and then made my way back to London, England where I jumped on my cheap Wizz Air flight and booked myself into a small studio apartment in the center of Sibiu that would be my home for the next 35 nights.
Below is an exterior photo of the apartment I rented in Sibiu. The green garage door is where I would enter the building to access my apartment and the two windows on the first floor of the building is where my apartment was located. From inside I could look out at the street and watch as people walked past. The apartment was located in the center of the old town, just a short two to three minute walk to the nearest supermarket and the main city square. The location could not have been better!
Once inside the green garage doors, this is what it looked like inside the courtyard of my building. The green door on the left-hand side of the photo is where I would enter my apartment, which I rented (by the way) on AirBNB.com.
Click here to get a free $25 travel voucher for AirBNB.com. This is the website I use to rent apartments all over the world and I would totally recommend you try it if you haven’t done so already!
Once inside the apartment, this room (pictured below) is where I spent most of my time. It’s a lot bigger than it looks in the photo. I liked this apartment because there was desk to work at, a couch to relax on, and several spaces in which to move around and work on my computer (which is what I spent most of my time doing while I was in Sibiu). Inside the apartment was also a bathroom with a shower and a small kitchen (with a stove, refrigerator, washing machine, cook-top and all the plates, bowls and utensils I would need).
I arrived in Sibiu, Romania late at night on the September 6, 2014 and walked from the airport into the center of town – rushing to meet the man would was to let me into the apartment and hand over the keys to the property. I made it there just in time, thanked him for meeting me so late at night and then went straight to bed.
I expected to sleep for the entire day, being that I had been on the move for the last four months and this would be my first opportunity to just sleep in and do absolutely nothing all day long. But I woke up early the following morning and could sleep no longer. My life on the road had put me in the habit of waking up early and I was unable to sleep past 9 AM. By the end of my time in Sibiu, however, my old habits had returned and I was occasionally sleeping in until as late as 2 in the afternoon.
On my first day in Sibiu, I walked a short distance to the center of the city and discovered that there was a large ceramics and pottery festival taking place. There were hundreds of people selling all kinds of clay pots and gifts. Part of me wanted to buy a piece to take home with me, but the other part of me knew that doing so would be a huge hassle. It’s difficult to buy gifts for yourself or others when you live on a bicycle and don’t return home on a regular basis.
After checking out the pottery festival, I walked around the center of Sibiu, trying to get familiar with the city. I discovered that there was a large pedestrian street lined with shops. This street would be something I would walk up and down almost every day during my time in Sibiu. It is a colorful, lively street filled with people, restaurants, ice cream vendors, clowns (yes, clowns!) and all sorts of things to look at and think about.
The day after the pottery festival ended, I did another big walk around town and was delighted to see how much more peaceful the city was when all of the festival-goers were no longer there. I’m not a fan of big cities, so I liked seeing that Sibiu was a peaceful relaxing city. I spend hours and hours in Sibiu simply walking around the city, taking photos and watching the people.
I should probably explain the photo below. There is a natural history museum in Sibiu with a bunch of realistic dinosaur sculptures planted in the garden outside the building. While it does appear as though there are real dinosaurs running through the urban city center of Sibiu, Romania, I can assure you that this dinosaur is fake. 😉
Even at night, Sibiu felt like a safe place to be. In the evening there would be tons of people just out walking together, holding hands, chatting with their friends and family members. It was fun to get away from my computer, walk a short distance up the road and then walk the streets with all the locals. Here are some of my nighttime photos from my time in Sibiu, Romania.
After I had been in Sibiu for about a week, I received an email from a 27-year-old bicycle traveler named Casey Link who said that he’d be in Sibiu soon and was wondering if we could meet up. I invited him to stay with me for two nights and met him one day in the city center. Click here to see my video interview with Casey Link and hear about his bicycle touring and packrafting adventures in Europe.
During Casey’s second day in Sibiu we went on a short hike in the nearby mountains. We climbed to the top of a small hill and then just sat there for a while looking down on the city below.
Eventually, it came time for Casey to leave Sibiu and I returned to my computer work. Because I had been bicycle touring myself for the previous four months, I had a lot of computer work I was anxious and excited to catch up on, so I spent a great deal of my time in Sibiu working on my computer. As boring as that sounds, I was really pleased to be doing it. When I have work that I want to be doing, I really do enjoy it!
I was a little nervous about coming to Sibiu at first because even though I had been to Romania before, I had never been to the city of Sibiu before and I really had no idea what it would be like. But Sibiu turned out to be a great place to be. One of the things I liked so much about Sibiu is that there was always something going on. During my time in the city there was a pottery festival, a music festival, a film festival, the MTV Music Media Awards, an Oktoberfest celebration, a car race and a whole lot more!
Every few days there would be something new… and these various events allowed me to get up close to people with my camera and take their photo without them ever noticing.
The photos below were taken during some kind of strongman competition in which a bunch of big, beefy guys from Eastern Europe competed in lifting large objects like truck tires and cargo vans.
Because I’m so tall, I can usually see over the heads and shoulders of the people in front of me, but shorter people have to resort to different strategies in order to see what’s going on at events like this. In the photo below you can see a short teenage boy filming the strongman competition on his smartphone and then looking up at his phone in order to see what is going on. I thought this was slightly humorous and it made me realize how nice it is to be tall sometimes.
The photo below was taken during the Music Media Awards that took place in Sibiu, Romania while I was there. The award ceremony featured a bunch of Romanian artists I had never heard of before. It was a totally free event and was quite an impressive display of showmanship, even though I couldn’t understand most of what was being said or sung about.
One day I took a bus from the center of town up into the nearby mountains to a ski resort called Paltinis. Once there, I spent the entire day hiking to the top of the mountain. It was sunny, but cold at the top. There was ice and snow on the ground and I got a good workout running around the mountains trying to stay warm.
Coming down the mountain from Paltinis I noticed that there were a large number of mushrooms growing in the forest. And these mushrooms were big too! You can’t really tell from these photos, but the orange mushroom below was actually about a foot across. It was gigantic!
After hiking around the Paltinis ski resort all day, I waited at the bus stop for a ride back to Sibiu. While I waited, two stray dogs came up to me and began begging for food… and these dogs were expert beggars. They put their nose in my pockets, searching for any food I might have. When that didn’t work, they sat on my feet, rubbed themselves up against me, laid on their back and began begging for food. These dogs were expert beggars!
During the last week of September there was a big, four-day long Oktoberfest celebration held in the center of Sibiu. A massive tent was erected and dozens of carnival rides were put up around the exterior of the tent. While I didn’t participate in the Oktoberfest celebration in any way myself (I don’t drink beer, for example), the celebration did provide me with a good environment for taking candid photos of the local people.
After the Oktoberfest carnival ended, Sibiu seemed incredibly quiet… but I liked it like that. Working during the day and getting outside whenever I could, I spent hours just walking around the city and taking in the details. I think I appreciate places like this more when I know that I’m only there for a limited time, and I might not ever get back to the place in my lifetime. 35 days in a place like Sibiu is more than most tourists will ever spend in all of Europe. So being able to spend 35 days in a small city such as this is really something special. You get to see the place in a way that your typical tourist will never see it…. and you appreciate it (I think) a whole lot more.
Two weeks before leaving Sibiu I rented a KTM motorcycle from a local company and went (with a guide) up into the nearby mountains – near the Paltinis ski resort that I had gone hiking in several days before.
I bought a motorcycle several years ago after being passed by a group of motorcycle riders in Albania during my 2009 bike tour from Switzerland to Greece. I was climbing a big mountain pass at the time and these guys on their motorcycles just zipped past me. I was sweating and straining at the time and I thought to myself, “I gotta get myself a motorcycle.” So, when I returned home to the United States a few months later, I bought myself a Kawasaki KLR 650 dual-sport motorcycle, took lessons, learned how to drive the thing and then got my motorcycle license. I even did several long motorcycle tours, driving my bike across several US states and even taking a two-week-long motorcycle trip to British Columbia, Canada.
My motorcycle is sitting in storage now that I’m traveling in Europe, but when I saw that there was a company here in Sibiu offering motorcycle rentals, I thought it would be fun to get back out on a motorbike.
Even though I do have a little experience driving motorcycles, most of my experience is driving on paved roads or on fairly well-maintained fire roads. I have never done any kind of serious off-road riding. So when I told the owner of the motorcycle company here in Sibiu that I was a beginner, he insisted that I take a guide with me.
I was hesitant about having a guide with me, however, because I was afraid he would be bored riding with me or he’d force me to go faster than I felt was safe. In the end, however, I’m glad I had a guide, because he took me to places I never would have dreamed of going on my own. During my day of motorcycling in the Carpathian mountains south of Sibiu, Romania, I rode my motorcycle up steep narrow hiking trains, through muddy pools of water, over fallen tree trunks, and down rocky creek beds. When I think back on it now, I can’t believe I was able to do what I did. At the end of the day, I was extremely sore and tired, but I was also incredibly proud of myself.
During my last week in Sibiu I went on a couple more short hikes in the neighboring mountains and spent a lot of time on my computer, trying to finish my work before leaving the city. I spent a lot of time walking around the center, cooking food in my kitchen, watching documentaries on YouTube, and listening to music I downloaded from the Internet (thanks to some Amazon.com gift cards my family members gave me before I left home earlier this year).
During my last week in Sibiu I spent most of my time indoors, working to finish everything that needed finishing before flying to Taiwan. I did, however, go on a short hike in the hills north of the city.
I also spent a fair amount of time in the city center, walking around, taking photos and interacting with the locals.
During my first trip to the Paltinis ski resort, I noticed that there was a place called Arka Park located just south of the resort center. I had done a ropes course like this in Brasov, Romania and really enjoyed it, so I made a trip back to Arka Park during my last week in Sibiu and spent the entire day tackling the made-made obstacles they had laid out there. At the end of the day, my body was so incredibly sore!
After climbing at Arka Park, I had a couple hours to wait for the bus back into town, so I went hiking in the nearby hills and found a number of old farm houses to explore. The photos look nice, but it was so cold and windy on this particular day. It was early October and I could feel winter coming.
Can you imagine living and working in a house like this? I could imagine doing it today, but I can’t imagine what it would have been like hundreds of years ago. Finding your own water, growing your own food, and making everything you need to survive. It would have been a tough life. But at least the views would have been good! Seriously, if you lived in this house, you would have a multi-million-dollar view from your front door.
The supermarket I shopped at the entire time I was in Sibiu was located almost directly under the iconic Council Tower, which is accessible to the public. I didn’t pay the 2 Lei to go to the top of the Council Tower, however, until my last couple days in Sibiu. The views from the top were pretty epic though. Totally worth the entrance price!
In the photo below you can see the street that I lived on during my time in Sibiu, The white arrow in the top-right-hand corner of the pic points to the building where my apartment was located.
I left Sibiu, Romania on October 11th. I really enjoyed my time in the city. There was a lot to see and do both in the city and in the local area… and I got a lot of work done during my time there. I could have easily stayed in Sibiu for another month and been very happy. Hopefully I’ll make it back to Sibiu at some point in the future.