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Sibiu's Piata Mare or Great Square, is the heart of the Romanian city. At center is the 18th-century baroque Catholic church.
Sibiu's Piata Mare or Great Square, is the heart of the Romanian city. At center is the 18th-century baroque Catholic church. (Michael Abrams/Stars and Stripes)
Sibiu's Piata Mare or Great Square, is the heart of the Romanian city. At center is the 18th-century baroque Catholic church.
Sibiu's Piata Mare or Great Square, is the heart of the Romanian city. At center is the 18th-century baroque Catholic church. (Michael Abrams/Stars and Stripes)
A fountain sprouts water on Piata Coroana in Sibiu's lower town. Although a bit rundown, the flaking pastels of the buildings add to the city's charms.
A fountain sprouts water on Piata Coroana in Sibiu's lower town. Although a bit rundown, the flaking pastels of the buildings add to the city's charms. (Michael Abrams/Stars and Stripes)
The 13th-century Pasajul Scarilor, or Passage of Steps, with its arches and stairs connects Sibiu, Romania's upper and lower towns.
The 13th-century Pasajul Scarilor, or Passage of Steps, with its arches and stairs connects Sibiu, Romania's upper and lower towns. (Michael Abrams/Stars and Stripes)
The Podul Minciunilor, or Bridge of Lies in Sibiu, Romania. It crosses over a street that leads from the upper town to the lower town. Built in 1859, it was the first wrought iron bridge in Romania.
The Podul Minciunilor, or Bridge of Lies in Sibiu, Romania. It crosses over a street that leads from the upper town to the lower town. Built in 1859, it was the first wrought iron bridge in Romania. (Michael Abrams/Stars and Stripes)
Sibiu, Romania, is a colorful city, with many of its old buildings painted in a variety of colors. The eye-like attic openings sometimes makes it look like the buildings have faces.
Sibiu, Romania, is a colorful city, with many of its old buildings painted in a variety of colors. The eye-like attic openings sometimes makes it look like the buildings have faces. (Michael Abrams/Stars and Stripes)
A wedding photographer gives the bride and groom instructions as they pose in front of Sibiu, Romania's old city walls.
A wedding photographer gives the bride and groom instructions as they pose in front of Sibiu, Romania's old city walls. (Michael Abrams/Stars and Stripes)
A narrow passage way makes for a shortcut between two streets in Sibiu, Romania.
A narrow passage way makes for a shortcut between two streets in Sibiu, Romania. (Michael Abrams/Stars and Stripes)
A view of the Piata Mare or Great Square in Sibiu, Romania, as seen from the 13th-century Turnul Sfatului, or Council Tower.
A view of the Piata Mare or Great Square in Sibiu, Romania, as seen from the 13th-century Turnul Sfatului, or Council Tower. (Michael Abrams/Stars and Stripes)
People stroll along the cobblestone lanes of Sibiu, Romania. In the background are the remnants of the city's old city fortifications with the Carpenters' Tower and the Potters' Tower.
People stroll along the cobblestone lanes of Sibiu, Romania. In the background are the remnants of the city's old city fortifications with the Carpenters' Tower and the Potters' Tower. (Michael Abrams/Stars and Stripes)
Inside Sibiu, Romania's Orthodox Metropolitan Cathedral. Built early in the 20th century, it is the second-largest Orthodox church in Romania.
Inside Sibiu, Romania's Orthodox Metropolitan Cathedral. Built early in the 20th century, it is the second-largest Orthodox church in Romania. (Michael Abrams/Stars and Stripes)
The beautiful tile roof and steeple of Sibiu, Romania's Evangelical l Cathedral as seen from the 13th-century Turnul Sfatului, or Council Tower.
The beautiful tile roof and steeple of Sibiu, Romania's Evangelical l Cathedral as seen from the 13th-century Turnul Sfatului, or Council Tower. (Michael Abrams/Stars and Stripes)
The 13th-century Turnul Sfatului, or Council Tower in Sibiu Romania. It was once part of the inner fortifications of the city. Today you can climb its steps to the top floor for a beautiful view of the city and the surrounding countryside.
The 13th-century Turnul Sfatului, or Council Tower in Sibiu Romania. It was once part of the inner fortifications of the city. Today you can climb its steps to the top floor for a beautiful view of the city and the surrounding countryside. (Michael Abrams/Stars and Stripes)
Sibiu's Piata Mare or Great Square with its fountain at night.
Sibiu's Piata Mare or Great Square with its fountain at night. (Michael Abrams/Stars and Stripes)
Ice cream is very popular in Sibiu, especially during the hot Romanian summer.
Ice cream is very popular in Sibiu, especially during the hot Romanian summer. (Michael Abrams/Stars and Stripes)
An iPhone panorama of Sibiu, Romania's Piata Mica, or Little Square with its historic old buildings..
An iPhone panorama of Sibiu, Romania's Piata Mica, or Little Square with its historic old buildings.. (Michael Abrams/Stars and Stripes)

Sibiu, Romania. Never heard of the place.

When I got assigned to photograph a military exercise nearby, my first thought was where the heck is that?

An internet search told me it was once called Hermannstadt. That rang a dim bell. Somewhere in my history books, I remember a town in Romania being settled by Germans in the Middle Ages.

When we arrived there, the next puzzle was why are there so many international tourists here? My traveling partner and I finally figured it out: It is on the vampire trail to Dracula’s castle.

Seems the count’s haunts are only about 90 miles down the road, and with an international airport, Sibiu is the place to start a journey through Transylvania. We didn’t have time to go to Vlad the Impaler’s castle, but we did have time to explore Sibiu.

There was plenty to discover.

The city’s Old Town is divided into two parts, the upper town and the lower town. As could be expected, the upper town was the wealthier part, with the lower town being where the working man lived.

The two are connected by two interesting staircases, the13th-century Pasajul Scarilor, or Passage of Steps, with arches and cobblestone stairs and the steep staircase that begins at the Stairs Tower and leads down to Piata Coroana in the lower town.

The heart of old Sibiu are the Piata Mare or Great Square and the Piata Mica, or Little Square.

When we arrived on a Thursday, there was a bustling market happening on the former and after doing a little sightseeing, we had dinner at one of the many restaurants that line the latter.

Walking from the one square to the other, we passed under the arch of the 13th-century Turnul Sfatului, or Council Tower. The next day we climbed it for a grand view of the city and the surrounding countryside. From here there is also a great view of the Evangelical Cathedral with its beautiful tile roof and steeple.

A street leads up from the lower town to the Piata Mica, splitting it in two. The pedestrian Podul Minciunilor, or Bridge of Lies spans it. Built in 1859, it was the first wrought iron bridge in Romania.

When there’s no market on Piata Mare, one of its main attractions is the playful fountain at its center. It squirts streams of water into the air at different intervals and strengths, surprising the children brave enough to play in it.

The Old Town is full of cobblestone streets and narrow passages. There is also a section of the city’s fortifications still standing along with a handful of defensive towers. As we discovered, they are a popular backdrop for wedding pictures.

Take time to check out is the Orthodox Metropolitan Cathedral. Built early in the 20th century, it is the second-largest Orthodox church in Romania.

There’s plenty more to discover wandering through Sibiu, including a couple of museums, churches and colorful historic houses. So, if you’re on your way to see the count or looking for an out-of-the-way place to visit, put Sibiu on your list.

abrams.mike@stripes.com Twitter: @stripes_photog

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