I was roused this morning around 7AM by a raucous, twittering racket just outside our tent. The early birds in the trees surrounding us were tweeting and chirping so loudly they may as well have been in our tent. I felt like my eight year old self, not wanting to go to school, as I pulled our sleeping bag over my head and tried to go back to sleep.
When I awoke an hour or so later, after having a weird vivid dream about birding (in which the birds transformed into action figures), they'd only gotten louder.
The forecast for the coming week (and the one before it) can be summed up in a single word: rain. This morning, I was thankful for skies bright and clear, affording us just enough sunlight to dry our tent from the sheets of rain that whipped against our rain-fly all night long.
As we took to the road, it quickly became apparent the tailwinds we'd enjoyed yesterday weren't going to make a second appearance. The formerly helpful breezes did an about-face, gusting us back in the direction of Brașov!
Knowing we had a short 25km ride into Sibiu, I didn't mind the fierce headwinds at all. I could tell Tara was having a hard time with it though, so I pulled us over after a few kilometers and encouraged her to "get it all out" so we could refocus on taking it slowly and enjoy ourselves.
"I HATE THIS! THIS IS THE WORST 25 KILOMETERS OF MY ENTIRE LIFE!"
It worked. Guts spilled, hills and winds cursed, we plodded along at a snail's pace for the rest of our ride, listening to our music and enjoying the scenery.
Sibiu, our destination for the next several days, is the "cultural and religious heart" of Romania. As we rolled into the picture-perfect historic center, we heard a lively pep-band tune emanating from a nearby square. We followed our ears and couldn't help but dance a little to the music as we approached what we thought was a group of really talented buskers.
Wheeling up, we found Fanfara, a jazz band from Târgovi?te, playing for Sibiu's own annual Jazz Festival! We quickly leaned our bikes together; Tara grabbed the camera while I started up our field recorder. These guys were great! If they had been busking, they would have collected a fortune.
After the impromptu show, we met a Catherine, a San Francisco-based photographer, and photojournalist for National Geographic magazine! She was in Romania doing a piece on living history in Transylvania. We exchanged business cards, and talked a bit about the possibility of doing a story on our trip. Even if nothing comes of it, it was nice to meet you, Catherine!
By the time all of this was over, we were both thoroughly excited to be in beautiful Sibiu! Our next stop was a nearby pension suggested by Catherine's local assistant. On our way, we noticed that almost every single building in the city was listed as a historical monument!
With our bicycles and belongings safely stowed once more, we set out to do a bit of exploring. Just off the main square, Tara climbed Sibiu's Council Tower, one of many in the city. She reported back that it was mostly stairs (lots and lots of stairs) leading to empty rooms, and that all the windows were bolted shut. Though she couldn't photograph the view from the top through the smudged glass, she did manage to get this great shot:
A little further on, we heard chanting and deep, soulful singing wafting into the streets from a nearby church. Finding its source in the Roman Orthodox cathedral, we made our way inside. I think it was Sunday mass? Around the perimeter of the chapel, people stood and prayed, often making the sign of the cross, sometimes walking around the room and kissing various religious pictures.
I took a recording, and Tara thought the church was one of the best she'd seen (we've seen a lot of churches!), but photos didn't seem very appropriate at the time. Maybe we'll head back when there aren't so many people so we can capture its stunning decorations.
All of this walking made us very hungry, so we went off in search of food. On our way to dinner, a stray doggie hopped up to me with an expectant look in his eye. We didn't have any food to give him, but I stopped to scratch behind his ears and rub his tummy. He was a sweetheart!
The poor guy must've been hit by a car at some point in his life because he could scarcely move his hind legs. Because of this, his gait was a cute hopping motion made depressing by the earnest look in his eyes as he tried to follow me when we got up to leave.
When I turned around to see if he was still giving chase, he jumped into my arms!
I told him I would find him some food…
…and gave him a big hug.
We bought him a pastry from a shop nearby, but he didn't seem interested in eating it. Instead, he followed us as we walked, slowly wrenching our hearts with the knowledge that he probably just wanted someone to love him. While we walked, we decided that if we ever promote a cause or charity, it will definitely be one for stray animals!
Our puppy friend eventually stopped his pursuit, and the local pigeons enjoyed the food we'd bought for him. By this time, we were as hungry as the pigeons, and began searching for our own dinner. We made the rounds and settled on a place that offered traditional Romanian fare. Tara had bean soup (with smoked pork shoulder) and I had a brothy noodle soup with beef meatballs. We shared the "traditional pork feast" and then walked slowly home, stuffed full of good food.
Though it was tempting to fall straight into bed, we bundled up against the cold that had descended, and walked back into the main square to see the final show of Sibiu's jazz festival. A band was playing on the main stage, and we enjoyed it for an hour before calling it a night.
The forecast is still filled with rain but we're holding out hope for a nice day of sightseeing tomorrow!