The best love is unexpected love.
When something new just appears seemingly out of nowhere and snatches up your heart, encompassing you in a whirlwind of happiness, adoration, and passion, there is simply no greater joy.
This is why I love traveling to unexpected destinations. Popular tourist cities are so well-known that however stunning they may be, some of the magic is lost when you know exactly what to expect. Finally seeing a famous landmark that you’ve seen countless times in photographs does not have the same heart-stopping thrill that discovering something new does, and it’s those unexpected encounters with the unknown that truly make me love traveling.
I experienced this unexpected love when I visited the small city of Sibiu, Romania. I had come to Romania to explore Transylvania and visit some famous castles, but I didn’t do much research beforehand. So I was pleasantly surprised to find myself completely infatuated with the modest charm and captivating architecture of Sibiu.
Being the dead of winter, February is off-season for visiting Transylvania and the town was often consumed in an eerie silence from the lack of tourists and hibernation of locals. But this only allowed for a more intimate experience with the welcoming city streets.
The city consists of winding streets that trail up and down the hilly land, so it’s easy to get lost while wandering around. The different elevations create staggered layers of scenery; looking one way you’ll see multiple horizons filled with snow-dusted roofs, whereas looking the other way you’ll see a tunnel with a staircase leading downwards towards more winding roads filled with shops, cafes, and rainbow houses.
If you do get lost, the unique shapes and patterns of the architecture will occupy your eyes until you find your way. Every kind of paint clings to the buildings, from soft pastels to vibrant brights to stripes and two-toned color schemes. This kaleidoscopic range of color blends together to create wildly entertaining views even in the most deserted alleyways. Even rustic, broken-down garage doors look beautiful because of the interesting colors.
Sometimes you’ll see ornate balconies and elaborate iron gates and intricate door handles and sometimes you’ll see broken windows and rusty old fences and peeling paint in the process of withering away to reveal the jumbled mess of eroded bricks underneath. Sibiu is humble yet majestic at the same time, and the enormous government buildings and decorated churches are just as stunning as the half-dilapidated residential homes with stray cats running across the roofs.
The spacious public squares unite many beautiful buildings into one area, and you feel caught in the middle of an architectural masterpiece as you stand within the space. Sibiu’s Main Square is huge, with numerous tunnels leading off into other, smaller squares filled with cozy cafes and lovely souvenir shops. I never tired of meandering through the various squares, browsing through the traditional handicrafts in the stores, and melting into the relaxed energy of the city.
A month ago I had never heard of Sibiu, and now I am constantly dreaming about this gorgeous town and the enjoyable days I spent there. I knew nothing about Sibiu beforehand so my expectations were relatively low, but I was absolutely blown away by this Transylvanian city. And though the famous castles I researched were incredible, it was the small, seemingly insignificant town of Sibiu that truly stole my heart in Romania.
(As originally published on The College Tourist )