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Phespirit goes to Romania
Sibiu     September 2010

Rain drizzled down the departure lounge windows at Luton Airport. Soft persistent drops pittered from a dull, uniformly pale sky. Vast areas of concrete outside were glazed with water yet planes continued to taxi and soar. These conditions were clearly kinder than whatever was being inflicted upon Sibiu. Phespirit had expected to depart at 09:00 but his flight was running later and later due to 'bad weather': 11:30, 10:00, 10:40, 12:50, 13:00, 13:45. Phespirit was tired and bored. He wanted to take his window seat on the aircraft and fall asleep; he wanted to touch down in Romania and start exploring a city of beauty and culture.

The little Blue Air Boeing 737-500 eventually left Luton at 14:05, to arrive at Sibiu a mere two and three-quarter hours later at 18:50 local time. The sun was low on its pinky-yellow western horizon; the large radiant disc of a perfect full moon faced it from the east. The space that stretched between them was cloudless and still, the ground below was dry. If there had ever been 'bad weather' here it had long departed. It was a warm and pleasant evening so Phespirit walked to his accommodation - Hotel Roberts - and was checked-in within the hour. He couldn't bring himself to make up for lost time by immediately chasing off out again, so instead he settled for a good night's sleep. Afterwards he would have three full days at leisure.

An unblemished sky greeted Phespirit on his first day in Sibiu. Beneath it he peregrinated the city twice over, using the towers and bastions of the old city walls as his first set of markers, and the city's old churches as his second. Nothing in Sibiu demands to be adored but the cumulative effect of its attractive architecture and heart-warming idiosyncracies makes it rather irresistable. On his second day, as clouds began to accumulate, Phespirit navigated between the major museums: the Brukenthal Palace Museum, the Romanian Art Gallery, the Museum of History, the Gallery of Contemporary Art, the "August von Spiess" Museum of Hunting. None that couldn't be trumped by a grander counterpart in a larger, more ostentatious European metropolis, but all just right to fill an unrushed day.

The three squares at the heart of the mediæval centre - the Large Square, the Small Square and the Huet Square - represent the best of cosy, easy-going Sibiu. Habsburg façades surround the squares, while distinctive features such as the Jesuit Church, the Council Tower and the Bridge of Lies occupy the in-between ground and serve as connectors between them. On his final full day, Phespirit took a six kilometre walk south-southwest from the city centre to visit the "ASTRA" Museum of Traditional Folk Civilisations. This huge outdoor park showcases an assortment of old buildings - mills, farmhouses, homesteads, churches, etc. - from across Romania. There are no gimmicks or nods to modernity of any kind. It's simply a nice environment around which to stroll for a few hours.

The next day Phespirit's flight back to Luton departed as planned at 07:00. Once more he walked to the airport, this time in the murky sub-twilight that fills the deadzone between four and five in the morning. The temperature was comfortable, and Phespirit felt comfortable too, as he had done throughout his time in this pleasant city that deserves a much higher profile.

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