One day you might find yourself tooling around southern Transylvania in your fine motor car, just enjoying the fresh air and suddenly come around a bend in the road and enter the town of Sibiu and you’re going to think, “Mein gott in himmel, have I just arrived in Germany or what?”. Yes, pretty much you have!
One of the surprising populations inside Romania is the Germans, otherwise known as the Transylvania Saxons in English or the Siebenbürger Sachsen in German.
Time for a little Romanian history, so put on your History Cap of Historical Learning. You can click on the link above but here’s the super short version:
Around the year 1200, the Hungarians were getting their southeastern flank bedeviled and continually harassed by wily band of semi-nomadic Turks. What to do, what to do? So they made a few Germans back in the “home country” an offer of a lifetime: move to the wild and woolly frontier (of the then Hungarian Kingdom), fend off those dastardly Turks and we’ll reward you with riches and gold.
And friends, that’s exactly what they did. The Germans, being the particularly industrious people that they are, built up seven fine fortified towns (called the Siebenburgen literally the “Seven Towns”) and settled in and grew fat and made many fine sausages and twirled their mustaches gaily and drank large steins of beer and listened to oompah-loompah music, etc, etc, as Germans are wont to do.
Fast forwarding to around 1490 or so, the good German folk of the town of Brasov (German name: Kronstadt, really rolls off the tongue, eh?) righteously pissed off Vlad The Impaler and got on the wrong side of his Impalin’ Sticks and ended up creating a legend.
And all was well until a little fellow named Adolf Hitler decided to rampage across Europe in the 1940’s and then pretty much everyone in Eastern Europe quit loving the Germans quite as much as they used to. And so 99% of all the Germans who used to live in Romania got the heck out of Dodge and went back to the “old country”.
But they left behind a lot of architecture and beautiful buildings, the Black Church in Brasov being exceptionally beautiful and completely worth a visit when you come to Romania.
Back to Sibiu though. The few Germans still left in Romania have mostly all congregated in Sibiu and even have their own political party. And the smiling gent at the top of this post is none other than Johannis Klaus, the German mayor of Sibiu. In fact, Sibiu is the only town in Romania (I think) which has its very own German language newspaper.
Mayor Klaus and his merry band of Germans have been incredibly busy elves and have used their Germanic cunning and artistry to wangle funds to improve Sibiu and the city is just absolutely amazing. It’s literally a gorgeous town that looks like something out of a fairy tale and well worth a visit. And yes they have bratwurst and every other kind of sausage you’d ever want to eat as long as you ever shall live.
Even though most of the Germans are gone from the rest of the country, Germans from the Fatherland still have some strong ties to Romania and so you will find many Germans traveling in Romania and doing business in Romania. There are usually good deals on flights into Romania from Germany precisely because of this, FYI.
After English, German is probably the second-most commonly studied foreign language and so if you speak German, you can probably get around and do fairly well for yourself.
Interestingly enough, signs and maps still in use in Romania refer to towns and places by their German names, where applicable.
NOW YOU KNOW, MEINE LIEBE!