Under Sibiu’s watchful eyes

It’s often said that the walls have ears. In Sibiu, Romania, the roofs have eyes. The effect is so striking that a paranoid person could panic while strolling the medieval city streets. ‘Why are the roofs watching me?!’ they’d think.


Look closely at the photo. Do you see that the roof is sleepy? Its eyelids are heavy; they’re going to close any minute now. Too much bad weather perhaps? Centuries of heavy rain, beating sun, freezing and thawing—it’s a lot for a roof to handle. And that’s not counting the weight of hundreds of years of history.

Or maybe it’s the opposite: maybe these roofs have been trying to open their eyes for centuries and are unable to do so for some reason. Authors like Stephen King or Patrick Sénécal would definitely see the sinister expression of evil spirits moving about in the attics of these historic homes, observing the comings and goings of Romanians and tourists. After all, we’re in Transylvania, the home of Count Dracula and vampires! Moreover, National Geographic describes the region as wild and mysterious.

Enclosed in the roof dormers, these almond-shaped windows are unique in the world. They’re called the “city’s eyes.” In Romanian, they’re called “ochiuri ale orasului.”

Sibiu is an ancient Saxon city founded in the 1100s. The old city is perched atop a hill. Like Quebec City, there’s an Upper Town and a Lower Town. The roofs with heavy eyelids are located in the Upper Town. They spy on humanity from the edge of a large public square, where for many centuries carnivals and public executions took place. In the Middle Ages, this public square was a grain market.

Everything here is straight out of the Middle Ages: rustic architecture, enormous roofs, massive porches, doors opening onto passages and interior courtyards, and intertwining alleys. Many buildings are classified as historic monuments. The architecture reflects Hungarian and German influences. Tourists also come across Gothic-style buildings.

The city of Sibiu was one of the most important fortified cities of Central Europe, with multiple rings built around it between 1100 and 1200. Narrow passages and fortifications abound, and protective red brick walls rise up ten metres high.

In our opinion, the eyes of Sibiu are hard to beat in terms of tourist attractions. Utterly charming!


Photo: iStockphoto LP