The houses in the Transylvanian city Sibiu are watching you.
Sibiu, in central Romania, is a rather evocative city. In the article on the mythical Transylvanian school of black magic I described a dragon dwelling underneath a lake in the mountains south of Hermanstadt. Well, Hermanstadt is the German name for Sibiu. The city has a number of idiosyncratic features that I’m sure have been played up for the purposes of tourism. I cannot help but enjoy them anyway.
Take, for example, a rather plain 19th century Neo-Gothic cast iron bridge in the middle of town. Its original German name, Liegenbrücke (“lying-down bridge”) transmuted into the much more romantic Lügenbrücke (“the bridge of lies”). Today the bridge carries a number of legends and pieces of folklore to validate its new title. The bridge will collapse if you tell a lie. Lying merchants used to be thrown off the bridge. Betrayed suitors cast their lying lovers from the bridge to the street below!
But the best part of Sibiu are the eyes. Numerous buildings in and around the town have large eyes on their roofs. The effect is quite uncanny, as if these Transylvanian houses were watching you as you walk past.
While the locals may tell you (and the tour guides will certainly tell you) that the eyes serve a mystical purpose, the truth is more prosaic. These “eyes” are eyebrow dormers: windows set in the roof to ventilate the attics. Still, I love the overall effect – the houses of Sibiu look vaguely dissatisfied, or perhaps judgemental.