Ancient traditions, breathtaking landscapes make this region the queen of the Romanian rural tourism destinations
Forbes magazine consider this Romanian area the most romantic ecotourism one in the world. Located 400 metres above the sea, boasting a perfectly ozonized air and a picturesque landscape where haycocks are prevalent, where cowbells and horse-drawn wagons are waking you up in the morning and where locals hold traditions in high regard, this very place called Mărginimea Sibiului is constantly telling wonderful stories about its unique ethnological, cultural, architectural and historical heritage.
Its history is so ancient that legends speak of times when these regions were inhabited by skillful, peace-loving giants.
Mărginimea Sibiului comprises 18 localities in the southwestern part of the Sibiu County (southern Transylvania), in the immediate vicinity of the cradle of the Transylvanian Saxon Community. With an area of over 200 km², Mărginimea is borderd by the Sadu River in the south and the Sălişte River in the north. The villages are scattered around the valleys of different rivers which flow from the Cindrel mountains through the Transylvanian Plateau.
The oldest known village is Rășinari which dates back to 1204, followed by Tălmaciu (1318), Orlat (1322) and Săliște (1354). Other famous villages are Sibiel and Jina. Throughout their history, these settlements were part of the Romanian principality of Wallachia, along with another historical region, Făgăraș Land.
The locals were mainly shepherds, who continuously crossed the Carpathians, maintaining the essential link between the Romanian communities to the north and south of the mountains. Shepherding was their main occupation and transhumance (taking the sheep to the mountains in summer and bringing them back to the village or to warmer climates in winter) became part of their life.
Activities closely related to shepherding, such as wool and leather manufacturing, are still well preserved in the region up to the present day.
Through its material and spiritual culture importance, Mărginimea Sibiului ranks among the oldest Romanian ethnogenesis cradles. The traditional wedding custom of Sibiel, the old traditions and rural tourism have won the region the title of European Destination of Excellence in 2009, as well as the “Golden Apple” prize for excellence in tourism, also dubbed as the tourism Oscar.
At Sibiel, locals can organise a “traditional wedding” if requested to do so by tourists. All participants make up the wedding suite. Together with the groom and the god-parents, they take the bride from home and the dowry she received from her parents. After the religious ceremony, the wedding party gets together at the Village Pavilion where the party goes on. The entire ceremony is organised according to the old traditions and guests are pampered with exquisite dishes.
If you visit Săliște on Christmas for instance, you should not miss the Reunion of the Lads (Întâlnirea cetelor de Juni). It is a moving representation of traditional dancing and singing attended by all the youngsters from the villages of Mărginime. This is a good opportunity to admire the beauty of the local folk costumes.
An important event in the area was the establishment in the 18th century of the 1st Romanian border regiment at Orlat by empress Maria Theresa.
- The oldest church in the area can be found at Săliște; it is a painted church dating from 1674. Other old churches are the wooden church from Poiana Sibiului – 1771, and the church from Tălmăcel – 1776.
- Close to Tilișca there are the remains of a Dacian settlement, popping up on a hilltop while displaying a panoramic view over the Transylvanian Plateau.
- In Sibiel there is a museum dedicated to glass-painted icons.
- A modern museum can be found in Sadu, the place where the first electrical hydro-power plant was built in 1896, ranking the third in Europe.
- In Rășinari and Săliște there are some small village museums and memorial houses. Philosopher Emil Cioran is the best-known personality born in this region. Romanian poet and politician Octavian Goga is also a native from here.