Sibiu, one of the most important cities in Transylvania, is known for quite a few things. If we are to agree with Maslow, we must start with salami and cheese—a local pride—then Sibiu International Theatre Festival, Artmania Music Festival, The Black Church, Bruckenthal or Astra museums, among others. Although they all might leave an impression on you, probably none will be as strong as the watchful eyes of the local rooftops. Moreover, in the past year, the famous eyes have become a symbol of protest and vigilance of the people in Sibiu, under the slogan Vă vedem (We see you).
Sibiu’s rooftop eyes
With a history that goes back to the 12th century, Sibiu (Hermannstadt in German or Nagyszeben in Hungarian) was built by German settlers and has been home to the largest Transylvanian Saxon population ever since. The historical centre of the city still exudes a medieval vibe, which constitutes one of its main attractions.
The dormer windows, or the sleepy eyes, are reminiscences of the medieval architecture of the city and are specific to Sibiu, although similar structures appear in other parts of Transylvania.
As much as some people would like to connect the eerie eyes to Big Brother or other spying devices—Romania has lived in a totalitarian regime for almost half a century, after all, and being watched, listened to and reported was anything but unusual—according to historians, they are no more than just a cooling system. Due to the humidity of the cellars, people needed to find other solutions for storing food, therefore tall attics seemed to be the perfect solution and the eyes served as the handiest ventilation strategy.
Sibiu’s eyes as a protest symbol
In the first months of 2017, hundreds of thousands of Romanians took to the streets to protest against the newly proposed bills of the recently installed government, which were thought to weaken the judicial independence and, in turn, sought to decriminalise corruption and help politicians escape investigation. One of the slogans used was Vă vedem (We see you).
Continuing the revolt, in December 2017, people from Sibiu started a new, daily form of silent protest, through flash mobs and sit-ins. They gather for 15 minutes, every day at noon, in front of the ruling party’s local branch. All under the slogan Vă vedem din Sibiu (We see you from Sibiu), with the famous Sibiu eyes as their logo. Significantly, the logo and the slogan #vavedemdinsibiu were quickly adopted by Romanian protesters all over the world, and used as a symbol of uninterrupted vigilance, sometimes in very creative ways.
Recently, in December 11, 2018, the anti-corruption activists from Sibiu marked a year of unbroken protests. 2018 was a difficult year for Romanian justice. Therefore, the silent protests continue. Sibiu is watching.
Featured image: silvar.net / flickr