The Eternal Transylvanian Villages

Sibiu has always been one of the biggest targets for invading armies dreaming of conquest. But if was looked upon as a prize, none of these armies ever managed to win it. The reason for that are not only the fearless soldiers and big fortification walls, but also the brilliant military organization of the surroundings of the city. Ever since the 13th century, Transylvania confronted different invading forces, so that the German inhabitants of the country decided to build strong walls and great defensive towers in every village. The people didn’t hesitate for even one second and began fortifying the church, as a sign of faith in God. These walls and towers would protect them for centuries to come…

Our first visit of the day will be in Cisnădie, a small town on the outskirts of Sibiu, which once was a great blacksmith center, famous all over the country for the excellent weapons which were produced here. In the middle of town lies the old fortified church, initially built by German colonists in the 12th century and enlarged during the centuries to come. We will not only visit the church and the fortifications, but also get a chance to discover some of the great secrets this place is hiding, such as the first lightning bolt in Transylvania, or the golden treasure discovered here. The Gothic church also houses many historic and cultural treasures, which we will have the opportunity to discover.

Departing from Cisnădie we will travel just a couple of kilometers and reach Cisnădioara and Transylvania’s oldest Romanesque church. It was built in the 12th century by German and probably Dutch colonists and has a very interesting story. It was built on the top of the hill and is the only church which wasn’t destroyed during the great Mongol invasion of 1241. Legend has it that the archangel Michael saw the danger and sent a huge cloud to cover the church, preventing it from being destroyed. As a sign of gratitude, the locals decided to name the village Michelsberg (the hill of Saint Michael). From the peak of the hill, right next to the church, one can enjoy a splendid panorama over the Făgăraş Mountains, Romania’s highest, and over the village’s beautiful apple orchard. Coming back to the center of the village, we will have the chance to taste the famous apple soup, a local specialty.

In the afternoon, we will leave the German dominated villages and drive to a very traditional and archaic part of Transylvania, called Mărginimea Sibiului. This region has been inhabited over the years by shepherds, who migrate with their flocks in search of better pastures. In Fântânele, we will see a very traditional village with lots of old, wooden houses and romantic, narrow streets. We will also take a walk from one village to the other and see people working on the field. Most of the agricultural work here is done manually and with help of horses or cattle.

Our next destination is going to be the picturesque village of Sibiel. Here, we will leave our modern transportation aside and be picked up by horse wagons. These traditional, but very useful modes of transport will take us to the center of the village, where a unique museum awaits us: going back to an old tradition of naive art, people in this area paint religious icons on glass. After The Second World War, the local priest founded a museum, where all the people could bring their icons. Some of them can be admired nowadays and are remarkable masterpieces of the rural culture. In the evening, we are invited at a local household, where the lady of the house is going to cook some homemade regional dishes, such as sarmale (cabbage rolls) and eggplant salad, all of this together with some great homemade wine and brandy. In the evening, we will return to Sibiu.