Embark on a journey to discover some amazing places, with strong medieval cities (some of which nowadays are live and vibrant economic and cultural centers) and small retreat villages, where it looks like time has stood still for the past centuries.
At noon we will depart from Cluj and drive for about two hours to Sibiu. The city was founded by German colonists in the 12th century and has been the central point of the Transylvanian Saxons ever since. An Italian chronicle writer of the 16th century said it was not much bigger then Vienna… We invite you to discover the three main squares, with the patrician palaces, the guilds residences and the workshops of the craftsmen, the medieval fortification walls and defensive towers, of which many have survived intact until today or just relax with a glass of fine Transylvanian wine. The local museums are also worth a visit – the most important one is situated in the former palace of Governor Samuel von Bruckenthal, and hosts unique pieces of art, like paintings of Titian or Peter Bruegel. Accommodation and dinner in the center of the city.
In the morning we will depart from Sibiu and drive through the southern part of Transylvania, on one of the wildest and most picturesque regions, on the Valea Hârtibaciului. Nothing seems to have changed here in the last centuries, where horse-drawn wagons filled with hay roll on paved streets, where cows graze every morning and where farming is done without modern machinery. Each village used to be protected by a fortified church, but after the fall of the Iron Curtain, the vast majority of the German community has emigrated, these monuments have been mostly deserted. In Alţâna we will get the chance to visit one of these typical Transylvanian villages and learn more about the many populations living here. Due to a private initiative, a small museum dedicated to this multiculturalism has been opened here. Visiting the museum will give us a picture of the way people have been living here for centuries. Medieval dowry chests, old music instruments, handmade furniture and cloths, have all found a new home in this little museum.
Departing from Alţâna, we will continue our journey to the once important village Biertan. Due to the Lutheran bishop residence the village became of great importance in medieval times. This is also the reason why the biggest fortified church in Transylvania was built here, nowadays a splendid UNESCO monument. Right next to the church there is an interesting house, that used to be used as the prison for divorcing people. The couples who wanted to get divorced were locked up in here, until they managed to sort things out and get back together…
In the afternoon, we will continue our journey and drive to Viscri. The village has become well known due to the involvement of several charitable foundations in the preservation of the local culture and historical heritage of the area. One of these foundations, the Mihai Eminescu Trust is under the patronage of HRH Prince Charles. The highlight of the village is for sure the fortified church, dating back to the 12th century, which was later fortified with big walls and towers to protect the villagers from the enemies. Nowadays, the old towers have been turned into an interesting museum. Not only the church, but also the village itself is are under UNESCO patronage. Almost all of the houses were built in the 15th and 16th century, so bible quotations, proverbs and family coat of arms can be seen on the facades. All restoration works were carried out with local labor and materials. We invite you to take a walk through the most beautiful village ensemble in Transylvania, to visit the fortified church and take a journey into an almost forgotten world…
In the evening we will get the chance to experience the real Transylvanian countryside: we will sleep in an old, medieval house that has been restored by the local foundation and be spoiled with local food and beverage, everything produced and cooked by locals from the own gardens.
After enjoying a great breakfast with home-made jam, bacon, cheese and vegetables, we will depart from our unique accommodation and continue our journey. After a drive of approximately one hour we will reach the medieval city of Sighişoara. It was founded by German colonists in the 13th century and placed strategically on the top of a hill to protect it from the invading enemy troops. Most of the fortification was kept intact and armed towers still guard the city. The Clock Tower, the former Benedictine monastery, the Lutheran Church from the upper part of the city, the narrow streets, but also the supposed birthplace of Count Dracula, give the town this medieval atmosphere.
Departing from Sighişoara, we will drive on a small street and reach the small village of Mălâncrav. Similar as in Viscri, many projects of local foundations have taken place here. One of the main achievements was the restoration of the Appafy Manor, the former residence of a ruling family of Transylvania by the Mihai Eminescu Trust (MET). It became a ruin after being mistreated during the communist time, but was restored with only local materials and labor and is nowadays a unique small hotel with a great library. The manor is situated in the middle of an old apple orchard, where one can taste some great pure, preservative-free juice, made under the patronage of HRH Prince Charles of Wales. Next, we will visit the local church, located just a few meters away. It is a unique example of the Transylvanian religious tolerance: although the local German community has turned it into a Lutheran church after Martin Luther’s reformation, the catholic frescoes have survived until today. Something like that can only be found here, in Mălâncrav.
Departing from the small village, we will drive to Mediaş, a small, but important town in the southern part of Transylvania. We will visit the citadel (locals call it the castle), situated in the center of the city. We will visit the Gothic church inside of the citadel, just a few yards from the German school. One of the most important elements of the church, is the medieval altar, built in the 16th century by Austrian artists, members of the Schottenstift from Vienna.
In the evening we will return to Cluj.