Fortified churches in Transylvania

Romania trip report index

Part Five

I learned a bit about the history of Transylvania today. We traveled the small roads south of Sighişoara to see some castles and fortified churches. As in much of Europe what is now Romania was not always Romania. It was part of the Ottoman Empire in the 1600s and later became part of the Austro-Hungarian empire until just after World War One when there was a lot of redrawing of borders and land grabs. Many Germans (Saxons) came during the Austro-Hungarian rule. They brought along Protestant religions primarily Lutheran. The Romanians were Eastern Orthodox. This happened primarily in southern and western Transylvania. The northern part was primarily Hungarian.

The protestants built churches and fortified them with walls. They became a place for the congregation to retreat in times of trouble. I guess it was a threatening place. We toured many of these churches and fortifications. Along the way we observed the way of life. Many of the people still wear the traditional consumes. There are numerous horses being ridden as transportation or pulling carts. Sometime we saw mares harnessed to carts with their foals teathered to their moms. Everywhere we went they spoke German. This was handy since we speak that language. The architecture is also heavily influenced by the Germans. The many villages we traveled through were poor but they painted their houses bright colors. It made for some pretty sightseeing.

Alas, the Germans are gone now. But we saw many, many travelers with German license plates. During the communist reign of dictator Ceausescu many Germans emigrated from Transylvania to West Germany. Ceausescu charged between 5,000 and 8,000 Marks per person in hard currency to let them go. The Germans come back now to where their families lived.

Our first stop was Saschiz. It had a huge medieval tower fortification next to the church. Notice the crack. It went from top to bottom and each side had a similar one. There was a nice woman in the tourist information booth. She was helpful.

Inside the fortified walls was the church.


We backtracked and took a yellow road on our map which was studded with the symbols for castles and churches. Not all were open…or restored. This one was watched over by a man who spoke German and let us in. It was being restored. Pretty.




Tower fortification outside the above church.

Here is a woman wearing the colorful costume of the Romanian peasant.DSC05032

Goats spilling down the hillside watched by two goatherds.

Example of a painted house in one of the villages.

We had lunch in a town called Mediaș. I had a Romanian dish of mushroom stew with Polenta which was excellent if not particularly photogenic. One of the best things I had on the trip.

After lunch we went to Biertan and toured the massive church fortress there. They are restoring it so lots of work was going on.

Church and fortifications from below.

View from the walls of the surrounding village.

Luther at the tower.

Pulpit in the church.

Amazing lock with 15 separate locks. The door with all the bits that insert into the wall is below it. They really didn’t want someone to get in!DSC05053cool_lock


We headed back for our final night in Sighișoara. We ate at T. Josef Restaurant and Wine Bar. It was quite good.

Next morning we were off back to Bucharest airport to stay overnight before our mid-day flight. The distances are very long. We broke up the trip stopping for lunch at a roadside motel with food. We had Chicken Gordon Bleau. Really! Here’s a picture of the menu.


The trip was a success. Here we are…Wizzing home.

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