That we love Sibiu is no longer a secret. Neither is that we love the whole county of Sibiu, with all its history, culture and diversity. And what’s not to love about it – beautiful landscapes, traditions that are still being kept, houses with old and well preserved architecture, villages with so many stories to be told around the fire, rich and diverse cuisine, rural life at its best. In a world that’s going too global, these villages keep to their local diversity.
To celebrate all this, we’re starting a series of 5 blog posts to tell the story of each of the 5 regions of the Sibiu county – each with its outdoors, history, culture, architecture and gastronomy. All combined to give you the right feeling when stepping for the first time on this land.
The area and its surroundings
The Hârtibaciu Valley area lies in the eastern part of the Sibiu county on the, of course, Hârtibaciu river. It’s one of the areas in the Sibiu county where rural life is following its traditional way of living, untouched by the urban and modern influences.
More than 70% of the Hârtibaciu Valley area is a protected area – whether we talk about the villages and their architecture, the fortified churches, the hills and forests surrounding the villages, full of wild life and of a rich and diverse flora.
Life here is calm and quiet and in may areas you don’t even have a mobile network coverage. Marpord, Chirpăr, Cornățel, Nucet, Hosman, Alțâna are some of the villages of the Hârtibaciu Valley, with Agnita being the main town of the area.
The history and traditions
The history of the Hârtibaciu Valley is strongly linked to the Saxon settlers, who came in these parts of Transylvania starting from the XII century. The main purpose of bringing the Saxons in this area was to protect the borders of the Hungarian Kingdom (Transylvania being part of the kingdom back then). They brought with them experience and crafts that helped the area develop and show its full potential.
Over the centuries, they built infrastructure, they built fortified churches and houses and they mixed together with Romanians (and a few Roma and Hungarians) and gave the Hârtibaciu Valley the authenticity it has today. They built a strong community, but unfortunately in the last few decades most of the Saxon population was either deported (during WWII), or left the country in the beginning of the 90s.
Due to the mix of population that this area had over the centuries, the Hârtibaciu Valley has such a diverse gastronomy, local and small producers still using the old recipes or the old manufacturing processes – whether we talk about honey, cheese, bread, meat products and all sorts of vegetables and fruits.
Each village has its own special recipe so visiting all of them will give you a clear view of what’s characteristic here – Pie on stone in Retiș, floștoroage in Ighișu Vechi (a dish with sweet cabbage and pork), mangalitsa pork in Ilimbav, honey from Hamba, Marpod and Ilimbav, homemade bread from Hosman, hanklich from Agnita, gingerbread from Boarta, goat cheese from Țichindeal, sun flower oil cold pressed from Vurpăr.
If it’s something that the Hârtibaciu valley doesn’t lack is local producers. You will find them in the Friday and Saturday markets that happen in Sibiu, but if you’re in the area, go look for them, visit them and try their products made with clean and local ingredients.
I would mention here BioHaus Nucet where they have vegetables during summer and all types of preserves during winter time, The Old Mill from Hosman for bread and derivatives, Ilimbav Biofarm for vegetables and meat products.
A group of dedicated and passionate people (I think this is the main thing that got the Sibiu county where it is today and it will take it even further in the future) has created an organization that gathers together all the local producers from the Hârtibaciu Valley and promotes them to get an extra visibility and access to the public. From Hârtibaciu with love (Din Hârtibaciu, cu drag) gives you a full list (periodically updated with all the local producers – HERE
Activities and events
I find the Hârtibaciu Valley area a perfect destination for families (with kids as well) as it has so many nice and authentic activities to be discovered, that kids, but also adults alike, will love.
First of all, when talking about the Hârtibaciu Valley, the houses and the fortified villages are one of the main attractions of the area. Each village with its story and its history. Normally there is a guide for the fortified churches that also has the key and will tell you the story of the village you are in. Some of the villages and churches we have already visited in the recent years.
A very nice way to discover the villages, together with their architecture and their gastronomy is through the brunches that My Transylvania Association organizes every summer in villages like Hosman, Chirpăr, Alțâna, Cornățel, Nucet or Alma Vii. You can find out more about these brunches a book a place at eat-local.ro.
The Culture barn from Hosman – this old barn was renovated in the recent years to host all sorts of workshops, concerts and it’s a must to visit this place when in Hosman. Info about their events can be found HERE.
Luizja bakery – in the front building of the Old Mill From Hosman is Luizja’s bakery – a traditional bakery, with a traditional and manual process, that makes bread with seeds, bread with potatoes and other bread derivatives. You can check this place out and see how the bread is made (with a phone call before).
Nocrich Scout Center– the scout center offers non-formal educational programs for young people, contributing to their development as agents of their own personal growth and as active citizens of their community. Also they have revived the Nocrich Ceramics and they produce all sorts of glasses, plates and other decorative objects. They also have ceramics workshops, so it’s a good option to learn a new craft while in the Hârtibaciu Valley.
Cornățel Farm School – if you have kids, this the place to go. It’s a farm with all sorts of domestic animals that your child can interact with, feed and pet. Children learn how to behave with animals and what nature is all about.
Horse Riding and Tiles workshops in Apoș – A perfect place for a family getaway, in Apoș, at Villa Abatis you will find a renovated Saxon household that offers horse riding courses and trips around the nearby villages, accommodation and tiles workshops.
Sibiu – Agnita steam-train – unfortunately the train line is not functional anymore, but a group of dedicated people made it possible to run the steam train on a short distance from Cornățel to Hosman. This happens only once in a while, but if you’re lucky to be there at the same time, the event shouldn’t be missed.
Alțâna Inter ethnic Museum of the Hârtibaciu Valley – Talking about dedicated people, this Museum gathers around 1000 exhibits from the villages in the Hârtibaciu Valley area from Romanians, Saxons, Roma and Hungarians – clothing, pottery, decorative objects and furniture, all to give you an idea of how the area looked centuries ago.
The Gothic Chests from Brădeni – a very rare collection in Romania is the Gothic Chests collection from the attic of the Brădeni fortified church. About 120 chests, some as old as the XV century are to be found here. They have been recently reconditioned and can be visited when taking a tour of the church.
The Escape of the Lole – Every year, in the last Sunday of January, Agnita becomes the home of a very special event and of one of the few authentic and original traditions still standing in Romania.The attraction of this event are the costumes the lole are wearing. The pants and the shirts are made of black stripes sewed on a white fabric.
Mihăileni Canyon – For those looking for a bit of an adventure and wilderness, try a trip in this Canyon. Set on the valley of a dry river, you will get an one hour hiking trip that will make you forget even more about the busy city life.
If you want to explore more the area before and during the trip in the Hârtibaciu Valley, there’s a mobile app that gives you all the info you need – places to visit, outdoor, accommodation, crafts and others.
For a complete experience, here’s also a list of places to spend the night (or more than one night) in the Hârtibaciu Valley.
Photo credits go to Asociatia My Transylvania and to the official Facebook pages of all the locations we mentioned in the article.