May is definitely the perfect month to spend as much time as possible outdoors in Romania. It’s warm enough to start thinking that summer is finally coming, everything’s turned green already, there’s more daylight, so everything makes you just want to leave the city and enjoy nature. That’s why our extended 1st of May weekend this year happened in the Transylvanian country side.
It seems that visiting these Transylvanian villages has become a somehow recurrent theme on our blog, but the truth is that being so close to them, we just can’t keep the distance. Not to mention that this kind of destination is ideal for traveling with kids, as there are so many activities that will keep them busy.
We had 3 full days this year to drive around the country, to stop in small and lovely villages and to enjoy their calm and easy pace.
Day 1 – Meșendorf and Saschiz
First day of the trip started properly with a lovely brunch in Meșendorf. Organized by Asociația My Transylvania in a beautiful orchard right next to the fortified church, we had the chance to spend a few hours in the sun, taste some very delicious local products and consume a bit of the kid’s energy, enough for her to get her afternoon nap.
We spent the rest of the day in Saschiz, where we also had our accommodation. We walked around the village a bit and had a visit of the fortified church that stands tall right in the center of the village.
The Evangelic Church of Saschiz was built at the end of the XVth century (between 1493 – 1525) by the Saxon colonists in a late Gothic style, on the ruins of an older Romanesque church.
The Church is an UNESCO World Heritage Site and like the case of other similar churches in the area, it was fortified to protect the people living in the village from the foreign attacks that were so common in the XVth century.
Being said to mark the exact center of the village, in the courtyard of the church, stands tall the Clock Tower. Built in the same time as the church, it has a beautiful architecture (similar to the one in Sighișoara) and it’s one of the highlights of Saschiz.
Driving a bit up the hill and then hiking for about 15 minutes, we got to the Saschiz Citadel. Its construction started in the year 1347 and it had the same purpose as the fortified church – to allow the people living in the village to hide and protect themselves from the foreign invasions.
Today the citadel is just a ruin, but getting up on the hill where it was built, will give you a beautiful panoramic view over the village of Saschiz and its Fortified Church.
As Saschiz was our headquarters, we also had the chance to see and do more than in the other villages we visited. At night you get to see some wild life just a few kilometers away from the village, on a neighboring hill.We did see some deer, but the locals say that sometimes you can also spot wolves of bears.
Day 2 – Viscri, Criț and Cloașterf
Sunday morning we left our guesthouse in Saschiz for Viscri. Viscri has become one of the most famous Saxon villages after Prince Charles came here, liked the place and bought a house. Which led of course to the village being mentioned a lot in the media and becoming more and more known in Romania and outside the country.
This is good in a way for the village as it gets more tourists, guesthouses open and people living there make a fair living. Also the village is in a very good condition, houses are reconditioned and it’s a true pleasure to walk around and admire their beautiful architecture.
Families open their doors for tourists and turn their orchards into small restaurants, with fresh food cooked with their own grown ingredients, following traditional recipes of the area. Women net all sorts of socks, gloves and clothes from wool and sell them just outside houses.
On the other hand, for us, looking always for quiet and calm when leaving the city, Viscri was a bit too much. It might be also because it was a busy weekend and lots of people were traveling around the country. But seeing too many cars, coaches and people around us was not something that we were exactly looking for, especially when traveling in the countryside.
Of course, that the main attraction of the village is its fortified church, also an UNESCO World Heritage Site. Unlike other Transylvanian fortified churches, Viscri was built around 1100 by the Szekley population and taken over by Saxon colonists in 1185. This explains why this unique Gothic church displays a plain straight ceiling rather than a traditional vaulted one.
In the 14th century, the eastern section was rebuilt and around 1525, the first fortification walls with towers were added. In the 18th century, the church was endowed with a second defensive wall. Inside, you can admire a classic 19th century altar featuring a Blessing of the Children centerpiece.
The church is a rather small one, but set on a hill with a beautiful view over the village and the hills surrounding it.
For lunch we stopped at Viscri 32, a really cool place that I had been reading about for a long time online. This place belongs to a couple who decided to leave the hectic Bucharest behind and start a new life in a quiet village. They opened a small guesthouse with a nice restaurant following the concept of ‘from farm to table’, meaning that they get all their ingredients from small farms and producers nearby.
The restaurant looks perfect. It has a lovely charm and each object is perfectly placed to offer a cozy atmosphere. The menu is based on what ingredients they have available depending on the season. You will find 2 -3 soups and 2 -3 main dishes, plus some daily deserts. The menu is simple, but the dishes are carefully chosen and very tasty.
Weekends are very busy for them, with lots of people dropping by, so make a reservation and relax – don’t expect that things will happen fast. In the end you’re in a village, life happens slower here.
After lunch, we left Viscri behind and that takes quite a lot, because the access road to this village is terrible. Although it’s only about 8 kilometers from Viscri to get back to the main national road, the road is so damaged that you will need almost an hour to make it. There is a rumor that they don’t want to repair the road, to make it difficult for people to get there and leave in the same day, so tourists will stay overnight in the village. I don’t know if this is real, but could be a clever marketing tip.
After the afternoon nap somewhere on a street in Criț, we also made a quick stop at the fortified church of the village. Different from all the other fortified churches, this one is rather a new one, being built around the year 1813 after the old church had been demolished.
Still it has a beautiful architecture and it is in a very condition considering its “young” age.
Right next to the church you will also find Casa Kraus – a nice guesthouse, with a restaurant and a summer terrace to enjoy a cold drink on a hot day.
The evening caught us in Cloașterf, having a lovely dinner at a farmer’s house and paying the fortified church a visit.
The church was built in the XVI century and was designed from the beginning to be a fortress, different from many other similar churches that were fortified years after being built.
The interior of the church is the main attraction. There is a rural-baroque style for the furniture and some very interesting, a bit abstract paintings.
From the bell tower you get a beautiful view over the village.
Day 3 -The Rupea Citadel
On the last day of the trip, as we had some plans for the afternoon in Sibiu, we only had one quick stop and headed back home.
The Rupea Citadel is one of the oldest archaeological sites in Romania, the first signs of human settlements dating from the Paleolithic and early Neolithic.
The first documentary attestation dates from 1324, and according to archaeologists, the current citadel was built on the ruins of a former Dacian defense fort conquered by the Romans.
The Citadel has been recently restored and its still standing walls are now in a very good condition. A walk in the citadel will give you a very nice panoramic view over the surroundings.
For the trip, we chose to spend the nights in Casa Saseasca from Saschiz. A lovely 3-room quest house, with very friendly hosts, who showed us around and cooked the most delicious breakfast and dinner.