We left Mălâncrav early in the morning aiming to get to Richiș by the afternoon. We walked almost 30 kilometres in total for the day and an elevation of 793 meters, so a lot of hills going up and down.
As we were heading towards the orchids right above Mălâncrav, the village was slowly turning to life. Kids were already rushing down the streets to catch the school bus and people were slowly starting their daily routines. The weather was not supposed to be quite good for the day, it was already quite cloudy and some rain was forecast, but we had a plan we had to stick to. Starting from Mălâncrav we would also get some information panels in the center of the villages, with trekking and biking routes in the area. We chose the blue line path from Mălâncrav, in the direction of Nou Săsesc.
After passing through the Mălâncrav orchids, we followed our way through forests and pastures, over the hills up and down. As usual, the scenery was absolutely beautiful and no one around to bother us, except some sheep dogs from time to time.
Nou Săsesc, formerly Nou (in the Saxon dialect Noandref, in German Sächsisch-Neudorf, Deutsch-Neudorf, Neudorf bei Schäßburg, in Hungarian Apaújfalu, Szászújfalu, Újfalu) is a village in the commune of Laslea, in the Sibiu County.
The history of the village dates back to the XIII century when the first Saxons appeared in the area. According to oral sources, the first settlements were somewhere further upstream than the current settlement, a place called Fântâna din piatră. There lived the first animal breeders in the village. According to written sources and old constructions, the lands and forests belonged to the Hungarian baron Apafi, after which the Hungarian name of the village. According to other sources, the village moved to the current hearth after Ottoman troops burned the old settlement, where there was even a church, a fact suggested by the story of the bells in the evangelical church. The large bell that was found in the old hearth of the village, due to its size, could not be transported until after melting and pouring into three other bells, which are still in the evangelical church. Thus, according to Saxon sources, the church was rebuilt on its current location (up a hill about 100 meters above the village) just to be able to resist more against the invaders. The Saxons named the village Neudorf (according to some they did nothing but translate into German the Latin name of the village which was the Noua Vila). In 1989, about 1,500 people lived in the village. The current population of the village does not exceed 300 people. In the years 1930-1940, huge natural gas deposits were discovered in the vicinity of the village, a discovery that led to the drilling of wells and the exploitation of huge gas deposits, an exploitation that continues today.
We only passed by Nou Săsesc, admiring its beautiful houses and the quiet around and we continued our trip towards Copșa Mare, again going over the hills and plateaus of the Transylvanian Highlands, following the same blue line path . For the next 2 hours we were alone again, admiring the beauty around us.
Around half the way to Copșa Mare, in a valley between two wooded hills, we saw a hunting hideout close to the small stream. We were thinking that this place was probably quite busy with wild animals (bears, wild boars, foxes or deer), so we planned to leave as soon as possible. Just when we were at the skirt of the forest and the visibility was poor due to the short bushes, we heard some heavy running in the forest. Needless to say we got a bit scared and started blowing our whistles hard and increased our pace.
Half an hour later, we were very relieved to see the first tourists from our entire trip. It was a German couple and they were for the first time in Romania. They were already in love with the countryside and the nature around them. We stopped and chatted for a few minutes and then continued our ways, in opposite directions. Soon, we reached the first farm and we knew that soon we will reach Copșa.
We got to Copșa Mare just as the rain was slowly starting. A relative of a friend, a very nice granny lives in the village and was waiting for us with a proper homemade lunch. We spent some time with her, enjoyed the meal she prepared and talked about the village and its stories. How neighbors get along, how younger people tend to move to towns and cities.
Copșa Mare was most likely founded in the second half of the XIII century. While the settlers raised beginning with the XIV century a stone church, the foundations of which, despite numerous reconstructions and demolitions, are still preserved today, the houses in the village were built of much less durable materials. The wood of the surrounding forests was a source at hand and in the beginning the main construction material. The cracks between the beams were filled with moss and clay, and the houses were covered with wheat straw left after the harvest. The windows were covered with an animal membrane through which a pale light passed, which could scarcely disperse the darkness of the rooms. Only in the XVIII-XIX century construction of brick masonry houses became a common fact. The typical Transylvanian Saxon households date from this period, which still guard in a disciplined way on both sides of the roads in the village.
On the eastern hill, overlooking the village from above, there was originally a Gothic basilica with a tower. In 1510, during the fortification works, the choir was demolished and in its place another higher choir was built, with a polygonal closure and reinforced by a stone defense cat. The choir thus equipped and almost 11 meters higher than the nave forms a defensive system. The tower is also provided with a wooden defense wall. While the choir still retains the starry vault and Gothic moldings dating from the same period of construction, the nave of the church is modified in 1795 in Baroque style. On the north side of the choir is the two-level sacristy, dated 1519. Of great value are the Renaissance portal of access to the sacristy and the classicist altar.
After the proper lunch we had, we took the road again heading to Biertan. It was already raining so we put on our raincoats and continued our trip, on the blue line . As we hiked again on the hills we had the best view over the village and it’s fortified church.
Biertan is just over the hill from Copșa Mare, so we got there quite fast. We passed one forest and here we were, above Biertan, enjoying the beautiful view over the village.
Biertan is by far the most important symbol of the Saxon villages and of the fortified churches in the Sibiu County, having also been listed on the list of the UNESCO World Heritage Sites since 1993. The first mention of the village in a document was in the year 1283 and the church was built between 1468 and the XVI century. It was inhabited by the Transylvanian Saxons up until 1989, when, after the Communist regime fell, they decided to leave Romania back to their country of origin.
Biertan is now one of the most visited villages of Transylvania and it has all the reasons to be so. Excluding the fortified church that lies up on the hill in the center of the village, you will get the chance to see an extremely beautiful architecture in the houses of this village.
As we’ve visited Biertan several times before, on a sunnier and warmer weather, we just stopped in the village to have a warm tea and wait a bit for the heavy rain that had just started to stop. The initial plan was to follow the red cross path to Richiș, our final destination for the day, but as it was raining and everything was already wet and muddy, we decided to take the main road. From Biertan to Richiș it’s a 6 km trip, so in about an hour we were there.
We spent the night at Villa Rihuini, a very nice and cozy guesthouse in Richiș, with some of the most friendly and welcoming hosts. Villa Rihuini is also a wine house, they produce their own wine, having quite some vineyards around the village, so besides the delicious homemade dinner, we also got the chance to do a wine tasting.
Here is our map for the day.