[Romania] Saxon Trek 2020
Saxon Trek is about discovering the Saxon villages step by step, walking from village to village in search of their personality, discovering their history, culture, traditions and gastronomy. In 2019 we started this journey with a one week of walking in a loop, from one village to another, a 150 kilometers walk, with forests, hills, small villages and quiet all around us. Last year we decided to change a bit the format and instead of a loop, we decided to walk from Sibiu to Sighișoara.
The walk itself is the last and the most intense part of the whole experience. As we are walking through mostly virgin territory, we have to plan very carefully our route, the last thing we want is to get to a dead end with thickets and thorns (which actually happened to us several times). Our main purpose is to reach as many villages and to avoid as much as possible the paved roads. We try to spend as much time wondering over the hills, enjoying the quiet around and reconnecting to ourselves, clearing our mind and working with our fears.
We follow old dirt roads that served in the past as cart roads, but many are not used anymore and the wild vegetation is taking over. These rarely walked paths and dirt roads will take you through pastures, forests and hills, from one village to another, proudly presenting what the Transylvanian Highlands are best know for: wild nature, biodiversity and small local communities.
Our trip was about 120 kilometers long, harder in first three day with over 20 kilometers per day and more relaxed in the last three days with walks of about 15 kilometers. We started our trip from Sibiu, passing through 13 villages, reaching Sighișoara and returning to Sibiu by train in our last day.
We used the printed map from Zenith, but mainly the online map we prepared. For the third part of our trip we also crossed paths with Via Transilvanica, a hiking trail that crosses Romania from North-East to South-West. We also got suggestions for paths to use from Transylvanian Highlands and for accommodation, we chose the guesthouses from Experience Transylvania.
Like in the previous year, we chose mid-September for the trip. The weather is still warm, but not very hot, the grass on the pastures and hills is short (as sheep and cows have already eaten it) so it’s easy to walk around especially in areas where there’s not a proper path to follow. Plus there are fruits in the trees, so you get a fresh snack from time to time.
The walking was a light to medium effort as we didn’t have to hike high altitudes. There are hills surrounding the villages, but it was always a rather easy climb. It’s mostly the long distances that get you tired by the end of the day, rather than the complexity of the route.
We had to be careful when passing by cattle farms and electric fences and avoiding shepherd dogs protecting their flocks and bears in the forests (mostly to the end of our trip), but we managed without issues. I would say we had a more relaxed Saxon Trek than in the previous year. I got more used to being more in the wild and I definitely felt more safe and relaxed during the walks, plus we passed by fewer sheep flocks tha
So, lets start. As always, when you plan something very hard, things don’t happen as you expect 🙂
Day 1: Sibiu – Hosman (25 km – 8h)
The evening before our trip we met some friends and had way too many drinks, slept late and woke up with a heavy hangover in the morning. The day was at jeopardy, but we managed to get our things on track and by noon we were starting our journey, the longest walk from the entire trip, 25 Km from Sibiu to Hosman.
We started from the east side of Sibiu and followed the path next to the Cibin River and we had already the first surprise, as in that area we found loads of wild hops.
We reached Bungard and then up the hill to Cașolț, where we had our first encounter with the shepherd dogs.
From Cașolț we continued, following the riverside of the Hârtibaciu River for 3 kilometers and then for another 3 kilometers on the main road to Cornățel. This was the most difficult part as we were passing by many cars, but we managed to get to Cornățel just in time for the last trip with the Mocănița (narrow gauge railway) to Hosman.
This way we were able to skip 2.5 hours of walking and think about the next day trip.
In Hosman we met our friends from the Old Mill where we also spent the night, we cooked dinner together and enjoyed a nice talk. Being on the first night in Hosman seems to become a tradition for our Saxon Trek trip. The Old MIll is a living museum and a place where many events happen, aiming to promote the village and the small local producers around the area. Din Hârtibaciu, cu drag is a local trademark, including a list of selected local producers.
Day 2: Hosman – Alțâna (24 km – 8h)
Luckily, we didn’t stay up too late in Hosman, so we were able to wake up in the morning and at 9 AM we were already on our way to Alțâna, our next stop. The day trip was 24 kilometers, past Țichideal and via Ghijasa de Jos. We had perfect views, blue skies and lots of good vibe (meaning we didn’t meet any shepherd dogs all day ).
From Hosman we followed the same dirt road as in 2019, to Fofeldea, but reaching the main road we turned left in the direction of Țichideal. We passed again the Hârtibaciu River with its richness of Jerusalem artichoke and climbed the hill passing by a secular oak trees forest and a cattle farm.
Before getting to Țichideal we climbed another hill and the adrenaline started pumping as we could see we were approaching some sheepfolds. We were lucky enough to avoid the shepherd dogs and soon we were approaching Ghijasa de Jos.
Ghijasa de Jos is quite isolated and picturesque, but the houses are not in a very good shape, unfortunately the village is poor and with not to many chances of recovery. We had a refill with apples from an orchard and continue our trip to Alțâna.
In about two hours, with some breaks, we reached our destination for the night, Any guesthouse. We were the only guests for the night, so the owners were waiting for us with barbecue and homemade țuica. Very friendly hosts, we felt comfortable, had a very good night sleep and enjoyed every piece of dinner as we were so hungry after a full day of walking.
Day 3: Alțâna – Apoș (21 km – 6h)
After a rich breakfast, we started our third day of the trip passing through Alțâna on the main street and crossing the Hârtibaciu River (again, we keep meeting this river in the first days). From here we went up again, through the Karpaten Meat farm that has taken over the entire hill (long story here and a strong debate, but will leave that aside).
Unfortunately there are a lot of electric fences around there enclosing over 2500 calves and this makes traveling a bit difficult. Before arriving to Benești we had to crawl down under a gate in order to pass the electric fence. In Benești we once more crossed the Hârtibaciu River, the fourth and last time.
It was one of the hottest days and we took the opportunity to enjoy the shade near the small old Benești Orthodox church. All freshen up, we continued our trip to Bârghiș, the next village, and said goodbye to the Hârtibaciu Valley. The path was going by the edge of the forest and took us on top of a hill where some angry shepherd dogs were enjoying their sleep in the forest shade. Obvious they weren’t very happy that we were passing by, so we had to avoid them and make a detour.
Soon after we got rid of the dogs and relaxed a bit, we had some lunch in the shade of an old oak and began the descend to Bârghiș.
From here to Apoș for the next 5 kilometers, we had the not so pleasant surprise that the road had been recently paved. The ruthless heat of three o’clock in the afternoon and the newly paved black asphalt were really hard to bear.
We managed to arrive safe & sound in Apoș and we even had the energy to chat with some villagers and visit the Evangelic church. We spent the night at Villa Abbatis.
Day 4: Apoș – Richiș and back, forest horse ride
For the fourth day, we decided to take a break from our trip and enjoy a horse ride with our host from Villa Abbatis. We started in the morning with some basic riding in the courtyard and after that we went into the woods in the direction of Richiș.
It was not the first time we were riding horses, but it was the longest. We are beginner riders, so mostly we went walking, but we also tried some trotting.
We went from Apoș to Richiș through the woods for about 13 kilometers. The weather was really hot for September, so we were lucky that we were going through the forest for most of the trip.
We arrived to Richiș just in time for a perfect lunch in a shady courtyard. All in all the horse trip was around 8 hours, so we got back at Villa Abattis just in time for dinner.
Day 5: Apoș – Mălâncrav (20 km – 7h)
We woke up with a bit of muscle sourness and butt pain after the 8 hours horse ride 🙂 , but we were ready and eager to continue our Saxon Trak tour. We didn’t know at that time that this will be one of the hardest, but also most beautiful part of our journey.
Full of energy we left Apoș, climbed the first hill and we got a nice panoramic view over the village.
Soon after, we were on the top of the hill and at the edge of the forest. We decided not to go through the forest and to walk around it, but the path we found looked like no one had passed through there for ages.
As it was morning the wild animals were quite active, so we could see wild deer and foxes. We knew that there are also wild boars and bears in these parts, so we started making our presence noticed by whistling and shouting.
After half an hour that seemed to be an eternity, we finally got to a busier road, but there we found a big flock of sheep, and where there are sheep there are also shepherd dogs. So we entered the woods 🙂
In the area there are some marked paths by Transylvanian Highlands and we were trying to find the red line path going to the red cross and from there to Mălâncrav.
We got a bit lost in the woods, but in the end we managed to get back on track and after 2-3 km we were out of the forest. We knew this area, as we passed it in 2019 during out Saxon Trek and we saw a lot of bear tracks, so we continued on the red cross path until we found a safe spot, away from the forest, and enjoyed some relaxed lunch under an old oak tree.
After the well deserved break, we continued on the red cross track over the hill and by the old oaks and soon we could see Mălâncrav.
Going down through the old orchid from Mălâncrav and approaching the fortified church, we were happy to see the freshly painted signs of Via Transilvanica. They were in the area marking the path for Terra Saxonum.
After all the adventure, we had some beers at the local bar and then headed to our guesthouse. We spent the night in a beautiful Experience Transylvania guesthouse, with the host cooking a simple, but delicious dinner.
Day 6: Mălâncrav – Stejărenii (14 km – 3.5h)
The next day we had a shorter trek, only 15 kilometers, but the villages and the beautiful view kept us busy. We planned to use the blue line path from Mălâncrav to Criș and then Stejărenii, so we parted our way from Via Transilvanica.
At the end of Mălâncrav village, we had some difficulties in finding the path, but in the end we made it and it was so nice. During the time, the clay soil was grinded by water and wind and the road looked like a small canyon in the woods. We took the time and enjoyed each moment. At this point we also crossed from Sibiu to Mureș County, the first time during our Saxon Treks.
Soon we were out of the forest, in the blazing sun for the rest of the trip.
We had 5 kilometers to Criș and by noon it was already getting hotter and hotter. There was nobody in sight, except a flock of sheep, with no barking dogs and no shepherd. Probably they were all hiding somewhere in the shade.
Arrived in Criș we cooled down with a beer at the local bar and chatted with some locals. From them we found out that the Bethlen Castle, in the center of the village, is being renovated so we could not visit. Maybe next time.
In Criș we met again Via Transilvanica and from this point on we had the same route until our final stop in Sighișoara.
The next checkpoint was Stejărenii, just 4 kilometers away, but it was all on paved road, which was not so nice, but the village proved to be a very nice surprise.
We spent the night in a beautiful Experience Transylvania house, newly renovated, actually we were the first guests staying in this house. The hosts were so friendly and willing to satisfy all our needs. Everything was perfect, not to mention the dinner and breakfast we had there, local ingredients, cooked by the host, just excellent.
Day 7: Stejărenii – Sighișoara (12 km – 3h)
And here we are, the last part of our journey. The last day was the shortest and the most relaxed one. We walked for about 12 kilometers from Stejărenii to Sighișoara. We started the ascent from directly in front of the guesthouse and in half an hour we were deep in the forest.
The most part of the trip we were going through a forest known for hosting bears, so from time to time we were whistling and shouting, just to be on the safe side. As mentioned before, we followed the Via Transilvanica path which was newly marked and very visible.
After about one hour we were getting out from the forest and entering the secular oaks reservation on the Breite plateau. The reservation includes 120 hectares greensward with hundreds of multi secular oaks. It’s an unique place with an incredible scenery.
And we were also very fortunate to find one of our favorite mushrooms, Fistulina Hepatica.
From Breite plateau in half an hour you can already have a panoramic view over Sighișoara.
The old town of the city was vibrant and charming, full of tourists and good vibe. We’ve been to Sighișoara before, but this time for us it was just the end of an incredible journey. So finally, we could totally relax and enjoy some cold beers in the main square.
Below is the map for the full trip. Feel free to use it for your own trips.
Some final thoughts about the trip
Transylvania is for sure one of the most beautiful regions of Romania, with a breath-taking scenery, nature and villages, history, culture and gastronomy. But besides that, the realities of the region are not so idyllic as presented in a tourist leaflet. The villages are poor, with lots of young people leaving for the cities or abroad, with deserted houses. The sad thing is that garbage is a real issue in these villages, people throw their stuff all over the place, especially near river banks just outside the village.
Still, with the recent pandemic situation, families and young educated people decide to move (at least for some months a year) to these villages. Maybe it’s the future of the rural life in Romania, maybe things will change, people in the villages will have some new models to follow and life will improve a bit for them.
As for the trip, it gives a lot of peace and quiet. Except for meeting some people in the villages and chatting a bit with them, on the trek, we didn’t meet anyone. It was just us and nature. Water seems to not be suitable for drinking, so we were constantly buy bottled water from small shops in the villages.
What we enjoyed a lot was the nice and comfortable accommodations we chose during the trip. The hosts are very friendly and make sure that you feel perfect while there. They all cook simple Romanian dishes that taste like home and you always get some wine and țuica for a better sleep 🙂