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Wine, Saxon villages and salt, the three riches Transylvania is all about. The footprints of Saxon communities in Transylvania are visible, big and load, some reshaped, some better taken care of, some rebuild, but all still standing: the fortified churches of Transylvania, the Saxon legacy, the core of a Saxon village, a miracle today considering the Saxon population was decimated during communism and close to extinction in all villages by emigrating to Germany after 1989 Revolution.
Târnavele region is the place for white wine lovers. The place between the two rivers sharing the same name, one the small-Târnava mică, the other the big-Târnava mare, both from Gurghiu Mountains, surrounded by the legend of the two streams of water who made a bet: the first to reach Blaj city, wins. One cautions, wider, wiser only flowed during the day to avoid obstacles; the other young, excited, eager couldn’t care less about day or night tumbling anything in its way. One lost.
In the morning
Stop at: Bălcaciu fortified church
Build on top of a hill to resists attacks or siege, the 15th century Transylvanian Gothic church had a gate tower, six defense firearm ramparts, refuge rooms for its villagers, a 25m deep fountain, bread oven, grinder and sheds, reflecting the strong, resilient, powerful and rich Saxon community who build, own, use and protect them.
Stop at: Cetatea de Baltă, Bethlen-Haller castle
The 16th century French Renaissance castle, build as a hunting residence by its first owner, Miklos Bethlen, a chancellor of Transylvania, reshaped in 17th century to resemble Chambord castle in France, by its then owner, Eugen Haller, was never used for military purposes, despite its 1,5m thick brick walls. Instead was inherited, lost at cards, donated and during communism used as a champagne center. Noblesse oblige.
Stop at: Praid salt mine
The largest underground salt mine in Romania and one of the largest in Europe, the Praid salt mine is visited by over 200 000 tourists every year for its curative respiratory healing salty air. From two month old to 85 year old grandpas, they all want and need the salty air in their lungs for a minimum of 4 hours.
The Romans may have discovered it first, but by mid XVIII century salt was being dig up in Praid at big scale with a few perks for the Hungarian local population, packed in buffalo skins and pulled to the surface by a “extraction machinery” operated by horse power.
Stop at: Sovata resort
Give Sovata and its lakes a try if you find your disease on this list: gynecological (ovarian failure, chronic cervicitis, chronic metralpingitis, sterility); degenerative, inflammatory and rheumatic diseases (cervical, dorsal and lumbar spondylosis, arthrosis, polyarthrosis, joint pain, tendonitis); post-traumatic conditions (broken bones, dislocations and sprains); diseases of the peripheral nervous system (mild paresis, sequelae of polio, polyneuritis); endocrine disorders (hypothyroidism, following endocrinological treatment), cardiovascular disease (ulcers, acrocyanosis).
We will spend the night in Sovata.
Stop at: Corund village
Forget Ikea. This is the place to buy dishware. Ceramic hand painted pottery, cheap, beautiful and unique, you can hang them on the wall, impress your dinner guests and cook the tastiest meals. Owning a Corund pot is the trademark to a good cook.
Stop at: Sighișoara medieval city
The best preserved inhabited medieval Saxon city, held an important strategic and commercial role in central Europe for many centuries. Also the presumed birthplace of Vlad Dracul made famous by Bram Stoker’s book and cinema. A city much loved by tourist with its main attractions: the 13th century, 64m high clock tower, the weapon museum, the covered all stone staircase, the church on the hill and the old gothic cemetery.
Stop at: Biertan fortified church
Vying for the town status, competing with Moșna and Mediaș, the people of Biertan expanded their 14th century basilica into an impressive hall church. They didn’t win town status, but did leave behind one of the most beautiful existing fortified churches, surrounded by three circular walls and eight towers. In their memory and to celebrate its history and traditions, every third Saturday of September Biertan becomes ’Sachsentreffen’, the meeting place of Saxons everywhere; something that shouldn’t be missed.
Stop at: Alma vii fortified church
A 14th century document mentions the church and the free village of Alma vii. Two centuries later fortifications are added, towers, firing posts and holes for throwing pitch on invaders; until 20th century, the work continues: a Baroque organ is set up, a classic style church alter is build and the hay roof replaced with stone and tiles.