Michelle and I finally made it to Biertan, which turned out to be a quaint little village surrounded by mountains. It felt like stepping into a time warp; the little houses were ancient, and horses were leading wagons down the street. The taxi took us to the center of town, where a huge fortified church loomed in front of us. We met the owner of the B&B, who took us to our room. It turned out to be dumb luck on my part that our room at the B&B was beautiful. It had a huge bed and and a private bathroom, two things we hadn’t experienced yet in our travels ; ) It was early evening, so we set out to explore the town before dark. We found our way to an old cemetery on a hill that gave us an incredible view of the whole valley, where the sun was just starting to set. Thankfully, our detour to Biertan turned out to be a great experience.
The next day was my 23rd birthday (July 31st!) and we had a full day ahead of us. We started out by having breakfast at the B&B and then exploring the fortified church. Romania, specifically the area of Transylvania, is famous for having the highest number of existing fortified churches (more than 150!) dating from the 13th to the 16th centuries. These fortifications include defensive walls surrounding the church, and a defensive position on top of the hill overlooking the valley. In the event of an Ottoman invasion, the women and children would be locked inside the church while the men fought.
Another interesting aspect of the fortified church in Biertan was that everything was written in German, instead of Romanian. It turns out that the village of Biertan was founded in the 1200s by Transylvanian Saxons, who originally came from Germany. The construction of the church began in 1468, and it served as the seat of the Lutheran Evangelical Diocese in Transylvania between 1572 and 1867. According to one website, “it is one of the most important Saxon villages with fortified churches in Transylvania, having been on the list of UNESCO World Heritage Sites since 1993.”
We had a blast exploring the church, and after we finished the owner of the B&B helped find us a ride back to the city of Sighiṣoara. This medieval city was founded in the 12th century by Transylvanian Saxons, and it became one of the most important Transylvanian cities for trade and commerce.Our main reason for going to Sighiṣoara was to see the annual Festival of Medieval Arts and Crafts, which turned out to be one of the best things we did in Romania.
First of all, the setting was incredible—nothing beats attending a festival like this in an ancient medieval city! The people in costume seemed to fit in perfectly with the cobbled streets and ancient churches. Plus, the city itself was full of history, and we even got to see Vlad Dracul’s house.In 1431 Vlad Tepes (also known as Vlad the Impaler, who was Vlad Dracul’s son and the inspiration for the legend of Dracula) was born here! Michelle and I shared dessert and a bottle of wine at Dracula’s birthplace in honor of my birthday : ) The festival also had some of the coolest souvenirs I’ve ever seen in my travels, and we spent a good chunk of our day (and a good chunk of our money) buying souvenirs. Here’s a picture of our combined loot : )
Perhaps the funniest moment of the day came after our shopping, where we found a place to rest on a shady hill watching a performance by a troupe of medieval actors. We didn’t really understand what was going on (it was all in Romanian), but soon the lead actor started pulling up “volunteers” (they didn’t really volunteer, he just picked them and made them come up front), and Michelle commented on how funny it would be if he made one of us go up and help. She barely got this comment out of her mouth when the actor, as if he heard what she said, came over and asked me to come up. I shook my head and said “no,” so he grabbed me by the arm and forcefully pulled me up and escorted me down to the stage. Now I’m not a shy person by nature, but I was terrified to be part of a play in Romanian where I would most likely be making a fool of myself. Surprisingly, this actor spoke English, and asked me what my name was. He assured me that I could say my line in English, so all was well. (Interesting tidbit about Romania: many people speak or understand English!). It did turn out to be a little embarrassing, but Michelle videotaped my parts and its so hilarious that I have to share my acting debut with you! My Aunt Mari would be proud that I brought the “happy dance” to Romania! 😀
I’m not really sure what the point of the play was, but my role was the servant. My master was a lawyer, and he was trying to buy his wife and myself new clothes. But he ripped off the tailor, so when the tailor came to our door demanding repayment, I had to tell him that my master was sick and that he had to leave. I’m not really sure how my little dance in the middle figured into that plot line, but being part of this play turned out to be a funny, unforgettable experience : )
That night after we left the festival, we made our way to the Sighişoara train station, where we took an overnight train back to Suceava. To hear about and see the beautiful Painted Monasteries, read onto the last blog post about Romania!