Less than 100 kilometers from Sibiu, lies a fascinating medieval village – Biertan – where time seems to have been put to halt since hundreds of years ago. This is the feeling you get when entering this Transylvanian village. If it weren’t for the electricity, cars that roam around and paved roads, one would still feel like in the middle ages. Houses are perfectly lined one after the other, welcoming you on your way into the village’s heart. Small engravings on the houses’ front walls show the year in which they were built – some even from the 18th century. Children still play on the narrow lanes, with shabby bicycles, footballs and scooters. The weather is warm during summer, with the clear blue sky bearing no clouds. And this is the perfect time to visit Biertan. In this article, I will reveal to you why this fascinating village is worth visiting.
1. The road to Biertan – a feeling of adventure
The best way to arrive at Biertan is by car. That is because of the numerous other stops you can make on the way to the village in order to experience Transylvania. There is no fancy highway leading you to Biertan, and some roads are still under construction. But the views you get to see while driving on the narrow Transylvanian roads, through hills and forests are truly spectacular. Not to mention the fact that you can choose if you want to stop in other villages on the road that also have fortified churches to visit. Did you know that in Transylvania there are around 180 of them? Pretty impressive.
This time we chose to stop in Hosman, a village that was on our way to Biertan. I knew there was another spectacular citadel church there to see, so I was really curious to visit. Unfortunately, one could only visit the church if they booked a time through ringing a given number (which I forgot to write down). As this was not our main destination, we decided that we would only explore the church from the outside, getting immersed into the story its aged defence walls and towers told. Have you ever been to Hosman or visited its fortified church?
2. Fascinating countryside
Driving off from Sibiu and into the countryside, one is immediately greeted by vast green fields, mountains and forests. Windy roads that go up- and downhills lead you through landscapes that are only found in Transylvania. It is a pleasure to the sight to encounter such natural, not altered, landscapes, as though taken out of an old Romanian fairytale.
Stopping at Hosman was the perfect way to experience those landscapes. And I’ll tell you why. I came across a decaying fortified tower outside the church’s walls, which is probably used as a hiding spot by the village’s teenagers. Adventure drew me inside and in a moment I found myself climbing the tower stairs to reach the top. Leaving aside the bad shape that the interior of the tower was in, I managed to find the perfect view of the Transylvanian countryside. I looked outside through those tattered windows to savour the landscapes and I imagined how soldiers long ago looked through the same windows to see if there was any danger incoming.
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3. Biertan 16th century fortified medieval church
The fortified church of Biertan oversees the entire village from the hill it was built on. Even before entering the village, one can catch a small glimpse of the fabulous construction that lies unhindered on high ground. It gives you a feeling as though it still protects the village from outside hazards with its sharp vision.
Following the main road through the village, you will end up right in front of the massive building that governs this place: Biertan fortified church. Houses surround it from all sides and a small square decorated with flowers and trees lies in front of it.
Next to the square and at the entrance of the church are different stalls selling handmade objects or other souvenirs that could remind you of this place. One thing that I would recommend here is to bring a Romanian conversation guide that could facilitate your dialogue with the vendors. Most of them, if not all, only speak Romanian. So, if you want more info on the place or on the items they are selling, a conversation guide would come in handy.
Compared to the church at Hosman, this one is easily visitable. It has clear opening hours, during which you can buy your visiting ticket and enter the fortification. So here they are:
April, May, September, October: open every day from 10:00-13:00 and 14:00-17:00
June-August: open every day from 10:00-13:00 and 14:00-19:00
November-March: open every Tuesdays to Sundays from 11:00-15:00.
What makes Biertan fortified church spectacular?
Well, besides its historical character, it offers one the perspective of a different Romania than the one you know from the country’s urban areas. A mystical Romania, filled with tales from medieval times. A cultural-rich Romania, where you can see how life was for the people of this country back in the days. And lastly, a fascinating Romania, where you can indulge your sight with constructions such as this one and the serene landscapes that surround it.
Here, you can enjoy a peaceful day, exploring the remains of an important historical settlement. Walking through the church’s courtyard, one can see the strategically constructed walls of fortification, different defence towers and the whole village of Biertan.
Inside the church, one can find a room that harboured the most important valuable objects. A massive wooden renascence door secures the room with not less than 13 locks. I have never seen such an impressive lock system before. Due to its singularity, the universal exposition in Paris from 1900 showed this masterpiece.
4. Discover Southern Transylvania in depth
One remarkable aspect of Biertan is the fact that it is part of UNESCO world heritage. It provides a vivid picture of the cultural landscape of southern Transylvania. The untouched, serene countryside landscapes, village life, the fortified church that still holds services, and unaltered medieval settlement, show the world a mythical part of Transylvania.
If you are lucky by any chance and you choose to visit this village in the third week of September, you will encounter a one-of-a-kind cultural event. The remaining Saxons that still live in Biertan or the nearby villages, gather yearly to celebrate their culture in the square of Biertan. Music echoes throughout the village together with lots of people dressed in their traditional clothes. It is amazing to know that even after so many years, the younger generation keeps their tradition and culture alive.
Is Biertan worth visiting? I would say YES. From all my heart. The adventurous roads, beautiful countryside landscapes, medieval village and fortified church are absolutely worth your time. You will not only get to experience a different side of Romania, but you will learn so much more about the history of the place together with its culture. So, if you are in the area, I definitely recommend you this one day trip to Biertan: a mystical village in the heart of Transylvania.