Date of visit: July 21 and 22, 2018
This is the World Heritage Site in Romania that I enjoyed the most this time. The recognized heritage sites are not in Transylvania, but they are spread over several areas. Transylvania was constantly threatened by the Turks and the Tatars, so the small settlements that could not be walled up like the larger towns decided to fortify the churches on the hills and prepare for the threat of foreign enemies. It was recognized as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1993 (expanded in 1999) for its uniqueness.
On July 21 and the next day, July 22, we went on a tour of villages with fortress churches in Transylvania. There are seven fortress churches on the World Heritage List. Of these, we visited two, Viscri and Saschiz, the day before we arrived in Brasov, in the afternoon before we left for Sighişoara, and one, Biertan, on the outskirts of Sighişoara the next day. The next day we visited Biertan, one of the suburbs of Sighişoara, and Prejmer, one of the suburbs of Sighişoara.
The first church we visited, Viscri, is located between Braşov and Sighişoara. It is said that the church was built at least in the 12th century.
The main road connecting the two cities, E60, turns into a narrow local road. The main road was well paved, although I was surprised to see so many stray dogs, but the road to Viscri was in the middle of road construction and the pavement was very rough, so it was very difficult to drive. From the middle of the road, we were worried whether we were really in the right place or not, and even if we were, could we get there?
By the way, I really enjoyed driving along the E60, as there were some medieval castle-like structures scattered along the road from time to time.
Arrived in the city of Viscri. As for the parking, it seemed to be possible to park anywhere. There were many tourists where we parked our car, so we headed up the hill to the fortress church with them.
Now the whole area around the boundary is like a park.
There is a ticket office near the entrance of the building, where you pay the entrance fee before going inside.
The inside was very interesting because there were many more rooms than it looked. Of course, it is a church, so there is a small but very holy cathedral.
In addition, we could see rooms that could accommodate several people, and the remains of storage facilities for food and other items. Each room is now a small museum, and there were exhibits mainly of traditional costumes of the time.
And because it is a fortress, there is a watchtower in the center, from which you can see the vast Transylvanian landscape.
The fortress church of Viscri was probably the most beautifully shaped of the seven registered heritage sites.
The next stop, Saschiz, is back on the main road between Brasov and Sighişoara and further towards Sighişoara. It is very close to Sighişoara. It is easy to find as it is located along this road.
In contrast to Viscri, this was just a church. In addition, we could not enter the inside, so we only visited from the outside. The town itself is said to be from the 14th century.
Biertan is the most famous of the seven listed fortified churches, and was the only one to be included in the World Heritage List when it was first inscribed in 1993. It is located about 30 minutes west of Sighişoara. It is located about 30 minutes west of Sighişoara, and many people visit this place as a set with Sighişoara.
From Sighişoara, take the E60 towards Sibiu, turn south on the way and you will reach Biertan in less than 10 minutes. Right in front of the Fortress Church is the center of the village, where you can park in the central square. There is a parking attendant here, I was taken a fee of about 200 Japanese yen. You have to be careful because some people who are not regular attendants and you don’t know well will ask you for money. At first, I was tricked into giving money to a strange uncle (grandfather), but immediately after, because a regular attendant with ID came, I ran quickly and collected the money I gave.
The church is surrounded by three walls and is very powerful.
In the center there is a very fine cathedral. The inside was large and very impressive.
Prejmer is a fortified church located northeast of Braşov. It is surrounded by a wall as strong as that of Bieltan.
It was the largest of the fortress churches that we visited. There are souvenirs inside, such as a full museum, I thought it was the most well maintained as a tourist attraction among the fortress church I visited this time.
After all, the feature of this place is the huge number of housing areas. There were probably enough rooms to house more than 1,000 people within the walls that roundly covered the church inside.
These are the church fortresses we visited this time. It was the ruins that made me understand again how horrible it was to allow the invasion of other peoples, not to mention the ingenuity of the medieval people to prevent the invasion of other peoples in the limited resources. As for the overall atmosphere, I think it was a romantic sightseeing spot with plenty of RPG-style elements.
This was the last sightseeing in Romania. After this, we went back to Wallachia over the Carpathian Mountains as we had done two days before, and returned the car at the airport and stayed at an apartment near the airport for the last time. I’ll introduce this topic in the next article.