The last fortified church on our itinerary was the one from Biertan. It is one of the most important ones and it’s construction began in the 15th century. You can go for a walk inside the fortified walls and also visit the church. Inside it, the most impressive object was a lock on a wooded door. The lock contains 19 locks in one (!!). It won first prize at the Paris World Expo in 1900. Inside the fortifications there is also a small building with an interesting story. There was a custom to confine there for two weeks the couples who wanted to divorce. Inside the house there was only one bed, one chair and a single set of cutlery. In 400 years only one couple eventually decided to break up, so the method seems pretty efficient 😛 The room is not in use anymore though…
The next fortress we visited was newer and in a different style. The Alba Iulia fortress is now a seven-bastion baroque fortress built in the 18th century. Previously, on the same location a Roman castrum and afterwards a medieval fortress once stood. Some remains from these can still be seen. Inside the fortress are The Union Hall with the National Honour Gallery, The National History Museum of Unification, the Voivodal Palace, the Orthodox cathedral, the Roman Catholic cathedral, the Batthyaneum Library, the Roman Catholic bishop’s palace, the Apor Palace, and the University of Alba Iulia. My favorite of these was the Roman Catholic cathedral. It was built in the 10th and 11th centuries and it’s a really remarkable example of the medieval Romanic style. If you want to take a tour of the fortifications this involves paying an entrance fee. I really enjoyed the walk. You can take a small guided tour of one of the bastions, take a look inside the dungeons, see the stables and the awesome horses and check out the walls and fortification system. Pretty impressive. You will also get to see a nice view of the city of Alba Iulia.
The last historical site we visited was also a fortress, but a much older one from a different age. Sarmisegetusa Regia was the capital of the Dacians (ancient inhabitants of Romania). The fortress was built on top of a 1200 meters high mountain and was the core of the defensive system in the Orăștie mountains (it consisted of a total of six citadels). Sarmizegetusa Regia contained a citadel and living areas with dwellings and workshops, but it also contained a sacred zone. It was surrounded by a thick wall formed by massive stone blocks, the ruins of which can still be seen. Also remains of the sacred zone can still be seen: circular and rectangular sanctuaries, made of timber (the timber parts were rebuilt) or stone and a sundial.
It is a bit remote, first you have to get to Orăștie which is on the main road between Sibiu and Deva and then head to Costești (it’s about 20 kms away from Orăștie) and then there are about 25kms of unpaved road until you reach the entrance to Sarmisegetusa.
And our last stop was a site of a totally different nature than the rest: a reserve where 10 european bisons (also called wisents) are found. These were hunted to extinction in the wild at the beginning of the 20th century. But they can still be found in reserves around Europe and there are plans of reintroducing them in the wild (I’m not entirely sure if this hasn’t already started). The previous time I visited this place, 5 years before, this reserve only had 4 of them, so they seem to be thriving 🙂 I asked the keeper and only one of these was brought from another reserve, the rest were born here.
And with these lovely creatures, our road trip ended 🙁 I hope you enjoyed this article and if you need more details or have any comments, please let me know!
Entrance fees (in may 2013):
- Biertan – 8 lei
- Alba Iulia fortifications – 10 lei for simple tour /20 lei for tour including the guided visit inside the bastion
- Wisent Park – 6 lei
- the rest are free 🙂
- one euro is about 4.4 lei or so
- we stayed at Unglerus Pension Biertan – neat spacious rooms, friendly staff and good food
And also I have pinpointed the sites from the roadtrip on the map below and you can see their exact location and get directions to them.
trip date: May 2013