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LAST UPDATED
12 / 11 / 2016



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Sibiu & Saxon Transylvania "Land of Fairytales"
A high plateau of rolling hills and deep valleys embraced by Carpathians
a unique region of fortified churches, walled citadels and fairytale towns



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Podul Minciunilor (Liars' Bridge), Sibiu
Photo: Dinu Mendrea

There are indirect connections from the UK to Sibiu with Lufthansa via Munich, Austrian via Vienna and Tarom via Bucharest. In addition WIZZ connects LUTON with SIBIU and TARGU MURES - one hour from Sighisoara and 2 hours from Sibiu by road. In additiuon the overnight sleeper trains from Budapest and Vienna to Bucharest now call at Sibiu.

A wide selection of city breaks can be organised making use of some of the excellent accommodation now available in Sighisoara and Sibiu. Sighisoara is also a convenient stop on the overnight sleeper from Budapest. There are now good connections from Sighisoara and Medias to Sibiu by train. Check out the pages for 'ANOTHER EUROPE' holidays for an excellent introduction to this region. Alternatively there is a wide range of accommodation available from restored village guesthouses in the Saxon villages to new 5-star boutique hotels in Sibiu and Sighisoara, and from private apartments to spa hotels at Sovata.





Winter holidays in the heart of the Carpathians. Comfortable accommodation near Sibiu, a night in the remarkable ICE HOTEL, carved from the ice of the glacial Balea Lake, high in the Carpathians (accessible only by chairlift) , superb cuisine and romantic, candlelit meals, visits to historic Sibiu, Sighisoara and Cluj, and to the Turda Gorge, and sleigh or carriage rides.

Special Valentines breaks with a romantic night in the Ice Hotel - first come first served as spaces are limited
Click here for further details





SAXON TRANSYLVANIA


Holidays in Transylvaniacan
support local communities and
crafts through local
tourism initiatives


HOLIDAYS



Saxon Transylvania is featured in
the following holidays

SEE ANOTHER EUROPE
pages for inclusixe 2017 holidays
incl. Dracula Trail, Cluj
& Timisoara extensions

Another Europe
Touch of Class
Ultimate Dracula
Land of Fairytales
(Whole Village Project)




HIGHLIGHTS



Sibiu (Hermannstadt)
European City of Culture
Bruckental Museum
Astra Village Museum
Piatra Mare + Piatra Mica
Views from city tower
Liars Bridge
Passage of Stairs
Railway Museum

Sighisoara (Schässburg)
Clock Tower & Museum
Walls & Fortifications
Covered Staircase
Church on the Hill
Vlad Dracula House

Cisnadie (Heltau)
Cisnadioara (Michelsberg)
Cristian (Grossau)
Sibiel Glass Icons
Seica Mica (Kleinschelken)
Valea Viilor (Würmloch)
Mosna (Meschen)
Biertan (Bïrthälm)
Medias (Mediasch)
Bagaciu (Bogeschdorf)
Crit (Deutschkreuz),
Cloasterf (Klosdorf),
Malincrav (Malmkrog)
Viscri (Deutschweisskirch)
Homorod (Hamruden)
Târnave Valley (wine region)
Carta Abbey
Cozia Monastery
Transfagarasan Highway
Târgu Mures
Palace of Culture
Town Hall



TRAVEL


WIZZ AIR Luton to Targu Mures
and Sibiu

Austrian Airlines fly via Vienna
to Sibiu on most days
Tarom fly from Heathrow to Sibiu
via Bucharest Otopeni.
Malev fly most days
to Targu Mures
via Budapest from Gatwick
but connection times can be poor


Tarom fly from Munich to Sibiu

Frequent trains from Bucharest to
Sighisoara & Sibiu (5 hours);
it is possible to connect with
some flights at Bucharest.
Trains from Budapest & Vienna call at
Sibiu; frequent trains from Cluj to Sighisoara, and Brasov to
Sibiu & Sighisoara


.
Beds - Beds - Beds - Beds - Beds - Beds - Beds - Beds - Beds - Beds - Beds


Our personal recommendations for the best accommodation in Saxon Transylvania
Luxury 5-star hotels to family run guesthouses


Recommended accommodation in Sighisoara includes:

Casa Cositorarului - family-run pension forming part of the former Tinners' Tower in the city walls
Casa cu Cerb 3-star - historic, restored hotel in the heart of the citadel
Hotel Central Park 4-star - a very nice hotel situtaed in a recentlyrenovated building on the main street below the clock tower
Fronius Residence 5-star - historic, boutique hotel at the foot of the Scholars Stairs in the citadel; includes 3-star wing too

Recommended accommodation in Sibiu:

Casa Baciu - comfortable private pension in the lower old town, below the Liars Bridge
Casa Luxemburg - historic, private hotel in the heart of the old town overlooking the Small Square and Lirs Bridge
Imparatul Romanilor 3-star - the historic 'Roman Emperor, a town hotel with good servcies on the main pedestrian way; ideal for groups too
Hotel Levoslav House 4-star - boutique hotel near the Large Square
Ramada Hotel - quality chain hotel; ideal for the business traveller

Recommended accommodation outside the towns

Casa Verde Cisnadioara - see our Another Europe pages for these inclusive holdiays
Mihai Eminescu Trust village houses - restored Saxon houses in Viscri, Biertan, Malancrav, Crit and Cloasterf, plus Malancrav Manor, a perfect location for a wedding, reception and honeymoon
Viscri 125 - preserved village houses with very good services located in Viscri
Copsa Nare Guesthouses - restored village houses in Copsa Mare with modern comforts
Castel Haller - former Hungraian manor house restored as a hotel; 15 minutes from Targu Mures airport
Cetatea de Balta - restored wine chateau on the Small Tarnave Valley; pending opening of guest accommodation in 2014



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Saxon Transylvania
Siebenburgen


Transylvania, with its romantic fortified villages and towns of 'gingerbread' houses, clock towers and turrets, red roofs and cobbled alleyways, its dark forests with magical glades, rugged mountains, canyons and caves, and its pastoral landscapes, folklore and traditions that seem to have survived from a previous age is without doubt a land that is familiar to every child as the setting for so many fairytales - Rapunzel, Sleeping Beauty and Red Riding Hood would all be at home here while even back in 1929, Walter Starkie observed,

"On the other side of the street a group of young girls were sitting sewing; one of them was as fair as a Saxon, but another had coal-black hair and a milk-white complexion. They reminded me of 'Snow White and Rose Red' in Grimm." [Raggle-Taggle]

According to legend the lost children of Hamelin emerged from the ‘Almasch’ (Varghis) cave into Transylvania - just to the north of Baraolt in 1284, lured there by the magical tune of the Pied Piper, a 'Romany' who had been cheated by the burghers after ridding them of their plague of rats. This is the 'romantic'explanation for what was, for many centuries a strange phenomenon: the presence of fair-haired, blue-eyed, German-speakers following ancient customs, yet isolated by hundreds of miles from Germany. The reality is that the fortified towns and villages of Transylvania were established in the 12th Century by settlers from the Moselle region, referred to locally as 'Saxons'. They were tempted to Transylvania by favourable market rights by the Hungarian rulers who wanted them there to guard the mountain passes against Tatar and Ottoman raiders.


The Saxon Transylvanians created the 'Siebenbürgen', the seven fortified cities:

Sibiu (Hermannstadt). Bistrita (Bistritz), Brasov (Kronstadt), Cluj (Klausenburg), Medias (Mediasch), Sebes (Mühlbach), and Sighisoara (Schässburg).

Meanwhile, in the villages they constructed fortified churches in which they could shelter during times of siege. Some of these churches are massive structures. The villages are often remote and although vestiges of the original populations may remain, clinging on to age-old traditions, many of them are in serious danger of losing their character as churches crumble. Various restoration projects have been initiated to rebuild the communities and to attract back some of the original inhabitants - many fled during the Communist years whilst after the 1989 Revolution the open door extended by Germany attracted many more to leave their way of life for the bright lights of the West. UNESCO has designated several of these villages and the mediaeval citadel of Sighisoara as Heritage Sites.





Sibiu Hermannstadt





European City of Culture 2007

Sibiu was the chief town of the ‘Saxon’ Transylvanians, who named it 'Hermannstadt' when they founded the city in the early 13th Century..

Sibiu has one of the best-preserved, mediaeval city centres in Europe, which has undergone several years of painstaking restoration. In recognition of this it has been declared EUROPEAN CITY OF CULTURE 2007 (together with Luxembourg). Sibiu has inspired generations of travellers like Walter Starkie, and Patrick Leigh Fermor who regretted having not had time to discover the art treasures of the Brukenthal Museum during his epic walk from the Hook of Holland to Constantinople in 1935. In his award winning travelogue "Between the Woods and the Water" he writes:

"We might have been in in Austria or Bavaria. Once more, the names over the shops were all Saxon. Zoological and heraldic inn-signs hung from stanchions along massive, shady arcades and no rustic discretion hampered the baroque buildings all around us. Tall casements rose between louvred shutters with twirling hinges; there were triangular and bow-topped pediments and houses plastered yellow and ochre and saffron and green and peach and mauve, and at either end of the serrated roof-trees, elliptic mouldings elaborated the crow-steps of the gables; these were pierced by lunettes adorned with flourishes and scrolls, and the serried juts of dormer-windows broke up the steep slants of rose-coloured tile. It was the perfect urban counterpart to the rustic masonry of the villages. Half-timbered buildings appeared, stalwart towers barred with string courses were faced with the gilded numbers of clock-dials, crowned with onion-domes of tile or sulphur-green copper and finally topped with spikes fitted with weathercock pennants. All the upper storeys were buoyed on a froth of unpollared mulberries and chestnut trees."




The beautiful mediaeval city of Sibiu (Hermannstadt) was carefully restored to its former glory to celebrate its status as European City of Culture 2007,
In addition to the obvious changes such as the contimuous restoration of building and squares in the old town, Sibiu has seen something of a cultural rennaissance.

Annual events include the Sibiu Jazz Festival, theatre festival, and art and theatre festivals, many of which make full use of the beautiful old squares for open air concerts and performances.





Today, old Sibiu still possesses much of its erstwhile charm, a character carefully preserved for posterity, and subject of several high-profile restoration projects, in particular by the GTZ foundation. During the communist era there was no major investment or indeed renovation of the city centre, but unlike many Romanian cities it was spared the ravages of the bulldozer and the concrete mixer, protected in part by its fiercely independent burghers and byNicu Ceausescu, who would often defy the demands of his dictator father. As a consequence the city survived uniquely intact and was an obvious choice for careful restoration, using traditional techniques and features rather than concrete and thermopan.

Sibiu is also an easy city to explore on foot, one with an excellent selection of restaurants, pavement cafes, elegant coffee shops and beer gardens, but perhaps the most enduring memory is that of the dormer windows overlooking the squares in such a manner that they give the eerie impression that you are always being watched - these are the 'eyes of Sibiu'! It is also very much a living city with theatre, a philharmonic orchestra, jazz clubs and music bars, and host to a range of concerts and a programme of annual art and cultural festivals, some of them featuring open air performances in the historic squares.

Many of the main attractions are centred round the beautifully restored mediaeval city squares, the Piata Mare (Large Square) and Piata Mica (Small Square) of the 'Old Town'. These include the Brukenthal Museum, the Evangelical Cathedral, Roman Catholic and Franciscan churches, the new ASTRA museum and the famous Podul Minciunilor ('Bridge of Lies' - the legend states that the bridge will collapse if somebody tells a lie on it). Among the alleys and passage ways is the 'Passage of Stairs' which leads down to the 'new' town and the vibrant Cibin market and the river. The acclaimed Bruckenthal Museum contains a selection of works by Reubens, Van Dyck and Teniers, in addition to works by Romanian. Austrian and German Mastrs, collections of silverware, early books and manuscripts, and other works documenting the history of Sibiu. Just south of the town, scattered around a lake in the Dumbrava Forest, is the outstanding Museum of Popular Technology (Astra) which contains a vast collection of buildings from all over Romania and focuses on peasant technologies such as waterwheels and windmills powering forges, presses, fulling mills and so, There is also a traditional restaurant here and an excellent shop stocking books and folklore items including a range of woven and embroidered textiles and traditional costumes. The ASTRA is regarded as one of the premier village museums in the world. Opposite the station you will also find a railway museum with a collection of over 40 historic narrow and standard gauge steam locomotives

Sibiu is well worth a few days on any itinerary and we offer an excellent selection of hotels, and small guesthouses in the countryside. The immediate surroundings comprise the beautiful Dumbrava forest, the Cindrel mountains and a rolling, wooded landscape dotted with historic Saxon villahes and backed by the rugged Fagaras Ridge, the highest range of the Carpathians, and often referred to as the Transylvanian Alps. Places of special note include:

CISNADIE (Heltau): Saxon market town with an attractive elongated town square dominated by a massive fortress church - see our Secret Transylvania inclusive holidays
CISNADIOARA (Michelsberg): in our opinion one of the prettiest villages in Romania. This small Saxon settlement has a steeply sloping square and is clustered round a steep, wooded hill topped by a small, Romanesque church. Local tradition states that any man wishing to marry a girl from teh village had to prove his strength by carrying a huge rock from the river bed to the top the hill. There is also a museum here dedicated to the Saxon Transylvanians.
RASINARI: a pretty, shepherds village in the foothills of the Cindrel mountains, reached by a curious roadside tram runing through the Dumbrava Forest.
PALTINIS: local ski and mountainb resort in the Cindrel mountains.
CRISTIAN (Grossau): picturesqueSaxon village to the west of Sibiu, with an impressive fortress church overlooking the river.
SIBIEL: traditional Romanian shepherds village in the Cindrel foothills, knowns for its beliefs in witchcraft and an excellent museum of icons painted on glass.
SALISTE and TILISCA: traditional agricultural settlements known for their costumes and folk songs.
SLIMNIC: a large ruined fortress on the road to Copsa Mica.
OCNA SIBIULUI (SALZBURG): small spa town offering salt baths and treatments, set amidst old salt workings, There is a very nice fin de siecle spa building which has been carefully restored for Sibiu 2007, and Saxon fortified church.
COZIA: famous orthodox monastery near the Red Tower Pass in the Olt Valley
AVRIG: former Bruckenthal Palace/ manor with an interesting secret landscape garden


See below for sample holidays





SighisoaraSchässburg


Sighisoara,
(Schässburg to the 'Saxon's, or Segesvár to the Hungarans) is,like Sibiu, a 'must' on any visit to Transylvania, though it is not a big town, and the key sites within the city walls can be viewed within a few hours. It becomes busy in the summer, especially during the festival in August, but it is still too good to miss! Sighisoara really is a town of 'gingerbread' houses straight out of the pages of a fairytale - one of the best preserved medieaval citadels in Europe, a magical mix of winding cobbled alleys, steep stairways, secluded squares, towers and turrets. Climb up the clocktower, also an interesting history museum, for a view over the terracotta roofs, the town walls and the gate towers, each of hem once the responsibility of a different guild. You may even dine in the house where the real-life 'Dracula' - Vlad the Impaler was born, or wander up one of the surrounding hills, through the allotments, to watch the sunset over the town. Just because Sighisoara is one of those places that can be explored between trains or as a stop on a coach tour, that is no reason not to linger longer. For one it is an addictive, magical place and for another, when the crowds die away and the street lamps come on it is truky romantic. Enjoy a beer in a traditional tavern or a candlelt dinner with a glass of wine, perhaps a vintage from one of the local Tarnave valley vineyards such as Jidvei. Afterwards retire to any one of several excellent hotels in beautifully restored historic buildings located in the heart of the citadel. These range from simple pensions to 3-star family run properties akin to traditional German-style 'Gasthäuser' (or taverns) to a couple of remarkable 5-star boutique hotels. There are even some decent choices for travellers on a budget, though not necessarily so central. Simply check out our Beds section for a few personal recommendations, backed up by numerous visitors to or site.

Sighisoara is also a useful stepping off point, or a base from which to explore many of the Saxon villages such as
Biertan (Birthälm), Viscri (Deutsch-Weisskirch), Apold (Trappold) or Cloasterf (Klosdorf), Mosna (Meschen), Malancrav (Malmkrog), and Bagaciu (Bogeschdorf) in addition to the old Saxon town of Medias (Mediasch) with its fine mani square and Saxon church. Further details about the Saxon villages on the following webpage: Saxon Village Holidays




The Tale of the Pied Piper
[ Robert Browning ]

"In Transylvania there's a tribe, of alien people who ascribe
The outlandish ways and dress, on which their neighbours lay such stress
To their fathers and mothers having risen, out of some subterranean prison
Into which they had been trepanned, long time ago, in a mighty band,
Out of Hamelin town in Brunswick land, but how or why they don't understand."


According to legend the Pied Piper emerged with the children of Hamelin from the
Almasch Caves in the dramatic and very remoteVarghis/ Vargyas Canyon situated east
of Sighisoara near the town of Baraolt. A fully guided, hiking expedition to thse dramatic
bat caves is included in our 'Touch of Class' programme.


To the north and west of Sighisoara lies the valley if the Târnave Mica (Kleine Kokel), one of the chief wine growing regions of Transylvania. We can arrange local wine tasting in the wine villages of Ganesti and Bagaciu (Bogeschdorf). The latter also has decent village accommodation which we can book for you, and a fortified Saxon church with a fine winged altar (tryptych). Further downstream you will find the well-known wineries of Jidvei and Cetatea de Balta, and the wine village of Capalnas. Wine tasting can be organised for small groups in the historic chateau of Cetatea de Balta. The wines of this region are normally white wines using grape varieties such as Riesling, Feteasca, Sauvignon Blanc and Muscat Ottonel. Sparkling wines are produced at Jidvei.

Sighisoara is also a good base for exploring the old 'Hungarian' town of
Târgu Mures (Marosvásárhély). Don't be put off by the industrial zones to the west or by the endless apartment blocks on the approach from the south. Târgu Mures has a very fine elongated town square and some notable architecture including the beautiful art nouveau town hall and Palace of Culture, the latter being the the venue for Bela Bartok's first concert. There is also a large orthodox cathedral and interesting citadel. Târgu Mures is also the closest airport to Sighisoara with flights by Malev and Wizz via Budapest, or Carpatair from Timisoara.






Useful Links

A selection of useful resources for planning a trip to or learning about Sibiu and Saxon Transylvania

Sibiu Tourist Office - excellent site with pages about attractions, events etc - English language
Astra - Astra village museum, news, events and activities
Fundatia Adept - Fundatia Adept protecting Romania's unique farmland/ Sashiz tourist office
Tarnava Mare - Discover the taste of Tarnava Mare; excellent regional website
Mihai Eminescu Trust - Restoration oif the Saxon Transylvanian Villages and other local heritage (see also below)
Saxon Village Map - map and list of the Saxon villages
Siebenbuerger Portal - Official site for the Saxon Transylvanain people (German language)
Sibiu- Agnita Railway - Official website
Spurfilm - Another good website for the Sibiu-Agnita Railway with a useful route map






XRESTORATION OF THE SAXON TRANSYLVANIAN VILLAGES


Of great importance is the tireless work carried out by the Mihai Eminescu Trust. The Trust has been concentrating on a project to restore life to the the Saxon villages in Transylvania since 1995 . The aim of their Whole Village Project is to keep this fascinating, but often crumbling, legacy for future generations, helping local craftsman to re-learn forgotten skills and showing the villagers how to combine their heritage with a more modern approach. These villages are often remote and although vestiges of the original population remain, clinging on to age-old traditions, many of them are in serious danger of losing their character as churches and dwellings fall into disrepair or are targetted by art thieves. Besides repair and conservation, theTrust is helping with sympathetic economic development, believing that the future of these villages should be intimately linked with their past. The Trust has been operating in two communities approximately 40 miles apart which can be reached on foot or horseback, following cart tracks through the forest and valleys, and intervening villages.

Transylvania Uncovered
is now able to offer accommodation in guesthouses that have been faithfully restored by the Mihai Eminescu Trust. These houses have modern bathroom facilities and are heated by traditional stoves. They can be rented for self- catering or meals can be provided. The houses are located in Viscri (Deutsch-Weisskirch), Crit (Deutschkreuz), Cloasterf (Klosdorf), Malincrav (Malmkrog) andBiertan (Birthälm). All have fortified churches, those in Viscri and Cloasterf being particularly spectacular. Malincrav is a good example of a typical Saxon village preserved by its seclusion in a remote valley. The Trust are also restoring an abandoned princely manor house in the village.
Further details





Saxon Transylvania : Suggested Holidays 2017

Check out Travel Counsellors for a full range of travel services for visitors to Saxon Transylvania, from flights, car hire and accommodation to inclusive packages, or tailormade tours. For example you can book an excellent value all inclusive Another Europe inclusive holidays based in Cisnadioara (click for full details). These combine comfortable accommodation and exceptional cuisine with a wide range of tours and exceiting activities. In may respects these are an excellent introduction to Transylvania and can be easily combined with a week in Maramures. We also offer SIBIU city breaks with a wide selection of flights, either direct toSibiu or to Cluj or Bucharest with rail transfers, plus a variety of accommodation and guided tours. Below you will find a few samples of what we can offer. However, please note that we are specialists in tailormade travel to Romania so these are onlu a small selection of the types of holidays we can offer. Why not combine a stopover in Sibiu with our Touch of Class programme, combine Saxon Transylvania with the Painted Monasteries or take a two or even three centre city break. Ideal conbtracting combinations include Sibiu, Cluj & Timisoara, or Sibiu, Bucharest and Brasov,

In addition to the village houses provided by MET there are some excellent alternative rural options including the lovely Copsa Mare guesthouses and the Viscri 125 guesthouses which provide mountain bike hire, guides for the meadows and a restaurant. The mountain bike options tie in well with the new network of cycle paths that link the various vilages and which have been promoted by Fundatia Adept.

Examples of special guided tours for groups or individuals, services, treks and excursions from Sibiu:

Sibiu City Tour: including entrance to the Evangelical church and the council tower
Historic Cisnadioara: return transport with a guided tour of the old village, and the church on the hill, traditional saxon meal - 6 hours
Romanian Evening in Sibiel: return transport, visit icon museum, horse and cart ride, plum brandy distillery & tasting, traditional meal - 6 hours
Traditional Water Buffalo Farm at Sadu: including transport, cheese tasting, traditional meal - 6 hours
Hiking in the Cindrel Mountains: full day guided trip including hiking in the Cindrel mountains (2200m), picnic at a shepherds camp, Sadu Valley and a visit to the fortress church at Cisnadie on the return trip.
Hiking in the Cindrel Mountains and Iezer Cibinului Nature Reserve: 2 day trip including transport, picnic at a shepherds camp, overnight in a mountain hut with barbecue/ bonfire, and visit to the fortress church at Cristian on the return journey
Saxon Transylvania Tour: A full day guided tour including the fortress at Slimnic, the historic town of Medias, the fortress church of Biertan and Sighisoara.
Balea Lac/ Fagaras Mountains: a day guided trip from Sibiu taking the Transfagarasan high mountain pass to Balea Lac, brief walk and picnic, visits to the Cistercian abbey ruins at Carta and the former Brukenthal Palace at Avrig with its secret garden (summer only)
Cycle tour round Sibiu: Dumbrava Forest - ASTRA village museum - picnic - Rasinari - hilltop church at Cisnadioara - fortress church at Cisnadie
Wine tasting and organ concert in the Evangelical church
Cycle Hire
Visit the Roma Gypsies near Sighisoara - special day trips or extended stays discovering their culture, music and dance,



Experience a "Touch of Class" in Transylvania


Our popular TOUCH OF CLASS programme is based on private guesthouses,
belonging to a former Transylvanian Count, in the tiny village of Miclosoara.
This sustainable tourism project provides a unique insight into the real
Transylvania - the varied cultures of the Hungarian-speaking Szeklers,
the German-speaking "Saxons" and the Romanians - interwoven with the
history, architecture, natural history and scenic beauty of the region.
All activities and excursions are included, and are tailored to your
own interests and requirements.

Click here for further details


Cristian (Grossau) / Sighisoara at Night / Cisnadie (Heltau)

Agnita-Sibiu railway / Sibiu / Seica Mica (Kleinschelken)

Viscri (Deutschweisskirch) / Biertan (Birthälm) / Bruckenthal Museum, Sibiu








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