I can clearly remember that Alexandra asked me, a while ago, if I were to choose from all the places in the world that we saw which would be that one place that I would like for us to live in. Without thinking too much, I had the answer; that place is Transylvania. The most important is that we share the same idea, not because it’s home, in Romania. It’s all about the feelings that we have when we wander through dust roads of the Saxon villages or through Transylvania’s modernized towns, all this brings to mind peace, the connection with nature and well-done things.
Many fell in love with this Carpathian land, from British royalties to corporate from all over the world, including Romanian townspeople who choose to regularly escape on Transylvania’s hills.
Further, we are going to talk about the places and the people that we fell in love with, after many trips and running a lot of kilometers in Transylvania. In this article we will explicitly refer to Transylvania’s hills. The more we will explore, we are going to add impressions and recommendations.
Therefore, we strongly believe that in order for you to enjoy and maybe fall in love with Transylvania you should stop and visit :
Mercheasa (Mercheașa)- Secular Sessile Oak
That is the place where you can see and touch the 900 years Sessile Oak. In fact, there is a whole meadow filled with Sessile Oaks, but this is the most impressive. Seven sinewy men would be enough to encircle it with their hands.
On your way from Rupea to Homorod, just when you get out from Mercheasa, there is a dirt road on the right. When you get to the first fork you must go on the right. It’s approximately 400 or 500 meters until the end of the road, where there is a parking too. From that place you go right, through the trees, 3 or 4 minutes and for sure you will be able to spot the big oak.
We love to spend the summer days there. It’s for the way that the sun touches you, and for the deep silence that can only be disrupted by the sound of a cowbell, brought by the wind.
And if you make it until Mercheasa we advise you to stop in Rupea, for the restored fortress, because you will be blown away by the view over Transylvania’s hills.
Mosna (Moșna)- Here you can encounter the first bio Romanian farmer
Since we have met him, it is eight years already, our friend Willy (local pronunciation Vili) Schuster has been a source of inspiration for us. His determination is amazing and we finally got to understand the meaning of sustainable farming. He got back in Romania and with his wife, Lavinia, they managed to restore a household in Mosna where they successfully make bio farming. Furthermore, we share his idea about downshifting (here you can find a video with his perspective…), and when the time comes for us to leave from Bucharest, we would really want to move to his community.
You can find Willy on Facebook here, and after you make a tour of the fortified church from Mosna, you can pay them a visit too. If you want to have a delicious lunch you can also arrange with them in advance and you will get to have a great culinary experience in their shed. You can also buy their local Bio-products, dairy (the cheese is sensational), jams ( you should try the rose jam), and also some other types of local beauty products made by Lavinia. If you want to stay for the night, he is the one who can help you with accommodation in an old Saxon house, but well restored.
Cincsor (Cincșor) – The determination to rebuild a community
Heading south from Mosna village you will travel on one of the most popular roads from Romania. You will find a lot of virgin nature and many fabulous Saxon villages like Pelisor or Bârghiș. On your way, you will pass by Cincu village (it’s famous for the military base force) and after this, you are going to discover Cincsor village, it’s a community revitalized in the last few years by some visionary minds.
Beyond a simple and accurate architecture, we are always inspired by a lot of determination coming from any kind of talk with Carmen Schuster (it’s only a name coincidence with Willy), the founder of Transylvania Guest House. She and her husband came from Germany and they turned the old Evangelical school (a vision from 1910 of the architect Fritz Balthes), the parish house and another Saxon household into guest houses.
It’s a must to start your journey here with a visit to the fortified church. In the hot days of summer, it feels great to hide away from the sunlight in the shade of the secular walls. Afterward, you could stop by the Guesthouse for lunch or you may stay a few days. When we are nearby we always stop for lunch because we love Chef’s Adrian Boscu food, you can discover the local flavors from the Transylvanian food or reinterpretations of international food.
After the amazing gastronomic moment, we recommend you to retreat in the library, which is one of the most spectacular places that we have ever found in Romania. You can spend the mornings on the hill nearby, for a beautiful view of the village.
Because you are in the area, we advise you to visit also Fagaras Fortress, in the center of Fagaras. It has been restored excellent.
Malancrav (Mălâncrav) – The spectacular mansion
If someone hadn’t told you or you had read somewhere that you can go left at a point on your way from Sighisoara to Medias, you would have never thought that in a village at the end of the county road you would encounter the remarkable Apafi Mansion. (here you can find its history). The team from Mihai Eminescu Trust have made a remarkable job by restoring the mansion and for sure you will feel there like in the movies. The view of the mansion is completed by the houses in the area and also by the evangelical church in the vicinity. It’s a place that is worth visiting.
When we got there it was closed, but we had a great time in the garden with a fountain, and we could glimpse something in the interior through the windows. Later we found out that the entire place was a guesthouse and you can reserve (using Experience Transylvania’s portal) a room in the mansion ( the price is approximately 65 euro\night for an adult and €32.5 for children and to this price you can add breakfast and other meals). We promised ourselves that we would come back someday at least for a night because the place is from another world.
Biertan – The most representative fortified church
Biertan was for 300 years the headquarters for the Saxon episcopate and one of the most powerful peasant fortresses, and today is the place where the amateurs can explore the most representative fortress of this kind.
Either you head to Biertan from Richis or from the national road, you will see from a distance the hill where the church is situated on. When speaking of restoration, we can definitely say that is one of the most successful projects. It’s a pleasure to go up by foot through the tunnel with old wooden stairs and then to explore the church and the 600 years old walls.
From our point of view, the best experience in Biertan is to climb on one of the hills that surround the village and to admire the view in autumn colors or in the summer morning mists. We have been on the left hill, as you look to the south, in order for you to get there when you arrive at the visitor’s center you turn right on the dusty road, you get to a yard with a transformer, you open the metallic gate and you start to go up through people’s gardens until you can admire the meadow and the peace around.
Accommodation in Biertan is basic, we stayed two nights at Pensiunea Unglerus and I can’t really tell that it’s a traditional place in the area. Also, the restaurant with the same name isn’t compatible with other places that we will talk about on this page, but it can be an option if you arrive in the neighborhood at lunchtime.
Mihai Viteazu, Saschiz village – Haller Castle
In Mures county, there were 25 castles that belonged to Hungarian rich people ( the Hungarian nobility that ruled the county – from 15th century until the First World War). 22 of them lasted until nowadays but as ruins.
This is also the case of Haller Castle, situated on the last curb in the village Mihai Viteazu, as you head to Sighisoara. It may be confused with a haunted house if you drive with speed, but it’s not. The castle has been nationalized after the war, during communism, but now it looks like a stable because the local man that bought it didn’t know about its history.
It isn’t safe to stop the car in that curve, but you can stop up ahead on the left and after a few steps you can get out of the car near the sad castle. Somewhere on the right side, there is a ladder that 2 years ago seemed safe, in this way you can make it in the inner courtyard and you can explore the castle. It would be a good idea not to walk in the rooms’ interior because the floor can break (if it’s not already broken), but if you have a flashlight you can admire the remains of the old scenery.
Viscri – a place with fame
For sure this is the community with the most efficient PR, it’s a place that is worth visiting, but it’s a bit overpriced. Unfortunately, the dusty road until you get to the village isn’t too friendly and it’s the same either you come from Rupea or Bunesti. So, arm yourself with patience and if it’s possible for you to come with an SUV, it would be better.
Mihai Eminescu Trust, with Prince’s of Wales involvement, has done a wonderful job, and now Viscri it’s the first community almost entirely restored. The change came due to the involvement of the local people too.
After wandering the alleys of the village it’s the perfect time to climb towards the fortified church and to enjoy the beautiful view from the tower. On your way to the fortified church, you can also discover the local products (toys and clothes), in front of the gates. To satisfy our hunger we ate at Viscri 78, it was a good experience with some old ladies who cook traditional food and quite tasty.
Cund – the way that a German family put this place on the map
We think that it is a must to visit this place for two reasons. The most important is the gastronomical one because we have never tasted such food on the Transylvanian land except for Jonas Schäfer’s cuisine. The second reason is linked to a better understanding of good tourism practices, you have the chance how Jonas and his wife Ulrike have revitalized the community and Cund is officially on the top of sophisticated touristic places.
They have set their entire Cund experience under the name Valea Verde. They have bought a chain of restored Saxon houses where you can stay overnight. When you go beyond the large wooden gates it seems that you enter another world. They have kept the architecture, but they kept the interior beautiful and simple. IKEA elements are present too but they fit in perfectly. In fact, you will encounter IKEA style in other Transylvanian communities but it helps to keep the common sense.
Accommodation in Cund is good, but the food is sensational. Maybe they deserve to be selected as members of the famous Chaîne des Rôtisseurs. The truffles, the local food, the steaming bread, the local wine, they are all a delight.
The place is expensive, you must keep that in mind, and the customer service is sometimes lefty because of the local people’s lack of experience or of the linguistic barriers created by the Hungarian language, and things in the kitchen move too slow sometimes.
Undoubtedly, Valea Verde is a place where you must make a stop and if you have chemistry with all that you can find there, stay for the night to climb the hills.
You are going to save at least 30 minutes time on the road if you turn left on your way out of Dumbraveni village and you drive the 4-5 km over the hill with dirt road.
Gherdeal – The ghost village
Because I had read an article and I found out that the properties in Gherdeal village were sold very cheap (€500), I’ve searched for more information about this place. The problem is that the village is depopulated, the statistics say that only 7 people live in the village.
It is worth exploring the ruins from Gherdeal, the cultural house with its crashed interior or the church on the small hill from the center of the village, a church that still waits for the village to be brought to life. This special place it’s a different kind of experience and although it’s quite sad, in the end, you will have seen another perspective of the Saxon villages.
Sona (Șona) – The mysterious hills
About Sona I found out from the Romanian painter Stefan Caltia, this village it’s his native village and also his muse for many of his works. The village is known and placed on travelers’ maps due to the 8 hills, of over 30 m high, and nobody can explain their origin.
When people cannot find an explanation based on science, there is always room for suppositions and legends. But we won’t mention them here, we only want to let you know that it’s a good idea to explore this place on a summer day and to lie down at sunset or in the morning on the grass, where the view of Olt River, Fagaras town, and a yellow plain is spectacular.
It’s true that Somartin isn’t like Gherdeal yet, but here we have experienced something really nice because man consecrates the land. We arrived there on a rainy autumn day and we stopped in the center of the village. We explored the school, which was in ruin, with the walls shivered by the layers of paint dried during the year.
Although the Evangelic church seemed deserted, we knocked at the door, an old man answered and he let us inside. It’s clear that the building is a long-lasting one because that is how they built it in the XVI century, but the interior is like a warehouse. A reason for this situation may be the fact that there are only a few religious people left in the village and the priest rarely comes to the village.
That old man was great, he climbed with us in the steeple and in this way we got the chance to found out stories and legends of the place. You can climb up to the top but you have to pay attention to the stairs because they are not in a good state. Telling stories about the historical buildings, we convinced him to take a tour also in the nearby cultural house but also in the headquarter of Raiffeisen Bank from 1900.
Other beautiful places with their magical stories
We also recommend you to make a few stops to Valea Viilor, Prejmer or Saschiz, in order to explore the fortified churches. In Prejmer you will find the most preserved church and in Valea Viilor you can climb up to the bell tower to enjoy the beautiful view of the village.
We really like Alma Vii in the short visit that we have made there because it’s situated somewhere at the end of the road, with beautiful old houses situated at the foothills.