Self-guided hiking trip between the Saxon villages and towns

 

dates can be chosen free between 1 Mai and 31 October

Sibiu was the cultural capital of Europe in 2007

Sibiu (Hermannstadt), the large square
Sibiu, the large square with Brukenthal museum left
fortified church in Valea Viilor
Cisnadioara (Michaelsberg) with chapel on top of the hill
the frog (sandstone formation) in Cisnadioara (Michaelsberg)
Rasinari
Gura Raului
ruins of the impressive fortress in Slimnic (Stolzburg)
church in Ighisu Noua (Eibesdorf)
fortified church Mosna (Messchen)
the guesthouse in Nemsa

 church in Richis (Reichesdorf)

village Richis (Reichesdorf)

fortified church Biertan (Birthalm)

millions of flowers are coloring the fields
Sighisoara (Schassburg) above and below

Hiking trip with accent on history and culture. The hikes are light, 4-5 hours. At some places there is the option to make a moderate hike (6-7 hours) 

 

Siebenburgen is the name the Saxon settlers gave to the region between Brasov, Sighisoara and Sibiu. They came in the region in the early Middle Ages. The first colonists should have been Flemish, Walloon, French and Dutch farmers. They most likely remained behind during or after the first crusade in the 11th century. The  Saxons came later and were the biggest group, absorbing the others. They constructed and organized the country. This is clearly visible in the beautiful medieval towns Sibiu and Sighisoara. These old medieval towns were impressive fortified bastions against Ottoman and Tartar invasions. Even the small villages had their fortified churches. All this can still be seen today.

 

More then with other trips, the calm and rest of the pastoral landscape, the thousand of flowers, the aroma's, horses and carts, hay stags, herds of cattle and sheep in contrast with the centuries old walls, heavy oak beams and the serene silence of the massive fortified churches will impress the hikers.

 

The hiking trip starts in Sibiu (Hermannstadt), once the best fortified town east of Vienna. Not less then 7 ring walls with bastions and towers protected the town. A big part of these fortifications can still be seen today. There are beautiful museums, impressive churches and you feel you really went back in time when you wander along the narrow cobblestone streets of the town. To the south of the town is the Astra open air museum where original buildings from all over Romania are reconstructed in a splendid environment. During summer a lot of festivals take place in the museum. The town was cultural capital of Europe in 2007.

 

The trip brings you further south to the villages Cisnadioara (Michaelberg) Rasinari and Gura Raului. After that you hike between the villages  Valea Viilor (Wurmloch) and Mosna (Messchen). It goes further over Richis (Reichesdorf) to Biertan (Bierthalm) and Copsa Mare. You end your trip in one of the best preserved medieval towns of Europe: Sighisoara (Schassburg). There are numerous medieval houses, towers, and the fortifications still exist for the big part.

 

   The real charm of the region are the Saxon villages. Most of them date back till the early middle ages (11th 12century). In that time there were numerous raids from migrating people, invading Tartars and Turks. Numerous times those primitive settlements got burned down and destroyed. Bit by bit the population started to built better and stronger fortifications. Typical for Transylvania is that these fortresses were made around the church and not as in other countries as separate fortresses. The church got a huge defense tower and defense walls were built around the church yard, sometimes up to 3 ring walls. These walls were then extra fortified with defense towers. Provisions for the whole village were stored within the defense walls. Typical is the "Speckturm" the tower where the ham and bacon for the whole village was stored. At some places the local population built also rooms within the walls where they could live during long sieges. Not all of these defense walls do remain, but a lot still exist today and can be visited everywhere.

   During communist times little attention was given to these so valuable constructions and many started to decay. After the revolution the Germans started to restore these buildings. A perfect example of this restoration is the church of Biertan.  The architecture of most of the houses remained unchanged over centuries. The houses in the villages don't date back till the middle ages, but they are rebuilt about every century as an exact copy of the original house. 

 

We've put the accent by this trip on culture and history. Therefore the hikes are easy and can be done by virtually everybody in normal conditions.  

 

You stay overnight in guestrooms and once a hotel-room***, all except one with private bathroom. In Biertan you have a shared bathroom.

 

 

 

You can watch a movie from the region at the following link:

 

film Sibiu - Sighisoara

 

 

 

 

 

 

The program:

 

 

Day 1: Arrival in Sibiu. Accommodation in a charming guesthouse in Sibiu

 

 

Day 2: Free day, visit Sibiu, We have provided a few short trips to visit the town. There are a lot of interesting museums as well of which you certainly should visit the Brukenthal museum (art museum with a very impressive collection paintings under which work of  Peter Paul Rubens and Anton Vandyck)

Het Brukenthal museum: see at http://www.brukenthalmuseum.ro

Accommodation in guestrooms in Sibiu

 

 

Day 3:  Transfer to the Astra open air museum. Visit museum + hiking trip to Cisnadioara. (4 hours hiking). Astra museum is Romania's largest open air museum with dozens of authentic farms, churches, wind- and watermills all set in the beautiful Dumbrava forest. During the summer all kind of festivals take place. After the visit you make the short trip to Cisnadioara (Michaelberg). The trip brings you through the Dumbrava forest. The village Cisnadioara is well known for it's monastery church in Romanesque style on top of the hill high above the village. There is an ethnographic museum. Accommodation in guestrooms in Cisnadioara. 4 hours hiking, almost level

 

 

 

Day 4: Transfer to Rasinari and hiking trip to Gura Raului

Hiking trip at the base of the Cindrel Mountains. Gura Raului is a pure Romanian village, although the architecture of the houses  let's you think otherwise.  Light hiking trip about 4-5 hours, climbing 450m, descending 350m, moderate trip 8-9 hours, 1000m climbing, 900m descending. Accommodation guestrooms in Gura Raului.

 

 

 

Day 5: Transfer to Sibiel and trip back to Gura Raului. Sibiel has an interesting icon museum. The hiking trip brings you at the base and through a part of the Cindrel Mountains. In Gura Raului you can visit a working watermill.  Hiking trip 23km, about 7-8 hours, 750m climbing, 755m descending. Accommodation in guestrooms in Gura Raului..

 

 

 

Day 6: Transfer to Slimnic where you visit the ruins of the impressive Stolzenburg fortress. You will be brought further to Valea Viilor with its impressive fortified church. From Valea you make a nice trip through the beautiful pastoral countryside over the village Ighisu Noua (Eibesdorf), Mosna (Meschen) till Nemsa. Mosna has the biggest fortified church from the region. All these villages were in the past purely inhabited by the Saxon population.  Distance 15km, 6 hours hiking light hiking. Accommodation in a very nice guesthouse in Nemsa.  

 

 

 

Day 7: Hiking trip from Nemsa over (Richis) Reichesdorf to Biertan. The trip brings you again through the splendid countryside with patches of scattered forest, pastures and farm fields. Biertan has the most impressive fortified church with several defense walls. It was in the past the seat of the church. Accommodation guestrooms. Distance 15km, 5-6 hours hiking.

 

 

 

Day 8: Roundtrip in Biertan. You make a nice and easy trip to the neighboring village Copsa Mare (Grosskopisch) The village has also an impressive fortified church in a complete different style as the one in Biertan. You stay again overnight in guestrooms in Biertan.

 

 

 

Day 9

Transfer to Sighisoara, visit town. Short transfer by car to Sighisoara. The uniqueness of Sighisoara is that the town remained virtually unchanged over the centuries. You should certainly visit the "church on the hill", the several fortification towers, the clock tower. You'll get a very detailed description of what there is to see in Sighisoara. Accommodation: hotel room in the old town.

 

 

 

Day 10

End of trip, if you have to travel back to Sibiu, there are 5 trains a day, one in the early morning, one around noon, two in the afternoon and one in the evening. All train journeys take about 2 hours.

We can organize private transport as well, cost is about 60 Euro for the trip, there is place for 4 people in the car.

 

 

 

 

 

Astra museum

During the summer all kind of manifestations take place. You can find here all kind of objects, costumes, and music instruments from all over the country

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

You hike in 2 different regions, partly to the south of Sibiu en a part between Sibiu and Sighisoara.

 

 

 

 

First part of the trip goes from Sibiu to Gura Raului

 

 

 

Second part of the trip starts in Valea Viilor and ends in Biertan

Price: (10 day program - 9 nights)

 

545 Euro pro person. 6 nights in full board, 3 nights bed and breakfast (minimum 2 persons.) 

Price includes all transfers (start and ends in Sibiu), luggage transport, documentation package. 3rd and more persons:  495 Euro/ person

Children (between 3 and 12) travel for 345 Euro.

 

Single traveler: 105 Euro supplement

 

Accommodation in Sibiu: guestrooms in a small charming pension. (downtown, bed and breakfast)

Cisnadioara, Gura Raului, Nemsa: guestrooms with bathroom (full board)

Biertan: Guestrooms with shared bathroom (full board)

Sighisoara: Hotel Sighisoara***, a splendid new hotel in the old town, bed and breakfast

 

How to get in Sibiu: (we'll arrange transfer Sibiu - Gura Raului and back)

 

By plane: Direct flights to Sibiu:    

                   Blue Air from Stuttgart, London Stansted, Madrid

                   Austrian Airlines (Tarom) from Vienna

                   Lufthansa  (Tarom) from Munchen

                   Carpatair (via Timisoara) from several Italian and Spanish airports

                    

                    to Cluj Napoca (wizz Air, Blue air and by train to Sibiu)

                    to Bucharest and by train to Sibiu.

 

By train: Bucharest - Sibiu: Dep 09.42 Arr 15.30 or 15.30 Arr 20.57

                 Sibiu - Bucharest: Dep 06.18 Arr 12.15 or 14.37 Arr 20.45 

 

                 Cluj Napoca - Sibiu: Dep 10.10 Arr 14.14 or Dep 15.55 - Arr 20.48,  

                 Sibiu - Cluj Napoca: Dep 12.26 Arr 16.15 or Dep 15.56 Arr 21.16

 

By car: Highway Budapest - Szeged - Arad - Sibiu or Budapest - Oradea - Sibiu

 

Cultural Capital of Europe in 2007

The large square with Brukenthal Palace (now the most important art museum in Romania), the town hall and  and the Catholic church

View over the old town with in the background the new town with high rise building. Further in the background the Carpathian mountains.

 

 

Sibiu is called Hermannstadt in German, Nagyszeben in Hungarian, and Cibinium in the Latin medieval charters. The town was founded at a strategic position in the valley of the river Olt, close to the Turnu Rosu (Roten Turm, Vöröstorony, Turis Rubee) pass through the southern Carpathians.

The town grew on an ancient Roman settlement, named Cibinium. As over the whole Transylvania Neolithic findings prove that the region was inhabit already for thousands of years. Most history books will write that the Hungarian king invited the Saxons to colonize the deserted region. This is only partly correct. There is evidence that there were already colonists before this invitation. It seems that the theory that these early colonists were crusaders from the People’s crusade looks more correct. The large group of Saxon settlers that arrived a century later absorbed these crusaders and from then on all these colonists were named Saxons. They founded villages and towns and made trade with the west. The treat of the invading migrating people from the east and Turks obliged the Saxons to defend their towns. The Hungarian king send in the Teutonic Knights to organize the defense and to built a series of fortresses. They successfully kept the Cumans away from Transylvania. The devastating Mongol invasion from 1241 forced the people to fortify their new homeland even better. The colonized land was then called Siebenburgen and also around this name there are some mysteries open

Sibiu grew over the years to the best fortified town east of Vienna with at some places 7 rows of ring-walls. The town flourished as it was the border town between the Catholic Transylvania and the whole west and the Orthodox east. Thanks to its defense structure, the town was never captured. The history of the town was more or less similar with towns in the west. Guilds were created and trade flourished, not only for the town but also for the surrounding villages. 

Once the political and administrative organization of the Saxons was structured, Sibiu becomes the head quarter of The Saxon University, coordinator of all German communities (16th-19th. c)
When Transylvania was subdued by the Austrian - Hungarian, Sibiu becomes the capital of the Principality (1692 - 1791; 1849 - 1867). Sibiu's connections with the West and East of Europe generated it as an outstanding factor of culture and civilization.

Schools, libraries, hospitals, cultural societies raised its prestige. In 1791, after the edict giving the right to Romanians and Hungarians to settle down inside the walls of the city, Sibiu became one of the most important cultural and religious centers for the Romanians in Transylvania, playing an important role in accomplishing the unity of the Romanian national state (1st of December 1918).

the Hermes house, small square

 

The town grew around the initial lower town (Orasul de Jos) and around the Evangelic Church at the Huet Square in the upper town. After the damages caused by Tatars invasion (1241 - 1242), the survivors decided to reinforce the system of fortifications. During the 13th & 15th centuries, two fortified quarters develop in the Upper Town, including The Small Square and then The Large Square and a wide area on Cibin upper plateau. The lower town is also included in the fortification. The walls and portals of the town here reinforced with towers and bastions. 
The whole fortified area in the 17th century is of 72 ha, Sibiu being the most powerful fortified city in Transylvania, compared to Vienna that had a fortified area of 92 ha.
The length of the walls measured over 4 km. There were four strongly fortified gates - Cisnadie, Turn, Ocna and Gusterita - five bastions, five artillery platforms and 39 defense towers transformed the ancient medieval town into an almost unconquerable stronghold. 

An important part of these fortifications still stand today.

the old butchers house

Thalia Hall, or the old theatre, in the restored thick tower

What to visit:

 

The Large Square 

is the historic center of Sibiu, first time mentioned in 1411 as corn market. The public executions and public meetings used to be held here. The square has a length of 142 m and a width of 93 m, being one of the largest in Transylvania.
Facing west is found the beautiful Brukenthal Palace (1789) which hosts the Brukenthal National Museum, and next to it is the Blue House, a baroque building from the 18 century. 
Catholic church was built between 1726 and 1738 in a baroque style with classical decorations. The complete renovated interior is magnificent with its gold-laced walls and colorful frescoes on the ceiling. Intricate stone carvings cover much of the nave and the side altars and colonnades are made of pink marble. There is the tomb stone of Otto Ferdinand de Abensberg, commander of Transylvania between 1744-1747. The fresco behind the altar was painted in 1777 by Anton Steinwald. Organ recitals are usually held once a week. 

 

The Council Tower (see picture right)
The Council Tower was built in the 13th century. Its name is related to the next building, which was the first Town Hall of the city. The tower became the entrance gate of the second ring wall. 
At the upper floor, an observation desk allows a bird-eyes view over the historic town and one floor below you can see the clock mechanism.

 

Brukenthal Palace 

Was built by Samuel Brukenthal, governor of Transylvania, in baroque style between 1777 and 1787. He gathered here a vast collection of paintings, antiques, coins, and rare books. The palace hosts the Brukenthal Museum which includes the Art Gallery and the Exhibition of Ethnography and Folk Arts. The Art Gallery was open for the public in 1817, seven years earlier than the National Gallery in London, with 1090 paintings from the collection of Samuel Brukenthal. The Ethnography and Folk Collection is structured in several sectors: The Pottery Room, Textile and Fabrics, Folks Costumes, with two rustic interiors, Wood processing and Icons on Glass
Today the remarkable art gallery contains about 450 paintings belongings to the Flemish and Dutch schools, about 500 paintings representing the German and Austrian schools and 200 Italian paintings in different styles starting with Renaissance. The Romanian collection contains 1500 pieces, mostly signed by academic painters whose names are part of the national heritage. The entire collection reaches the imposing number of 10,000 pieces. Brukenthal's own collection, displayed on the second floor, comprises European paintings from the 15th C - 18th C. It is particularly strong in Dutch and Flemish paintings and scenes by Caravaggisti. 

The council tower

Brukenthal Museum

The History museum

Owns a rich collection counting 250,000 exhibits from various fields: medieval, numismatics, medals, antique and medieval lapidariums. It includes as well a medieval weapon exhibition. The building was built in 16th century in Renaissance and Gothic style. 

Orthodox Cathedral. 

Built between 1902 - 1906 in a similar style with the Saint Sofia Cathedral from Istanbul. On this place was a Greek Church built in 1778. The architects were Virgil Nagy and Iosif Kamner from Budapest. Fresco paintings were made by Octavian Smigelschi and Arthur Coulin. The interior is dominated by a massive gold chandelier, about which swirl wisp of incense and neo Byzantine decorations. At the entrance a massive carved door that bears a German insignia. This is the second largest Orthodox Cathedral in Romania.

The Huet Square 

is surrounded by historic buildings built in gothic style and the square is dominated by the Evangelic Cathedral. (see picture left)
This impressive cathedral was built between 1320 and 1520 on the place of an old Romanic basilica from the 12th century. With five pointed towers it is one of the most impressive buildings in Sibiu. In front of the cathedral is the statue of Georg Daniel Teutsch, Bishop of Sibiu, erected in 1899. The simple interior is in total contrast to that of the Catholic Church. The gray stone walls create an austere atmosphere that is slightly mitigated by exuberant carving in the vaulting and in the stone epitaphs that are fixed to a wall on the north side of the nave. A gigantic fresco (over 9m high), painted by Johannes of Rosenau in 1445, covers much of the chancel's north wall. The mural shows the Crucifixion and marks a transition in painting from the coldly late Gothic to the more human concern of the renaissance. The cathedral has a choir loft on the south side with a beautiful fan-vaulted ceiling. There is as well an immense Baroque organ designed by a German master in 1671. Six thousands pipes were installed in 1914 making it the largest in Romania. 

Evangelic church

The Brukenthal High School

Stands on the place of the former German School, the earliest school in town (1380). The actual building is dated 1786 and was named after the governor of Transylvania. At that time the Brukenthal-High School was the only school in the county of Sibiu where all the classes are held in German. In front of the school is the statue of Teutsch (erected 1899), bishop of Sibiu.Facing the north side of the cathedral at No 1 is the parish house with a lovely Gothic entrance of interlaced stone, carved in 1502 by Andreas Lapisida. 

Beside the parish house stands one of the oldest buildings in town, the 13th C. Defense Tower and archway through which you can descend once more into the Lower Tower. 

The Small Square 

Is a magnificent place surrounded by preserved medieval buildings and is connected to the Large Square through narrow passages. Ocnei Street divides the square in two and is the main road to the lower town. On the Piata Mica is the Pharmacy museum, Museum 'Emil Sigerus' and Museum 'Franz Binder' as well as The Art House. The Art House is one of the city's symbols. Once the Butchers Guild house and built in 15th c, it dominates the square. The building will host the ASTRA' Transylvanian Civilization Museum. 

Pharmacy Museum: Is one of the oldest pharmacies of the country (dating back 1569) Samuel Hohnemann (1755-1843) was one of the first to practice homeopathy in Transylvania. He developed his treatment in the basement of this house. Some of his phials and plans are on display. The museum disposes the structure of a classical pharmacy that includes two laboratories, one homeopathic sector and a documentation sector. It contains over 6000 ancient medical instruments and dispensing tools from the time when Sibiu had more chemists' than anywhere else in Transylvania. 
At the front, a reconstructed shop is decked out with wooden counters and stacks of glass jars creating the atmosphere of an 18C pharmacy. The furniture is Viennese. Very important is the collection of pharmaceutics jars made of wood with painted marks.

the "liars bridge"

The stairway passage with the cast iron " Liars Bridge" (liars bridge, so called because there is saying that when somebody would tell a lie on the bridge, it would collapse). The Stairway Passage is a very picturesque corner of the town. It makes the connection between the lower-town and the upper-town and was built in 13th century. At one end of the passage stands one of the oldest buildings in town. 

The Franciscan Church: 

The initial building dated from 15th c and in time baroque elements were added. The church was property of the Franciscans since 1716. On the north wall is an epitaph of Hugo von Virmond dated 1722. 

The Ursuline church

Built in 1474 the church was a Dominican Monastery until 1543 when the Lutherans took over. The monastery, known under German name of Klosterkirche, was in 1755 taken by the Ursulines nuns. The Ursulines changed the gothic interior in baroque style (after the roof collapsed). In inside, the church has three altars and beautiful paintings representing various saints.

Nicolae Balcescu street, the main street of the town. The street is now a pedestrian-only shopping-street lined with impressive buildings in Renaissance style, with the  'Imparatul Romanilor' hotel and restaurant and an Art Deco building from the beginning of the 20th c.

The defense towers:

Gunpowder tower (Turnul Pulberariei),  Tanners tower (Turnul Pielarilor)., Thick Tower ( built at the middle of the 16th century and used to be the infantry tower. The first theater in town was opened here in 1778. The tower is recently renovated and the new town theater, Thalia Hall, is made in the tower) Haller Bastion, the Arquebusier Tower, the Potter Tower and the Carpenters Tower. The last two are connected by a well preserved wall built in the 15th century. All towers were well fitted for the use of firearms and have tar holes. 

Ocna gate, disappeared

the Potters tower

the Carpenters tower

old postcard with the 3 towers along strada cetatii

Astra Museum

Astra open air museum: Built between 1963 and 1969 and opened for the public in 1967, the Museum offers an elaborate demonstration of pre-industrial folk technology and development in Romania. The museum is located in the beautiful Dumbrava forest with open meadows, lakes creeks and small rivers. In the middle of the museum, there is a lake of 6 ha that mirrors its surrounding windmills from Dobrogea and the fishermen's buildings from the Danube Delta. Floating bridges are also part of the scenery. This beautiful environment holds the largest open-air museum in Romania with the richest patrimony and the most original thematic concept. It has become one of the most representative institutions of this type in Europe. There are 340 buildings or structures on display including water- and windmills, wine, fruit and oil presses, forges farms and churches, representing architectural styles from all over Romania. 

In an impressive space, of 96 ha, covered by 10 km of walkways, with numerous resting places, there are two permanent and distinct exhibitions, which are clearly from another time and space. One presents the past in the Romanian village in the open air ethnographic museum and the other one reflects this present time with a contemporary exhibition of modern wood sculpture by well-known Romanian and foreign sculptors artistic concept.