The area named the Hills of Transylvania expands around the valleys of the Tarnava Mare, Hartibaciu and Olt Rivers. It is situated between the cities of Sibiu, Sighisoara and Brasov.
The Hills of Transylvania include areas of an important natural value among which 5 sites Natura 2000:
- Sighisoara-Tarnava Mare
- Hartibaciului Plateau
- the Oak and Common Oak Forest on the Dosul Fanatului
- The Oak and Common Oak forest on the Purcaretul Hill
- Oltul Mijlociu River-Cibin-Hartibaciu.
The Hills of Transylvania is a destination that spreads on 237.515 hectares, with a population of around 60.000 inhabitants and includes 44 communes.
The Saxon villages with fortified churches are the most characteristic element in the Hills of Transylvania. There is no Saxon village without a fortified church.
In a restrained space there are an impressive number of fortified churches, over 60.
4 churches are included in the UNESCO World Heritage. These are Saschiz, Valea Viilor, Biertan (as well as a part of the village) and Viscri (the rural site Viscri).
To which it adds up the medieval citadel Sighisoara, also in the UNESCO World Heritage, the main point of entrance in our destination.
The Saxons came to Transylvania around the 12th century. They were sent to defend the region from Tatars and Ottomans as well as to develop the area economically. The Saxon colonisers brought along the western architecture, as the Saxons were skilled craftsmen.
The Saxon houses have thick walls, high rock foundations covered with ornamented and colourful tiles. With large vaulted gates, the houses are aligned, generally along a small river. They look like small fortresses, with an interior paved courtyard.
Around the village central square we can find the church and the parish house, the school, the town hall, and the houses of the rich peasants.
The church situated as central as possible or on a hill, was the spiritual and defensive center of the town.
Originally they are either Roman Basilicas or late Gothic style churches built between the 12-15th centuries.
Because of the Turkish and Tatars attacks, these churches were fortified in the 15-16th centuries, being surrounded with high and strong walls.
During that time towers and bastions with many firing wholes were added.
Above the church door one can still see the first line of a Luther’s Hymn „Ein’ feste Burg ist unser Gott” (A strong fortress is our God).
The church was not only a spiritual place but also a place for refuge and for storing the inhabitants’ goods. At least one of the towers was meant to store the bacon, as there was a constant temperature all year round.
One of the towers housed the bells and the clock. The bells served for events such as marriages and funerals and of course for calling the servers to the church service.
Some churches stand out with their impressive constructions trying to become administrative centres (Biertan, Medias, Mosna). Others stand out with the gothic narrative frescos that are extremely valuable (mid-14th century) – Mălâncrav.
Today, in some churches there are some rooms that were made museums. You can admire here tools, folk costumes, aspects from the village life (Viscri, Mosna, Biertan).
Other objective to visit are:
- castles (at Mălâncrav, Dumbrăveni, Mihai Viteazu, Criş)
- ruins of some monasteries (the Cistercian Monastery from Cârța)
- fortresses (the peasant fortress Saschiz, the Rupea Fortress).
The Saschiz Fortress was also named the Fortress of 7 villages as in times of danger the inhabitants looked for shelter here. They came from Saschiz, Archita, Criţ, Cloaşterf, Daia and Adamsdorf (a small village no longer there), Diavaldia and Abzen (extinct). The fortress had six bastions (of which one was the school tour) and a 50 m deep fountain (nowadays it has only 1-2 m).
Saxons emigrated massively before 1989 (period in which the German ethnics were “bought back” by the FRG) as well as after 1989. The uninhabited places were filled by the Roma minority. Many churches were left empty and useless. Most of the churches were damaged by nature and time.
Nowadays many associations and private persons make efforts to revitalize this heritage and integrate it in the touristic circuit.
On the facade of some buildings you will see the letters M.E.T. It means the Mihai Eminescu Trust supported by His Royal Highness the Prince of Wales. He dedicated himself to the protection of the Transylvanian historic heritage by restoring churches, house facades, paved streets, shops and cultural halls.
The Hills of Transylvania are considered one of the last medieval landscapes in Europa. They are one of the few savage plateaus of small altitude in Europe, where the non-intensive agriculture sustained this abundance of flora and fauna.
Such areas with pastoral landscapes of high natural value are extremely rare outside the mountain areas of Europe. They shelter rural areas of extremely various biodiversity where traditional agricultural practices are still alive.
The plateaus are abundant of wild flowers and butterflies. You can find here 1000 plant species – 30 % of the Romanian flora. The agricultural mosaics, the oak and beech forests where you can see bear, wolf and stag traces, many sheep farms, Saxon villages with fortified churches, they all create a fairy-tale setting.
The best way to explore this area is by bike or by foot. There are 250 km of marked trails that link, over the hills, these picturesque sites. These markings are in the Medias-Sighisoara-Rupea area.
The main trail, marked with red line, follows the top that divides Tarnava Mare from Hârtibaci village. Approximately 100 km of path are arranged especially for bike lovers (they are covered with gravel), the rest being cart roads of asphalted roads.
It is best to inform yourselves before starting your journey, as the paths might be damaged by the forestry exploitations, eroding waters etc.
You can also take thematic tours by bike. Between the Alma Vii-Nemşa – Moşna a circuit take you on the „Marks of St. L. Roth”.
In August you can make a tour on the tuberose plantations in the Hoghilag area or you can discover original landscapes, such as the mounds near Saschiz or Apold.
The area does have other ways of spending your free time. The adventurers may try the velo-draisine or the moto-draisine between Cornăţel and Hosman on a 7 km distance.
During the last years a series of activities brought the tourists’ attention. The projects “Transilvanian Brunch”, “Culture in the shed” or festivals all contribute to promote a sustainable tourism in the region.
It worth mentioning “The Haferland Week” – the largest event dedicated to promote the Saxon culture in Transylvania, the Cabbage Festival in Moşna, the Rhubarb Fest in Saschiz, the Culinary Traditions Festival in Tarnave,
There is also a mobile application “The Hills of Transylvania” that will help you discover the beauty of the region.
Access: the Hills of Transylvania are very accessible from the European and national roads that surround the region.
- The E60 Braşov – Sighişoara goes through the north of the region and DN1 through the south, Braşov- Făgăraş – Sibiu. From Sibiu towards Mediaş and Sighişoara there is the DN14. Various secondary asphalted roads link the villages among them.
- There is also the train option, that facilitates the access in the region from the north on the line Braşov – Sighişoara – Mediaş and from the south on Braşov – Făgăraş – Sibiu.