Bulgaria & Romania: Medieval Times

May 29, 2019 – Sighișoara Medieval City and Biertan Fortified Saxon Church

Sighișoara is considered to be the most beautiful and well-preserved inhabited citadel in Europe, with authentic medieval architecture. In Eastern Europe, Sighișoara is one of the few fortified towns that are still inhabited. The town is made up of two parts. The medieval stronghold was built on top of a hill and is known as the “Citadel” (Cetate), and the lower town which lies in the valley of Târnava Mare river. Charles, our excellent local guide, shows us through the Citadel.

On our way from Brasov to Sighișoara, we make a quick photo stop as we pass the Rupea Citadel on a hill nearby. Stunning scenes like these are not uncommon as we drive through Romania!
Charles, our guide to the Citadel of Sighișoara.
We enter the Citadel through the Tailor’s Tower. The city was defended, not by an army, but by the local guilds. Each guild built and maintained its own defensive tower. Sighișoara originally had 14, nine of which remain today.
Houses within the Citadel of Sighișoara.
Clock Tower in Sighișoara.
Detail of the Clock Tower in Sighișoara. The clock is functioning, and the figures on its four sides still move.
We climb up the Clock Tower and are happy to be able to observe the mechanism moving as the clock strikes 12 noon. See the photo at the top of this post for the incredible view of the Citadel from the Clock Tower.
Detail of some of the moving figures in the Clock Tower of Sighișoara.
Continuing up toward the church at the top of the Citadel of Sighișoara, we pass the house where Vlad Țepeș (Vlad the Impaler, also known as Dracula) was born in 1431.
We make our way up to the top of the Citadel by climbing up a covered stairway.
Interior of the Church at the top of the Citadel of Sighișoara.
We have organized a private organ concert at the church at the top of the hill in Sighișoara. This is Theo, the organist.
Theo opens the cabinet at the back of the organ to show how air used to be pumped through the pipes when he was first learning to play. A man would stand on these pedals and have to pump continuously for the duration of the piece.
Theo performs several pieces. He asks me to sit with him and turn the pages and also manipulate the stops during some of the more complicated pieces of music! What a thrill!
After lunch, Charles takes us to the nearby town of Bbiertan to tour a Fortified Saxon Church.
Such churches had three defensive walls around them, and were used as a place of refuge when being attacked by invaders (which evidently happened quite frequently in those days).
The interior of the church has one of the best preserved examples of a “flying altar” (suspended from the ceiling) still in existence.
One of the towers at the Fortified Church in Biertan.
This very special tower was where an early form of marriage counseling took place. Any couple considering a divorce in Medieval times would get locked in this tower together for a period of two weeks.
Inside is a single bed, a single serving set, everything to force the couple to communicate and cooperate. If at the end of the two weeks they had not reconciled, a divorce was granted. Few ever were.
View to the main square of Biertan from the Fortified Church. Notice the large bird’s nest on the roof of the building on the far left?
The nest belongs to this stork who is tending to the newborn babies.
View back to the Fortified Church from the main square of Biertan.

Time has gotten away from us today, and rain clouds are rolling in, so we continue directly to our next overnight destination in Sibiu, passing Valea Viilor and another example of a Fortified Church that had been on our itinerary.

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