We all know how most of the tales begin. However, if you ask someone where exactly mythically sounding Transylvania lies, many people will have problems with an answer. And yet it is not that difficult – it may sound fairylike, but it’s a name that defines a real place. More precisely, a land located in the central part of Romania.

Probably good way to get to this exotic country is by train, via Hungary or Ukraine, but it’s really best to go there by car. Traveling this way makes exploration of small villages much easier, and they are really worth visiting because of the monuments. For a few hundred years Transylvania has been a home to a lot of ethnic groups. In the heritage city, Sighisoara, you can hear German and Hungarian, but on the streets mainly Romanian. Narrow and winding streets with colorful houses along them are really eye-catching. In a nearby restaurant Dracula, you can taste delicious wine Murfatlar Otonell, plum praline, and Romanian vodka.

Really worth seeing

Tourists are really impressed by so-called Upper City - the Citadel. You can access it through the Clock Tower, and then enjoy a splendid view from the summit. Among many plates with a number of kilometers to a particular city, there’s also a plate telling the distance to Warsaw – it is 712 kilometers. The citadels have towers covered with tiles. There were particular guilds supervising each tower, that’s where their names come from: the Blacksmiths' Tower or the Butchers' Tower.

Some of the buildings are renovated, other literally decay in the eyes. A lot of the buildings are empty since Transylvanian Saxons moved out. When they went to Germany in the late twentieth century, their homes were settled by Romanians and Romans. What Saxons left were the fortresses, including a wooden one, but also fifteenth century Gothic Protestant church surrounded by a triple wall. The mass is still said in German for the people who remained there. Although there’s just a few of them, they have their own newspaper and architecture which amazes tourists. It's rather easy to understand - where else can you see the rural defensive churches?

The origins of these exotic (as they may seem to us) buildings is quite simple. From the fifteenth to the eighteenth century, a lot of military conflicts occurred in this part of the region, so people eventually had to strengthen their churches. They built warehouses, which enabled the survival of the siege, and they planted some extra fields. The local churches, along with the fortified cities have been enlisted as the UNESCO World Heritage Site. Today, they are often used as an outdoor-scenery for many historical movies. It’s worth to visit the biggest fortified church, located in the old Saxon village of Biertan. It has never been conquered.

Apart from the churches, the Saxons also built the peasant castles, in which they were hiding in case of the attack. They can be compared to modern gated communities. Each family had a separate, numbered room assigned. The best preserved castles are located in towns of Harman and Prejmer.

Wandering through Transylvania, you must visit the people called Székely. This population of Hungarian descent is very easy to recognize - the villages they inhabited are full of colored doors. Each painting is different, and above every door you can see “the tree of life”, a complex pattern serving as an amulet of luck. There is also a motto written in Hungarian. It’s really worth visiting, especially as today there are only few people left, involved in building and decorating gates in this way.

The Bohemia

What about the Gypsies? Although plenty of people may think that they know them quite well, they probably have never seen a real, colorful Gypsy settlement. In the town of Huedin, the eyes are casted upon the roofs of buildings. The residents decorate them with...Mercedes logos. The roofs of Gypsy houses are unforgettable. They are covered with silver sheet metal, and are richly decorated in various, rather not too sophisticated patterns. The stranger the roof and the bigger the house, the richer is its owner. It is not difficult to guess that the Gypsy king lives in the biggest house.

Gypsies occupy a separate part of the city. They live accordingly to their customs, and meet other locals on the market place, where you literary everything can be bought. On such a peculiar kind of market, you can even see the oxen, even though people usually use horses in the villages. As funny as it may sound, oxen and donkeys, just like cars, must have their license plates.

The costs

Speaking of costs, it is worth to remind you, that the best way to go to Romania is by car. Only then you have the chance to visit the twelfth-century stony Orthodox churches located in the valley Hateg, and Roman ruins scattered all over the place. Apart from this, the important information is that the prices are quite reasonable. For food you pay approximately as much as in Poland, however you will buy a lot cheaper wine. Admission fee to the museum will also cost us as much as in Poland. Good hotels have the European prices, but it is much cheaper in small pensions.

So, now you can see that Transylvania is the perfect solution for an inexpensive trip to the past. Of course, being in Transylvania you just cannot skip the visit to Bran Castle. It’s a place where you can buy any kind of gadget with the image of Count Dracula – ranging from a simple cup to a cape. And you can then show off that you have visited the country of famous vampire.

Translation: Karolina Strzałkowska

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