One of the largest regions in Romania is Transylvania having 55,146 km2. It is placed between Oriental and Meridional and Western Carpathians. The Transylvanian Plateau is situated at a height having 300 – 490 m in average. The old history of this region shows that the most of the Free Dacian tribes lived in these mountains and highlands. After the Geto-Dacian tribes were united in a single state, its capital was chosen in Orastie Mountains (on territory of Transylvania). Following the two wars against Roman Empire, Dacia became a Roman province with the capital at Sarmizegetusa fortress (Regia fortress). The archeological finds show here a complex of buildings and defense walls dated around 100 B.C. In 106 A.D. the citadel was destroyed by the Roman army and it was built Ulpia Traiana at a distance of 20 km far away. You must know that the Metropolis of Dacia contained over 20,000 inhabitants which means that it was a powerful center in the whole region.
Later people living in this area had to face waves of migrating people as Goths, Gepids, Huns, Avars, Slavs, Tartars and many others. Around 10th century A.D. documents show that on the present Romanian territory there were formed three main autonomous principalities : Moldavia, Wallachia and Transylvania. Despite its resistance, Hungarians occupied Transylvania between 11th and 12th centuries and included it in the Hungarian Kingdom. The rulers tried to bring foreign people here (as Saxons) for consolidating their political power, but during the time Romanians succeeded in remaining the ethnic majority in the region. In 1541 Transylvania entered under the suzerainty of the Ottoman Empire and in 1688 this region was conquered by Habsburg Empire.
Romanians were influenced by colonists rules and traditions that is why entire Transylvania is a mix of wonderful customs, habits, architecture, folklore and ancient lifestyles. It is amazing for everyone to see together Romanians, Hungarians, Germans, Serbians, Jews, and many other national minorities. In any city you will go to, you will discover this specific atmosphere. Major cities are : Cluj Napoca, Alba Iulia, Sighisoara, Tirgu Mures, Hunedoara, Deva, Sibiu, and Brasov.
The fortified churches of Transylvania might be interesting for foreign tourists. In was said that nowhere in the world can be found so many reinforced churches as in this region. The explanation is the troubled history full of invasions, wars and foreign rulers until 18th century. You may still admire over 150 fortified churches spread mostly in Sebes, Cluj Napoca, Sibiu, Sighisoara, Medias and Brasov. Old entrenched churches can be found also in Tara Birsei (Birsei Land) and in Prejmer (near Brasov). One of the largest and new-renovated fortress churches is the one built in Biertan after the late Gothic style. It still preserves frescoes dating from 16th century. Since 1993 this church is on UNESCO list of monuments which create the world valuable heritage.
The only one medieval fortress in Europe still inhabited is Sighisoara. Analyzing its history, you will notice that the present town was a Dacian settlement at its beginning (4th – 7th centuries A.D.) and then a Roman castrum. In 12th century A.D. were brought in this area German (Saxon) colonists. In 1191 was built the fortress Sighisoara which was attacked by Tartars in 1241 and destroyed. In the 14th century A.D. there were 25 handicrafts organized in 19 guilds and many different trades flourished here so the town was declared city in 1407 (Civitas de Seguswar). It was the seat of the Saxon march. Each of those 13 towers of the fortress was named after the guild that built it. Today only 9 towers can be seen – to name just a few : The Tailors Tower, The Shoemakers Tower, The Rope makers Tower, and The Tanners Tower.
Clock TowerAlso you must know that in this fortress lived between 1431-1436 Vlad Dracul – Dracula’s Father. In 1438 the town was devastated by Turks. In 1676, 1736 and 1788 there were great fires that destroyed many old houses in the town. It was depopulated by the plague in 1603, 1641 and 1709. Yet Sighisoara was built again every time after the disaster. From 16th century it became a major cultural centre. It is impossible to visit Sighisoara and not to admire the Clock Tower which is still working and singing its songs. These miniatural statues are a delight for tourists coming from all Romania or abroad. Also Sighisoara is one of the most picturesque towns in the country despite its industrial development.
Alba Iulia is placed between Deva and Cluj Napoca at the confluence of Mures and Ampoi rivers, having the piedmont hills of the Metaliferi and Trascau Mountains to the West. The town was developed on a Neolithic settlement. Also in this region were found the ruins of a fortified citadel built in the Iron Age and an ancient Dacian fortress (around 1st century B.C.). During Roman rule, Alba Iulia was mentioned under the name of Apulum because of the tribe’s name who inhabited the whole area. Due to its great importance the place became a Municipium (160 A.D.) and later here was the residence of the general governor. Little by little this town became the largest Roman centre in occupied Dacia. After a few centuries, under the Hungarian rule, Alba Iulia became the capital of the Transylvania province (1541). When the ruler Michael the Brave (Mihai Viteazul) took the power, he declared the city the capital of the country formed by the union of Wallachia, Moldavia and Transylvania.
But the greatest historical event linked by Alba Iulia is our Union in December 1st, 1918. Here people coming from all over Romania expressed their will to form one single unitary national state. The Great National Assembly was convened here and the Declaration of the Union of Transylvania with Romania (formed that time only by Moldavia and Wallachia) was adopted with great enthusiasm, joy, patriotic songs and dances. Today Alba Iulia is a modern economic and cultural city but history is not forgotten. You may visit The Princely Palace, The Reunion Cathedral, The Union Hall, The Union Museum and the Medieval Stronghold (built between 1714-1741). Also if you love nature, you can see many vineyards and orchards in the neighbourhood.
Hunedoara lies at the foot of the Poiana Rusca Mountains which is a guaranty of the beautiful landscapes that can be found here. In 1276 it was mentioned as an important settlement and in 1415 Hunedoara was already recorded as a town. Between 17th and 19th centuries this place had a great industrial development being the main Transylvanian’s iron supplier; the first furnaces were built in 1882-1884. Nowadays this city still remains an important iron and steel centre.
Near Hunedoara you may visit Huniazi Castle (Corvin Family’s Castle). King Sigismund of Luxembourg ennobled in 1409 the Romanian ruler Voicu for his arm deeds and he received Hunedoara domain (the citadel and 40 villages). The castle was built in the 14th century and it is considered to be the most important monument of Gothic architecture in Transylvania. In 1453 Iancu of Hunedoara (Voicu’s son) brought a few improvements to the castle and transformed it into a beautiful residence. Iancu’s son was Matei Corvin (the future king of Hungary) who extended its walls and made other changes to his residence. You will be astonished seeing the Knights Hall, the Diet Hall and the chapel. Some more changes to this castle were made by Prince Gabriel Bethlen (1618-1623) and also after the great fire of 1854. In 1965-1970 an intense restoration work was done here and the historic monument became a public place (a museum).
Brasov city is at 166 km far away from Bucharest, being placed near the slopes of Postavaru Mount (the heart of Romanian winter sports). Many Dacian vestiges were found here. The origin of its name comes from Petcheneg migrating population. The first records of this town dated from 13th century (1235) because it was placed at the crossroads of important trade routes linking Oriental Asian countries, from Central and Western Europe. There were all kind of trades: Transylvanian textiles, metal and wooden goods from Moldavia, expensive jewels made by Oriental artisans, grain and cereals of Wallachia, spices coming from Near East, and so on. Until the second part of 15th century Brasov and Sibiu played a great economic role in the area. At the beginning of 16th century Brasov was the most densely inhabited town in Transylvania with its 9,000 inhabitants. It had 14 churches and chapels, a town hall, an inn, a trading house, two public baths, three hospitals, a library and many workshops. The city was surrounded by defense walls, high towers and 32 bastions.
During the next 200 years Brasov remained the biggest city of Transylvanian region. Nowadays this town is a great industrial and cultural centre of Romania. You may visit here The Black Church (its construction began in 1383 and it was completely finished in 1477), The Merchants’ House, The Town Hall, the old fortifications dated from 15th -16th centuries, and many museums. Bran Castle is the most famous castle in the area, often called wrongly as Dracula’s residence. It was built in 1377 by the merchants of Brasov. From 1920 to 1947 it was the summer palace of the Romanian Royal House. Today this castle is a museum containing exhibits of old documents, maps, measuring instruments, means and many other things used in Middle Age.
Prejmer Fortress is not so far from Brasov. This fortress was surrounded by 12 m high walls, protected by water ditches, by four towers and two advanced reinforcements. There was built a fortified church after the Turkish invasion under the influence of early Gothic. It worth to stay longer in Brasov and enjoy the view and the local history!