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  • Andrei Stoica

A Taste of Transylvania's Fortresses


There are hundreds of medieval fortresses dotting the beautiful Transylvanian landscape, but today we're going to explore just a few of the most famous ones, located around the Eastern Carpathian Mountains.

Some fortresses were built for a purely defensive role, others as fortified churches, ready to defend the local population in case of an attack (and there were many at the time!). Most are located on hilltops in order to better survey their surroundings and make it easier to defend.

Rasnov is a hilltop fortress built in the 13th century as part of a defense system for the Transylvanian villages exposed to outside invasions, strategically located on the route of invading armies. As such, the fortress has commandeering views of the neighboring village, as well as the nearby mountains.

One of the best known Romanian sites is Bran Castle, better known to the world as "Dracula's Castle". It was built at the end of the 14th century and, while its ownership changed over time, it's now returned to a descendant of the royal family who once owned it.

Prejmer is one of the best preserved fortified churches in Romania, founded by the Teutonic Knights in the 13th century. Its massive exterior walls served a defensive role, but were also able to shelter over 1500 villagers when they were under attack.

Viscri stands today as one of the few Romanian villages aiming to maintain the look and feel of its roots. Strolling through Viscri's dirt roads feels like a trip back in time (well, except for the power lines).

You can visit the fortified church at the end of the main street.

Ornate windows can be found throughout the village.

Biertan is a fortified church built in the 13th century by Transylvanian Saxons. Unlike many other fortifications, this one is located in a small valley, not on a hilltop. The church made the list of UNESCO World Heritage Sites of fortified churches in Transylvania.

Rupea is a another hilltop citadel and one of the oldest archaeological sites in Romania, built over the remains of a former Dacian fort conquered by the Romans. Abandoned for many years, it was recently restored and open to the public since 2013.

(photo by Dorin Sveduneac)

Finally, Sighisoara is one of the prettiest medieval cities in Romania, with colorful houses and narrow, cobble stone streets. The old city is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, as well as the birthplace of Vlad the Impaler, better known to the world as Count Dracula.

The clock tower is a prominent feature and visible from almost anywhere in the city.

A good time to visit is late afternoon, when the old walls and streets are taking on a warm glow.

* Historical data sourced from Wikipedia.


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