Welcome to the first post of Romania Month, where I’ll be highlighting some of the country’s more notable attractions.
I want to start by drawing attention to the fantastic cover and the fantastic thing on the fantastic cover, namely the mother of all Saxon fortified churches in Biertan.
Located in southern Transylvania, within easy day-tripping range of Sighisoara and (less so) Sibiu, Biertan’s truly awesome 15th-century Saxon double-walled church was the site of the Lutheran bishop from 1572-1867 and was declared a Unesco World Heritage site 1993.
No less amazing inside, the church’s sacristy once held treasures that were kept safe by its Doctor Evil-caliber formidable door, outfitted with 19 locks! The astonishing engineering of these locks won first prize at the Paris World Expo in 1900. (Yes, I have a picture and no I’m not posting it. I don’t want to ruin the suspense!)
The church grounds hold several other buildings, including a small bastion which was famously used (according to legend) as a last-ditch effort to discourage couples wanting to divorce. The unhappy couple would be locked up in the bastion for two weeks with only one bed and one set of cutlery. Apparently this method was so successful that only one couple decided to go through with their divorce in 400 years.
Once you’ve absorbed the church’s over-stimulating enormity, take the edge off by visiting Crama Biertan, a scrappy winery on the south end of town. With a little luck and eyelash fluttering, you may score a short tour (in Romanian), otherwise the shop sells bottles starting at one euro.