A heavenly day – almost literally! She who must be obeyed needed a break from the work she had been doing on and around the house. I reckoned Poiana Merova should have a fair this first Sunday of September – and indeed it did. But such a disappointing one! Cheap chinese baubles; loud music; a few vegetables; and, apart from a pile of aluminium pots, none of the rural instruments I’ve come to expect at fairs. But a sign for Vulkan – mentioned on the map on Saxon fortified churches I had bought in Brasov recently - had us on a stretch of road we had never been on before. And the detour was well worth it. Vulkan village has a clean, lively feel to it – despite the sadly derelict mansion (which turned out to be the German School) on its main street. The young Lutheran pastor gave us a personal tour of the complex – which dates from the 14th century (although the building is 17th). The town was known as Wolkendorf and the enemy was the Hungarians. The complex has been wonderfully restored – with a magnificent organ and superb ceiling and pulpit. Services are held there at 10.00 every 2 weeks in summer (next Sunday is the next) – alternating with the Cristian fortified church. Apparently the services attract 50-70 in summer. In return for my donation I got the annual magazine (in German) and a lovely calendar. It emerged that the derelict school had been leased to a company who had not taken occupation and that the church was now trying to wrest it back from them. Either Bulgaria or Romania, I understood, had a new law which required such patrimony to be properly maintained. Wonder how it deals with a case like this.
Before the day was out we had discovered two more superb old fortified churches from the early medieaval period in our immediate neighbourhood (which I had not previously known about) – Codlea as Zeiden; and Ghimbav as Weidenbach. Cristian (Neustadt), on the Brasov-Rasnov stretch) was already known to us.
Codlea, a few kilometres further on, is on the main road between Brasov and Sibiu – and our guide at its church was a young student who alternated between Romanian and German in her explanations. She left the treasure for the end – a small exhibition of paintings by a local artist Eduard Morres (1894-1980) whose realistic genre is precisely my preferred one. I was able to buy what seemed the last copy of a substantial book on him (in German) with lots of reproductions – but, sadly, can find no pictures online.
A black mark has to go the third place we tried to visit – Ghimbav whose front door was firmly closed and the large notice board on the left bereft of any information about its opening hours. The municipal notice board round the corner was equally unhelpful. After some conversations we eventually established that the key could be obtained from the house further to the left of the church’s front entrance. But that will be for another day.
For a very good sense of what these fortified churches and saxon villages offer see this booklet on Viscri which is just north of Fagaras
Saxon Greenway seems to be a good example of ecological tourism in the Sighosoara area.