The day after our trip to Sighișoara, we awoke to even worse weather than we’d had the previous day.

It was very cold and foggy with that annoying type of misty rain and I ended up having to wear both my heavy coat and a pair of gloves.

That, however, did not stop us from going off to visit another UNESCO site.

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The site, called “Villages with Fortified Churches in Transylvania”, is comprised of seven villages.

We chose to go to Prejmer, mainly because it was only about a 20-minute drive from where we were staying in Brașov.

A fortified church is one that serves double duty as both a church and a fortress to defend against attacking enemies.

In the photo above, you can just make out the spire of the church that is surrounded by 13-foot thick walls.

Construction of the church began in the 13th century and the fortress was added about 200 years later.

If you read the Sighișoara post, I mentioned the German influence in Translvania.

The Prejmer fortified church was no exception – it was built by the German settlers.

There is a small fee to visit the site, which at the time we were there was the equivalent of about 2 Euro per person.

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That’s what it looks like inside the walls.

It almost looks like a motel, doesn’t it?

In a way it kind of was.

During period of attack, the townspeople would move to and live at the fortified church.

The fortress had 270 rooms and each family had their own room.

There were also rooms for provisions, which were stored ahead of time, as well as school rooms.

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You can make out traces of wall paintings that were uncovered in this school room.

At one time there was a moat and a drawbridge at the site.

You can walk around the inside of the walls to see how they were defended.

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The openings in the exterior wall were used for thing like pouring boiling tar on the enemy or shooting arrows at them.

One of the more ingenious weapons there is what’s called the death organ.

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This was serious business, so I won’t even make any jokes men slaying people with their organs.

Instead, I’ll direct you to the 5 sort of indentations you can see at the top of the wooden board.

There are another 5 indentations at the opposite end of the board as well.

Apparently they would fill the indentations with “ammunition” made of things like metal and flint, and then rapidly rotate the board to fling the ammo at their attackers.

As the board was rotating, the other side would be quickly filled with additional projectiles, so the enemy was constantly being hit.

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You can see what this all looks like from the outside.

The top slits were for shooting arrows, the lower openings were for boiling tar and the one odd-shaped slot was for the death organ.

It was quite a successful system because the citizens were able to fend off all but one of more than 50 attacks on their town.

Of course you can also go inside the church itself.

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There are a few items of interest inside the church, including this triptych painting.

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Dating from the mid-15th century, it’s the oldest one in Transylvania.

By the way, be aware when exploring this site that safety standards in Romania are not quite as strict as they are in some other countries.

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Things like missing steps or steps with rotted wood did not seem to be of much concern to anyone, so just watch where you’re going. (That photo was taken looking down at a small flight of stairs.)

Our next stop was the Râșnov Fortress, also built by the German settlers (the Saxons).

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We parked at the bottom of the hill and took a little shuttle train up to the fortress.

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Tschu-Tschu is pronounced “choo choo”, by the way, as in the sound a train whistle makes.

The fortress formerly had more than 80 houses within its walls.

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It started out as a means of temporarily protecting the townspeople from attacking enemies.

However, the town ended up being under almost constant attack for years, so the fortress became the permanent residence.

Because of that, a small schoolhouse was erected for the children.

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Because we were there in the off-season, there was not a lot going on at the fortress.

It looks like during the season they have shops and cafés open and demonstrations and shows going on throughout the site.

We did have a little bit of entertainment though.

While walking through the ruins, we heard what sounded like a little kitten in distress and we were afraid one had gotten stuck somewhere.

After searching around for it for a little while, we turned a corner and were greeted by this.

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The cat was yelling and looking at us like “You dumb asses, I wasn’t stuck anywhere – I’ve been waiting here for you the whole time!”

Kitty let us both pick it up and pet it and it sort of followed us around for a while.

It turns out there’s a whole colony of cats there and we were happy to see a worker feeding them while we were there.

The fog was pretty thick during our visit, so unfortunately we couldn’t even enjoy the view from the hill.

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If you peer through the fog there you can just make out the town below the fortress.

Between the fog and the fact that there wasn’t much to do other than look at the ruins, we didn’t linger too long and took the tschu-tschu train back down when we were done.

Summing up the day, I’d recommend visiting the Prejmer fortified church in any weather.

The Râșnov Fortress, though, I’d save for nicer weather during the high season – or at least a clear day so you can savor the views – unless you just have a burning desire to see it.

 

About the author: Trish

 

Website: http://travelsandtipples.com