Forget the rest of Europe, Romania is hiding all the castle and red-tile rooftops you’re looking for. Come take a day trip to this magically medieval Romanian village and feel like you’ve stepped into a postcard.
I’m a big fan of Europe in general. There’s something about the history and the architecture that’s pretty enchanting, but I was floored when I visited Romania. I’m not sure why the world isn’t talking about the towering medieval castles, delightfully charming Old Towns, and picturesque villages that are dotted all over the rolling green countryside. While some countries in Europe can be seen with a quick trip to the capital, the real charm of Romania are hiding in the countryside.
Looking into Romania as your ILP semester destination?
Here’s a glimpse into what volunteering in Romania is all about.
Biertan, Romania is your newest little Romanian village to check out. It’s one of the most photogenic, with a huge fortified church towering over the red-roof topped homes. Time your visit right in summer, and this scene is surrounded with bright green hills. Since it’s just around next to another city ILP volunteers love visiting (hi, Sighisoara) here’s your guide for a quick day trip to this gem:
- What’s Worth Seeing In Biertan
- Take A Biking Tour
- Getting Here
What’s Worth Seeing In Biertan
The Imposing Church
Easily the most iconic symbol of the village, this church is hard to miss. The church is actually quite the complex, home to several towers, a couple of courtyards, and a collection of museums home to some fascinating bits of history. it’s the number one thing to see in Biertan for a few reasons.
The first mention of this village was way back in the 13 century, and this church is thought to be around since then. The outside is imposing, towering high above all the other structures in the area and is utterly massive. But peek inside? Heaven-high vaulted ceilings and a golden organ with over 1,200 pipes. Visiting the church also isn’t complete without exploring a few of the towers around the church: There’s a clock tower, a bell tower, and a bacon tower … but while you’ll find clocks and bells, you won’t find any bacon. There is a cafe though, if you do get hungry. The church area is also home to a cemetery where several bishops were laid to rest (the Biertan Fortified Church was the seat of the Saxon Bishopric for almost 300 years). See this section of history in the mausoleum tower.
Another pretty fascinating bit of history? The matrimony tower. During a 300 year period, when couples were fighting and wanted to divorce, the two were kept in this tower with had one bed, one plate, one spoon, one bowl, etc. You get the picture. Reports say that couples were kept inside for six weeks, and the tower was more than successful on reducing divorce rates. It’s said that during this time only one couple every divorced. You’ll have to check out the space which is now a little museum.
June Through August : Tuesday - Sunday: 10:00 AM to 1:00 PM, then 2:00 PM to 7:00 PM (Saturdays are open 10:00 AM to 1:00 PM then from 2:00 PM to 5:00 PM
November through April: Tuesday - Sunday: 11:00 AM to 3:00 PM
May, September - October: Daily, from 10:00 AM to 1:00 PM, then 2:00 PM to 7:00 PM
Cost: 10 Lei
Walk To Copsa Mare
Okay, so technically this is a totally different village than Biertan but it’s so close, you’ll have to come visit. If you haven’t had your fill of tiny villages with huge Gothic churches, you can walk over to Copsa Mare. It’s about 2 kilometers away down a panoramic road and is another settlement that’s been around since around 1200. Supposedly, history says that the villagers in Copsa Mare wanted a church to compete to with the one in Biertan, so now you have neighboring churches that are worth seeing.
In Copsa Mare, there’s another impressive fortified church has a history of hundreds, though the long history of this place is starting to show). But history aside, this place is like stepping back in time. Known for the vineyards that used to cover the rolling hills, Copsa Mare is idyllically stunning. If the church is open when you’re visiting (there are irregular hours, balancing restoration projects), see if you can get access inside to climb up the tower for a view of the whole village before walking back to Biertan.
Cost: a 5-10 lei donation is suggested if you enter the church
Take A Biking Tour
The pace of life here is slow, an idyllic glimpse into what countryside life used to be like all over this country. You might run into more carts pulling piles of hay than cars here — which is why touring the city and the nearby villages by bike is one of the best ways to experience this part of Romania. Cycling Tours are pretty popular, with day-long and multi-day options that take you from Sighisoara, over to Biertan, through Copsa Mare, and a couple of other spots. Transylvanian Cycling is one of the most popular options that arrange it all for you, with 1-day tours for groups (3-6) people for €70/€60. It’s a pretty unique way to head to explore this part of the country with a guide who can show you all the off-the-beaten path things, like honey stands to taste some local honey, peeking into traditional Transylvanian homestays, and tours to these impressive churches.
If you want to do it yourself, you can rent a bike in the nearby town of Sighisoara (more on that later). It’s about 18 miles away from Biertan, so it should take you around 3-4 hours to reach Biertan, then time to ride back after you tour the small village. This company charges 60 lei for a full-day rental.
Peek out guide to Sighisoara because it's the best jumping off point to Biertan, since it’s only about 20 miles away and is already somewhere our ILP volunteers love visiting. Seriously, you could spend a whole semester traveling all the little villages in Romania because Sighisoara is really close to another favorite spot, Brasov… and THAT city is really close to a handful of others. See the dilemma? Romania has some other cutest villages around. But enough of that, here’s how to get there from Sighisoara.
Your best bet is to hire a taxi or an Uber. We can get to public transportation options in a minute, but the drive is about 30 minutes long, and shouldn’t cost more than about $20. Split that with a few people in your ILP group and you are set. Another option is to bike to Biertan, which we have info about above (the scenery around the countryside here is mad pretty).
If you’re sold on relying on public transportation, you’ll need to take a train from Sighisoara to the city of Medias. It’s about a 42 minute train ride that will only set you back $2. Book tickets here. Once you are in Medias there is a daily bus with a handful of departures who will take you to Biertan. Check schedules here.
Thinking you need some time in Romania?
You can't go wrong: this country is full of the most well-kept secrets in Europe, which loads to do for an entire semester here. Volunteers are spending part of their time in an orphanage, call Romania home for a semester, and come home with adventures you can't get anywhere else.