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Fortress churches and walks in the hills around Biertan

By admin | December 2, 2007

Biertan area map 

Biertan is probably the most famous of all of the Saxon fortified churches in Transylvania, but it is by no means the only one.  There are around 200 in the surrounding countryside of Saxon Transylvania, and even beyond into Hungarian/Szekely Transylvania. 

This page announces walking opportunities between the fortified churches in the villages immediately surrounding Biertan. 

Biertan Fortified Church by Juliana Fabritius-DancuBiertan (Birthälm) itself is situated in a river valley tributary of the Târnava Mare, or Kokelgebiet to the original inhabitants of this area.  Before 1522, the village was the seat of the King Judge of the “Two Seats”, which was then passed to Mediaş (Mediasch).  From 1572 Biertan was the seat of the Transylvanian Saxon bishops for nearly three hundred years.  The fortified church was officially documented for the first time in 1468 and is one of the largest and most beautiful of Transylvania’s defensive fortifications.  The Church is open every day for a small entrance fee.

Dupus Fortified Church by Juliana Fabritius DancuDupuş (Tobsdorf) has about 500 inhabitants.  There are still a few Saxon families in the village, which takes its Saxon name of Tobsdorf from St Tobias, who was revered as the patron saint of the village.  The defensive church, whose 7m high pentagonal surrounding wall was demolished in 1901, is nevertheless worth seeing.  It is a hall church with no tower and was completed in 1524.


Aţel (Hetzeldorf) is larger than Dupuş, having about 1800 inhabitants. Its fortified church stands in the centre of the village and has a gothic, three nave basilica with a flat-roofed central nave - built in 1380.   It has fine stone masonry, probably on account of the past wealth of the village built by the production of wines.

Richis Fortified Church by Juliana Fabritius DancuRichiş (Reichesdorf) church was completed in 1451.  The stone masonry on the walls and roof are superb.  Recently, the Mihai Eminescu Trust has been working to set up a Whole Village Project in the village similar to that successfully initiated in Mălăncrav (Malmkrog) and Viscri (Deutschweisskirch).

The walks:

Biertan to Dupuş:

Time: about 1 hour

Take the main road out of Biertan towards Şaroşu pe Târnave and at the sign for Biertan turn left, up into the woods.  Once you have passed through the wood, go straight on for about 400m and then right in a fork surrounded by trees into the valley.  The path now leads uphill and is curved strongly to the left.  At the edge of the wood, you then have to turn to the right through a meadow to reach the path which leads on the left into the valley towards Dupuş.

Dupuş onto Aţel:

Time: about 1 hour again

From the Church proceed beyond the bridge on the right along the village road in the direction of the main road between Mediaş and Sighişoara.  Once you reach the Dupuş sign at the edge of the village, turn left into the path which leads uphill in a curve to the left into the valley and up to the foot of a sharp incline.  When you reach the top, go left at the pole in the wood and then straight ahead until you find yourself in a broad meadow.  Then, go down to the right past the meadow into the valley leading to Aţel.

Biertan to Richiş (via the wine cellars!) and Copşa Mare:

Time: to Richiş about 30-40 minutes; to Copşa Mare 20 minutes

A relatively easy but highly pleasant walk can be had along the road to both Copşa Mare and Richiş.  The road to Richiş leads southwest away from the main square, and leads you past the communal hay barns and the large wine cellars where grapes are collected from the surrounding villages and fermented, placed in very large barrels and stored in temperature controlled cellars, ready for sale.  The factory is almost directly opposite the hay barns and although it has the look of a forbidding communist edifice, the workers are very friendly, inviting and willing to talk to you about the wines for sale.  They will take you directly to the giant barrels where you can make your choice between a dry feteasca, a medium dry white and a red merlot.  As of 2007, the wines are three years old and rich and smooth, with a currant flavour.  The walk to Copşa Mare is due east from Biertan, past the Romanian Greek-Catholic Church on Strada Avram Iancu, over the stream, follow the road round, out of town and then keep to the road until you arrive in Copşa Mare.

Biertan wine cellarsBiertan hay barns

Other walks:

In Spring/Summer 2008 I intend to add a few more walks, to Valchid, Nemşa, Nou Sasesc and Buzd. 

Topics: Transylvania, Biertan |