There are places whose name brings forth images that make you feel like you have accomplished something. Today we are in Transylvania, how cool is that.
Today was one of the days that I think makes traveling like Ton and I do so special. The day started terribly as we got caught up in rush hour traffic leaving Bucharest. We were crawling along at 15 to 20 kph for about 40 minutes. Then I managed to miss two consecutive turns because the Romanians have an interesting way to do interchanges that is not used any where else in the world for good reason. After we managed to escape Bucharest the next couple of hours were busy but we were moving along at a fair pace.
We then entered the southern Carpathian mountains and passed thru a succession of pretty mountain towns that were geared for skiing and tourism. But we were focused on making it to our stop for the day in Harman. I had read about a campground that is located within the walls of the rectory of the fortified church of Harman.
After a stressful 4 hours of driving we arrived at the campsite, and I was immediately happy. The grounds of the campsite are within the walls of the rectory. The manager of the campsite welcomed us and gave us a tour of the facilities of the campsite and they utilize the buildings of the rectory which is really cool. He stated that the profits from the campsite go to maintaining the church across the street so we immediately felt even better about staying here. On top of that they had a friendly cat who thought she owned the campsite and allowed us humans to use her space as long as we were willing to pet her when she was ready for it.
The fortified church of Harman was originally established in the late 1200’s by German immigrants from Saxony who moved here at the request of the Hungarian rulers of the region. The region was at the edge of the Hungarian empire and was often attacked by Mongols and Ottomans. So the church in the city was surrounded by circular walls that acted as a fort when the attackers showed up.
The walls are extremely well preserved. I am not sure if they have been rebuilt but they feel like you would expect a castle wall to be. Of the many castles we have visited in our turns around Europe these walls felt the most original and authentic. You could imagine yourself defending the place against the Mongols.
The church is not spectacular, but instead feels sturdy. But it felt authentic to the era because it was not overly ornate. One of the touches I really liked was that the seats were mostly rough hewn benches instead of elaborate chairs.
The church allowed access to the bell tower which was about 60 feet in the air. I climbed to the top, and one of the sets of stairways consisted of logs with flat notches cut in the center. Again this felt much more accurate to the era than anything we have seen before.
The final thing that made this place special was one of the seven towers of the wall had been originally built as a chapel, but was converted to a fortification. The frescoes in the chapel/tower have been recently discovered and were quite beautiful.
We had never heard of the Fortified Church of Harman, and if we had not selected the campground we stayed in we would never have visited the site. But it turned into one of the most memorable places we have visited in Europe. Finding places like this is why we put up with navigating rush hour traffic in places like Bucharest with bizarre interchanges and signs we cannot read. It is all worth it when you stumble on to a gem like this. And as a bonus it is in Transylvania.