Study visits, Sunday, May 14th
Saschiz, with its 15th-century church, is part of the World Heritage Site Villages with fortified churches in Transylvania, designated in 1999 by UNESCO. Next to the church, the ADEPT Transylvania Foundation office will welcome us in a multifunctional centre providing support for the rural communities: it’s a center for the development of local markets and eco-tourism, a consultation point for agri-environment schemes, and a grassland conservation centre. While tasting most delicious syrups, jams and other goodies produced in their processing unit, we will discuss how to give these landscapes and communities an economic future and relevance in the 21st century without sacrificing their sustainability and productivity. The agricultural system practised in Târnava Mare represents an important model of sustainable and productive agriculture at a European level. The ADEPT Foundation, founded in 2004, runs an integrated programme that links economic and social benefits to biodiversity conservation, increasing local capacity for good management in the future.
In order to immerse ourselves in local heritage and traditions, we will visit the Saschiz BLUE Ceramics Workshop. It was born from ADEPT’s desire to restore the old Saschiz ceramics center, famous for its blue colour of its products since 1700, and training young people from the Saxon Villagesarea in pottery techniques. Their goal is to revive the production of traditional local ceramics. The local potters will guide you through the sgarffito techniques that we believe were also used by local artists in the 18th century. You can enjoy a unique experience.
Going deeper into the Făgăraș Mountains, we will enjoy a quiet lunch at Cobor Biodiversity Farm, where Foundation Conservation Carpathia will tell us about their efforts to restore an ecosystem. The farm is a great example of how biodiversity conservation, traditional architecture and a profitable business can go hand in hand. The farm is based on the breeding of Hungarian Grey cattle for high-quality pasture-fed beef, as well as horse livery and eco-tourism. This combination allows land use with very low impact and a focus on preserving and enhancing biodiversity.
After the prolonged mass exodus of Saxons from Transylvania, in 1993 the Mihai Eminescu Trust (MET) set about highlighting the precious heritage which was under threat and embarked on saving and restoring abandoned buildings, farms
and fortified churches while keeping local crafts alive. Less than an hour away from Sighișoara, we will have our coffee in Viscri, one of the most renowned Saxon villages in Romania, part of the World Heritage Site Villages with Fortified Churches in Transylvania. Members of MET, The Whole Village Project will share with us their struggles in increasing the quality of people’s lives and maintaining the authenticity of the natural landscape of Viscri village. Their goal is supporting the development of all aspects of village life and agriculture, while safeguarding the underlying principles of conservation.
The largest grassland plateau in Europe, the Breite Reserve has attracted visitors for hundreds of years. It is commonly regarded as one of the largest, most representative and well-preserved wood-pastures with hornbeam and oak trees in Central and Eastern Europe.
After a guided tour in the ancient forest, we will head for Biertan, one of the most important Saxon villages with fortified churches in Transylvania, having been on the list of UNESCO World Heritage Sites since 1993. The Biertan fortified church was the seat of the Lutheran Evangelical Bishop in Transylvania between 1572 and 1867.
After tasting traditional food and discussing administrative challenges with town hall representatives, we will leave the hills of Biertan for the ones of Mălâncrav, where the Mihai Eminescu Trust (MET) will show a reconciliation of old and new in workshops that bring back to life once-thriving crafts: locksmithing and iron forging, masonry, joinery and metalworking, brick and tile making, painting, stucco work and carving, linen making and basket weaving. On the hills of the village there are still old fruit trees that, in addition to the fruits, provide shelter for a lot of creatures that live in a varied and harmonious ecosystem.
We will visit the Palace of Culture in Târgu Mureş which is one of Romania’s most representative and original Art Nouveau edifices. It is an architectural jewel made by Hungarian architects Marcell Komor and Dezső Jakab between 1911 and 1913, harmoniously blending with traditional folk art. Stained glass windows, ceramics and important locksmith work were created by renowned artists and factories at the time, such as Miksa Róth, the Zsolnay factory, Forreider and Schiller. Today, the building is home to the State Philharmonic of Târgu Mureș, with the concert hall, one of the largest organs in Central Europe, the County Library, and several art galleries. It is also a venue for exhibitions and cultural events.
In the Călugăreni Archaeological Park of Mures County, we will enjoy at one of the most important Roman military sites in eastern Transylvania. We can discover the story of the Roman occupation for about 150 years. The Roman fort and the military settlement from Călugăreni are listed on the national attempt list to become part of the Frontiers of the Roman Empire’s multinational UNESCO World Heritage Sites. The archaeological research of recent years has highlighted valuable information about headquarters building (principia) and one of the angle towers of the fort; the bathhouse (balnea) and parts of the military settlement (vicus). Time Box pavilions, which host permanent exhibitions at the site, the Compass Bellevue, or the Corner Points became landmarks in the rural environment and are emblematic buildings of the park. There will be also time for a fine lunch and coffee breaks as well as discussions with local heritage managers.