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The Brasov Depression was known as The Barsa Country. Its name comes from the river Barsa, born from the confluence of Barsa Grosetului and Barsa Tamasului in the Fagaras Mountains. It then flows through a valley that surrounds the Piatra Craiului Mountains, gets some more tributaries which share almost the same name, passes by my house and then it reaches the river Olt.
In 1211 all this land was left in the care of the Teutonic Knights. They were given political and economical privileges and they were supposed to convert the people here to Catholicism. This was the first time that The Barsa Country appears in documents. Shortly after, the knights are cast away, for failing to reach their goals. And then came the Saxons. They managed to fight together with the Romanians and the Magyar tribes here against their common enemies up until the 20th century. For this purpose, many citadels have been built. The majority were peasant fortresses, risen around old churches. After all, the ordinary people are the greatest force. All these settlements had a center and that was Brasov. This old city managed to develop from the very beginning and soon became the largest town in Transilvania. The citadel in the old center can be visited today. I talked about it in The prince and the pauper on the streets of Brasov.
The fortified Protestant Church in Harman
The 1st of March, which symbolizes the arrival of spring, was a cold and cloudy day. Winter seems to have lasted for too long. But on the 2nd the sun finally came out. The birds started to sing. It smelled like spring It was much to beautiful to stay at home. So we decided to take the road and see some of the surroundings, visit something we have waited long to see, something old. We were thinking about the citadels near Brasov. I’ve done my research and established an itinerary. We set off. But our determination and excitement is short lasting. The first objective, a fortified church, is closed. We don’t discourage yet and we move on. The next citadel is closed, too. And so on, until we reach Harman, where we arrived earlier then we would have wanted.
Harman is a village approximately ten kilometers from Brasov. We knew that there is a peasant fortress here, built around a basilica-church. We also knew that all these small settlements developed around their oldest church. So it wasn’t hard to find what we wee looking for. We parked our car and we circled the walls. We reached the entrance, which is something like a tunnel that leads in front of a massive door and which we find…locked. We were already convinced that history was repeating itself. We took a better look around and we saw a note saying that it might actually be open and that we have to ring a bell for the keeper to come out and open it for us. The day was rescued! We paid the entrance fee and started to take pictures.
The citadel is much more beautiful and complex than I had expected. I was thinking about a church surrounded by simple walls. But all around us there are small wooden doors and windows. Many steep stairs go up to tiny balconies that seem to have been made for elves. Of course, they are still renovating. Visitors can only enter the church and the several rooms left open are either empty or under construction. But I actually enjoyed the little I saw from the yard. The walls are full of windows trough which I could see the old galleries that joined the six strongholds together. A great part of the fortifications are doubled by storage rooms, set on two levels. I found it very interesting that one side of the church itself was covered in such pantries. These were also used to shelter the locals in case of an attack.
We also visited the basilica-church, built by the Cistercian monks in merely ten years, beginning with 1280. It was much colder inside. We are welcomed by some blocks of stone with really old engravings on them. Everything is simple and modest. We see the organ above us, looking towards the altar. The benches are just plain wood logs. The floor squeaks under our feet. I found that the back side keeps something old, there is more stone, the colors are darker and there are small stairs that lead to tiny doors, which are unfortunately closed. It is so quiet.
We went back outside and warmed ourselves under the sun beams. We strolled about the yard a little more and I just couldn’t take my eyes off those funny little stairs I was telling you about. I would have really loved to go up there. We were told that after they finish the renovations they will open the interiors for tourists, too. So…maybe next time. Before we left we stopped for a moment by the well we saw in front of the entrance. It is so simple, just two old pieces of dark wood one holding the other. And there was still water down there.
We leave the citadel and go round it once again. First, they built the church. It was only in 1500 that they began to construct the walls around it and thus give birth to this round shaped fortress. I saw that it is surrounded by a ditch that could have been flooded in case of a threat. It’s a reminder of history between so many new and modern houses.
It seems that spring has finally decided to come. This means that we can go back to being tourists. We will start with a Barsa Country fortifications tour. And then, who knows. There’s so much to be seen…