Viscri: The Saxon Village Where Traditions Came Back to Life
With a history that goes back to the 12th century, Viscri is today one of Romania’s most famous villages. Prince Charles’ repeated visits, its UNESCO World Heritage fortified church and the ceaseless activity of the local foundation Mihai Eminescu Trust have helped this small village dust off its last decades of oblivion. Viscri is right now one of Romania’s most popular off the beaten track attractions with plenty of activities for all those curious to discover the typical rural life from Transylvania.
Centuries-old Saxon heritage
Besides its many traditional houses, part of the Saxon heritage of the community, Viscri is best-known for its white fortified church, first mentioned in 1400 as Alba Ecclesia. Historically, the church went through three construction phases. Its earliest foundations date back to the beginning of the 12th century when the local Szekler population built a small church. At the end of the same century, the Saxons took over this church while settling in the region.
During the second phase that started sometime in the 13th century, the Saxons built the main tower on the west side and enlarged the nave of the church towards east. It’s during the third construction phase of the 15th century that the church was fortified, partially preserved until today as some of its fortifications were demolished after the Ottoman threat disappeared.
In the last couple of years, the village was part of an ambitious community project of rediscovering and reviving traditions that almost disappeared from local life. Thanks to this, today you can visit daily in Viscri locals that carry on practicing skills that are usually performed only during museums events. The community was so successful in its project of rediscovering traditions that today they’re part again of local life. The blacksmith brothers will show you how they make horseshoes and nails the old fashioned way, while the hard-working Gheorghita will explain how he burns hand-made bricks and tiles in an incandescent earth oven. Plus, locals still use horse carts and you can always go for a ride to the pastures outside the village, while in the evenings you’ll enjoy a mouth-watering dinner prepared only with fresh local ingredients.
More than just a tourist attraction, Viscri is the best example and success story of well-done community tourism. We can only hope this will be the pattern and not the exception. It also depends on us to encourage this model by visiting destinations based on the values of responsible tourism.
Where to stay
Book the guest houses managed by the Foundation Mihai Eminescu Trust. This way, you’ll contribute to the conservation of the cultural patrimony of the village.
While one day is enough to take a walking tour of the village, take at least two or three days to get to know as much as possible not only Viscri, but also its surrounding villages.
Various cycling trails cross Viscri and you can rent a bike from the village or Bunesti.