Malancrav: The Village Where Time Almost Stood Still
Malancrav is a small village that dates from the early years of the 14th century and an absolute must for travelers curios to discover a place where time almost stood still. Surrounded by the dreamy landscape and green slopes of Transylvania, Malancrav is today the village with the largest Saxon population in the region.
Past and present
This cultural bridge to its past makes Malancrav one of the finest villages in Transylvania, where traditions, Saxon architecture, ethnic diversity and local flavors combine to create a unique experience. The history of the village, also known as Malmkrog in German and Malemkref in the local Saxon dialect, is at least 700 years old. Its fortified church and the Apafi Mansion are testimonies of its centuries-old stories and events.
Contrary to other free Saxon village of Transylvania, Malancrav was the property of the Apafi family and locals were part of the serfdom system that was abolished only in the 19th century. The isolation of the village meant, however, that even important news traveled slow and serfdom lasted here for 12 more years.
The fortified church
In Transylvania, you can tell a Saxon village from the distance as you can easily spot its fortified church. Malancrav is by no means the exception. The village has, in fact, one of the most important fortified churches in Transylvania.
Built in the 14th century on the place of an older Romanesque basilica, the church is impressive even by today’s standards with its three naves and tall bell fry. Still, what makes the church truly rare are the interior frescoes that cover 20 meters with 53 scenes from the Old and New Testament. In fact, this is the largest Gothic fresco in Transylvania, a region where very few pre-Reformation church paintings still exist. The altar with scenes from the lives of Saint Clara and Saint Mary is another precious piece, donated hundreds of years ago by Mihai Apafi.
If you’re not afraid of heights, climb the five wooden staircases that will take you in the church tower. You’ll be rewarded with a panoramic view of the village.
The Apafi Mansion
Saved from a sure collapse by the Foundation Mihai Eminescu Trust, Apafi Mansion is one of the highlights of the village and a state of the art restoration work. The mansion, located just a few meters away from the church, was the property of the Apafi family and later of the Bethlen family, before becoming in 1920 the property of the village. Confiscated by the communist authorities during the nationalization process, the house went back to the village only in 2000. After years of restoration, the mansion is now open as a local guest house, overseeing the village and its revived traditions.
Local traditions and flavors
So many traditions are preserved in Malancrav that you’ll easily find yourself wanting to spend more time in this timeless village. Thanks to a local project, visitors can join one or more of the numerous workshops that cover traditional ways of cooking, weaving, carpentry techniques and many more local skills. You can also learn more about making fresh and tasty apple juice by taking a tour of the local ecological orchard, another project aiming to support the sustainable development of the village.
Visiting Malancrav is one of the best things to do in Transylvania, especially if you’re looking to discover the true spirit of this region, nominated by Lonely Planet as the number 1 region to visit in 2016. Plus, the only accommodation options are the local guest houses, one more reason to choose Malancrav for your vacation in Transylvania.
Where to stay
Book your stay in 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.
Spend at least two days in Malancrav, but be sure to book your accommodation in time, especially during summers.
For a complete experience, bike to Malancrav from Sighisoara on the marked bicycle trail that crosses Breite, Stejareni and Cris.