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CASTLES AROUND AIUD

In Transylvania, the traveler will experience a real journey back in time, to the days of the counts and the pompous courts of noblemen. Genuine architectural jewels with impressive histories hide among the smooth hills bathed by the ArieÅŸ and MureÅŸ rivers. In Aiud, one of the oldest urban Transylvanian centers, you will discover the medieval fortress and its lofty towers. In the surroundings of the city, the past reveals itself in the form of history pages written on the walls of the ancient castles. The richness of the architectural styles, the refinement of lordly castles, the secret stories of counts and the seductive picturesque quality of Rîmetea create the ideal destination for a princely holiday.

Cetatea de Balta

Aiud City

Situated on the right shore of the MureÅŸ, Aiud is a small city documentary attested at the end of the 13th century. Initially inhabited by Saxons, it was later Magyarized, becoming the main center of Transylvanian Calvinism. Veiled in the atmosphere of its own history, Aiud preserves an intimate and quiet air, enchanting the visitor with its coquettish buildings, specific for the architecture of this region.

On top of all this, in the center of the city, the imposing Aiud fortress rises. Built on a former Daco-Roman establishment, it was built in two stages, between the 14th and the 17th centuries. In the beginning, there was a fortified church here, extended and consolidated, thus looking like a fortress. Having a watch road and being surrounded by a water ditch, the edifice was flanked by nine towers which belonged to the guilds of the craftsmen - The Gate Tower, Kalendas Tower, The Butchers’ Tower, The Locksmiths’, The Tailors’, The Shoemakers’, The Potters’, The Skinners’ and The Coopers’ Towers.

The medieval complex houses two halidoms - the Calvinist Reformed Church and the Lutheran Church, along with the lordly palace, which was the property of Prince Gabriel Bethlen and now functions as the History Museum. Although in ruins after the passing of time and after the historical events which have marked its existence, Aiud fortress was a safe shelter for its inhabitants in times of tribulation. Flanked by stately towers, the fortification reveals its authentic charm which has turned it into one of Transylvania’s most beautiful medieval constructions.  

Aiud FortressAiud Fortress

Close to the fortress there is the Natural Science Museum, the oldest museum of this sort in Romania. Here you will be able to admire over 35,000 exhibits representing animal life from ancient times to present day. The mineralogy, paleontology and zoology collections create an ample perspective over the fauna of the globe. Children will definitely be taken in by the diversity and the multitude of the images seen here.

The recent history of Aiud proved to be a bloody one; between 1947 and 1964, the representatives of the communist regime eliminated a significant part of the country’s patriotic elite. This grim period determined the few survivors to raise a monument in honor of the political prisoners. The Calvary of Aiud is a temple of pain situated in the south of the city. It is made of 14 crosses placed in pairs, a symbol of the martyrs, with a big cross leaning on them, representing the suffering of the Romanian people. There is also a small church here, simple and without the ornaments specific of Orthodox churches. The atmosphere will permanently remind of the Calvary that our older generations forwent and they will call us to honor their memory.

Aiud Fortress

 

Calvary of Aiud

Colţeşti Fortress

In the north-west of Aiud, the highway goes through the wild gorges of VăliÅŸoara, an important geological and botanical reservation. On the right side of the versant you will see a castle of medieval allure dating back to the 14th century. The edifice in TrascÓ‘u was initially a defense fortress, then became a military garrison. Presently, it functions as a housing unit, preserving elements specific of the Middle Ages: tent beds, weapons and knights’ armors or cannons. Close by you can practice climbing or paragliding, enjoying this oasis of quietness at the heart of nature.

Beyond the gorges, in the Trascău Depression, there is the ColÅ£eÅŸti fortress, almost eight centuries old. In the beginning, it belonged to the Thoroczkay noble family, then to Matthias Corvinus; finally, the fortress was destroyed as the result of the Austrian armies’ attacks. From its ruins you can still see some walls and two towers, one with a defensive purpose and one destined for living. From the height of the promontory where the fortress is situated, the panorama opens over the Aiud Valley and Gorges and over the TrascÓ‘u Fangs, ruling over the hills.

A layover in Rîmetea will offer you the opportunity to know the simple village life and to discover an extremely picturesque and authentic place. The white houses with green carpentry, the traditional water mill, the alleyways walked by both Romanians and Magyars, Piatra Secuiului massif which dominates the village, they all create the special charm of this place. In the center of the village there is a local ethnography museum, set up in the oldest house, where you can see mining tools, pieces of furniture and traditional costumes. In the Middle Ages, Rîmetea and ColÅ£eÅŸti were important centers of iron processing. Rîmetea is delightful with its architecture, the traditions kept and the beauty of its sceneries.

Coltesti Fortress

 

Rimetea

Miko-Teleki Castle in Uioara de Sus

On the way to Ocna MureÅŸ, there stands a monument that has made the area famous, with its silhouette appearing on all postal cards. At Uioara de Sus, salt exploitation determined the building of a fortification meant to defend the salt pits. On the ruins of the 13th century fortress, Mikés family raised a baroque noble residence, with a gate tower and high roof. The castle respects the proportions and the decorations of the Transylvanian style in the 18th century. A hundred years later, the domain became the property of Count Miko and the edifice was rebuilt in neo-gothic style. Elegant ornaments, wrought iron elements, corner towers and the garden with rare trees rebuilt the historical atmosphere desired by the count. Unfortunately, the nationalization turned the castle into a building with several functionalities, which led to its  ultimate degradation. 

The legends of the place say the ruins of the castle are haunted by ghosts. During World War II, a few Russians soldiers died in the wine cellar, and the elders blame their deaths on the spirits in the basement. The fascinating story continues to attract tourists eager to solve this mystery.

Miko-Teleki Castle Uioara de Sus

 

Miko-Teleki Castle Uioara de Sus

Bethlen Castle in SânmiclăuÅŸ

At SânmiclăuÅŸ, in the east of Aiud, there is a monument of late renaissance, a Transylvanian architectural jewel. Bethlen Castle was built in the second half of the 17th century, according to the plan of Count Miklòs, the owner of this estate. Influenced by west European models, but also by the local tradition, the noble Bethlen made this palace into an edifice which harmoniously combines renaissance and baroque elements.

The castle stands out with its poles and sculpted arcades, high rooms with starry ceilings, or its door and window frameworks. A spiral staircase starts from the interior lobby, uniting the basement and the two floors. Pompous balls used to be held at SânmiclăuÅŸ, attended by the personalities of the time. During the communist dictatorship period, the beauty and the luxury of the castle faded away. Used for different other purposes, the building was neglected for a long time. Due to its location and potential, the palace was taken over by a company in order to be restored. The castle will regain its past glow and refinement, becoming one of Transylvania’s architectural symbols once again.

Bethlen Castle Sanmiclaus

Bethlen-Haller Castle in Cetatea de Baltă

The Bethlens also owned a noble residence at Cetatea de Baltă. It was raised between the 16th and the 17th century after the model of Chambord Castle in France. Behind some high wooden gates one can see the palace built in the French Renaissance style, with a baroque gate later added to it.  Throughout time, the castle has known many owners, being bought in the 1770s by Eugen Haller. The legends of the place say that in Cetatea de BaltÓ‘ there were trials against rebelling serfs. During the uprising in 1848 the serfs were racked in the cellars of the castle by the Habsburg oppressors.

The palace impresses with its rooms decorated with original paintings and pieces of furniture. There is also a collection of 45 clocks here and an old fireplace used to heat the entire building. At the ground floor, hidden by a stone sculpted door, there is a fan-shaped staircase leading to the cellars, where there is a wine tasting room. It is said that underground tunnels start from the cellars leading to the castle in SânmiclăuÅŸ. Repeated renovations gave the building an eclectic air, charged with history and intrigue. The locals say that Count Haller was killed by his driver, who was having an affair with the count’s wife. Rumors also say that the Palace in Cetatea de Baltă was lost by one of the owners at a card game.

Presently, the castle functions as a champagnization section and can be visited on request. It is worth seeing and admiring for its durability and imposing look. Surrounded by green hills, it stands out with its clean white contrasting with the surroundings.

Bethlen-Haller Castle Cetatea de Balta

 

Bethlen-Haller Castle Cetatea de Balta

 

Bethlen-Haller Castle Cetatea de Balta

 

Bethlen-Haller Castle Cetatea de Balta

Kemeny Castle in Sâncrai

In the south of Aiud, at Sâncrai, the Kemeny noble family built a castle with a complex architecture in 1805. It combines the French and the Italian baroque, also presenting specific Transylvanian elements. The four-level tower gives the building a medieval air, ever present in Transylvania. In the last half of the past century, the monument housed a foster home, but it will soon become a rose ecological farm. As a matter of fact, The Rose Festival is held at Sâncrai every year in June, an occasion for the growers to exhibit exceptional floral arrangements. The perfume and the rich color palette spill all over the place for the pleasure of nature and beauty lovers.

Kemeny Castle Sancrai

 

Kemeny Castle Sancrai

A vacation in the surroundings of Aiud will reveal memorable sceneries at every step. The fortresses full of history, the castles and their mysterious stories, the smooth hills in ValiÅŸoarei Gorges and the fascinating and picturesque air in Rîmetea offer an escapade from the bustle of the city. Come and discover an oasis of quietness and relaxation where you can kick back and charge yourself with energy.

[An article written by Andreea Bertea]