Every child knows the story of the Pied Piper, who lured away the children of Hamlin with his magical flute. Enraged at being swindled out of his payment for ridding the town of a plague of rats the Piper led the children into a cave, never to be seen again….but Romanian legend takes up the thread and tells us that the children did re-emerge from underground, through the Vaghis cave and into Transylvania.

In Romania this legend has been passed down through the generations as an explanation for the blond haired, German speaking Saxons inhabiting the region.

The Transylvanian Saxons really came to Romania in the 12th Century at the invitation of the Hungarian King who ruled the region at the time. The Saxons, mainly from Luxembourg, Flanders, and the areas around the Moselle Valley, settled in Transylvania, lured by its beauty and economic potential. They eventually built strong cities and developed powerful guilds, bringing along the spirit and development of the West.

However, when the Saxons first arrived times were hard because the region was constantly under threat from armies from the East. The most feared of these were the Ottomans and the Tartars, descendants of Genghis Khan’s Mongols. Their savage invasions even reached as far as Vienna. Confronted with this constant danger Transylvanian Saxons developed a unique way of building houses and villages. Strong walls surrounded the village and each house within was itself a stronghold, high living quarters built around a central courtyard. The whole village was watched over by a fortified Church, its ramparts filled with grain, offering a last refuge and defense.

Too numerous to count, these colourful Citadels tumbling down hillsides or nestling in wooded valleys, now give Transylvania it’s unique mystery and fairytale-like quality.

Our accommodation is in the typical Saxon village of Cisnadioara which boasts one of the oldest fortified churches in the region. Dating from the 13th century the well preserved ‘Ceatate’ is perched on a rocky crag above the village and makes an impressive landmark from anywhere in the valley.