Looking up at the 13th century Saxon church at Prejmer
BY JULIE SEYLER
I am a sucker for any thing, or place, that is 1000 years old, or older. I walk around the Metropolitan Museum of Art snapping pictures of home decor circa 500 BC and wish I could buy it today.
And this love for the old is just one more reason why Transylvania works for anyone who has a penchant for the past. With its brooding hills and overbearing fortresses, it does not take a lot of imagination to teleport yourself back to the HBO show “Game of Thrones,” where competing armies and enemies endlessly vie for control of the castle.
In Prejmer, a town that’s about an hour away from Dracula’s castle, you can revisit a world where knights in shining armor defended themselves behind fortress walls with crossbows and sling arrows and boiling oil. It is one of the best preserved medieval fortresses and fortified wooden churches built by the Saxons in Transylvania.
The foundations of the fortification were laid down in the 13th century by the Order of the Teutonic Knights. Its walls are over 40 feet high and 10 feet thick.
The exterior of the fortress and fortified church in Prejmer.
As you enter this self-contained complex that in essence functions as a military outpost, housing unit, and place of worship, you know you have left the 21st century behind. You pass under a gate, but this is not a mere swinging door. It is a portcullis grill, made of oak and reinforced with iron and ornamented with sharp spears to either impale the intruder or trap him inside.
Can you imagine having this gate come down on you?
The first thing you see is the church, a blend of Byzantine and gothic architecture. Inside there are flying buttresses, painted historical tryptichs and gorgeous wooden carved pews.
Inside the Church at Prejmer
Then you enter the fortress or as it is called the raised defensive gallery.
As you circumnavigate the dark, dank passage designed to keep the enemy down and out and look out the peephole windows you can imagine what it must have felt like to see marauders on the horizon and knew that it was time to start preparing for battle.
Inside the fortress
There is also a four-story 15th century apartment complex comprised of 270 individual units that appear to be no longer than 10 feet long and 5 feet high and 5 feet wide.
Medieval apartment complex.
These cubicles may have been cramped, but they served the purpose of providing shelter and storage when the village was under attack.
Inside a housing unit
And then we emerged back to the real world.