VIDEO | Back in the village. Saxon Haferland Festival returns to Transylvanian hamlets after pandemic sent it online

The Haferland annual festival which celebrates traditions in Transylvania’s Saxon villages, from jam making to hay tossing, is back…. in the village.

Last year it moved  online as the Covid-19 pandemic put restrictions on large gatherings.

The festival began in 2012 and is usually held in the last weekend of July. It started off small and now draws several thousand to the weekend fun.

It showcases the heritage of the Transylvanian villages with their traditions, slow pace of life, and houses that look like they’re from the Grimm brothers’ fairy tales.

This year’s festival headlined “Tradition goes on in the Oat Land” will be held from July 30 to August 1.

Haferland means Oat Land or Tara Ovazului in Romanian. It starts in Rupea in the east and ends in  Sighisoara in the west, and includes the villages of Archita, Viscri, Homorod, Saschiz,  Rupea, Crit, Bunesti,  Roadesi, Mesendorf and Cloastderf.

It got its name from the oats that were grown there and suited to the harsh climate. Britain’s Prince Charles foundation is in the nearby village of Viscri.

Businessman Michael Schmidt, who’s a native of the village of Criț (German name: Kreuzdorf), a charming hamlet of 676 souls east of Sighisoara and Peter Maffay, a German musician and composer, came up with the idea of the festival nine  years ago.

Mr. Maffay is a Saxon German from Brasov. His family moved to Germany in 1963 where he went on to become one of the best-selling artists and has sold millions of records.

Crit which has a fortified church which is designated national heritage and an organ, is the heart of the festival. The parochial house on the hill next to the church has been repurposed and serves as a boutique hotel Casa Kraus with stunning views over the valley.

This year’s festival offers visitors typical Saxon village entertainment, Saxon dances, poetry recitals, a piano concert and  theater .

There will also be a workshop for social entrepreneurship, design workshops and book launches.

If you’re a Romanian village, there has to be food. Villagers will sell home-made jam and cakes and food carts will offer beer, sausages and other Saxon food to hungry visitors. “The Haferland week has helped revive the social, economic and cultural life in Oat Land. It’s part of Romania’s tangible and intangible heritage,” the organizers said.

The first festival drew a few hundred visitors, mainly Saxons who were returning home during the summer months. Organizers say about 5,000 now come for the weekend events: a mixture of Romanian and foreign tourists, locals, and Saxons back for the summer.

In the heart of Transylvania, the Oat Country boasts fortified churches, medieval towns, wide, rolling hills and gentle skies means. Transylvania regularly features on Europe’s most attractive travel destinations lists.

The Financial Times called it the “new Tuscany,” in 2020, though it’s a less manicured version of the Italian province.

The Saxon fortified churches are “messengers of the long gone times, honest stone testimonies of a past that should not be forgotten,” National Geographic said last year in an aerial photo essay which you can find on its Facebook page.

Details about this year’s festival can be found here.

Rural Transylvanian village offers the perfect escape from cares of the world

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