Bistrița is the capital city of Bistrița-Năsăud County located in northern Transylvania, Romania. Situated on the River Bistrița, the town of Bistrita is one of the oldest in the region. Archeological findings indicate that the area has been inhabited since the Neolithic age, long before Bram Stocker chose it as the setting of his fictional Dracula’s castle.
Vestiges of the 13th century fortress walls can still be seen near the Municipal Park along Kogalniceanu and Teodoroiu Streets. From the original 18 towers of the medieval fortress, only the Coopers’ Tower, built between 1465 and 1575 on three levels, still stands today.
Formerly a Franciscan church, the Orthodox Church dates from the late 13th century. The stone carvings, mainly preserved in the chancel and the apse, belong to the Cistercian form of early gothic style. The interior was completely restored in baroque style and some late 14th century murals have been preserved.
Bistrita Evangelical Church
The greatest attraction of Bistriţa’s Main Square is the Evangelical Church built by Transylvanian Saxons centuries ago. Construction of this gothic church began in 1470 and was completed almost 100 years later by Petrus Italus de Lugano, who added renaissance elements to the structure.
A 246-foot steeple overlooking the city was added later, making it the highest stone church tower in Romania. Inside the church visitors can admire a collection of 23 flags which belonged to the town’s former craft guilds, valuable renaissance-style pews designed by Johannes Begler in 1516, 500-year furniture and an organ manufactured in 1795. The statues decorating the belfry (St Nicholas, the Holy Virgin with Child and Knight Roland) are representative of 15th century Transylvanian art and are similar to those found in the Black Church in Brasov and the Church on the Hill in Sighisoara. The Church is currently being renovated and it will re-open to visitors in 2023.
Sugălete Medieval Buildings
Facing the Saxon Evangelical Church on the north side of the Main Square is the Sugalete row of 15th and 16th century merchants’ houses. Built between 1480 and 1550, the thirteen gothic- and renaissance-style houses are connected by 20 archways supported by quadrilateral pilasters. The stores and workshops of the medieval guilds were once located in the basements and on the ground floors. The upper floors were designed to lodge the merchants’ and the craftsmen’s families. Several art galleries have opened here.
Built between 1560 and 1563, the Silversmith’s House earned its name by serving as the residence of one of the most renowned jewelers in Bistrita. A piece of architectural jewelry itself, the house features facades adorned with fine stone carvings in Renaissance style by Petrus Italus da Lugano. The entrance portal, also boasting impressive carvings, has a semicircular vault bordered by two fluted pilasters, while an arched passage allows access to the inner yard. As with all medieval merchants’ homes, the silversmith’s workshop and store were situated on the ground floor. Nowadays, Bistrita’s Fine Arts, Music and Folk Dance Schools are located here.
Bistrita Nasaud County Museum
The County Museum, housed in a former garrison, exhibits Romanian, Saxon and Hungarian folk art, paintings and carvings belonging to the Transylvanian art school. The History Section displays a bronze sword in the Mycenian style (14th century B.C.), Thracian bronze tools (13th – 10th centuries B.C.), Scythian jewels and arms (6th century B.C.), pottery, arms and other artifacts from the large Celtic necropolis at Fantanele (4th -2nd centuries B.C.).
Explore the surrounding region where you will find the charming Saxon villages of Dumitra (Mettersdorf) and Tarpiu (Treppen), both with traditional churches and brightly painted houses. South of Bistria are the villages of Lechinta (Lechnitz) and Herina (Monchsdorf), the latter boasting an unusual Romanesque-style Evangelic Saxon church (1250-1260), recently restored. Lechinta is well-known for its vineyards, and wine tasting can be organized in the town cellars.
Nearest train stations: Bistrita Birgaului hcv, Josenii Birgaului hc, Prundu Birgaului
The road from Bistrita to the Painted Monasteries of Bucovina runs east through the Bargau Valley and across the Tihuta Pass which peaks at 3,840 feet. The Bargau Valley encompasses some of the most beautiful unspoiled mountain scenery in the Carpathians with picturesque traditional villages located in valleys and on hillsides, ideal bases for hiking, riding or discovering their vivid tapestry of old customs, handicrafts and folklore.
Zielona Gora literally means “Green Mountain” in Polish, and the name reflects its character, being built on a series of forested hills. It is tidy, full of green areas and there are as many as 81 natural monuments to be found. The Grape Gathering Festival has taken place every September since 1852, renewing the city’s traditions as a flourishing wine growing and wine producing centre. Nowadays it is also a hub of industry, education and culture.
The most attractive time of the year to visit Zielona Gora is September, when the annual grape harvest is held, part of the Days of Zielona Gora. Street fairs, trade shows and wine tastings are accompanied by a series of cultural events. The best of Polish jazz musicians flock here at this time and perform in the “Harlem” pub. Each year, new attractions are added to enhance the entertainment and educational value of the festival.
However, there are growing numbers of people coming to this capital of the Lubuskie region simply to appreciate its historic buildings, picturesque countryside and nearby lakes. Most buildings in the centre of Zielona Gora were erected in the early 20th century and they add an eclectic feel to the area. The Lubusz Country Museum is an essential visit for every visitor to Zielona Gora, with its interesting section dedicated to wine production.
Zielona Gora offers various cultural and recreation opportunities. Music lovers will find pleasure in the concerts by the Tadeusz Baird Philharmonia of Zielona Gora, which has close links with similar orchestras in Europe.
Zielona Gora is conveniently located in the centre of Europe, not far from the Polish-German border and practically on the crosswords of several international road and rail routes connecting Scandinavia with Eastern Europe and Warsaw with Berlin. The city is 130 km from Poznan and 413 km from Warsaw, and has more than 118 000 inhabitants and covers a total urban and suburban area of 6,000 hectares.
Zielona Gora has an oceanic climate rather than a continental one. Being located on several hills means that the average temperatures are slightly lower than in the surrounding river valleys, and it receives the highest rainfall of the Lubuskie voivodship. As a consequence the city’s climate has been classified as a separate climatic zone.
The origins of Zielona Gora are to a large extent connected with the Duchy of Glogow, held by the Silesian Piast dynasty. Already by the 13th century a Slavonic settlement had grown up in a small valley here in far north-western Silesia, and its earliest mention dates from 1222.
From the very beginning, Zielona Gora grew based on the manufacture of woollen cloth and the growing of grapes. Vineyards are first referred to in 1314, while the first mention of cloth fulling can be found in documents dating from the 15th century. The first vineyards were established to the north of the city, while Carl Samuel Hausler made the first champagne from grapes picked on the “Jelenia Gora” hill in 1826.
Around the year 1323 Zielona Gora received city rights, and saw a large influx of settlers from Germany. At the end of the 14th century the population of Zielona Gora had grown to 1000. Defensive walls were constructed in the 1430s during the Hussite wars, only to be demolished 300 years later as the city outgrew them. Today, just a small section of these walls remain.
In the 16th century the Duchy of Glogow fell under the rule of Czech kings. Frederic II of Prussia invaded and captured Silesia in 1740 and from then on Zielona Gora was a part of Prussia.
At a time when wine industry was beginning to lose its significance in the 19th century, local people began to recognise that the impromptu entertainments at the end of grape picking period that had been performed for centuries could be organized into a festival and hence easily become a magnet for tourists.
Remnants of the former vineyards in the Wine Park surrounding the Pal House are all that survive from the time when grape growing was a central part of Zielona Gora’s economy. The wines were produced for export to a number of cities, mainly in northern countries where the local cuisine favoured these types of wines.
Zielona Gora belonged to Germany until the end of World War II, after Prussia had become part of the German state in the 19th century. The Red Army seized the city on 14 February 1945, during the final months of the war. A couple of months later Zielona Gora was officially taken over by a Polish mayor.