Saxon Transylvania Cycling – Day 2 (cont’d)

Posted on September 6, 2012


About a month ago I started writing the story of our cycling trip. If you didn’t get to see the first part, please read it here (it’s a lot more interesting than this one).

The first day was a long one, with quite a bit of adventure, accidents, injuries and little stomach inconveniences, but nevertheless, a great day. So after that day, we decided to take it a bit easier and chill out on a second, shorter and more predictable (i.e. we actually had a map of the entire itinerary to start with!) route.

We started again in Biertan, and we headed to Richiș, a gorgeous little village South of Biertan, a short ride (6 km) to a famous church that we wanted to visit. The road was mildly uphill, but an easy ride overall. The village, a nice village, some nice houses, but also some run down ones

A run down house at the entrance in Richis

We got to the church, a beautiful building, but nothing very different from the ones you see all over Transylvania. Well, nothing until you actually step inside and let the church curator, a very funny and lively old man named Herr Schaas – a man with an incredible talent for storytelling  – guide you into the mysterious world of the Richiș church.

Mr Schaas began by giving us the historic context, how he came to become the curator of the church, how he wanted to restore it, and how he made the Discovery accidentally. How the Green Man became part of his life. The Green Man! A mythical character – the way he describes him – is part of his life, the same way the Green Man’s destiny is part of Mr. Schaas’ destiny.
So who is this Green Man? It turns out, this Green Man is a face present all over the church, in the most peculiar of places, hidden yet ubiquitous, discreet  yet watchful, simple yet extremely complex. A remarkable turn of spiritual and cultural events brought this pagan Celtic figure into a Christian Church, in a face off with Jesus himself (literally)!
I won’t go into many details about the research done into this “occurence” as I rather let everyone go and discover the story themselves – the way Herr Schaas tells his story adds to the facts exponentially. I’ll just end this little story by saying we spent over an hour and a half listening to an old man talking about some Green Man in a Saxon Church in Central Transylvania while making jokes about John the Baptist’s (lack of) clothes and the way girls’ scrupulous eyes always had something to be ashamed of during the sermon.

an interesting scultupure of a sacrificial lamb with an ear on its back (the Ear represents Christianity)

One of the Green Man faces in Richiș

another of the Green Man appearances – this is the one in the face off with Jesus

Mr. Schaas – a true living human treasure

After this superb visit to Richiș and a brief hesitation whether to just stop for beers rather than continue biking, we actually started riding again helped by the thought that we were starting on a downhill ride rather than more uphill. So off we go, to the village of Ațel, a great little… place on the map. That’s as much as we knew about it.

So we rode for about 1 km down the main road (back towards Biertan) and then took a left onto what the map said was a county road but what reality called a little cart trail with a beach-like feel (the drought made it very sandy). A bit of a steep uphill and then we went on a long downhill, all the way to the village where we stopped for water. Once we arrived, we realized that what we thought would be just a place on the map, was actually just that – a place on the map. A village, nice, but not really worth a detour. Except, perhaps, for one thing! We saw the Green Man again here, but a very different incarnation – see the picture below

the green man on the garbage can 🙂

After spending a whole one and a half seconds looking at this green man, we got back on our bikes and started riding all the way to the Mediaș-Sighișoara road and then back to Biertan on the main road. A nice 25 km stretch, just good to get our blood pumping but also perfect to let us start our car ride back home at a decent hour (and escape a 15 minute summer rain that would’ve completely drenched us – evenso it missed us by minutes).

Oh, a final little detail. As we were biking back, in a village before Biertan, we stopped to ask for water. And a nice lady, wearing a red dress with black stripes, long dark hair and a pile of files in her hand, invited us with her to get some water. A friend and me went (two guys, that is) with this good looking mid-30’s woman into her courtyard. While we were filling our water recipients, a dog was barking at us. A dog lover myself, I started talking to the dog, telling him how I know he’s the master of the domain, how we’re not gonna be long and let him reclaim his property. And then the lady interjected saying “Yes, he’s the man of the house. The ONLY man in this house”, really insisting on the “ONLY”. The two of us (me and the other biker) looked at each other, pondered for a while, and left, as we had two girls waiting for us outside, but with a sense of real pride, as we had just discovered what true Transylvanian hospitality is all about.

This sums up the biking weekend story. I hope you enjoyed it. If you want to see the actual trails we went on, I uploaded them onto bikemap – click here for the map of the trail we went on this day. Sorry guys, I did not put an “X” on top of the lady’s house, you have to try your luck for 32.8 km to find it 🙂

Posted in: english, Travel