Daily Picture 27-Feb-09: Art Deco Spa Building in Saxon Transylvania

The 1929 Art Deco style of the 'mud-bath" pavilion in Bazna spa town (Baussen in local German dialect) in Saxon Transylvania, central Romania. (old postcard, Valentin Mandache collection)

Bazna is located in the region known as Saxon Transylvania, traditionally inhabited by ethnic Germans from the c12th until c20th. This industrious and highly civilized community was forced to emigrate during the communist period to West Germany because of the harsh economic conditions and unbearable nationalist policies against ethnic minorities of the state of Romania. This is also an important natural gas producing area, known as the Transylvanian salt domes region, endowed with a geology that contains large such hydrocarbure deposits, which in the inter-war period made Romania one of the main European gas producers and today makes this EU region much less dependent on the capricious Russian gas supply. That complex geology favoured the development of an important spa resort town in Bazna during the Victorian period, when the area was within the confines of the Habsburg Empire. The old post card above shows the mud-bath pavilion (“Schlammbad” in German) during the brief inter-war flourishing of the local German community. It is built in an attractive minimalist, essential early Art Deco style (the year 1929 as is mentioned on the central tower). I like the “Salve” inscription on the pediment of the Art Deco doorway which greets the customers, a typical cheerful spa town decorative artefact used since the Roman times. The photograph is a glimpse of a long gone happy epoch reflected in architecture. Bazna nowadays is littered with ugly modern buildings of uncouth architecture, a consequence of the wild Romanian property boom of the last few years. It is also an expensive place, despite its run down infrastructure in terms of holiday resort. That makes even more poignant the contrast with the beautiful inter-war atmosphere and architecture depicted in the postcard above.

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I endeavor through this daily image series to inspire appreciation of the historic houses of Romania, a virtually undiscovered, but fascinating chapter of European architectural heritage.

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If you plan acquiring a historic property in Romania or start a renovation project, I would be delighted to advice you in locating the property, specialist research, planning permissions, restoration project management, etc. To discuss your particular plan please see my contact details in the Contactpage of this weblog.

Daily Picture 16-Jan-10: Transylvania Fortress Wall Houses

Typical houses lining up the fortress wall protecting a village church in Saxon Transylvania (Harman/ Honigsberg/ Szászhermány, Brasov county), some dating from late c13th from the time of the first Tatar and Turkish raids over the region. (©Valentin Mandache)

Saxon Transylvania is the largest rural medieval architectural region left in Europe. It has a very embattled history because of it precarious geographical location at the old frontier between Christendom and the Muslim power projected by the Ottoman Empire and their Tatar allies. The term “Saxon” is an umbrella name given to the ethnic German population, originating in what is today the principality of Luxembourg and its adjiacennt areas in France, Germany and Belgium. They settled in Southern and Eastern Transylvania beginning with c12th through royal patents issued by the medieval Hungarian kings.  The devastating Tatar and Turkish raids that began after the region was first overrun during the Great Tatar Invasion of Europe that ended in 1242 (initiated by Genghis Khan and his successors), prompted the locals to built strong defences around their towns and villages. Thus, a very peculiar medieval military-civil architecture emerged in the region, with many examples still surviving today. The main fortifications were built around the village church and also the church itself was transformed in an impressive fortified building as point of last resistance. The wall enclosure had also to accommodate the village population, food and their livestock during the Tatar-Turkish raids and thus every village household had its own assigned fortress wall house and grain storage area  as in shown in the photograph above, which I took in June last year inside the citadel of Harman village (Honigsberg in German, Szászhermány in Hungarian).  There are many surviving such examples in Southern Transylvania, which would constitute an excellent restoration/ renovation project for someone with imagination and passion for medieval architecture. Unfortunately there are not many takers of that opportunity and these exceptional buildings are slowly disappearing through neglect, irretrievably damaged by ignorant locals or razed to the ground by rapacious Romanian property developers.

***********************************************

I endeavor through this daily image series to inspire appreciation of the historic houses of Romania, a virtually undiscovered, but fascinating chapter of European architectural heritage.

***********************************************

If you plan acquiring a historic property in Romania or start a renovation project, I would be delighted to advice you in locating the property, specialist research, planning permissions, restoration project management, etc. To discuss your particular plan please see my contact details in the Contact page of this weblog.