"It was on the dark side of twilight when we got to Bistritz"
City of Bistriţa
Public DomainCity of Bistriţa - Credit: Tuluz on wikimedia commons

Bistritz (Bistrița) was settled by Transylvanian Saxons. It is now the capital of Bistriţa-Năsăud County, Transylvania, situated on the Bistrița River.


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Emily Gerard, in The Land Beyond the Forest, describes what a Saxon town in Transylvania typically looks like. This is what Jonathan Harker may have experienced in Bistritz:


"Saxon villages are as easily distinguished from Roumanian ones, composed of wretched earthen hovels, as from Hungarian hamlets, which are marked by a sort of formal simplicity. The Saxon houses are larger and more massive; each one, solidly built of stone, stands within a roomy court-yard surrounded by a formidable stone wall. Building and repairing is the Saxon peasant’s favorite employment and the Hungarian says of him ironically that when the German has nothing better to do he pulls down his house and builds it up again by way of amusement.


Saxon fortified church in Transylvania
GNU Free Documentation LicenseSaxon fortified church in Transylvania - Credit: Plinul cel tanar on wikimedia commons

Each village is usually formed of one long principal street, extending sometimes fully an English mile along the high-road; only when the village happens to be built at a junction of several roads, the streets form a cross or triangle, in the centre of which mostly stands the church...

...The principal street, often broad enough to admit of eight carts driving abreast, presents but little life at first sight. The windows of the broad gable-end next the street have often got their shutters closed, for this is the best room, reserved for state occasions. Only when we open the gate and step into the large court-yard can we gain some insight into the life and occupations of the inhabitants.

Near to the entrance stands the deep draw-well, and all round are built the sheds and stables for sheep, horses, cows, and buffaloes, while behind these buildings another gate generally opens. into a spacious kitchen-garden. From the court five or six steps lead up to a sort of open veranda, where the peasant can sit in summer and overlook his farm laborers."


Read more about Saxon villages in The Land Beyond the Forest here