Guest in Alma Vii
Alma Vii came into being in the year 1289; it was a free village under the Hungarian Crown. Two centuries later, a hall like church was built, overseeing and protecting the entire village. This building was replaced in the 16th century with a more solid fortified church. In the 19th century, the late Gothic style church vault was torn down and replaced by a three arch vault, a gallery on the north and west side and a choir area with a flat ceiling. The altar (built in 1852) has four Corinthian columns, plus an architrave topped with a statue of Christ. The lovely Baroque-style organ was installed in 1721. In 1966, the Historical Monuments Institute has done extensive restoration work to the entire church ensemble.
Alma Vii is located at the end of a country road, nestled between forest-strewn hills. The scenery, together with the fortified church and the rustic houses, form a picturesque view: like a vision from an illuminated manuscript, a tapestry, or a fairytale. But the most valuable treasure of Alma Vii is the people – a varied yet harmonious community of ethnicities and personalities who live together, preserving authentic rural customs.
Alma Vii is one of the few villages with an active population and a well preserved built heritage. The dedication to the traditional farming practices has kept the cultural and natural landscape untainted.
Since 2009 Alma Vii has been part of the MET “Whole Village Project.” This project has restored old building fronts, repaired ancient wooden bridges, and paved the public roads with river rock. The village store has been remodeled to accommodate a traditional rustic wine cellar. The medical clinic has been renovated and a permanent village physician has been brought in.
Over 50 locals have been professionally trained in masonry, carpentry, agro-tourism and English speaking. We created construction worker teams, carpenter and blacksmith workshops, the entire project implemented with the villagers. We first designed two guest houses, but soon after another four followed.
One of our greatest accomplishments was the restoration of the old school house, now made into an Information and Professional Training Center. It’s the only one in the country set in a rural area and offers information to any interested party about heritage and traditional crafts. All of this makes Alma Vii and example for every village in Romania.
Once famous for its vineyards and orchards, the village of Alma Vii became depopulated during the Saxon exodus of the 1990s. Presently, there are 200 households in Alma Vii, with 390 inhabitants in total.
Each house is painted in a distinct color and each façade is decorated with the family seal, along with a date and a saying which refers to an important event in the building's history. The pathways to the houses have wooden carved bridges, adding to the idyllic scenery. Fruit trees or willows align on both sides of the main road offering shade to the ducks, chickens, geese or just sleepy dogs resting. The village streets are never empty but crowded with people and live stock, especially during the morning and evening hours.
The farming still has a lot of important traditional practices. Most methods of transportation are horse-drawn, although there are now a few tractors. The old traditions remain. Cows are taken every day to feed in the meadows and come evening, they find their own way back home. Sheep spend all summer outside the village, in the pastures, where shepherds tend to them, milk them and prepare fresh soft delicious white cheese.
Hay is still hand-reaped and dried in haystacks, then transported by carriage to the farms and stored in barn attics. Walking through the fields, you can smell the sweet perfume coming from the fruit orchards and admire the grain and vegetable fields that go on as far as the eye can see. Gardens around the houses are also used to grow vegetables, medicinal plants and flowers.
A traditional Saxon recipe passed down from one housewife to another that any guest can taste here is the oven baked cabbage in bread dough.
A village legend
In the Gheorghe Gaman monograph – a local teacher – we can read about a story heard from the Saxon priest Carl Reich, that served in Alma Vii between 1930 and 1939. The legend tells of a young girl named Helma. She lived in a neighbouring settlement, but was accused of committing an immoral act – she was chased by a mob of men from her village, up to the edge of the old lake – the men pushed her and drowned for her alleged crime. Or so it seemed. The mob dispersed, thinking Helma dead. But the girl survived; at first hidden under the water, she then emerged and camouflaged herself in the reeds surrounding the lake. She remained there for weeks and days. Afraid to return home to her village, she built herself a hut by the lake and made her new life there. The present-day village of is named after the girl – Helma-Almen.
Because of the sand brought down by river currents, the old lake dried out over time, but the place still holds its name – “Olde Woar” (Ancient Lake).
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