The Museum of Saxon ingenuity

The official of the museum, Rodica Moldovan, is showing the way in which the washing machine used by Transylvanian Saxons once functioned

The official of the museum, Rodica Moldovan, is showing the way in which the washing machine used by Transylvanian Saxons once functioned

10 kilometers away from Bistriţa, on the way to Bucovina, it is worth making a couple of minutes detour, until the Museum „Casa Săsească” (“The Saxon House ), located only a few hundred meters distance from the national highway. The Museum from Livezile was set up based on the work of a local prominent collector, Ioan Rusu, who, starting from his youth and until his death in 2004, when he was more than 90 years, collected objects to keep alive the legacy of the Saxons who lived in Livezile. However, in addition to the items related to everyday life of the Saxons from Bistriţa, he also gathered an impressive amount of Romanian ethnographic records.

All these are displayed in a traditional Transylvanian Saxon house, whose foundations were laid in 1837 by a wealthy family that rebuilt it in 1914. It is a complete household: house, barn, stable, paved courtyard (now grassy) and a massive wall that separates the property from the neighbors. In short, a true miniature fortress with thick walls and massive gate.

The supervisor of the museum, Rodica Moldovan, has her telephone number listed on the door of the museum, so even if she is in Bistriţa, running an errand, she will be back in maximum10 minutes to kindly open the door of this interesting museum.”We tried to reconstruct the old Saxon interior in three separate rooms. Besides the clothing pieces, there are also interior fabrics (towels, tablecloths, bed coverings), wooden items, household parts, household crafts, furniture pieces painted in a Saxon manner ( bench, table, rack, bed, wardrobe), ceramic objects, which have a special place within the collection”, said the curator.

In the first room of the museum, a pair of wooden shoes, almost identical with the Dutch ones, wore by the Saxons from Bistriţa, stir up people’s curiousity. “Before being colonized, they came from a region close to today Netherlands”, the official of the museum explains the resemblence. The manual washing machine, inside which the clothes were agitated by a hand lever that revolved a disc with “teeth” is also very interesting. The transmission between the lever and the disc was made through a system of gears.

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The hallway houses a collection of religious objects, while in the second room there is an impressive stove made of tiles. Here, there is also a bed with sheets and pillows embroidered in Saxon style. Even nowadays, the kitchen is equipped with “armăroaie” (built sideboards) beautifully painted and an ingenious machine to slice bread. Further on, a curiosity: the passing door from the house in the courtyard has a round little door cut in it , for the… cat. “That way, the cat could come and go as wanted, without bothering anyone to open the door for it”, explains the supervisor of the museum.
The collection of peasant facilities is also impressive. It is exposed in the courtyard on the other side of a porch from where one can perfectly see the structure of the fortified house. So, a “guillotine” to cut beets, mills for grinding cereals, squeezed grape presses, debug, sewing machines etc. are exposed there. A device for taking off one’s boots was and still is a true wonder, especially helpful when they were full of mud, and there is also a pedal-operated ventilation system. “Basically, this helped them have air conditioning in the house”, says Rodica Moldovan.

From the courtyard, one can enter a smaller room designed like a mini ethnographic museum of the Romanians in the area. The officers of the Museum Complex Bistriţa Năsăud intend to arrange the household annexes as exhibition spaces in the future.

The Museum from Livezile works in the current space since 1998, until then it was known as the “Museum under the gate” in a building near the current location. The museum is open every day except Mondays, between 10.00-18.00 (summer) and 9.00-17.00 (winter). Tickets cost four lei for adults and two lei for students or pensioners.
One can also visit in the village center an evangelist church, built in Gothic style in the early fourteenth century, but entirely modified in Baroque style during the eighteenth century.

Welcome to Iad (Hell)
The parish Livezile was one of the earliest and most prosperous settlements of Saxons in Bistriţa, but it only dates back to 1311. Called Joot in the Saxon dialect and Jaad in literary German, the Romanian villagewas called Iad (hell, in Romanian – t.n.) until 1968, when the name was changed to the current one. In 1911, three years before the restoration of the house which now houses the museum, 1133 Saxons, 331 Romanians, 25 Hungarians and 31 Hebrews lived in the village. After 100 years, during the census of 2011, there were registered throughout the whole parish, which includes the villages Dorolea, Cuşma, Grove and Valea Poienii, 4003 Romanian people, 43 Roma, 15 Saxons and 11 Hungarians.