Ripe berries and wind bells in our summer collection of thrills
Blessed to live in serene lands surrounded by ancient woods and stork nests where the sun cozily sets at the sound of wind bells, the hard working people of Transylvania, Maramures and the Székely land end each and every day with a blissful smile.
Cisnadioara has a long history and plenty of activities to fit everyone’s taste: a visit to 12th Century Roman Basilica which hosts the oldest pipe organ in Romania or a short trip to close at hand town of Cisnadie for a quick visit to the Drapers’ Guild Museum and the Evangelical fortified church. You might also pay the local tiled stove craftsman or the traditional Saxon painter well worth a visit.
Nowadays this enchanted medieval town welcomes its visitors not only with ancient tales of courage, but the formerly closed salt mines are now available for halotherapy and small boat tours across the underground lake. The storytelling and especially the cool salt air highly increase the appetite, so to speak, inspiring us to recommend a rustic feast of traditional specialties and, to the appreciation of your taste buds, game specialties. Once indulged all senses, you are cordially invited to rest during the night in one of the sumptuous rooms of the castle.
Sapanta is quite a small village and a lazy after lunch stroll would be suitable to visit the renowned Merry Cemetery. For each visitor, this unique place provokes wonder, but for the locals it represents the best proof of a lightheartedly accepted death. There is nothing either gloom or sad, but hand carved oak crosses, painted in a lively shade of blue. They’re covered on both sides with naive paintings and carven poetic epitaphs depicting in the most comical way the life of the deceased and the death cause. Have more than a moment to examine the cemetery and the museum dedicated to Stan Ioan Patras, the first master artisan, author of the tombstones; the nearby exhibition is the best opportunity to test your bargaining skills for traditional woven bedspreads and other artisan objects. Later on take a walk to the village end right next to the Ukrainian border at Sapanta-Peri, the tallest wooden church in Europe.
Travel no more than a few miles south to the one guesthouse where you can enjoy a balcony view to both Romania and Ukraine. Once the night has fallen, the view is even more spectacular with the lights of bordering towns: Sighetu Marmatiei and Solotvino. The couple of hours before dinner could be leisurely spent around the cherry orchard or taking a quick nap in the meadow up hill. You should only make sure to be back in time as in Maramures no meal is regarded as casual event. Locals are most proud of their traditional elaborate garments and are always happy to lend all size costumes to their guests, only upon request, naturally. Traditional attire is a must when attending the Sunday service with the entire community, but dinner is also an excellent moment to display hand woven clothes of many colors. Especially when ceterasi, the lively fiddlers, entertain the guests and a peak in the menu discloses the lady of the house signature bread baked in clay oven and spread with thick shepherd butter and honey cakes.
Take the road further south to the mountains and before long you shall reach Botiza, the heart and soul of historical Maramures. Every house is guarded by old monumental gates of oak meticulously carved by craftsmen faithful to ancestral symbols: the sun, twisted rope, tree of life and the forefathers. Pass through the gates to the simple wooden house that welcomes you to catch your breath and enjoy a well deserved lunch. Here every respectable meal starts with slanina – salted and slightly smoked pork fat – pot cheese, tomatoes and bell peppers right from the guesthouse garden. There is no need to be intimidated by the pork fat as a shot of horinca should do the trick. Also known as the hot, fiery water, horinca is a strong double-distilled plum brandy which best untangles the tongue and the spirit.
Before dinner you might find interesting a walk to the local valtoare. In Maramures carpets aren’t machine washed or dry cleaned, but taken to the village natural whirlpool.
Shortly after lunch you’ll be ready to get back on the road only for a little while as the close-by town of Viseu de Sus awaits you. With a long forestry railway history, Viseu may accommodate its nonconformist overnighters in a stationary hotel-train fancying a finger licking three course meal in the dining car and a bonfire party on the banks of Vaser River. Surely there is the alternative of a traditional guesthouse hidden among raspberry bush meadows.
In case you’d like to take a walk around Viseu, don’t forget about the Elephant House. This is the last conserved traditional Jewish house belonging to Alexander Elefant, former sawmill owner and important member of the Jewish community before the Second World War.
At Paltin turning point you’ll mostly enjoy the wood-fired mixed grill sprinkled with the coldest beer. Have a rest to soothe your mind on the way back to Viseu then prepare to yet again take the road south and leave the good natured land of Maramures to enter the country of proud Székelys. The Hungarians from eastern Transylvania known as Secui in Romanian language were once skilled Crusaders brought along with Saxons to defend the newly widen territories of the Hungarian kingdom. Today the heir of the first noble Székely family ever mentioned in this area is proud to welcome you to the family’s manor.
The surroundings are enticing not only visually as no one should miss the chance of relishing on a finger-friendly picnic on the lake bank. The rest of the afternoon is peacefully spent around the bog located in another crater close to the lake, an excellent chance to spot the carnivorous Sundew (Drosera). In the evening return at the manor for a dinner meant to satisfy the hungriest of appetites.
*The trip to Azuga Royal wine cellars can be switched to a visit to Urlateanu Mansion for wine tasting and lunch. However, the availability of organized group visits to Urlati depends on a certain number of tourists.