“I can see you simply cannot stay much at one place” – our friends told to us. Not surprisingly, if you get used to travelling, you soon start missing the feeling of being on the road. On the first week of July, we arrived to Hungary and a week later we started watching videos about travel destinations on Youtube. Then we jumped into the refurbishment of our “base”, while it was always in our mind, where to go next, what to do next and what other adventures are waiting for us in the World. Four weeks later – after we arrived to Hungary-, I found my Birthday is a perfect excuse to travel again. How can a 40 years old guy treat himself best, who loves travelling? Of course, with more travelling! I booked 10 days in Transylvania, Romania that was just a decision of a moment. As a Hungarian, I heard a lot good about this part of Romania but also, I had some negative opinions about the Romanians, generally based on a belief built up from stories told us. I promised to myself in Serbia, the next country I give a chance and to visit is Romania – and here I am now in a sleepy village called Baita, in Romania.
In English, Baita means a “small mine” and there are 5 villages called like this in 5 counties in Romania – what I did not know at the time of the booking. When I found the ideal property that is in this village and typed “Baita” in Google Map, it showed the village that is only 600 km from us. I thought, this is good for a short trip but a day before departing, I accidentally found that the Baita which we already planned to go is in a completely different county, 800 kms away. I was a bit disappointed as I did not want to travel this long but the excitement was bigger than the feeling of regret.
We had a rather pleasant drive until we arrived at the Romanian border of Csengersima – Petea, where we had to wait 2 hours to cross the border. Romania does not require any PCR test, covid-ID and quarantine from those travelers who arrive from countries listed as “green”, including Hungary. Many travelers who arrive from countries, that are listed under yellow or red were needed certain documents to pass the border, which delays the crossing. Note, if you drive by car to Romania, you need to pay a road-use fee, – if I am correct – not just for the motorways, generally for most roads. You can buy it on https://www.roviniete.ro/en/ and for us a 30 days “vignette” was 34.48 Lei, about 7 EUR.
After crossing the border, we continued our trip, which was a drive of 300 km. First, the condition of the road, state of villages, seeing the poor and gypsies were shocking experiences, something we did not even see in Serbia and not expected in a country that is a member of the EU (Serbia is not yet a member but Romania is since 2007). In a village, cows walked back home from the field used the whole road. I tried following a local, who drove and filtered through the cows, but I was not that experienced and confident and stuck between the large animals. I was close to slide down into a ditch next to the road in the rainy weather, then I tossed a cow`s back leg who kicked back returning my justling – luckily, it did not cause any damage to the car. Then we drove on a half-completed bridge which was muddy and yet had 250 km ahead! Soon we arrived at Transylvania which is like a country in a country and the quality of roads became much better and also the village and houses started looking more traditional and well-kept. After 15 hours’ drive, we finally arrived at our destination. Our host, Ioana was kind and allowed us to self-check-in. The house has a nice garden with enough space to park your car. It is a very spacious house, as a couple, we used only one bedroom out of the three. There is a mattress topper on the bed, which is super thoughtful, we have never seen it before in any Air B&B and our backs very much appreciated that. The bathroom is spacious with a washing machine. The kitchen-dining is a large space too, we had everything in the kitchen that we needed. We loved the traditional look of the interior, both balconies, staring daily cow-walk on the street or listening to the sings from the church which is situated to the opposite. In a nearby town Reghin, we shopped in Kaufland and Penny Market, where we could buy everything we needed as vegans. I had great yoga sessions in the garden which really helped me to relax both my mind and body. There is a large office desk and a chair with a view of the garden. My time passed easily working from there. The internet was speedy and reliable too. We had everything for a comfortable stay which made us happy about our decision to choose this place.
Next morning, on Sunday we woke up fresh after a good night sleep. We spent our first day in Baita chilling and reading in the garden. We stared the cows walking back home from the field in the evening, walked up to the small hill behind the house. The owner let us use their bicycle and I had a ride in the village, just like in my childhood. We soon forgot the long journey behind us and recovered fully. We dopped into a real time-travel experience; where residents sit in front of their houses on a bench in their traditional dresses and the biggest traffic is made of tractors, horse carriages and cows. You must try visiting places like this when you have enough of your hectic life, like how I felt.
In the first two days, we spent time with working and studying. Renata recently purchased a complete course about house design and refurbishment. Between the two of us, she is the more passionate about house refurbishment, planning and designing. To be honest, I am more like getting over of refurbishment and just want to enjoy the result. So, I am very grateful for her taking this task voluntarily and learning everything from A-Z. On Tuesday we decided to visit a nearby castle. There are about 5 castles within 30 minutes’ drive but most of them are in a very poor state. The Kemeny Castle looked one of the most fascinating castle in the area and well impressed us. Attila and Szilard are two university students who spend two weeks in the castle in a summer assignment, as tour guides they greeted us at the castle. Usually, the owner is the one who works as a tour guide but we could not meet him this time. There is a small gift shop from where we bought some Albert Wass books as he is from this region. Szilard was our tour guide and talked about the owner, Nagy Kemény Géza, who recently got back the castle (after 70 years) from the Romanian government along with a portion of his family`s land. The castle used to be transformed into an asylum, also as a prison and the owner is now about transforming it back to its original purpose. The castle has been badly damaged after communist nationalization (1949) and robberies afterward, so the interior bears the scar of such an unfortunate period, but Geza tries to purchase back furniture from the village residents and fill the castle with items purchased on flea markets. Szilard, our tour guide shared interesting historical facts about each room and about the people who used to live or stayed there. Behind the castle there is a garden with hundreds of years old trees and the grave of Wass Albert, a world-famous writer. It’s worth remembering that starting the last decades of the 19th century, the castle was a major venue of the Helikon academic society, whose members greatly contributed to the promotion of education and culture among ordinary people. In the garden, there is a memorial about Helikon. This place is full of history, I recommend visiting it when you are in the neighborhood.
Teleki Castle & Targu Mures / Marosvásárhely
I paused writing this post because I knew, I should wait till the end of Friday, until we visit Teleki Castle and Marosvasarhely. I was off work on Friday, so we decided to make more use of the day. On Wednesday our first visit was supposed to be to Teleki Castle but unfortunately, it was closed due to filming in the castle. As the castle was on the way to Targu Mures, we decided to start our Friday there. What a fabulous castle with a green nature around, that used to be an English garden. The price of the ticket was the same here as in Kemeny Castle, 20 Lei per person, which I think is reasonable and a good way of contributing to the maintenance of these spectacular buildings. Our private tour was held by a young girl called Kincső. She is a very respectful and knowledgeable young lady who shared a lot of small details about the castle and the Teleki-family. Of course, the story started here with “when in the communism…” as well, the castle was looted for years, then it was used as a safe-house for children, who had TBC in their families and they got here to separate from their families. The Teleki-family got back the castle with only 6 hectares of land in 2011. This castle was built on a place of a fortress, in a baroque style. Kincső is very passionate about the castle and its history, nice to have a private tour guide like her and like Szilard – whom we met at the Kemeny Castle. (There is hope that the young generation will be here to protect the heritage of humanity, they are the living example!)
We finished the tour in the garden, where standing next to a 400 years old Platan tree, walking next to a few hundred years old oak tree and a very old Ginkgo biloba tree was a special experience. I love walking in nature; these old trees could “see” so much from history and survived so many storms, wars but still standing strong and growing taller year by year.
Twenty minutes from Teleki Castle, we arrived to Marosvasarhely (Targu Mures). Found a convenient and spacious car park right in the center, that was 25 Lei for the whole day. (Type “Targu Mures, Parcare pazita” into Google Maps to find this car park). After parking our car, we decided to have lunch in one of the two Vegan Buffet restaurants. We found only one of them opened, called Elphin Bistro. Renata had a burger and a cake, I had a cream soup with a pea stew and a cake, both were inmenu. With drinks, we paid 55 Lei and we were “stuffed” for the afternoon. I was grateful that even in the 16th largest town of Romania, there is a place serving Vegan only dishes! We were the only people having lunch in their restaurant, appears they were busy more with the home-delivery service. After lunch, we got lost in some shops, one particularly we loved the most. It is a book store called Kulcslyuk with a large collection of self-development books, mostly with books written or translated in Hungarian. After some shopping, we walked up to a small hill to see the Fortress. The Fortress is in an extremely well-kept state, refurbished and some parts of it are even modernized. There is a huge church in the middle of the medieval walls, that appeared to be closed. We had an espresso and lemonade in one of the bars on-site, then walked down to see the Cathedral. This cathedral is a relatively new structure, it was built between 1925-1934 but finished only in 1986. It is an Orthodox cathedral, we straight recognized the religion, after seeing many similar churches in Serbia – where Orthodox is one of the dominant religions. The frescos all around the walls were magical along with the amount of gold (or gold paint) used. There is a long square opposite the cathedral where there was an artisan market – when we were there. We purchased an amazing labradorite crystal stone and some pieces of jewelry for Renata. We continued our walks towards The Palace of Culture and Townhouse, both colourful and amazing buildings, we loved their decorations and uniqueness. Unfortunately, the palace closed at 5.00 P.M and we could not see it from the inside, but it is open for tourists during the day. We finished our small town-tour in a second cathedral, opposite our first one, which also appeared to be an Orthodox one. We discovered two shops while we were walking back to our car which we could not miss and we visited: the King Art and the Queen Art. Both are recommended if you like Asian culture and unique home-décors. We finished our Marosvasarhely trip in a Costa Coffee shop, a unique to see in East Europe! We had a nice latte here with almond milk and had a funny experience that is when I asked a glass of water next to our coffee and the barista heard it as “vodka”, so started apologizing, they do not keep any alcohol. Then I repeated saying “aqua”, which clarified the misunderstanding.
An amazing weekend with new friends
What an amazing weekend we had in Transylvania before we returned to Hungary! I was so looking for this weekend because my wife ordered a beautiful necklace from a famous artist, who actually lives only 50 kms from Baita. We had a plan to collect our personalized jewelry in person. We also got invited to stay over at their holiday home (how kind! This weekend itself and the necklace + bracelet made my birthday memorable.
On Saturday morning I had some work to do, and we arrived a bit late, after 3.00 p.m to Zsuzsi and Szilard`s holiday home. We were a bit hesitant about whether to stay overnight but that was soon decided after both of us got a shot of palinka (for drivers there is a zero-limit in alcohol consumption in Romania too). The house they bought is a traditional Transylvanian house, with amazing charm, in a little village, where everybody speaks Hungarian – 300 kms from the Hungarian border this is something I feel is extraordinary. This part of Hungary was taken away one hundred years ago but the residents here still speak fluent Hungarian, this is remarkable! We had a nice BBQ and dinner together, accompanied by some wine and a lot of chat. One of the main attractions of the evening was when #hajnal.boho handed over the jewellery made by her using vegan “leather”. She is a talented artist known by many famous actors and musicians as well. I feel proud that I can wear a necklace that is her work, one and only edition, just for me. What a special Birthday gift! We were up late having long conversations and fun together. When the night started to be cold, we joined our forces to make and keep a fire in the middle of the garden. There is something ancient sitting around the fire, under the clear sky and warming up by the heat given fire. Next morning, we got up early with Reni and enjoyed the garden with a book and coffee. After breakfast, the elderly neighbour “Arpi bacsi” came over to bring some welcome drink – a mug of (supposedly strong by the smell of it) palinka. He is having a simple life in the village, “driving” a horse carriage, helping his neighbours and staying away from the noise of the World. What I noticed, he was talking with such respect and kindness, which I don`t hear often. He wished me multiple times a good life and invited us back to the village. Wish Hungarians generally would be this kind and friendly in Hungary too! The main attraction of Sunday was the personal colour analysis. “Colour analysis demonstrates how certain shades are capable of being flattering or, conversely, unflattering by observing the optical illusions that occur on the face when placing specific colours next to the individual. It is generally agreed that the wrong colours will draw attention to such flaws as wrinkles or uneven skin tone while harmonious colours will enhance the natural beauty of the individual making them appear healthy and fresh-faced.” -Wikipedia. Reni and Zsuzsi had great fun doing this together, while I was talking with Szilard about some men topics. It is nice to have a meaningful conversation with men with common interests. Often, I feel, most men compare themselves to other men and if they feel, the other person do something better, they end up being a jerk. Talking with Szilard was so relaxing, there was no competition and comparison, only brotherhood-talk. I had to come to Transylvania to experience this! Meanwhile Reni`s colouring result was complete, her colours are cold winter ones. The bonus was that I also got a colour analyses and colours that best suit me are the pastel, summer cool ones. Now we both know what colours suit us the best, what a great help when we need to declutter our clothes! For us, the result was also a positive feedback, we were mostly good at choosing our clothes – but now we consciously know what to choose. After taking some photos and saying goodbye to each other, we had to drive back to our accommodation to get ready for our next day’s trip.
For my 40th birthday, I got this amazing weekend where I got more than just some beautiful accessories; I could be 100% myself and could have fun without denying who I became in recent years.
The next morning, we drove south this time, towards the border of Nadlac Border Crossing Point II near Arad. The Romanian motorway is under construction, we could drive sometimes 26 km, sometimes 80kms, then 6 kms on a new motorway but the rest of the journay was thorugh villages. So, the first 150 km took us 4 hours due to motorway traffic crossing some small towns. The rest of the journey was pleasant, mostly on the new motorway. We arrived home in 10 hours and we could have some rest in the evening.
Generally, Romania looked cheaper than Hungary. Especially when I heard from Szilard how much the mobile phone and broadband services cost there. Salaries in bigger towns – I suppose in some professions – reaching the average of EU-level. Groceries cost about the same as in Serbia. My favourite is now Transylvania, a mini-Hungary within Romania with the friendliest people I have ever met so far. We have plans to go back and spend more time there; I am sure that 2-3 months will be a minimum to spend there and explore more what this part of Romania offers for its visitors, who seek kindness, relaxation, beautiful nature and peace.