Alpár Kató | Dec 8, 2018 | 2
On the fabulous landscapes of Transylvania
For a long time every year, at the beginning of August, I have taken 30-40 friends of mine to Transylvania(in Hungarian: Erdély). I have shown them my favourite places, I have made them try the chimney cake in Bălăușeri, the cabbage in the Laci Tavern in Târgu Mureș (Marosvásárhely), the “csorba soup” in Odorheiu (Székelyudvarhely) in the Pethő Restaurant and, I have told them about the feeling of “togetherness” that will capture every visitor from Hungary.
I had to select from among the must-see sights for the 5-day-trip. If we listed every touristic offer of Transylvania, we would fill up several Tropical magazines.
For us, Hungarians, the Transylvanian events represent, mean a lot.
The Pentecostal Blessings of Șumuleu Ciucare (Csobotfalva) already have scheduled pilgrim trains now. Those who take part in the excursion, will never forget the atmosphere. The dance of the Székely girls, the camp at Băile Tușnad (Tusnádfürdő), the dance festival in Izvoru Crişului (Kőrösfő) are all great experiences for the participants.
Many people ask me whether I am afraid of the bears. Of course, a bear is not a game, but I have taken several photos and videos about them. They are frequently around Lake Saint Anne (Szent Anna tó) but it is advisable to book a guided bear watching, which is some kind of a Transylvanian safari.
When I was asked some years ago to make a touristic conception plan for the city of Gheorgheni I had no idea how many wonders this little city was hiding. Then, after a lot of official and private visits, all the miracles were revealed. For example, the churches that can already be visited with organized tours. In Gheorgheni (Gyergyószentmiklós), many churches testify of the importance of faith among the people here. Many religions and denominations left their marks on Gheorgheni’s culture. Catholics, Calvinists, Armenian Catholics and Jews lived here together in peace. In the churches, there are some real specialties to discover. In the Armenian Catholic church, hundreds of years old clothes are hidden in the cabinets. At the place of the Roman Catholic church there was once an old Gothic church. The old synagogue talks about the tragedy of the Jewish who used to live here. In the approximately three-hour church tour, even the relatively new Orthodox church can be visited. It is a true religious-cultural delight. In the old town of Gheorgheni, Armenian, Székely, and Jewish traders were here even in the 13th century. The inhabitants of the city created relative prosperity with the production of wood, rafting and animal breeding. This region did not lack for wood. The wonderful Armenian merchant houses, the churches and the old-fashioned buildings give everyone the temptation to walk around either in the winter or the summer. All this is framed by the wonderful natural surroundings, the hills around the city.
The town’s specialty is the St. Anna chapel, built on Csobot-peak, more than a thousand feet high, or the 16-acre arboretum, the Csíky Garden, which is a popular place for excursions with its special plant collection.
The museum of Gheorgheni is worth a visit. We can find out here that local girls and women have woven special messages and information into the patterns of their clothing. Those who knew what the secret marks said could tell by clothes of a person whether she was married, or how rich a family she came from. All these miracles can be seen in the city museum today where the attire and lifestyles of all the nationalities lived here can be seen in the showrooms.
Every year, Gheorgheni celebrates its name with exciting programs on 6th of December. The St Nicholas fair is a real rarity and you should visit it at this time. Of course, you have to dress warmly as the nearby Cheile Bicazului (Békás szoros) is Romania’s coldest area during winter. Even some of those Himalayan expeditioners come here to prepare for the terrible colds. But on the main square of the town, a good kind of blueberry pálinka can warm you up or hot chocolate in the café.
Among the Szeklerland towns, Odorheiu Secuiesc usually is the best liked by the people I take to all of my favourite places.
One of the most beautiful monuments in the city is on the main square, the town hall built in 1896 in eclectic style. The millennium memorial column is erected in the middle of the main square. The 8.4-meter-high obelisk was demolished in 1919 but was later restored. Going further towards the Hotel Küküllő-Târnava, you can see the Statue Hall of Remembrance. In the former Retirement Park, there are 13 bronze statues of famous people. Walking in the city centre you will understand why many people like Székely land.
Țara Călatei’s dream land is a reality till the present day. Of course, you can taste the fairy tales a bit in Huedin, as you do not know what to make of the many of Roma palaces here.
Five kilometres from here you can find the most well-known city of the region, Sâncraiu (Kalotaszentkirály). On the hilltop, next to a magnificent reformed church from the 13th century, there is the well-known guest house, where after checking in, it’s never too late for to have hot chicken soup or any of the tasty cuisine of the Țara Călatei region. Of course, there is some good pálinka besides the warm welcoming words.
The people living here since the conquest of the Pannonian Basin, when the Kalota tribe settled in fifty villages, which now is Țara Călatei, kept their Hungarian nationality.
Sâncraiu with 1200 inhabitants is one of the most important settlements in the legendary countryside where Hungarian folk traditions still flourish. Everyone wears a distinctive folk costume on feast days and when the bell of the ancient church with the wooden coffered ceiling rings, many respect the old custom: men and women, lads and lasses sit in separate places and also enter the house of God through separate entrances. The bell means more than in another church since in the storm of history, the fortress church often gave shelter to local Hungarians. This is evidenced by the bell in the garden which was cast in 1481, and whose sound disappeared when the church burned down.
When I am in Târgu Mureș, I always visit one special restaurant. In summer the water is splashing in the garden fountain while they bring my favourite dish, the Székely cabbage. They make it amazingly well, I eat it even if I am not so hungry. Then comes the walk through the central square. Once 70% of the residents of Târgu Mureş was Hungarian, now less than half is. Still, the restaurant order is understood by everyone.
The town lies at the junction of three geographical areas (Transylvanian Plain, Valley of Mureș and Eremitu). The highest point of the city is not far from the city centre, the Somos-roof, there is also a superb zoo with a small railway station. The most exciting sight is the two famous downtown Art Nouveau buildings, the Public Administration Palace and the Palace of Culture. The roof of the culture centre is covered with blue, red and white tiles made by the famous Zsolnay factory.
St. Anna Lake is the only crater of volcanic remains in southeast Europe that remained intact.
Although we will go downhill upon visiting the lake, we will still be 950 meters above sea level. Its bottom is gravel and does not deepen quickly although its average water depth is 4 meters. There is no spring running into, its water supply is provided by the spring when snow melts from the surrounding mountains. On the northern shore of the lake the accretion has started, its bottom is covered with a thick sludge layer.
Officially, bathing is already restricted. Next to the lake, there is the St. Anna Chapel, where each year Anna’s Day is celebrated with masses of Catholics going on a pilgrimage. Many people take a grill and make delicacies on the meadows of the lakeside forest.
According to the legend, once upon a time, St. Anne’s Lake was a high mountain with a castle on top. Across the hillside, there was a huge castle on Bálványos Hill, its ruins are still visible today. There were two siblings living in the two castles who were constantly competing with each other. The brother living on the Bálványos Hill once won from one of his guests a beautiful carriage carved with gold and silver and diamonds, led by six squirrels. The other brother was very jealous and envious of the carriage, and they made a bet that he would get a different carriage within a day with not six, but twelve horses. He ordered the most beautiful girls in the area to his castle. It did not take half a day and hundreds of girls gathered together, among them the most beautiful was a girl named Anna. He chose her first, then eleven others, and he put them in front of the carriage. But the girls could not move the carriage. The lord got angry and whipped Anna. When he whipped her for a second time, Anna cursed him to sink under the ground. The curse concealed, the castle sank and in its place a beautiful lake was created.
Transylvania’s landscapes have many legends, it is a fairy-tale world, dreamy landscapes, famous cities, historical monuments. Those who come here, will never forget it.
Source: by Róbert Richard KISS – Tropical Magazine