By Mira Kaliani from Călătorii la Singular
It’s wonderful and challenging to talk about the place you first knew in this world and the one that’s closest to your heart. And, above all, to stay objective, too. But, when it comes to Transylvania a dose of subjectivity is recommended to everyone.
I cannot remember exactly the moment I realized what an awesome place I was born in.
But I know that it took me a long enough time to become aware of how beautiful Transylvania is and of how many incredible experiences it can give a traveller.
As usually happens: you want to go farther and farther, as far as possible from the places you think you know too well. But, there comes a day when you arrive home and discover the many beauties that have waited patiently to be explored.
This is what has happened between me and Transylvania.
I had long been convinced that Translyvania could no longer show me anything to excite my appetite for wandering about it again. I felt I had lived all its possible adventures.
I was wrong. So wrong.
It’s only now that I understand that I’ll never be able to fully know Transylvania, to see every piece of it, to find all its mysteries.
For every traveller prepared to venture here, this land in Central Romania has something magical, spectacular, and original.
Here are 10 reasons that inspire me to wander over Transylvania more and more.
Are you ready?
1. Beautiful Nature
If nature and hiking are part of your life, come to Apuseni. These mountains are located in the western part of Transylvania and belong to the Carpathians. A large area is included in Apuseni Natural Park.
I walked dozens of superb trails through this natural park. I crossed forests, villages, picturesque hamlets, and everywhere I met caves, karst plateaus, spectacular gorges, waterfalls and lakes.
In Apuseni, too, there is the region also known as Ţara de Piatră or Ţara Moţilor.
It is one of the most charming areas, with houses scattered along valleys and ridges, with idyllic landscapes and villages barely touched by modernity.
Plan to stay at least one week to enjoy the nature.
2. Villages with Fortified Churches
In Transylvania, there are over 150 (once 300) fortified churches. These picturesque Saxon villages can be viewed via different tours and will amaze you with their architecture and beauty.
Many of these simple fortresses around the churches, founded by Transylvanian Saxons for defense, could never be conquered by their attackers.
But they conquer me every time with their charm.
The Saxons (saşi), a German-speaking population, arrived in southeastern Transylvania between the 12th and 13th centuries, invited by the kings of Hungary and they built numerous villages.
Some of the most beautiful fortified churches are those of Biertan, Prejmer, Viscri, Câlnic, Dârjiu, Saschiz, Valea Viilor, included on the World Heritage List.
3. Lovely Cities
Every city in Transylvania, large or small, has its charm and sprinkle of poetry.
Sibiu, the only city in Romania which has so far held the title of European Capital of Culture, will win you over with its old romantic places, and with the multitude of performances taking place each season.
Târgu Mures is worth visiting for its elegant palaces (the Palace of Culture is beautiful on the outside and full of splendor inside) and cultural diversity.
With one of the few medieval cities in the world that is inhabited today, Sighisoara has to be put on the must see list More than once have I forgotten about myself wandering through the paved streets.
Brasov is the city where I like passing time in the secluded streets of the Old Town, or sitting at one of the dozens of terraces.
In Alba Iulia you have the opportunity to explore one of the most beautiful citadels in Transylvania. Every day, the change of the Citadel Guard takes place, and that’s a show that you shouldn’t miss.
4. Kind People
Transylvanian people are said to be faini (meaning good and nice), serious and reliable. I absolutely agree!
With them, I’ve always felt good, because they are open, they find time to sit and talk, to laugh and joke.
They like to show their kindness and be welcoming. You can find yourself invited in their house and sitting down at their table, before being able to tell them your name and where you come from.
In Transylvania, you can find dozens of small workshops where craftsmen work various objects by hand: of wood, painted furniture, glass icons, ceramic pots.
If you go in winter through villages, you are likely to attend a şezătoare (meaning a social evening). In the long winter evenings, women gather in a house (this gathering is called şezătoare), some sit at the loom, others spin wool and while weaving colorful rugs, they talk and sing.
A magical atmosphere!
This is where I rejoice every time I see how beautifully celebrations and old traditions are kept.
Young and old, everyone loves to celebrate such moments.
If you get to the villages, for Christmas or for the New Year, you will see groups of young people, often dressed in traditional costumes, wassailing from house to house and wishing people a good new year.
It should be easy for you to fit in a holiday celebration no matter what time of the year you travel to Transylvania.
Our celebrations are another reason why Transylvania seems full of life and authenticity.
7. Fabulous Landscapes
Perhaps I am most attracted to this land by the fabulous landscapes it was blessed with. Large valleys, impressive mountains, wild gorges will arise before you. It’s enough to leave cities behind for a little while.
The houses surrounded by forests and scattered over the hills form a charming rustic picture.
8. Picturesque Villages and countryside life
In many small settlements in Transylvania, time seems to be different from the time we townspeople are accustomed with.
In villages you can enjoy quietness, as people languidly care for animals, household, family.
If you’re an avid photographer, you won’t be able to let your camera down. Every window, every tree, every moment is there to be snapped for memories.
I cannot stay away too long from the places where almost everything has remained exactly as it was in my childhood. And I find that extraordinary.
I can see men mowing and women gathering hay. Animals returning from pasture slowly, in the evening, in the ringing of bells hung around their neck; this is a day by day picture. I like to give up the car and occasionally take the means of transport as old as mankind, a cart full of newly mown hay and pulled by a horse.
All these simple bucolic scenes, of an unparalleled charm, will delight.
I should say that I love Transylvanian cuisine. And so it is, just with a small personal note: being especially based on meat, not all dishes are to my liking.
Although, before giving up meat, it occupied a place of honor in my menu!
Whether you like to eat meat or not, Transylvanian cuisine is so varied that you will undoubtedly find your favorite dish. But do not expect exquisite specialties. It is not at all a sophisticated cuisine; it is a blend of Romanian, Hungarian, Transylvanian Saxonic flavors, but with a special, delicious taste.
Sour soups (recommendation: taste bean sour soup with smoked ham), stuffed cabbage, walnut pound cakes just taken out of the oven, are easily entered the list of culinary preferences of travelers.
Everything that makes me come back again and again to Transylvania points to the atmosphere: traditional, simple, profoundly spiritual.
In the long summer days, I am overjoyed with those leisure moments when dusk slowly descends over the village. Under the myriad of stars and among the songs of crickets, long stories go off, between friends.
Winter holidays are lived by faith and loaded with magic and wonder. It is an essential experience to celebrate with the locals. To get to know their superstitions, which are not limited at all, their beliefs, and their dreams.
This superb atmosphere gives life to Transylvania. And I madly love this patriarchal, original, mysterious land.
BIO: Mira Kaliani is a travel writer and photographer and owner of Călătorii la Singular travel blog. She loves to travel through her own country, Romania, but has the same joy in exploring new places and cultures around the world. She likes slow travel, enjoys simple things that make life wonderful and is delighted in giving people ideas and inspirations to travel and live the life they dream of. You can find Mira on Călătorii la Singular or Facebook.
Have you been to Transylvania before?