Smith Travel BlogTravel tales and hotel news from the boutique hotel experts at Mr & Mrs Smith

Postcard from Transylvania

Posted by Juliet Kinsman on January 9th, 2012

My journey to Romania started in a Chiswick bookshop. Our Transylvania destination guide recommends a few books; standing in the travel section William Blacker’s Along the Enchanted Way looked just the ticket for a taste of northern Romania. By the time we reached Copsamare Guesthouses I’d already been charmed by the country folk and entertained by gypsy life…

Landing at Targu-Mures airport (which I knew to be pronounced ‘Teergu-Muresh’ thanks to a tip-off from my Romanian friend, Anelis), we were excited to be taking a hour-and-a-half drive to the centuries-old Saxon village where we were staying the weekend. Then as the charming car rental guy gestured to a medical kit and emergency reflective jackets in the boot of our tiny Fiat, a few nerves were piqued about our winter drive through the Carpathian Mountains…

We needn’t have felt worried. Our only competitors for road space were horse-drawn carts laden with logs – the main local transport. Driving through hamlets of pretty brown, red, blue, green, purple and yellow cottages, the biggest challenge was dodging cows and chickens. Rumbling down a bumpy dirt road, we overtook a man laden with a huge bundle of branches. He was on foot, miles from anywhere, carrying sticks. Where was he going? What was he going to do with them? It was eye-opening to know that some of my fellow Europeans still live such a pre-industrial life. Even the GPS looked bewildered: it reckoned we were in the middle of a field. A reassuring peek at an old-fashioned road map confirmed we were almost at Biertan (pictured top right), a World Heritage site and the nearest town to Copsa Mare. How magical must this part of the world be in the sunny blossom-filled months: trees laden with fruit, herbs and fragrant wildflowers at the edge of lush, terraced vineyards. For us it was autumnal: we visited in December just before a wintery sprinkling of snow.

A road sign nudged us down a bumpy road through more pastel-toned houses – some peeling, others just-painted – and through neatly harvested fields of wheat. A turreted fortified church still looms over Copsa Mare’s cluster of side-to-side Saxon cottages, guiding us down into the village. Though the 16th-century church has long-since fallen into disrepair, and the village’s many German-origin inhabitants all but gone post-1989, the next generation of Transylvanians are visible everywhere. A teenager was at the well filling a bucket, while a toddler scampered with puppies and kittens across the main track.

Copsamare Guesthouses isn’t your conventional Mr & Mrs Smith boutique hotel, here three houses are a lesson in Transylvanian traditions: dried maize and nut leaves hang in clusters, end-of-season apples in a wooden bowl on the communal table, and boldly painted ceramics from Horezu adorn the walls and shelves of the sort-of shared kitchen. In a region so rich in history (and in a village that only has one bar – which, by the way, is men-only), we made it our first task to visit mediaeval micro-city Sighisoara, a 20-minute drive away.

Now I know you’ve been waiting for the traditional Transylvanian reference; yes, we doffed our caps to the birthplace of Vlad the Impaler up in the cobbled old town of Sighisoara. Legend suggests that the ultimate vampire hails from this neck of the woods, though in fact Bram Stoker blurred Vlad Dracul’s tale and that of the notorious caped Count. Vlad’s ruling methods were certainly on the gory side, but true Transylvanian lore doesn’t indicate any actual blood-sucking ever took place. But don’t tell that to the tourists. If you can find any in Copsa Mare…

Read Juliet Kinsman’s anonymous Copsamare Guesthouses review.

Favourites


2 Responses to “Postcard from Transylvania”

  1. I Would love to visit Bran Castle which is Dracula’s castle I had always thought that Dracula was famous for drinking blood but this doesnt seem to be the case. I recently watched “Lost Worlds – The Real Dracula” which is a Documentary on I found on youtube about the real Count Vlad who was famous for impaling his enemies on wooden spikes. A very gruesome time but as you stated there was no evidence of vampires, even though its fiction I still prefer Bram stokes version. Was it expensive when you visited as id imagine one of their main sources of income is tourism?

    By Khaled

  2. Hi Khaled,
    No it wasn’t expensive at all in Transylvania, at least not to someone who lives in London! Food and drink was really affordable even in the higher-end places where they are appealing to tourists with a bit more cash.
    Juliet

    By Juiet Kinsman

Leave a comment