These are two of the seven maps I’ve uploaded to the ‘Where we are‘ page, which should give you a better idea of where we are, from Romania’s place in Europe to the coordinates of the village. Now you have no excuse for not finding us…
Our nearest city is Brasov – the most beautiful city in Romania, in my opinion. Medieval bastions, cobbled streets, elegant 18th and 19th century civic buildings and houses, stunning churches, parks and gardens, public squares, and the citadel. All set against the green darkness of Mount Tâmpa and the surrounding forest and hills.
Here are some things to do in your day out Brasov, before coming home to Magura for your delicious countryside dinner.
The latest of my finds, The Romanian Furrow is Donald Hall’s delightful tale of life and work among peasant families in Transylvania. Written in 1933, at about the same that Patrick Leigh-Fermor was tramping amongst the castles and manor houses of the Carpathians, Hall was working in the fields alongside his hosts, living a thousand-year-old tradition of the seasons and the cycle of natural life. The book deserves to be better known – and is not entirely an echo of a forgotten tradition: even in Magura much of the seasonal cycle still rules families and village life. Attitudes and values remain much the same as they were 83 years ago. The perfect read for travellers who might be Transylvania-bound. Read more…
I’ve now loaded up a few links to videos about Magura and the surrounding area. Some of them are images of the village with no voiceover, some are mini-documentaries in Romanian, and there are a couple of American-voiced Dracula-based vids. If you make or find any good vids, do please let me know and I’ll be happy to post them here.
One of my favourites is the real-time drive from the edge of Zarnesti up to Magura – the road I take every time I need any shopping, or have to head off to Brasov, Bucharest or further afield. I love this road, but it can be a challenge if you’re not concentrating. If you’re thinking of hiring a car for your Magura visit, I’d get a high-wheel based 4×4…
What’s your favourite image here?
A blaze of Transylvanian excitement on 25th October! Julia Leescu tells us about an event you won’t want to miss…
Not a bad decision, we say: all work in the fields is done, sheep are back in the villages, shepherds are back with their children and wives, huge piles of local cheese and dried meat are prepared and palinca (local strong alcohol) is distilled for winter. Time to party! Winter is coming: it’s time for Sumedru’s fire (Jim Morrison would be proud).
If you thought that Romanian rural tourism is all about Christian orthodox traditions, your tourist guide might be just wrong. Scratch the surface of many traditions and you’ll see pagan roots. Same goes for St Dimitrie’s holiday – the pre-Christian god Sumedru has transformed himself into Saint Dumitru over the centuries, but the meaning of the old celebration stays the same. The great fire in each of the nine villages of Bran means the death of one season and the birth of the next: the start of a new cycle of life. The bonfire is also said to protect the village against lightning strikes. With wooden houses, this is an important consideration…
The ‘funerary pyre’ of the dead summer purifies everyone around it: dancing and singing children, old folks with boxes full of homemade pastries and chocolate bars, flirting teenagers with torches, daring youths leaping through the flames, locals and tourists.
The fire is usually built on a high hill so everyone can see it. The celebration may last well into the night with concerts around the fire and late festive dinners afterwards at someone’s house.
Visiting any of the Nine Villages on Sumedru’s night offers charming surprises: last year we attended the night celebration in Sirnea village, where local school professor Radu Fruntes organised a great concert with local children lighting the fire, singing and dancing. Later there was a huge party at Radu’s house with hot wine, authentic shepherd-style food and treats and long talks about life with the local police and the mayor.
This year we’re going to Sirnea village again to charge our batteries with authentic Carpathian earth energy, and enough good food to survive the long fast until Christmas.
If you feel a bit cold this Autumn – join Sumedru’s celebration and feel the heat…
Would you like to join us in Sirnea? the evening is Saturday 25th October, but we’ll confirm other information (how to get there, where to stay, what to bring etc) as soon as possible. Leave a comment here, or send us an email with your contact details and we’ll be in touch soon. Please note: this is a traditional and local event, unlike the big commercial thing happening in Bran, so there will be a limit on how many can come to Sirnea. Let us know you’re coming as soon as possible See you there!
A few miles north-east of Sighisoara is the Saxon village of Biertan. Its quiet isolation gives no clue to its importance in medieval Transylvania, which was considerable; the only evidence immediately obvious is the fortified church which looms over the village, too substantial for a sleepy place in the middle of nowhere.
We stayed at Pensiune Unglerus, a house in a quiet street a couple of minutes’ stroll from the Unglerus restaurant nestled in the skirts of the great walls of the fortified church and decorated with weapons, armour and pastiche furniture from the chivalric Middle Ages.
The church needs time for proper exploration and it would be worth reading up on its history so you know what you’re looking at.
About 2.5 hours’ drive from Brasov, so three hours from Magura – an easy and excellent weekend sortie.
… at the Transylvania Horse Show. A soggy Sunday on the May Day holiday weekend saw us in a tiny village called Prod, not far from Sighisoara, for the last day of an important event in the horse world. You wouldn’t know it, given that spectators stayed away in droves due to the soft weather, but the three-day show included international standard cross-country, dressage and show-jumping contests; Friday and Saturday had been sunny, glossy and buzzing with spectators, but we had the pick of waterlogged grandstand seats and a fine view of muddy horses and riders leaping for gold.
The misty hills and the steady rain could have been Cumbria, Wales or the west of England, but the duelling knights were from a Transylvanian order, and the food was entirely Romanian: mici and varza (meatballs and cabbage salad), and lots of Ursus beer.
Next year we’ll be there for the whole weekend – maybe this most hidden-away of international events will have been outed and the secret revealed. Why don’t you come too?
Bucharest’s English-language daily paper, Romanian Insider, reports this morning that taxis at the airport and the Gara de Nord railway station have been sorted out, with touch-screen bookings at both places and one firm winning the bid to take passengers at the station. (read more here)
If this means no more threats and extortion from the mafia cabs, who have fleeced visitors for years to the tune of €50, €60, even €80 to get from the airport to the city centre (the official fare should be about RON30 – certainly less than €10), this is wonderful news for visitors and travellers.
We’ll see. Will Meridian, the taxi firm who has won the bid, stick to its published fares, or will there be some unofficial pricing by drivers? Will it work well for six months then drift back to the bad old ways?
If anyone knows more about this, or has a good or bad experience to report, do please leave your comment here.
This year’s Fân Fest, in the Transylvanian village of Rosia Montana, is on 15-18 August, so get your skates on.
The festival programme promises fun and serious pleasure, but there’s a battle being waged behind the scenes. Big corporate interests want to mine the gold deposits below the village, but this will mean the place being destroyed and people losing their homes, families being evicted after generations.
What do you think? Have you heard about this? Take a long weekend, join the festival fun and lend your support to Rosia Montana.