Don’t Be a Tourist in Romania17 Oct 2018
This summer, my curiosity took me to Romania, a former communist Balkan country with a notoriously bad rep as a backwards land of gypsies with zero infrastructure for any semblance of tourism. Why do you want to go to Romania?! I was consistently asked in the run-up to our trip. My unspoken answer: to prove you wrong.
So did I succeed in my mission? Did Romania live up to my high hopes?
Village Hopping with Prince Charles
One of the most surprising things in my research, was the discovery of the future King of England’s passion for the Romanian countryside, “the last wild corner of Europe”. He visits Transylvania every year, has his own private retreat in a remote village, and recently opened it up to guests to help promote sustainable tourism in Romania. It is truly a magical place.
He’s often quoted saying the rolling hills of Romania remind him of what Scotland would have been like before it was deforested, or the Cotswolds if time had stopped. He’s not wrong, and I’d add that the untouched landscapes and verdant summer pastures could also rival the scenery in Tuscany or Provence.
Of course, a holiday in Romania is far cheaper– we’re talking both flights and accommodation. It makes the perfect weekend or week-long break, with the luxury of simplicity attainable to all, from micro-budgets of 25 euros a night to maxing out at 120 euros a night.
Far from the tiresome stereotype as the home of “Dracula”, Transylvania is a fairytale escape from city life and truly succeeds in disconnecting you from the stresses of home. Hopping from historic guesthouses to elegant hillside manors, amidst the remote beauty of the Carpathian foothills, this is without doubt, the best-kept secret of Romania. And if it’s good enough for Prince Charles…
Where to Stay
Zalanpatak: Prince of Wales’ Private Retreat
For €128, you can sleep in the Prince’s own historic cottage, sit at his writing desk and borrow his books and straw hats– generally playing Goldilocks at his royal retreat. The hamlet has several guesthouses and cottages, and the price includes breakfast, lunch and dinner (and wine), prepared by the local staff’s cooking reflecting the different Transylvanian ethnicities; Romanian, Hungarian, Saxon (more about the food in Romania later).
You’ll dine with fellow guests at a ‘table d’hôte’ in a converted al fresco barn with a fireplace. We made friends with two Italian couples from Rome and a pair of German students hitchhiking across country who decided to spoil themselves with a night of luxury. On each morning of the week, a different activity is organised for guests; nature walks, horse & cart rides, visits to local craftsmen. The afternoons are for reading, sleeping under the cool breeze, riding a bicycles through nearby villages, or tiptoeing down the river with your feet dipped in the crystal clear waters. Immerse yourself in a forgotten world that most believe has ceased to exist in today’s Europe. My only regret? That I didn’t spend more than one night here.
Rooms start from €128. Transfers from all airports and train stations in the region included in the price. There are daily flights from most major cities to Brasov, which is under two hours from the retreat.