Castle in Brassó via Wikipedia
Lately, Budapest and Hungary have been named to multiple ‘best of’ lists in terms of travel and livability, including a penultimate spot in the prestigious Conde Nast Traveler Readers’ Choice list of favorite cities, which saw Budapest at number two, behind only Florence, Italy. But last week also saw the release of travel company Lonely Planet’s choice of top travel destinations, and would you believe that Transylvania, formerly part of Hungary, and a region that still hosts a huge Hungarian population, was named the best region for travel for the year 2016?
Gate in the Székely Land
So much more than Dracula (though there is a lot of Dracula in Transylvania, with three castles promoting themselves as the ‘Dracula Castle,’) the region has some of the few areas worth visiting in Europe that still feel untouched by mass tourism. Many of these are ancient villages tucked into the Carpathian Mountains which are still populated by wolves and bears. With so many cultures, from Székely, to Saxon, to Roma and straight-up Hungarian and Romanian at work, traveling around Transylvania (known as Erdély in Hungarian) is a textured, dynamic experience.
Oradea (Nagyvárad) from above, via Wikipedia
From the Art Nouveau architecture of the town of Nagyvárad (Oradea in Romanian), to the UNESCO-protected Saxon churches, along with the Hunyadi Castle in Vajdahunyad (Hunedoara in Romanian) and the Bran Castle (one of the Dracula castles) in Brassó (Romanian: Brasov), there are no end to interesting locations. The mountain ranges in eastern Transylvania mimic the Appalachians in America (and were used as such in the film adaptation of Cold Mountain) while the villages evoke medieval times. Hungarian traditions and folk culture are alive in the Székely region, which Lonely Planet recommends for its extra spicy gulash soup. What they say when touting Transylvania on their site: “A melange of architecture and chic sidewalk cafes punctuate the towns of Braşov, Sighişoara and Sibiu, while the vibrant student town Cluj-Napoca has the country’s most vigorous nightlife. Many of southern Transylvania’s Saxon villages are dotted with fortified churches that date back half a millennium. An hour north, in Székely Land, ethnic Hungarian communities are the majority. Throughout you’re likely to spot many Roma villagers – look out for black cowboy hats and rich red dresses.”
Wooden church interior, via Wikipedia
So put away the garlic and come see what makes this formerly Hungarian – and still Hungarian feeling – region so attractive from the point of view of film production and fun.
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