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Micloşoara - A view from our expert author
© Lucy Mallows
With its delightful village guesthouses, 16th-century manor house and equestrian centre, this Székely village is an essential outing on any trip to the region.
Micloşoara, known usually by its Hungarian name, Miklósvár, is a Székely village where you will mostly likely hear only Hungarian spoken in the street. Brush up on your Jó napot (‘Good Day’) expressions because the courteous villagers greet anyone and everyone in the street and, in the warmer months, everyone sits outside their houses to watch the daily promenade home of the cattle (at 20.00) along the main street.
It is a wonderful rural sight and each cow knows instinctively which yard to turn into. Micloşoara sits on a slope and at the lower end is the Miki Kocsma (pub; open allegedly non-stop but usually from 17.00 until late), doubling up as a corner shop, where visitors and farmers alike can enjoy a cool bottle of beer and watch the carts piled high with hay trundle past pulled by docile horses or oxen.
Further along the road is the 16th-century manor house under restoration and belonging to Count Tibor Kálnoky, whose guesthouse is the main reason why so many people now visit this lost-in-time backwater village. The urbane Kálnoky is a 40-something Székely entrepreneur and descendant of a noble family, who settled in the misty, myth-laden region in the 13th century and lived there until communism forced the family to flee. Kálnoky, who grew up in France and Germany and studied to be a vet, moved back to the ancestral home after communism ended in 1989. In the last few years he has created one of Romania’s most successful tourist ventures out of his ancestral hunting manor and has counted Prince Charles among his guests. Prince Charles also asked Kálnoky to manage his Saxon guesthouse in Viscri.
The Count’s guesthouse complex, in two venues in the village, opened in 2001 and is one of the best places to stay in Transylvania. Guests can make the place their base (staying a minimum of three nights in high season) and explore the countryside by hire car, but it is highly recommended to stay on an all-inclusive package and let knowledgeable locals take you to secret places you’d never find alone, and also negotiate the dubious road surfaces and Romanian road hogs.
Day trips are organised for every day of the week and after a huge breakfast, guests visit the Seven Stairs Waterfall, go bear- or birdwatching, visit Saxon fortress towns, see volcanic lakes, go on a fossil trail, and ride on a horse and cart to what botanist Dr John Akeroyd calls the ‘very last example of an untouched medieval landscape’, where a rustic picnic will sustain travellers until dinner.
In early 2008, Kálnoky took over the operations of the Ştefan cel Mare Equestrian Centre, previously in Bistriţa-Năsăud County, as the centre’s founder, Julian Ross had to return to the UK for health reasons. At Count Kálnoky’s Equestrian Centre Transylvania, as it is now known (www.riding-holiday.ro), visitors can ride seven of Ross’s locally bred horses as well as Kálnoky’s Shagya Arab and Lipizzaner breeds through the glorious ‘Woodlands’ (Erdővidék) region of Covasna County.
See the website for a one-week riding holiday based at the riding centre at Valea Crişului/ Sepsikőröspatak. The delicious Hungarian dishes and organic fruit and vegetables are all prepared by a collection of charming Hungarian-speaking ladies and in the warmer months are enjoyed under an arbour in the fragrant garden. If it gets chilly, guests can retire to the 17th-century wine cellar or sit in front of a roaring fire, sampling some of the excellent vintages, before retiring to rooms decorated with authentic Transylvanian furniture, huge fairytale beds with pure wool mattresses and discreet Western-style bathrooms. There is even a sauna incorporated in a vast, ancient bread oven.