Zărneşti - A view from our expert author

Zarnesti, Transylvania, Romania by Lucy Mallows
© Lucy Mallows

The charming hosts at Dan & Luminita Marin Guesthouse and exceptional wildlife excursions of Wolf Tours make this town a highlight of any visit.

Zărneşti – a long winding town that seems to stretch for many kilometres – is an unprepossessing sort of town but it is fast becoming an important and popular stop on any ecotourist’s agenda owing to the efforts of one man. Danuţ ‘Dan’ Marin was the joint winner of Wanderlust’s Paul Morrison Guide of the Year 2007, a richly deserved award for his efforts, together with his wife Luminiţa, to promote the local natural attributes as well as working for the community.

Together, Dan and Luminiţa run a guesthouse called Transylvanian Wolf, which they bought in 2003. The spacious rooms have log-burning ceramic stoves and modern bathrooms. A visit to their Zărneşti home gives a thoroughly satisfying glimpse into the society, nature, culture, history and legends of the region.

Dan is an extremely knowledgeable host and guide, and, after a fantastic breakfast, leads walking tours of the surrounding region, including the Piatra Craiului National Park, the village of Vulcan and the difficult-to-reach village of Măgura. He is informative on the flora and fauna and reads animal footprints, follows shepherds’ trails, spots distant soaring birds and recounts myths and legends for the guests.

Dan can also arrange bear-watching trips to one of the hides in the area. He also speaks impeccable accent-free English, which is amazing considering he is entirely self-taught from a book, as well as French. Dan’s charming and hospitable wife, Luminiţa, prepares delicious Romanian, Transylvanian and Roma dishes, lighter Western-style dishes and caters for special dietary needs.

She also gives classes in the art of local cuisine and brews all manner of healing herbal teas. On a walk with Dan, visitors can meet a shepherd in his isolated mountain hut and assist with the cheese making, a tradition now under threat from the EU bureaucrats. Groups of eight can take part in a special Roma music and dance evening, meet the bulibasha (Roma leader) and gain a real understanding of their way of life and culture, beyond the usual tourist-trip stereotypes. This is a genuine highlight of any visit to Transylvania, whether in search of culture, food or wildlife.

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