Transylvania is as wild as the bears, wolves and lynxes that roam its woods: cold-shouldered by the craggy Carpathian mountains, with a tangle of dark forests, flowery meadows, verdant vineyards and streams as sparkly as scattered glass.
If you’re a Latin-boffin or ancient Roman, you’ll already know that Transylvania means ‘land beyond the forest’. No doubt the Romans were just being factual, but it’s an aptly intriguing description for such an imagination-stirring landscape. Unfenced fields dotted with mediaeval churches, Saxon houses painted in primary colours, sleepy villages, a culture rich in tradition and superstition – someone should write a gothic thriller about Transylvania. (Oh wait, Bram Stoker already did.) Lazy Dracula references aside, the real Romania is more compelling than any haemoglobin-hunting Count. Way before Vlad the Impaler was sharpening sticks, various tribes and nations squabbled over the territory, including the Hungarians and Saxons (they're to thank for the area’s hearty goulashes, sour soups and cabbage-y creations). More recently, the region’s seven fortress towns (Bistrita, Brasov, Cluj-Napoca, Medias, Sebes, Sighişoara and Sibiu) wobbled under Ceauşescu’s Communist regime. Unlike the disgraced leader, they emerged relatively unscathed, and were swiftly restored to former finery. Popular culture casts Transylvania as a nocturnal vamp, but its pleasures – skiing, walking and wine tasting – are designed for daytime.
Spring and autumn are balmy and pretty; winters are bitterly cold; even in the warm summers, evenings are chilly.