After travelling through the typical tourist route in Romania, we took a detour from the beaten tourist path and head into the rural countryside of Romania. Leaving Transylvania, we made one last stop in Hunedoara to see the famous Hunedoara Castle, before settling in Lugoj in Western Romania.
Hunedoara Castle, also known as Corvin Castle, is a Gothic-Renaissance castle and one of the largest castles in Europe. It was much more the ‘Dracula’ castle that I expected to find in Romania, with an imposing drawbridge, mote and fortress-like walls. The castle was fantastic to explore, and I wish we could have returned at night, to see it eerily illuminated by moonlight.
We settled in the small Western-Romanian city of Lugoj, and used it as a base for exploring the tiny rural villages where some long distant relatives still live today. The area has about 500 inhabitants, mostly of Hungarian background. Many of the residents work in neighbouring cities but grow almost all their own food.
Each home had chickens, pigs and a large garden of vegetables and fruit trees. Despite the language barriers, we were able visit the homes of several relatives and have a delicious sit-down lunch with them in their home. The meal started off with a typical shot of pálinka (homemade brandy), then vegetable soup and fresh grilled chicken and potatoes, delicious!
Their lives were a perfect example of tradition clashing with the modern world – this is the only place I’ve visited with a satellite dish and an outhouse in the same dwelling. The people were honest and hardworking and I loved to see the children playing outside in the garden and eating fresh, home-grown food. After our meal, we went to visit the local graveyard where we found the grave of my grandfather’s grandparents!
It was such an amazing experience to see the “real Romania” and also the roots of my family. The villages were beautiful and I am so glad we took the time to take a detour and rediscover where my family really came from.