Szekelyudvarhely, Transylvania

Transylvania is a complex region. The city of Szekelyudvarhely is also called Udvarhely (courtyard) for short, and in Romanian it is called Odorheiu Secuiesc. With respect to the 96% Hungarian population,  I will refer to locations in local Hungarian terms when applicable.

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Arrival in Cluj Napoca

I landed in Cluj Napoca and was met by György, an ambitious, hard-working man who lives in Udvar near the city center. Like most residents in Udvar and Transylvania, he is Hungarian, not Romanian. He is a professional videographer that creates stunning documentaries and memoir videos for special occasions, and he enjoys taking photographs. György moonlights as a private chauffeur because he is saving to purchase a new high-end  video camera.  I was appreciative of his attention to detail and pointing out the authentic and less touristy places of interest while sharing the history of the area during both of our three hour trips to and from the airport.

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After two three-hour road trips, we became friends.

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We stopped at a thermal spring called Medve To (Bear Lake) in a small city called Szovata. It had been storming and was a bit dark so it is impossible to tell from the photos just how beautiful it is. I found a nice article about Szovata with more details and photo.

 

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Bear Lake, thermal spring resembling a bear from above

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Park in Szovata, Romania on Medve To

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Mound settlements

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There was a brief period during the trip that got a little scary, when a heavy storm crashed down and made it hard to see while traveling across the Carpathians.

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Storm clouds rolling in…

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We survived the storm and made it to Udvar! Excited as I was, I quickly learned that blasting a victory horn to rejoice is strictly prohibited here.

I stayed at Hotel Küküllo in the center of downtown Udvar and I LOVED it! The staff was so kind and helpful, provided me with a walking map, helpful suggestions, and regaled me with promises of delicious breakfasts to come. On days that guests are not able to attend breakfast, the Maitre d’hotel sends  you off with a To Go package.

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View from bed at 5 am when the sun is already shining and the church bells toll.

 

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Looking out the window across Udvar

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Franciscan Church

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Enjoying a Ciuk on the patio after the storm resumed.

 

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Plebanos cellar bar and restaurant has the best Tarkonyos csirke raguleves (Tarragon chicken stew), Töltött kaposzta (stuffed cabbage rolls) and fried chicken stuffed with mushrooms and cheese.

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Mokka is the ideal place to meet for drinks, with countless tables on a large romantic multi-level patio garden and two bars.

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We were in luck! Difficult to see but this is the main bar, where a group of touring performers sang songs from RENT while we sipped Unicum and Pelinka.

When traveling, I always like to wake up earlier than usual to get a good start on wandering the area. Remember that breakfast I mentioned?

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Fulfilled Breakfast Promises at Hotel Küküllo- eggy toast, creamed spinach, THREE types of pork with mustard, and a Damn Fine cup of Coffee. Thank you Atilla!

Across the street from Hotel Küküllo is this Memorial Park that stands in tribute to thirteen famous Hungarians. To the right and going forward, the area is filled with places to shop, eat, and meet others.

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The thirteenth bust is of the Wandering Szekeler. Lucky 13 again!

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Names and info of all thirteen honorees.

Nearby is Cofetaria Alexandr known for its pastries, rich coffee, and creamy gelato. It is also a particularly popular spot during the summer because it holds several large oscillating fans.

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Across from Alexandr is Town Hall square, and both sides of this street are lined with gardens and monuments that lead to the Roman Catholic church and cemetery on the hill.

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City Hall

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Millenium Monument in Town Hall Square

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So many lovely churches

The most common place I was told to visit is this Roman Catholic Church on a large hill- Székelyudvarhelyi Szent Miklós Római Katolikus Templom és Plébánia, and the cemetery behind it. Once you climb to the top you have a spectacular view of the city.

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Huge cemetery behind the church

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View from the cemetery behind the church

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Back on ground level, I was searching for some Hargita mineral water and found myself going toward residential areas away from the center.

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Chicken coops are a common sight

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Tiger Lillies are a good omen to me, just like my lucky 13.

My good friend (host, fellow bone nerd, and professor) teaches an Osteology fieldwork course in the summers at the Babb-Bolyai school. While he was busy I walked the grounds, read my tour map guide, and had coffee across the street.

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For ethical reasons I will not post further photos from the Osteology lab, as it is mandatory to practice caution not to capture any identifiable human information. That being said, I found this collection of vertebrae with a sacrum to be an artfully arranged and abstract smiling face. Do you see it?

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I also found this sculpture installation to resemble an abstract sacrum. Some people see Jesus in their wallpaper and toast; I see bones.

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1 Decembrie 1918 is a major street in Udvarhely in celebration of the Romanian National Holiday, Great Union Day. Also known as Unification Day, it marks the union of Transylvania.

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Some cultural center that was unfortunately not open when I arrived.

Once I learned that my plan to return home with a suitcase of local paprika would be foiled by customs, I was determined to eat as much of it as possible while in Rome. 

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Transylvanian stroganov with fried mushrooms and salad. Can’t stop, won’t stop.

 

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