Gordon: If we do not have a specific attraction or city as our day’s destination, we often select one based on its distance and the availability of accommodation. Today those criteria led us to a guesthouse in the village of Sâncraiu. While our guesthouse was the only one listed on Bookings, on a walk around the village we encountered no less than seven other guesthouses. This was a bit surprising, as we were unaware of any particular attractions in town, and our mapping app did not indicate any sites of interest. The mystery deepened when a tour bus arrived in town and disgorged a load of tourists, a few of which ambled to our guesthouse. Through research on the Internet, Ruth eventually determined that the village was the national nominee in a competition for villages in the EU. It also has an interesting history as a town that was located on the border between Hungary and Romania, to the point that some farmers needed a passport to get to their fields.
Sâncraiu is now located well within the territory of Romania, but 85 percent of the population are of Hungarian descent. It appears that a lot of Hungarian tourists visit the village, perhaps because it is such a well preserved town of its type. There is an air of self-reliant prosperity here. The houses, many dating to the 19th century, are in good condition. It is also the first village where we have noticed the extensive use of ornate barge board as decoration on the houses.
It is only when you peer down the sides of the houses that you realize another characteristic of the town: the integration of agriculture into the lives of the residents. While the houses are located relatively close to each other, every house has a very deep yard that typically incorporates a substantial barn, a large garden, and a small orchard.
We accepted our landlord’s offer to provide us with dinner and breakfast. We enjoyed her delicious Hungarian cooking in a gazebo in the yard, and learned that the distance from the farm to the table was very short indeed. The beef was from their own cow, the tomatoes and potatoes from their garden, and they picked the mushrooms in the nearby forest.
After dinner we heard a commotion in the street and went out to watch the parade of cows returning home after a day in the fields. About 20 cows wandered down the Main Street of town, apparently without supervision. What was truly startling was that undirected they peeled off in ones and twos down driveways to the barns in the backyards. It was the end of the day and like factory workers at shift change they were heading home for the evening.
It has been a treat observing the daily rhythm of a traditional farming village, and I guess that attraction keeps the guesthouses of Sâncraiu in business.