Gordon: Our guidebook described the area in eastern Transylvania, in the foothills of the Carpathians, as “Székely Land”. The Székely are a Hungarian group that have been in this area since at least the 13th century. The word “Székely” comes from the Hungarian for “frontier guard”.
I expected to notice some traces of a different culture, but coming down into Székely Land was like entering another country. Everyone speaks Hungarian, to the point that I feel uncomfortable using my few words in Romanian. There are Székely flags flying everywhere, and most signs are in Hungarian.
Last night we stayed in Miercurea Ciuc, which bills itself as the capital of Székely Land. On the free municipal map available from from the tourist office, the greeting from the Mayor doesn’t open with some banality about tourist sights, but rather with the statement “God ordained the Szekelys to guard the eastern frontier of Christendom … “ The defining history of this region was the ongoing conflict between the Ottoman Empire and Christian groups, but it has been quite a while since the Ottomans were a real threat. It is remarkable that ancient history is still very much alive in Székely Land.
We have enjoyed the food throughout Romania, but from a dining perspective it is a treat to be in a Hungarian region. There are different dishes, the food is more spiced, and we have been encountering the cyclists’ dream: the buffet breakfast.