I really waited for this day. This hot day of May, when everything’s green and there are hardly any cars on the road.
The four of us, two Irish ladies, one Transylvanian guy and myself, started the journey in Cluj and drove to the not so distant region of Calata. The journey was animated by discussions about Transylvania and its multiculturality, its history and the tough times that Romania lived during communism, but once we reached the village of Mera, our attention was distracted by the local ladies, walking around wearing traditional clothes.
Yes, the whole region of Calata is a compact Hungarian community living very close to Cluj. This region finds it very important to keep traditions, keep the traditional workshops alive and celebrate life the way it should be celebrated. For a better insight of the local way of life, my colleague Jutka, who has been living there for quite some years now, joined us on our tour.
An old smiling lady greeted us by the only buffalo museum in the world. Her husband found it very important to immortalize the main source of income for the villagers of Mera, buffalo raising, so he opened a very interesting museum that tells the story of hundreds of buffalos and their very precious milk. Talking about milk… she even brought us some fresh milk to taste it. Do I have to underline that it is delicious? I guess not…
Saying goodbye to the lovely lady, we walked on to the house of a welcoming family. Hard working, beautiful family they are. The lady in the house was just sowing a beautiful pattern on a traditional costume. “It’s for a famous folk dance group from Hungary, they wanted it to be original” she told us proudly. Indeed, she had hundreds of reasons to be proud. She led us to the “fancy room”, the room that is always clean and where they keep the young girl’s heritage. The fancier the room is, the richer the family. Anyway, most families have this “fancy room”, which in our case turned out to be the highlight of the day. The woodcarver husband did the furniture, the lady did the painting and all the costumes hidden in the wardrobe. Our guests couldn’t stop ooohhh-ing and wow-ing while Jutka kept telling us funny local stories. I have to admit, there’s a reason why they call this the fancy Calata (Cifra Kalotaszeg in Hungarian).
Waving goodbye to Mera, the winding road took us to Vistea, a neighboring village. A dusty but smiling stone carver showed us into his workshop, where his practiced hands turned a block of limestone into a leafy patterned piece of a fireplace. “They sent me the picture on WhatsApp” said the old man, “so now I have to zoom in to see the exact pattern of the fireplace, see?” he showed us a picture of a finished fireplace on his smartphone. Well, even keepers of traditions have to upgrade their tools I guess.
After some delicious polenta, trout and papanasi, our itinerary took us to Izvorul Crisului, where another church has been dominating the village in the past several centuries. All these places are unique in the world for their architecture and traditions that live to this very day, but unfortunately are unknown to many people living even in the big city.
The precision of the thousand beads on costumes, the richness of colors, the ambitious spirit of the local craftsmen, the mouthwatering dishes, the pride of a local community, the faith of these people and the wild breathtaking scenery is what defines Calata.
So why not join us on our next adventure here? I would be delighted to show you around.