Yellow, purple and blue floodlights bathe the famous Banffy Castle in a mysterious light. The famous building from the 15th century is the scene of the equally famous Electric Castle festival, which is one of the largest in Eastern Europe with 300 artists from more than 24 countries on ten stages. A true experience in a mystical environment.
Since the whole tour is a true experience with mysterious environments, when we discover the nearest city of Cluj-Napoca in the days of the Electric Castle,. It is the capital of the Cluj district and, with around 400,000 inhabitants, the largest city in the Transylvania region.
A city with a lot of history. It goes too far to explain that whole timeline, but he comes back all over town. Often in the form of statues such as the equestrian statue of Michael the Brave, who as a monarch reunited the three principalities of Wallachia, Transylvania and Moldavia and is therefore known as one of the most important heroes in Romanian history. With its buildings, the square around it recalls Nicolae Ceaușescu’s communism from 1965 to 1989.
Also in churches such as the impressive St. Michael’s Church on Piata Unirii, the second largest church in Transylvania. The 76 meter high tower is the tallest in the country. A stone’s throw away is the Orthodox Theotokos Cathedral. Also a beautiful building, but it mainly shows how much history and diversity the city has.
View of the Székelykő mountain from the Casa Király Vendégház restaurant.
People of different origins and since the war in Ukraine about 600 kilometers away also live more Ukrainians, old but also many young thanks to the various universities in a pleasant atmosphere with many restaurants, bars and night life.
Although there is also enough nature in the area to escape that melting pot for a while. In less than 40 minutes’ drive, you are on the border of the high mountains of the Carpathians and the Apuseni Mountains. A diverse environment with an alternation between mountains: one raw and rocky, the other rounded and polished like Table Mountain in Cape Town, another fresh green with different vegetation. This is dotted with a lot of forest – the meaning of Transylvania ‘the land behind the forest’ is there for a reason – and meadows with the characteristic and so-called mushroom houses.
Here, too, the necessary mystery. Guide Marius stomps lightly with his foot in the grass underground: here are said to be underground tunnels. In one of these corridors, the famous and hated Vlad III – his habit of impaling opponents with iron rods earned him his nickname the Impaler – is said to have been transformed into the character of Bram Stoker’s novel Dracula.
We will never know if it is true, but what is special is that one of the largest bat populations in at least Romania lives here: around 30,000.
Anyway, the superstitions are here: we pass various scenes that look like an altar, which are supposed to chase the evil spirits out of the mountains. And do you come across a hooded old man at an intersection at night? Chances are it’s an evil spirit. At least that’s what the believers think.
Another mysterious part of the Cluj area, again with the requisite superstition stories, can be found about 10 kilometers from the center of Cluj-Napoca. There is the Hoia Baciu forest.
A large forest worth the trouble, albeit not to venture into alone. It is known as the most haunted forest in the world and the Bermuda Triangle in Europe. Legend has it that a shepherd with 200 sheep once moved in here, never to be found again despite intensive searches.
A so-called mushroom house in the mountains of Vlădeasa.
According to legend two, a girl walking alone once disappeared here. She was found five years later in the same clothes, but without any active memory of the past years.
Reasons enough not to go out on your own. Not even because the required magnetic fields have been reported here, another legend. A truth you have experienced yourself: range with the mobile phone is not possible.
This makes our lonely journey extra exciting. Regardless of whether any of the stories are true, every sound, from a snapping twig to a falling pinecone, makes the heart skip a beat. Because what is that rustling in those bushes? Why do the leaves and branches blow on one tree and not on the next tree?
And what do the stones that are laid in a circle with a long branch stuck in the ground mean? The story also tells that witches’ meetings are often held in the middle of the dense forest, where suddenly there are no more trees. This causes the planned walk to be shortened, and there is a return to the nearest civilization with steady steps. After all, there is no range to call a taxi.
The resident in one of the few houses that has had great experience over the years, he says. For example, the batteries and accumulators of appliances and cars in the area ran out within two years. Curiously, white shadows can be seen in the photos he took during the renovation of his house. Entities, say the believers. Or just dust, he says with a sober shrug.
It gives the whole Cluj-Napoca experience an extra (magnetic) charge. Party, culture, history and nature can all be found here. And the requisite heart attacks for those who believe it.
Here’s how to get there
We flew in about 2.5 hours from Eindhoven airport to the airport in Cluj-Napoca, which is about a 20-minute drive from the city center. In the city itself, everything is within walking distance, but a (Bolt) taxi or electric scooter is also widely used. The time difference with the Netherlands is 1 hour (later). A combination trip Cluj-Napoca and the Electric Castle festival can be made via festival.travel