In this world there are hotels and hotels; big ones, little ones, fancy ones, simple ones. But this is not about those. This is about something truly special, something unique, something never seen before, something that will stay with you for as long as you live.
This is the first time I am writing a personal review about a place. I am not going to start talking about general information about this estate, that can be found here. Instead, even though I am a bit nervous, I want to share my experience, tell you a story, if you will, about “Zabola”, through my eyes.
My name is Alexandra, the other half of Finding Romania. I am 27 years old, and while I am not a writer, I am going to try and share with you some of my thoughts regarding this wonderful place and how I got there.
Two years ago, when we opened the agency, we knew that we wanted to be different, stand out from the crowd. Aside from the travel offers, we wanted to promote places less known to the general public. We wanted to offer accommodation in areas that you will not normally find in other travel agencies. Normally, when you google Romania, you will find Dracula, Transylvania, Bucharest and other well-known areas. But that’s not the case here. Throughout our search for places like these, we found “Zabola” in Covasna county.
I know that when we offer our services to the world, the most crucial thing is to know what we’re offering; I am sure you guys (our readers) agree. So that’s exactly what we did. We went in an expedition, to find out what this place is all about. This happened in February of 2017, when we took 2 friends and a dog with us.
After we drove through the Prahova valley, which is well known for its mountain resorts and castles (that’s where Bran Castle is), we arrived in Covasna county, and it felt like we went back in time. Everything is just simpler, one village after the other, with Saxon-type houses; and what’s interesting is the fact that in front of most of these houses are locals that are selling potatoes, traditional bread (the kind of bread that I used to eat when I was young, growing up in Blaj, a small Transylvanian town) and the world famous Kurtos Colac.
When the GPS notified us that we arrived at the destination, I was already impressed; I felt like I was already in a Disney movie. The front iron gates were the first sign that we are going to be transported into a different world, where you would expect to meet princesses, carriages and children skating on the frozen lake. And guess what, that’s exactly what we found.
The gates opened automatically (I guess somebody saw us). And this is where we met Boti, an extremely friendly person who guided us through the estate towards The Machine House, where we booked our rooms. This is what I call premium hospitality; it’s all about your guests, and Boti sure knew how to make us feel at home.
Being winter, the place was covered in snow, and I felt like Belle in Beauty & the Beast. Remember the scene where she went in the castle courtyard and started playing in the snow? That’s how I felt, like an overly-excited child.
We arrived at the Old Saddle House (the restaurant), where Boti told us the dining hours and if we have some sort of food preference; by the way, I forgot to mention the fact that he even called is in the morning, when we were on our way, to ask us when are we going to arrive and if we are gonna make it to lunch. Again, hospitality. Some hotels should take notes. This is how you stand out from the crowd.
Finally we arrived at the Machine House. Each couple went into their own rooms. Our friends chose the Brick Room in which they stayed with their dog Artu, and we chose the Blue Room. Once inside, I felt like the other hotels I visited before disappeared completely from my memory; this is not a hotel, this is a house, an estate, a comfortable and cozy experience; nothing even remotely compares to it. Hard wooden floor, a king size bed with the most comfortable pillows I have ever slept on, antique furniture (it is old, and well taken care of), and of course, the highlights: the fireplace and the bathtub, positioned in the middle of the room. This is what caught our attention the second we noticed this place online. It is something new, exotic, although everything is furnished in a traditional aspect. It reflects the basic essence of quietness and peace.
First off, we left our luggage and went to the city of Covasna, which is a few kilometers away, for lunch. I am not going to detail about Covasna, that’s reserved for a different time, different article. Fact is, we arrived, we ate and we got back to the estate for an afternoon nap.
Like I said, the bed and the pillows were incredible, we slept like babies. Not to mention the fact that we left the lights dimmed, creating a cozy atmosphere. We did not light the fireplace yet. Set the alarm for 19.30 so we would make the evening dinner.
So, we woke up, got dressed and started walking along the path towards the Old Stables Restaurant. The walkway was lit on both sides with beautiful lanterns. The house is 300 years old and there is history here, but I want you to discover it for yourself; I am not going to spoil it here. Once inside, it is impossible not to notice the huge fireplace and the two chairs in front of it. The perfect place to enjoy a nice glass of wine while waiting for your dinner.
At the table, a lady lit the candles in the middle; it’s amazing how the candlestick looked like the one you can only see in fairy tale movies. Next, we had our welcome drink, which was a glass of champagne. The menu consisted of a really tasty meatball soup, followed by pork fillet with baked potatoes. The dessert is also a surprise, a delicious one. Once you guys get here, you will know what I mean.
After dinner we went back into the room and, together with our friends, we spend a few hours into the night playing Citadella (an interesting board game) while listening to some background music (provided by the estate, in the form of an iPod that was in the room for our listening pleasure). Oh, and we lit the fireplace as well. Cold outside, warm inside, dear friends, what more could you ask for?
Day 2, morning. I woke up, opened the curtains, and again, I was amazed of the landscape. You know what I mean if you watched some of those old Spanish soap operas, where everybody’s rich, they have ranches, they use carriages to get from one place to the other. This is the day we decided to go and explore our surroundings.
Up the hill, into the forest, with Artu (the dog) leading the way. All of a sudden, we heard a noise in the distance, and at first glance, we thought that dogs will be heading our way; but no, there were deer crossing the path…yes, deer. I still cannot forgive myself for not being able to prepare the camera for some pictures. Oh well, maybe next time.
But thanks to our friends at Zabola, here are some glimpses of what you can see here. Use the dots below to scroll through the pictures.
Further up the path, we arrived at a little watch tower (well, not exactly a tower, we call it “foisor”), from where you could see the entire estate. Oh, and did I mention that there is a hot tub and a sauna here as well? Yes, a sauna in the middle of the woods, who would’ve imagined.
As we advanced further along the path, we could hear noises in the bushes, we hoped that we would see something, but we weren’t that lucky. From what I’ve read, there are tons of activities you can do here, like bear watching or deer stalking; I find this fascinating and I will definitely do this next time I am here, which is, this September. There is a group of amazing people that will be traveling with us; they too were mesmerized by what they saw in the pictures. But I can’t wait till they arrive here and actually experience what this place has to offer.
Anyway, back to my story. The sun was shining, it was warm outside, I felt like I was part of nature. You could also hear the birds around you. And of course, we got to see the other houses from the estate, as we got back from the forest. Houses that date all the way back to the 18th, 19th and 20th century. They fulfilled different purposes in course of time. Today four houses are available for bookings, three on the Estate and one in one of the Forest Estates (‘Dobrica’ Hunting Lodge).
Eventually we returned to the restaurant for lunch, followed by, of course, an afternoon nap.
This was now our final evening. We went for dinner,food was excellent of course, and as the evening entertainment, we had the dog, Artu, who was a superstar to some kids that were there for dinner. After dinner, on our way back to the rooms, I stopped for a moment and looked up. The night sky was full of stars, it was magical. There is a famous line from a movie that says “Stars might be pinholes in the curtain of night”. And that’s exactly how it looked, millions of stars lighting up the sky.
This was the night that I got to try the bathtub as well. It filled up with water immediately and, although it felt weird at first, after a few minutes, I was in heaven. Just imagine, candles in the room, fireplace gong strong and music in the background. I just sat there, doing nothing, relaxation overload, if I might say so myself. When was the last time you just sat in one place and did nothing? Try and remember.
Next up, after the evening bath, I stopped the music and went to sleep. This time, the background noise was provided by the wood crackling in the fireplace. You all know that sound. Blissfulness at its finest.
So, in closing, I would like to say that I will visit this place again and again, in summer, autumn, winter and spring. I want to see not only snow, but green fields, wild animals, ducks swimming in the lake. I actually think that in summer I might sleep outside.
Before my closing statement, here is what my friends had to say about the place as well: “Zabola is a magical place, not touched by the hand of time. Its beautiful park’s oasis intertwines with the wild forest, creating a special charm for whomever lays foot on Mikes’ domain. I was also impressed by the elegant and romantic look of the room, its warm details and also the friendly personalities of the caretakers. Zabola is indeed a gift for the soul!”
It’s an amazing place, it is impossible to get bored, there are a lot activities that you can do. And these activities can be booked in advance or when you get there. It all depends on what you want to do.
It is the place that makes you forget about the busy life in the city, the life that we live every day. The perfect place to recharge your batteries.