Zabola Estate, RO
I’m pretty convinced that in a former life I must have been some kind of aristocrat…you know, like a donkey at a king’s castle or, if I were to really go overboard, the house cat at said castle. Oh, that’s the life! And this is probably why I like palaces and castles and manors so much.
But even without such a high rank heritage, I’m sure that I would have loved anyway the place we’re talking about today: the Mikes Castle in Zabola.
The Zabola Estate is located in Transilvania, Romania, a 45 minutes drive from Brasov…and well, to set the expectations straight from the very beginning, once you pass the main entrance gates, do get prepared for a fairytale.
The estate belongs to the Roy Chowdhury – Mikes family, who have regained possession of the domain a few years ago, after it has been taken away by the government during the Communist period. The family lives on the estate, in one of the castles (the one called the Old Castle), but it is also open to guests, first at the Machine House and now at the New Castle too. The latter has been a hospital for patients with mental illnesses and, during that time, it has been seriously damaged. I read in an article that the hospital continued to function a while after it has been returned to the family, as they didn’t want to just evict the doctors and patients from there and waited until they could be relocated to a nearby location. I think this is very considerate and really adds to the feeling that you get when you are at Zabola.
Talking about this feeling, I struggled a bit to find the best way to describe it, and my final choice was “good living”. Now, this is by no means lavish or extravagant, is just that when you’re there you feel that everything is good, cosy, comfortable and…this might surprise you, simple and unadorned. Mind you, this is a countryside estate and you see this blended with the old and aristocratic features of the place.
The rooms are a mixture of old and modern and very comfortable. Most recently, we stayed here during winter, last year and this January, and one of the things I really loved is how warm the room is. It’s that childhood “winter by the stove” kind of warmth, which welcomes you and, quite honestly, creates the best setup for a good night sleep. The dimming lights also. And, to add to the
relaxation part, the bathrooms feature both a walk-in shower and a gorgeous looking tub which, in some of the cases, is placed in the bedroom. I probably should not mention that I actually thought whether this could be replicated in an apartment bedroom. Well, one can only dream…
When it comes to things to do, my favourite activity was to take long walks in the castle park and in the woods. To make the walk even more beautiful, you can count on the company of some very special guys. Guys and girl, to be more exact: Shadow, a very friendly black Labrador who’s always up for a stroll; a Vizsla girl whose name I don’t know but decided to call Zuza, because she’s always all over the place and just a bundle of joy; and another dog (again, who’s name I don’t know), a quite
old fellow, very friendly although kind of a slow walker.
If walking is not your thing, there are a lot of activities which you can book, such as bear watching, the sauna in the woods, special dinners, horse riding and so on. You can take a look on www.zabola.com for more details.
Another important aspect: food. In a word: delicious. In several words: the breakfast is to die for, really diverse and you can enjoy local products. Because I’m very boring, I made an obsession for the bread, I think I’ve exaggerated a bit with toast with butter and jam, but you can really make your pick as there are quite a few hot and cold dishes.
For lunch and dinner, you can order from the a la carte menu. Suiting the location, it’s a really short menu, which, if you stay for several days, can get a bit repetitive. Nevertheless, the food is very good and there’s also a generous drinks menu to choose from.
During the previous stay, there was a different meal setup. You needed to let the hosts know what meal you wanted and there was a fixed menu of the day. I kind of liked this setup more, because every meal was a surprise. The only downside was that I needed to announce my weird culinary preferences, or rather what I wouldn’t eat in a thousand years, in advance…
Price-wise, it’s not cheap, but I would say it’s worth it. I probably wouldn’t spend a week or so here, but it’s the most relaxing weekend getaway that I’ve ever experienced, so count me in for some more. Although I had a look at the booking calendar for Summer and they seem to be fully booked.
But maybe Winters here are my thing, who knows?