There is a small town within the walls of Transylvania that is very little known in the world. Nothing new in this statement – the world is full of incredible places that are unknown to the larger population of tourists that walk the face of the earth.
This town is called Sovata.
I have known Sovata from my childhood days. It lies close to the village that my grandparents lived in. I spent whole summers at their house, hot summers filled with endless hard work on the fields, in the gardens, and the stables. Sometimes, on very special occasions, we would take the lazy steam train called mocanita to go and visit the neighboring town that was full of people and fun things to do. That was always a highlight for us.
See, there is a reason why Sovata is always full of people and fun things to do: it is an area that is highly rich in natural salt. There is salt everywhere your senses can go – salt mountains, salt lakes in which it is impossible to drown, salty air, salt caves, and salt-loving animals and humans.
The natural salty scenery is decorated with local architecture, such as hand-carved wooden houses that look like remote palaces that one would only read about in ancient books. The core of Sovata, the touristy heart, is situated on one of the surrounding hills covered by dense forests and evolves around the biggest salt lake in the region, the so-called Lacu Ursu (Bear Lake).
If you were just passing through the town and nobody told you about this particular place, you would cross it without almost no hint at all as to what is hidden just a few meters higher, right behind the main street. The downtown is very ordinary and unlike many places I have been to all over the world, the town does not bother to advertise its natural beauty. It is almost like it would arrogantly say to your face: “Your attention is the last thing I need; I know exactly what I am, and I like to keep it to myself.”
I am not keen of the touristy Sovata. During the summer months, it gets extremely full of people and noises, festivals, and many attractions. The busyness is exhausting for me. I love the quiet nature instead where I can get lost in my thoughts, walking through endless forests and mountains, often alone or with people who do not mind saying anything for a while.
Recently I discovered a side of Sovata I never knew existed. It is one of the surrounding hills that look directly over the touristy core, amongst the other things that the 180-degree view gives you. It is remote enough to be far away from the tourists whose number increases with every month that passes by, mostly via word of mouth, but close enough to the center (if I need a market or to run an errand) and the surrounding nature with its majestic forests.
I felt an incredible joy standing on that hill, seeing the deep forests around me, breathing in the salty summer breeze, taking in the chirping of the birds, and feeling the warm grass underneath my feet. And so, I knew that the ground I was standing on would be mine – literally.