Discover secluded Zabola, Transylvania’s dreamland

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When speaking of Romania, the first that comes to mind is the legendary Count Dracula. Yet there is still so much more to learn about it, particularly about Transylvania, Dracula’s homeland. The British know it, so do the Americans and now it’s time you knew it as well!

It happens that the Count Mikes family, one of the most ancient Székler families in Transylvania has lived for centuries in Romanian Covasna county Zabala village (Zabola in Hungarian). The members of the family were always involved in military, political and economic affairs.

Exile, imprisonment, torture and dispossession have been characteristic of all generations of the family at all times. Two brothers of the Mikes family found even their place in Hungarian folk romance literature (“Özvegy és leánya” – “The widow and her daughter” by Zsigmond Kemény) after they had kidnapped the daughter of a well-known protestant family in 1634; their properties were subsequently confiscated by the government.

Count Benedek Mikes, the great great grandfather of Gregor and Alexander Roy Chowdhury de Ulpur who now own the family’s properties, was sentenced to death when he and his brother deployed an army against the Habsburg monarchy in 1848 – 1849; he fled the country and returned to Zabola twelve years later via Geneva, Paris and Bulgaria. His brother, Count Kelemen Mikes, who had become a Hussar colonel died at the age of 29, hit by the first cannon ball fired by the Russian army in 1849. He became a martyr to the Székler resistance movement.

Also part of the Mikes family, Katalin Countess Mikes married Shuvendu Basu Roy Chowdhury. Their sons, Alexander and Gregor Roy Chowdhury, are the current owners of Zabola Estate, property confiscated by the state during communism. Thus, after 45 years of communism, a new generation returned to Transylvania. Katalin Roy Chowdhury de Ulpur, born Countess Mikes de Zabola managed to get back the property from the Romanian state. Her late husband Shuvendu Basu Roy Chowdhury of Ulpur, a Bengali aristocrat, supported her to fight back the oldest settlement of the Mikes family. Their sons Alexander and Gregor are working on rebuilding not only the Estate but also the economical background of it.

The Mikes Estate – fairytale castle, lakes and woods

Six kilometers from Covasna, in Zabala village, hidden behind an iron gate and many chestnut trees, lays The Mikes Estate (Zabola).The entire property spreads over vast areas of mainly Carpathian Mountains and forests. The Castle Park itself (The Estate) stretches over 50 hectares of the most beautiful Transylvanian countryside. In the past 600 years, it grew  into an English Landscape Garden with lots of other landscaping influences.

The refreshed and maintained English Landscape Garden with 2 lakes and 4 ponds, pavilions, terraces, a sauna in the woods, stables, barns and walking, hiking and carriage-tracks are there to enjoy. The whole estate is accessible straight from the Castle Park.

As for the Castle, it dates back to the 15th century. It was built on the ruins of an early fortified building which is suspected to have burned down in the liberation war of Transylvania. On the first floor all the ceilings were covered (currently painted over) with frescoes from 1867 when the building was extended and redecorated.

The Castle is connected through a 50 meters long tunnel with a large villa built around 1900 for hosting the offices of the Estate and rooms for the guests of the family as well as a large kitchen.

After getting back part of the land, the castle and the auxiliary buildings, the Mikes revamped The Machine House, one of the auxiliary buildings from the Estate, and made it a small six room hotel. The Machine House is not the only guesthouse restored within the Estate, two more are in use according to the website.

The Machine House, Zabola
The Machine House, Zabola

What to do while at Zabola

There is a wide range of activities for those whose attention was drawn and already plan to visit the Estate: hunting, hiking in the forest, walking around the park, horse carriage into Carpathian woods, deer stalking, bear watching, the Mikes spas, lake Saint Ana, private cinema, sauna in the woods.

The spas situated close to lake St. Ana are accessible for free. Bear watching is also offered on the Estate in the area around St. Ana volcano lake and the Mikes spas.

Wild boars and other wild species might happen to cross your way as well. The area has many rare plants and is famous for its mineral springs and caves.

Near Zabola, Lake St. Ana lays in the cold crater of a dead volcano, at an altitude of 950 meters.

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