Legendary Places

No matter the present time, the myths and legends of our past will always be exciting for every generation. And as they say, there’s a grain of truth in every tale. So we went looking for it…

God's chair -- Munții Călimani

This chair-shaped peak rises up to the sky in the south-western part of the Kelemen/Calimani Mountains. It is called the seat of God, as folk tradition says that God rested here after creating the beautiful mountain ranges, valleys of the countryside, created the river-bed of Maros and populated this countryside. It is said that this land was also one of the favorite hunting places for King St. Ladislas.In fact, God’s Chair is a mountain glade surrounded by andesite rocks, from far similar to a chair or a coffin.It is a hard trial for nature lovers to climb onto God's Chair, but the sight that comes to us compensates for all the efforts. After Dedabisztra, to the east, beyond the Bisztra brook, about at 7-800 meters northwards there is a blue tourist mark, which leads to the height. Hikers have to overcome the 900 m level difference during about four hours of walking.Maros separates the two volcanic mountain ranges: Görgényi and Kelemen Mountains. In some areas, only the river, the highway and the railway lie in the valley, the mountains are covered by forests. Real paradise on earth for adventurous and experienced hikers, as they can discover wonderful natural sights. Climbing the hills, mountains and hiking trails of the countryside is an exciting challenge for visitors.To name God's Chair as a mountain peak is perhaps not the most felicitous as an extensive glade receives hikers arriving there. Its rim is steep and dangerous, but the landscape is breathtakingly beautiful. It seems as if God really were there who made enchanting this countryside and he was certainly enjoying his work.

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Bear Lake's legend - Sovata

Although the conditions of the genesis of the Bear Lake in Sovata – known also as the Dead Sea of Transylvania – were accurately explored by science, according to the folk tradition it was created as an effect of a tragic love between a fairy and a shepherd boy in the Salt Region in Szeklerland. The highlands in the area of Sovata were inhabited by fairies, and one of them –violating the laws – fell in love with a beautifully shepherd who played the whistle beautifully. But when she got down to the people, she found the boy in the arms of a girl. She became very angry and in revenge turned her love together with his sheep in stones, and being sorrowful she sank her own beautiful palace under the ground. In the site of the palace was formed a huge pit, which was filled with the tears of the unceasingly crying fairy.The Bear Lake of Sovata – with the salt mine in Praid – is one of the main tourist attractions in the Salt Region. The folkways about the fabulous lake has as background the fact that its salt content is extremely high, so bathers can easily float on the surface of the water. This unique experience should definitely be lived if we are in Sovata.The current shape of the lake, similar to a stretched bear skin, was formed between 1875 and 1881. This is how it got its name. This is the unique heliothermic lake in the world, its water surface temperature can reach 35 degrees Celsius in summer and its central water layers can be warmed up to 70 degrees Celsius. The multifaceted healing effect of water has been known for decades, but the sludge of the lake is also used to treat a variety of health problems, including anti-inflammatory treatment.The settlement lies in an exceptional natural environment. There are several smaller and larger salt and freshwater lakes around the Bear Lake, among which one can wander and easily imagine that the countryside was inhabited and shaped by fairies. Health tourism and exceptional beauties in nature attract a lot of visitors to Sovata every year, where there are a plenty of restaurants, cafés, hotels and guest houses for visitors.The built heritage of the city is also unique in Transylvania. Centuries-old houses and a number of villas have unique architectural features – some of them so spectacular that the visitor can imagine the former palace of the legendary fairy.

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Polenta Hill - Sângeorgiu de Pădure

Fairies and giants once inhabited Erdőszentgyörgy, a hill next to the village, which according to folk tradition, was named after a fairy’s act.Puliszkadomb emerges in the southeastern part of the small town. According to the story, a handsome young shepherd was grazing his sheep on this hill. His pregnant wife prepared meal for him every morning, but the boy forgot to take the food with him. The young woman noticed that the polenta remained at home, so she got up to take the meal to her husband. But an evil fairy stepped in, took a fancy to the beautiful shepherd: she opened the earth under the woman on her way to the husband, and the wife fell into the gap. The place where the food was scattered was called the Puliszkadomb (Polenta Hill).There is another unique sight in the vicinity of Erdőszentgyörgy: we can also reach the famous lake of Bözödújfalu on foot / Bezidu Nou, and beneath there is a small settlement. Not only the Polenta Hill, but also this lake keeps the memory of evil spells from the eighties of the last century: the system at that time forced hundreds of families to leave the village and flooded the town with water, washed away its past and its souvenirs. The lake visitors can see the remains of buildings here and there, while the flooded village has a lively fishing experience today.The largest tourist attraction in Erdőszentgyörgy is undoubtedly the Rhédey Castle, which adorns the center of the settlement. In this building was raised in the early 19th century Rhédey Klaudia of noble origin, the great-great grandmother of Elizabeth II Queen of England. According to Balázs Orbán, the old castle was originally an abbey.Another significant attraction of the settlement is the Calvinist Church built at the turn of the 13-14th centuries, giving place to the Unitarian synod in 1618. On the exterior wall was found a Szekler runic script.There are plenty of hiking opportunities around Erdőszentgyörgy: we can roam not only the Bözödújfalu countryside, but we can still meet friendly shepherd children grazing their sheep on Puliszkadomb and its surroundings.

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Danger Hill - Bekecs Peak

The inhabitants of Nyáradselye suffered very much due to the Tatars’ destruction at the Danger Field under the Bekecs peak, but they received as much as they gave to the dog-heads at the Tartar Pass – so do the people say, and a part of the place names preserve its memory today. The local people were hiding from the Tartar invasion in the glades at the bottom of Bekecs Hill. But once, a traitor led the enemy to the hiding people, and while most of the men went for food and firewood, they attacked the defenseless women and children. Those who were not abducted were cruelly slaughtered in the forest – the place was named the Field of Danger or Danger Field.On hearing the news, the monks living in the monastery of the Palace hill near Bekecs were also fleeing. Like the valiant soldier Csombod of Sóvárad, they hid their treasures in the bell, and they hid it in the well so that the Tartars could not find it. Although the treasure was not found, the monastery was destroyed. However, the Szeklers from Nyárád, heated by vengeance, kept their end up and went after the departing Tatars. Only few people of the hostile troops were able to flee, leaving behind the stolen treasures, the captive children and women, who finally could get free.The legend of several centuries came alive againt at the beginning of the twentieth century, during the First World War: in 1916 bloody battles took place on the Bekecs Hill and its surroundings. By getting to the peak, hikers are welcomed today by several world war memorials. After we pay tribute to the memory of warriors of the past, we should spend a few minutes to admire the unparalleled sight in front of our eyes: the hill is bordered from the northwest by the valley of the Nyárád, from the southeast by the valley of the Little Küküllő, and in good weather you can see even to the Fogarasi and Hargita Mountains. To the east, we can see the peak of Siklódkő and Firtos Mountain.Nyárádselye is the highest settlement in the region of Kisnyárád. In 1719 some of the population was destroyed by a plague epidemic.The region of the small village in the picturesque environment is not suitable for grain production, its inhabitants mainly live from animal husbandry and fruit growing.If we climb up the Bekecs through the Danger Field, we can expect our paths to be flanked by a lot of flowers: spring saffron, dog’s-tooth-violet, starry flowers, but in early spring there are even snowdrops in the higher parts. It's as if they kept every year the memory of the people lost here.

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Kata's Well - Măgherani

Centuries ago there was no village of Nyárádmagyaros along the Upper-Nyárád. According to the tradition, the Szeklers built a castle on one of the hills in the surroundings, and the Várbérc (Castle Rock) place name is also used today.One of the Tartar hordes began to besiege this small, but strong fortress. Surely they would have occupied it, and the refugees would have been captured if the Szeklers had not been courageous. There was among them a robust, tall, strong lass, Kate Csergő, who with the courage of Jeanne d'Arc, incited the men for resistance and fight. She was the leader of the troop, destroying the Tartars with sword and halberd, while a handful of defenders pushed the last „dog-head” far from the valley. In memory of the exploit of Kata Csergő, one of the local sources was named the Kata’s well, from which tourists can also quench their thirst. According to Balázs Orbán, the Tatars later destroyed the castle, so the locals left their ruins and settled at a farther place. In a picturesque valley, Magyarós is not named for the heroes of the castle but for the many hazelnuts (mogyoró = hazelnut) around it.Above the village, on the other side of the hill, the Bekecs-peak is considered a sacred place, and in former times on its glade there was a chapel, and the new building on its site can be visited today. From the peak you can see almost the whole country of Nyárád, the place of the former Szekler–Tartar battles. The place is surrounded by special oak woods and wildflower meadows, relaxing the tourists – as if the weather stopped when the visitor arrives on the peak and looks into the countryside, as in good weather one can see even to Hargita Mountains.Not only the Tartar invasion, but also the First World War affected the village. The memorial erected in the memory of Szekler heroes, has been also a local point of interest for more than a hundred years. Like their heroic predecessor, Kata Csergő of the legends, they also showed the famous courage of the Szeklers.

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Csombod’s Castle - Sărățeni, Chibed

Between Kibéd / Chibed and Sóvárad / Sărăţeni, on a height, there was once a knightly castle of Csombod, in the well of which the legendary soldier had hidden a great number of treasures. The lord of the castle, Csombod had a strong, high-pitched voice – so that when he exclaimed, "The Csombod valiant is on his way!," everyone heard it and nobody had the courage to step on the way leading out from the castle. It is believed that the valiant created a tunnel inside the hill below the castle, and he successfully defended the fortress built on the hill against the enemy for a long time. But once the Tatars arrived with the troop so large that he was forced to accept, he would not be able to fight against the numerical superiority or the starving. So he decided to leave the castle together with his soldiers, but first he hid his treasures in the stomach of the earth. They fleed to the nearby Hallgató-peak where they waited quietly for the dog-heads to retreat, but the people were entrapped by the latter. The treasure is still hidden inside the hill, waiting to be found.In the vicinity of Sóvárad – as its name also suggests –were probably built castle or castles, smaller fortifications.In Maros comitatus there were several similar fortresses in the Middle Ages, and Sóvárad could have been one of the chain links of Szekler Castle system, which, according to scientific research, may have been destroyed by a Tartar invasion. If we do not even find the treasure of the Csombod valiant, it is still worth hiking in the area and imagine the events of the legendary times, to go through the talking place names.In parallel with the supposed location of the castle of Csombod, there is another hill line running down to the riverside of Little Küküllő. The first peak is called the Joy Hill, as, according to the folkways, the leader of the troop besetting the Castle of Csombod after he had won the castle reveled there, celebrating his victory.Surrounded by forests and meadows, Sóvárad is famous for its Szekler's gates and characteristic peasant houses, its Reformed church. There is also a village museum. Near the settlement, there are several salt-water, medicinal springs. One of the springs rises from the Castle of Csombod – it is said that its water is painted red by the castellan’s treasure.

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Fickó - Magyaró, Monosfalu

In the picturesque valley of Maros / Mureş, not far from Deda, lies a small town in the direction of Szászrégen / Reghin, which, according to a folk legend, was named when the villagers made two bulls fight. A farther part of Monosfalva wanted to split away from the settlement, people almost got into a fight with each other, but for their peace the old men advised the two parties to choose a bull each and their struggle should decide on the fate of the village. It went like that: the two bulls were confronted in the field, and the fight was won by the bull of the people wanting to become independent. According to the folk tale, the stronger bull was called Fickó, and the separated settlement was named Fickó and Fickópatak out of respect for the winner bull.The Maros Valley, from Deda to Szászrégen, abounds in natural sights – not just on the surface, but also under the ground, as there are several so-called log-caves in the area. The Transylvanian basin of today was a sea ​​tens of thousands of years ago, and the Kelemen / Calimani, Görgényi/Gurghiu and Gyergyó/Gheorgheni mountains emerged due to the volcanic activity of this sea. The Gheorgheni Basin is connected to the Transylvanian Basin by the Maros Valley, and in the surrounding area were formed the lakes of Ratosnya, Palotailva, Göde.However, these catchment lakes have been filled with volcanic deposits over time, thus forming such formations as the Hétsziklák / Seven Rocks of the Ratosnya, or the Szerecsen Rock of Szalárd and the Sólyomkő. All of these are worth a trip, and we cannot miss one of the most famous caves, the Hut of Ládás, to which a marked tourist path leads.The picturesque beauty of the landscape, its history, the lives of its inhabitants inspired many Transylvanian writers and poets, such as János Kemény, Albert Wass or Lajos Áprily. At the same time, there are plenty of folk legends that tell stories about the birth of different settlements, caves and natural sights – such as the story of a bull called Fickó, the name of which is remembered by a small village.

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Treasure Hills - Livezeni

The settlement called Jedd near Marosvásárhely / Târgu Mureş was regularly robbed centuries ago by both the Turks and the Tartars. However, according to a legend, the treasures of the Turks can still be found beneath the Jedd hills.Legend says that the Turkish soldiers who devastated the village were sharing the robbed treasures, when the Jedd refugees in the forests saw that the Turks were about to escape. Because at that time the Tartars came to Jedd, and the Turkish soldiers sought to hide the treasures from them. Thus, under the Jedd forest, they dug several pits, and hid the stolen treasures in the ground, and then ran away.The Tatars who arrived in the village and its surroundings did not find anything to rob, and they burned down the homes in Jedd out of revenge.After the Tartars had left the village, the locals could finally come out. They returned to the village and rebuilt it, but all the treasures hidden beneath the hills near the woods were forgotten by all. But folk legend says that one day, one of the Jedd farmers received a letter from an unknown expeditor – in which it was exactly written where the Turkish Treasures had been buried. Supposedly the farmer found the stolen treasures and disappeared with them, but another narrative is just the opposite: a lot of gold, silver and diamonds are under the ground ever since.According to science, the interesting land hills were created in the southwest of Jedd due to a landslide. Between these hills the Turkish troops could have indeed camped in 1662, still under the leadership of Ali pasha. Hills hiding the treasures are worth visiting not only as fortune-hunters, but also as hikers, and looking at the forests which protected the locals during the attacks.Jedd's other attraction is the Calvinist Church, built in 1816, when the material of the old Gothic-style church was used. In the small settlement there are several guesthouses and boarding houses.Jedd is developing more and more, however, due to the proximity of Marosvásárhely / Târgu Mures, rather than the treasures under the land hills.

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Devil’s Ditch - Dumitreni

On the left side of Kis-Küküllő, near Balavásár, in a picturesque, narrow valley lies Szentdemeter, where there was once a castle that was similar in the reatness and beauty to the castle of Lázár in Gyergyószárhegy. Unfortunately, over the centuries the castle has been destroyed, but there are still many interesting sights and stories in the small town and its surroundings, which captivate visitors here.One of the best-known attractions is the nearby Devil's Ditch, a mysterious and old mound line that is related to the history of the Castle from Szentdemeter. From the Elek Benedek's tale, we know that three great gentlemen, Balázsi, Nyujtódi and Csáki (these names are true, some of the noble families living in the neighborhood) have built the castle for several years, while working the locals abominably and plundering those who went there. They even became friends with the devil so that they could continue to dominate the inhabitants. The devil has heard the wishes and the curses of the simple people, and he made the truth: the nobles were tied to an enormous ploughshare, forcing them to dig a long ditch near Szentdemeter, let them know what the torment is. The villagers might even hear the shout of the devil and the screams of his whip – the ditch dug by the nobles has been called the Devil's Ditch ever since.The valley of Demeter, which is a popular tourist attraction, was destroyed also by natural disasters – in August 1940, huge floods damaged the houses in the village. Then a young man from Hungary taught the villagers a new craft to offer them livelihood: the tradition of cornhusks-braiding was transferred from father to son, and there are still old people who know this craft. Spun cornhusks are used not only for the manufacturing of consumer goods, baskets, but also for souvenirs and decorative objects for visitors.Nowadays, the church of Szentdemeter, rebuilt several times, but still maintaining its medieval character, is the most visited place in the settlement, and the valley itself, in which once the legendary lords had so much to suffer from fraternizing with the devil.

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Paladomb's Fairies - Eremieni

One of the places for the rare battles between the fairy-tale fairies and devils was Paladomb (Slate Hill) near Nyárádszentimre. The village and its surroundings in the little valley were donated by King Saint László to his three loyal noble men, who founded the settlement. According to the folkways, fairies lived near Paladomb, and they made sure that the lands were always generous. However, once a year devils also appeared in this area trying to chase out the fairies out of their living place.The people of the village called these evil creatures nightmares, and they felt obliged to defend the kind-hearted fairies from them. When the devils attacked them, the villagers outsmarted these unearthly evil-spirits, throwing burning tree branches into the air, and the devils believed that God helped the fairies. So they quickly disappeared from the Paladomb neighborhood and never returned. Being grateful, the fairies made the lands more fertile in Nyárádszentmihály and its surroundings.In the small village, on another hill there is a very old monument church in Gothic style. Balázs Orbán wrote about it, "... here, however, we are fortunate to find a very nice and well-preserved Gothic monument that worthily arouses the archeologist's attention."An interesting addition to visitors is the fact that there is a funeral shaft under the church, which is supposed to serve as a grave for monks. On the inner wall there are mural fragments, one of which representing the crucifixion of Jesus. The gallery and the floor are of a distinctly blue color, the parapets are decorated with white embroideries.Tourists can see embroideries not only in the church, but also in the village museum – in the small museum called by locals as "red-white-green house" you can see old crafts, workshops and tools, some of which can be tried. There are great hiking opportunities in the area. Although the people living on Paladomb no longer encounter fairies and demons, their inheritance lives in the memory of the village.

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The Dragon’s Source - Jacodu

Next to Magyarzsákod rises the rocky peak named Várutahegyese / Castle Hill, its bare peaks emerge from the small valley in which this settlement rests. A source called Dragon’s source springs from the side of the mountain.According to the folk legend, the dragon lived in the swamp below the mountain. He was strong, dumb, and every year he demanded a virgin lass from the locals of the village in exchange for leaving them in peace. Thus, the people were afraid as long as it was the turn of the fiancé of a handsome knight, the ancestor of the Bethlen family from Bún, but the valiant wasn’t afraid and started as David to go to Goliath, who lived in the swamp. His mistress was afraid, asked him to stay, but he was intransigent. He challenged the evil dragon, and before it regained consciousness, he ran his spear into its heart, and then carried away the beast's head to Zsákod.Magyarzsákod, a small settlement not far from Segesvár / Sighisoara, at the source of Zsákod brook, did not receive its name from this hero, but from the fact that it stretches into the surrounding high hills as a bag (zsák = bag). A fabulous sight appears in front of the traveler, looking around from the Castle Mountain. Historical sources and Balázs Orbán mention a ruined fortress, but its exact location on these highlands has not yet been identified. "There is no trace of it here, though the plow (because the high hilltops in this area are also ploughed) uncovered a lot of tile pieces," writes Balázs Orbán.The inhabitants of the village converted to Unitarian faith during the Reformation, but two centuries later the Horváth family built a Catholic chapel, which was extended to church in 1826. Beside the Unitarian church rebuilt in the 19th century, there is a belfry where the greatest bells of the surroundings can be seen. The two bells were made by Frigyes Hönig in Arad in 1921 and 1936.Sándor Hegedüs (1847–1906), the famous son of Zsákod, publicist, economist and financial expert who was a trade minister at the time of dualism, and former parliamentary deputy of Kolozsvár / Cluj-Napoca. In his honor, a memorial room was set up in his home village, which can also be visited.Even the cut head of the evil dragon cannot be seen, you can leave Zsákod with the experience of the picturesque scenery and spiritual journey back to historical times.

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The Fairie’s Gathering Place - Ghindari

Near Makfalva, on the left bank of Kis-Küküllő, between the two small brooks, according to the folk tradition, once there was the castle of a Szekler Rabonban (voievod) called Maka. During the Tartar invasion and after that, the defenders gradually settled in the hilly area near the fortress, Várután, and later founded the Makfalva named after the castle.After a while, the Szeklers left the castle, but it did not last long. According to a local legend, cheerful fairies took possession of them who played music every night, sang and danced among the old walls. The inhabitants were very fond of them, dreaming of their music and singing more beautifully than ever. However, not long afterwards cloudy times came, and the peaceful beings were forced to flee to more protected, forested areas.The castle that remained without a resident then began to be destroyed, its stones were slowly carried away by the inhabitants of Makfalva, and now the exact location of the former fortification cannot be found. On the other hand, the high place where the castle once stood can still be visited – local people called it the Fairies' gathering place, thus keeping the memory of the cheerful creatures. Makfalva suffered several natural disasters in the last century: a landslide and an earthquake destroyed its Calvinist church, which was rebuilt – one of the sights of Makfalva today.The locals consider that the famous peasant leader GyörgyDózsa is also the native of the settlement: if you go, visit the Dósa manor house, built in 1813, where an ethnographic museum was established.Earlier, the inhabitants of the settlement used to live mainly from handicrafts and flax processing. Their descendants still believe that Fairies return to the ruined fortress once a year, at the beginning of November, they revel until dawn, and then disappear from the countryside. They cast a spell to their gathering place, this is why the November sky is gray, then the rainy weather comes. But during clear and quiet nights they sometimes hear the soul-stirring music of these fabulous creatures.

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Farewell Bench - Cristești

Southwards of Maroskeresztúr, a mountain rises between the Maros / Mures and the Nyárád / Niraj River, one of which is called Farewell Bench. According to some opinions, it got the name from the fact that he had long been a pilgrimage place even before the Reformation. Another tradition, however, says that the place has a sadder history: at this place the Szekler men going to battle said good-bye to their beloved, dear ones, whom they left at home. Balázs Orbán writes that the farewell was a touching, solemn moment: the parents blessed the weapons of the warriors while they were told, "Fight with it to get honour for your homeland and for me." Families escorted them to this place, and many soldiers were seen here at the Farewell Bench for the last time.The inhabitants of Maroskeresztúr lived over centuries many devastations and turbulent times. In 1600, Giorgio Basta general's soldiers killed not only the fleeing inhabitants, but also set fire to their temple-fortress. Later, Polish and Tartar troops broke into Transylvania and they devastated the village – for a long time Pusztakeresztúr (puszta = desert) was its name.In this settlement was born one of the greatest figures of 19th century Transylvanian Hungarian medicine, Vilmos Knöpfler, who was also a member of the Hungarian Parliament. His name is attached to the foundation of the hospital in Marosvásárhely / Târgu-Mureş. He built the Castle of Maroskeresztúr / Cristesti, which burned down later.Cristesti has nowadays been completely built together with the nearby Marosvásárhely, its main attractions are the rebuilt churches during the centuries.Visitors to Cristesti today can visit the still-recognizable Farewell Bench, which is not the place of resignation, but the sign of the hope of the seeing again: the lovers of Szekler warriors who had gone to war always believed in the return of soldiers. It is not a coincidence that they said good-bye to them so: "Come back so I can be proud of you!" The Farewell Bench reminds people today of the Szeklers’ courage, determination and Spartan simplicity. If we climb up this hill, think of the former Szekler mothers, fathers and fiancées, who looked at the horizon with hope over many years, waiting for the return of their loved ones.

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