Surrounded by mountains, some of them so big, that we easily confused them with clouds - every site was majestic.
The road was narrow and winding. A 2way street that could only accommodate cars in one direction at a time. If someone else was coming from the opposite direction, one had to find a spot to pull over- and give right of way to the other one. Each curve was a surprise, a guessing game of what was to come.
Forests, orchards and farmland around. Cows and buffaloes roamed free, ducks, geese and chickens clogging traffic, dogs chasing cars- not a dull moment on the way to our destination. And just when the thought of being lost in the the Romanian countryside crossed my mind, a small hand written sign on a piece of wood pointing to the right displayed the name Colești- the birthplace of my late father in law.
I’ve visited before - this small village in the middle of nowhere, where almost every inhabitant is one way or another related to my husband.
This time with kids in tow, everything seemed different though. Where in the past I only saw hardship and struggle, through the eyes of my kids things no longer seemed so dim. I started noticing the idyllic setting of this little village, and I eagerly awaited to reach our final destination: The Restaurant - as everyone referred to it from the neighboring villages.
See, the last time I was here, I hadn’t seen The Restaurant. I found it completely unusual – pretty weird in fact that someone would open a place like that in what I’ve considered the middle of nowhere. Who would even find it?! Would people drive all the way there for a meal..?
When we literally reached the end of the road, right behind a beautiful green lake (which might have a name, but I forgot to ask), lied this nice rustic place, called Muma Codrului. It seemed like a new building, but kept some of the characteristics of traditional architecture- this place was the most pleasant surprise I’ve encountered in my week in the western part of Romania. The décor was simple but very tasteful. Wooden furniture, everything seemed mostly hand made and hand printed. Hints of folklore complemented the pieces and the atmosphere was inviting, welcoming.
The restaurant and guest house is owned by a young couple, Larisa and Gheorghe. They live and work there full time, and I couldn’t help trying to find out what made them embark on such of adventure, and where do they see it taking them. Larisa gratuitously explained that originally they moved back to the neighboring city of Stei, where they started making artisanal gems, chutneys and other natural products. They met other locals who were producing different cheeses, and local produce, and felt that they needed to take things further, and somehow revive the rural area, breathe some new life into it. In her words “this project was needed”. I asked them what their vision is for the future, what do they hope to accomplish -and they said they want to be the staple for sustainable tourism. They want to show others that it is not only possible but also profitable to open and run businesses with the local community, crafts, local produce in mind.
Their menu is seasonal and every item on it is locally sourced. It mixes traditional dishes with modern touches, and they use herbs and vegetables in ways most people from the region wonder what they are eating.
Upstairs, above the restaurant there are 7 guest rooms for travelers to enjoy. Each with its own bathroom, the simple yet cozy accommodations are a perfect escape from the busy everyday life.
The area is surrounded by forests, trails and beautiful peaks. Those looking for some outdoor adventure can embark on different hikes, pick berries that are in season, mushrooms and other treasures nature freely provides.
The husband and wife duo also organizes paintball games, mountain biking and other activities in the area.
Authentical & Simple
It was inspiring to see what they already had accomplished and I am excited to see where they will take things in the future. Seeing initiatives as this one in different corners of Romania really makes me hopeful - and I hope in time I can send many of my clients to experience travel off the beaten path in the way it should be- authentically, simply, unpretentiously.