This article will be different from most of our travel stories – if in general, our wanderings through the world are rather intense, meaning that we try, wherever we go, to make the most of our time there, visiting as many tourist sights and beautiful places as we can, this time we dedicated an entire weekend to relaxation, rest and the joy that some places offer for the mere fact that you are there.
In order not to be too far from home, we chose to go to Belis, Cluj County, that is part of the Apuseni Natural Park.
As this year blessed us with a fairytale winter, with such snow that reminded us of the childhood winter holidays, the road from Cluj to Belis was… exciting! If on the more circulated routes the road was cleaned and the traffic was smooth, as we approached our destination, the snow was getting bigger, the road was less cleaned and more slippery, it was getting darker and the turns were getting tighter…
Of course, if you are not the driver, you can enjoy the magical landscapes around, admiring the lofty trees that heroically bear the weight of the snow and the mountains that adorn the horizon. However, it is very important to go prepared on any winter trip in the mountains and be equipped with everything you may need in case a problem arises.
When we reached our destination, it was already dark outside but we couldn’t get enough of the beauty around us – the strong and cool air, the tall, majestic firs and the high snow banks sparkling under the rays of the moon.
We stayed at Pension Doru in Balcesti village, which we chose for the spa center with a swimming pool and a jacuzzi and the possibility of having a full board – and we recommend that anyone visiting do the same – the food has that special “countryside” delicious taste, cooked with great care and dedication.
After a traditional and super tasty dinner with polenta and meat, reminding of grandma’s recipes, we spent the rest of the evening relaxing at the Spa with hot water and bubbles in the Jacuzzi.
The next morning, we went out for a walk through the village, and what we saw around didn’t cease to enchant us and excite us.
The village of Balcesti has just over 100 inhabitants, and the houses they live in look like clippings from old and mysterious fairy tales.
It is the kind of place where all people know each other, they greet and stop to talk whenever they meet on the streets and are curious who the “strangers” who came to visit their village are, being very friendly and welcoming.
After a wonderful walk through the snowdrifts and a good romp with the playful dogs of the house, we returned to the pension for a delicious lunch, then spent the rest of the day at the pool and playing board games.
Time flew away and the day to return home came. We were sad to say good bye to this beautiful place, but at the same time were feeling well-rested and refreshed, and on our way home we made a stop at Belis-Fântânele Lake, a barrier lake on Somesul Cald River, guarded by the mountains of Gilau, Vladeasa and the Great Mountain.
The over 2000 cubic meters of water in the lake cover the old Belis hearth, the ruins of the hamlets from which people were displaced when the lake was built are still visible in times when the water level is lower.
If we had visited the area during the summertime, we definitely would’ve ventured to spend more time enjoying all its beauties – not far away is the Valul Miresei Waterfall (or the Rachitele Waterfall), the Bears Cave, the Scărişoara Glacier Cave, the Zmeilor Cave and many more – all in a wonderful landscape that takes you away for a moment from the daily routine and reminds you of the simplicity of life and the things that really matter.
We will surely return to this amazing area to explore its mysteries, fill our soul with the joy and beauty of nature, and explore another corner of our beautiful country.