In Zalanpatak and throughout our Transylvanian travels, it was so springy underfoot – I knew the buds & new growth were just about to explode! Where we were staying, there was a royal botanical painter ready to lead a class in two weeks when the springtime bloom revealed itself. The patterns on this bed linen are abstract floral for me.
This is horse-and-cart country where villages are spaced 6–10 miles apart and consist of a church, one road, and houses often with a brightly painted exterior. Internally each house has a yard, a stable for horses, barn for chickens & kitchen garden for fruit & vegetables. The villagers are forest foragers as well, collecting mushrooms, chestnuts and berries, and tending hives. I find vintage botanical charts at flea markets and hang them as wallpaper.
Garlic is pinned above all the doorways throughout homes in the villages. Even though it is actually to ward off the evil eye, I prefer to imagine the mythical Dracula being the cause. Have a variation on the theme with something a little more decorative (as opposed to pagan) and pick raffia pompoms to hang from shelves, the backs of doors, cupboard handles or anywhere else you wish. If you line up more than one, it is like make-your-own fringing.
On a whim I decide to set up some stills with all the lovely things I could find. Left to our own devices at Apafi Manor, I explore every drawer and cupboard, finding a treasure trove of linens & textiles, porcelain & cutlery. Collect what normally is hidden away and have it at hand for your bed, table or gypsy picnic. You’re more likely to dress up your everyday events if you have not forgotten about the insides of the linen cupboard.
As we travelled, our favourite breakfast became yoghurt with honey, bread & butter and soft-boiled eggs. There is no slow food movement in Transylvania, it’s just slow food preserved and made in traditional ways. Gypsies make decorative pressed tin gutters & corners, and other metalwork and this mixture of ceramics with zinc-topped table, brass bells and delicate silver spoons is in homage to the finer details they create, and that add a special moment in a home.
While we were walking in the forest, we spotted a group of coal burners. The coal burners set up summer camp on their yearly grounds deep in the forests, building Andy Goldsworthy-esque sculptures of stacked chopped wood in a large circle about 2 metres high and 15 metres wide with a 4 metre high pyramid shape in the middle. This is slow burnt for many days with hay as it slowly turns to charcoal. It is walking back in time, pre-machinery & commercialism. This is my slightly more glamorous version minus the soot. Create a small fantastical world indoors or out where you can escape to for reading & daydreaming.
A highly recommended read if you are visiting Transylvania, or simply want to be transported there from your armchair, is Along the Enchanted Way by William Blacker. He talks of gypsy girls with ribbons and shells plaited through their hair and strung around their necks to ward off evil spirits. Create your own protection for your house to ward off the bad and invite the good. I have wrapped raffia around a found antler and hung it alongside threaded cowrie shells and mirrored jingle-jangle from Jaipur, India.
I encourage you to pick flowers, tendrils or branches from your local surrounds, the garden or the side of the road – whatever they may offer. If you go for flower markets or florists, don’t buy a pre-arranged bunch, but many individual flowers and greenery and loosely arrange them together. Imagine you’ve collected them as you traverse the Transylvanian countryside in the springtime, grouping them as you find them and popping them in vessels once home without another thought.
Bring your bed outside in summer on the warmer nights. Use a butterfly net to hunt frogs and toads; one of them may turn into a prince if you’re lucky. Tune in next week as I wrap-up my Transylvanian tour, with more interior inspiration as well as my tips for spaces & places to check out if you find yourself in that part of the world.