Guesthouse owner Andrada has made it her mission to preserve Casa Țara Beiușului’s essence with handcrafted furniture, woven tapestries, and home-cooked, traditional meals. While domestic travellers aren’t necessarily interested in these efforts, Jeanett Andrea Søderstrøm appreciates every drop of the local flavour.
“I just got the best idea: You have to go and see my father! This juice is made with his organic vegetables and he makes chutneys from scratch as well as other typical dishes from Western Romania.” Our hostess, Andrada eagerly waves her arms as the idea comes to her.
It’s gotten dark since we arrived at her guesthouse, Casa Țara Beiușului, but the lamp in the ceiling casts a warm light over her cheerful face. Framed by leaves and clusters of grapes, the outdoor kitchen we’re sitting in is a deeper shade of green now that the sun has set.
We’re finishing the final bits of a local goat cheese and a bowl of chunky chilli jam, the latter of which was cooked in this very kitchen just a while ago. The food is served together with homemade tomato juice, a local red wine, and the airiest bread buns imaginable. They are still hot and ashy from baking in the antique oven behind us, as are we — the property’s visitors — and our hostess from baking them two hours ago.
“My father grows vegetables as a hobby. He’s so funny and friendly, and would love to have you over. He even has black tomatoes! And amazing peppers!” Andrada catches her breath, looks at us and takes another bite of the bun with chilli jam. Then she turns to our tour guide, Diana, and speaks quickly in Romanian. We soon understand a visit to Dad will be squeezed into our already tight travel plan for the next day.
“He also makes many kinds of pálinka, obviously. Oh wait! I completely forgot to serve you pálinka. I’m so sorry!” Running for the bottle of pálinka on the kitchen bench, Andrada shakes her head in annoyance, having forgotten to serve the mandatory liquor of the region.
We each fill our ceramic glasses with the famous fruit brandy — 60% alcohol — while our hostess describes the piece of wood inside the bottle as an experiment by her husband. This particular bottle is supposed to taste a bit like whiskey, and I must say, her husband nailed it. I’ve had my fair share of pálinka in Romania, but it never tasted anything like whiskey.
Andrada’s enthusiasm for sharing her culture and interest in historic conservation with us was obvious from the moment we met her. Touring the property earlier, she explained how her grandparents had lived here for decades, and how much she loved spending time with them as a child.
After their passing, Andrada and her husband took Casa Țara Beiușului over and renovated it into a holiday-friendly space. Always cautious about not adding anything modern, they’ve instead furnished the rooms and outdoor area with all kinds of old gems from her grandparents’ era. These include handcrafted wooden tables and chairs, beds with hay mattresses, century-old colourful costumes, and embroidered, woven textile carpets.
As the couple grew tired of the busy city life, they decided to start hosting visitors in the protected rural home. Although it’s an ongoing project, Casa Țara Beiușului opened in 2015, and today offers an authentic experience for guests seeking insight into traditional Romanian village life.
“Our focus is to offer a place for people to enjoy slow tourism, but we do have electricity, hot water, wifi, and heaters. Such a standard is important nowadays, although young travellers from Romania and surrounding countries aren’t very interested in an old guesthouse,” Andrada laughs and takes a sip of pálinka as she explains the irony of offering such an experience like this, which international travellers find interesting. “They tell me they’d rather visit their grandmother if living traditionally is their desire.”
Large swaths of rural Romania are still “old fashioned,” so it makes sense that local people wouldn’t find this experience fascinating. But to me, a place like Casa Țara Beiușului is a gem.
Diana reminds us it’s way past our bedtime and that Ms. Pálinka will be uncomfortably present tomorrow morning if we don’t call it a night. As we walk onto the pitch black street, we again express gratitude for the delicious meal and lovely company between goodbye kisses for the hostess and her toddler-aged daughter, who is still awake.
We pile into the car and are just about to close the door on the evening when Andrada leaves us with one final parting call: “Go see my dad!”