Tag Archives: Cluj-Napoca

A postcard from Cluj

The Hotel New York in the 1920's

The Hotel New York in the early part of the 20th Century

Thank you to my friend and colleague in Cluj, Stefi Timofte, for finding this picture for me. Of course it shows the Hotel New York (now the sad and decaying Continental) that Paddy visited with Angéla and István in the summer of 1934.

This story has been debunked in Artemis’ biography but I am not entirely convinced by the explanation in her book. Paddy says he got the details from a book in German, but the level of detail (see my story about the internal decor) implies that this book had very good photographs in colour or Paddy at least visited during one of his later visits to Romania.

For me, Paddy’s description of the romance of those days on the road, and the nighttime trysts with Angéla can never be diminished.

Related articles:

An eye for detail and the memory of the Hotel New York in Cluj

Angéla, Paddy, István and Tom in Cluj-Napoca

£1 a week – Rendezvous in Cluj

Flying to the moon

Inside the Hotel New York (Continental), Cluj

As many of you will know by now, I travel to Romania pretty frequently and I am fortunate enough to stay and work in the beautiful city of Cluj which Paddy says he visited during his road trip tryst with Angéla in the summer of 1934.

Paddy’s descriptions in Between the Woods and the Water are very accurate and detailed, and the one of the Hotel New York was the most impressive which I highlighted in this article last year with accompanying photographs.

Nick and Tom outside the Hotel New York (Continental), Cluj

During Nick Hunt’s recent walk across Europe we were able to meet up outside of the hotel and I was desperate for us to drink a cocktail there just like Paddy, Istvan and Angéla. The fact that the hotel is closed should not have been a barrier to this; all I had to do was find the recipe and a willing local barman and all would be OK. Unfortunately following an ‘occupy’ protest security at the hotel was heavy and we were firmly told we could not enter. It must have been Nick’s road weary look and dusty attire which was the blocker!

I had done some research, and whilst I could not find the recipe of the Cluj cocktail which was described by Paddy thus in Between the Woods and the Water …

An hotel at the end of the main square, called the New York – a great meeting place in the winter season – drew my companions like a magnet. István said the barman had invented an amazing cocktail – only surpassed by the one called ‘Flying’ in the Vier Jahreszeiten bar in Munich – which would be criminal to miss

… I contacted the Bar Manager of the Hotel Vier Jahreszeiten Kempinski in München to find out the recipe for Flying. Florian Fischer kindly replied as follows, so maybe this autumn, to celebrate the publication of the biography, you may order one or even make it at home.

Dear Mr. Sawford,

thank you very much for your request. These are the things which are creating culture!

I am really interested in cocktails of this period. I was thinking about the recipe and I am quite sure, that it must be the following :

Flying Cocktail

2 parts of Gin
1 part of curacao Triple sec ( Cointreau preferred )
1 part of freshly squezzed lemon juice

fill up with champagne
served in a champagne flute

Actually it is the famous “White Lady” with champagne and this drink was really popular in these times.

Greetings from Munich and enjoy your “Flying Cocktail”


Florian Fischer


Hotel Vier Jahreszeiten Kempinski München

Maximilianstr. 17 · 80539 München · Germany Tel +49 89 2125 2217· Fax +49 89 2125 2222 florian.fischer@kempinski.com

Related article:

An eye for detail and the memory of the Hotel New York in Cluj

£1 a week – Rendezvous in Cluj

My visits to Cluj are always a pleasure, notwithstanding the need to get up at five o’clock in the morning to catch an early Wizz Air flight. However, as I prepared for my last visit, there was an extra dimension to my anticipation.

If you have been following Nick Hunt’s journey on his blog and the occasional updates here, you will know that he arrived in Romania in early April and was making good but steady progress in the Mures valley visiting some of the houses that Paddy had stayed in, including Istvan’s kastely. As I prepared for my visit it became clear that there was a chance that Nick and I might meet up in Cluj as he, like Paddy, had decided to complete the ‘Transylvanian Loop’ by motor; getting lifts from people he had met or just hitch-hiking.

As the last week of April arrived Nick was staying at the house of a Romanian philanthropist in Turgu Mures. We corresponded and Nick told me that he would be getting a lift to Cluj on the Monday, the day of my arrival. I was able to arrange some accommodation for him through a colleague at work and suggested that we meet at the Hotel Continental (aka the New York) in the main square in Cluj after I had finished work.

This, therefore, is how we managed to meet after five months and, for Nick, over 1,300 miles of walking. He arrived at the Continental looking slightly bemused, carrying his quite small rucksack, sporting a well-developed beard, and wearing the most battered pair of walking boots I have seen for a long time (they are his original pair and a recently ‘serviced’ by a cobbler in Turgu Mures). Despite our pleading the security guard at the locked hotel would not let us in, and any thought of having a cocktail diminished.

Later we had a few beers and some food whilst talking about his journey. He is clearly enjoying it all and making daily discoveries. Whilst he is following Paddy’s route, and this provides an inspiration and an anchor, it is clearly very much his own expedition which he will tell in his own words in the book which will be published by Arcadia, possibly in 2013. Whilst Nick has as yet no definitive structure for the book he is making comprehensive notes every day and being very careful to guard his notebooks!  From what he told me I think it will be enjoyable, and having read some of the longer pieces on his blog it will be well written and easy to read.

I asked Nick if he was missing home. Only his girlfriend, he replied, and they keep in regular contact via email. Perhaps the biggest difference between his journey and that of Paddy is the ability to keep in touch using modern communications including the essential mobile phone. A striking comment that Nick made was that whilst the first part of the journey through Germany was to a degree well planned, the further east he has gone he has had to make arrangements for accommodation as he has gone along bringing a higher degree of spontaneity. “It is as if there are dark places on the map ahead of me that gradually illuminate the further I proceed, becoming brighter and more defined as each day passes.”

Nick is now somewhere in the heart of the Carpathians on his way to Baie Herculaneum and the Danube. We joked that he must take care to avoid the bears and wolves in the mountains and he promised he would keep a good look out. In two to three months his journey will end and I asked him how he will return home. He answered, after a long pause, that he does not know, but he is sure that he cannot just jump on a plane and return to London in one day, even mentioning the possibility of walking around the Black Sea. There was a certain wistfulness in his eyes as he answered, and it struck me that this may be the hardest part of the journey; giving it up and returning to what we call reality.

Related article:

An eye for detail and the memory of the Hotel New York in Cluj

Urgent! Can we help Nick locate Istvan’s kastely?

I know I could open BTTW but I might still find that I don’t know the answer so I thought in this electronic age the best thing would be to go viral with the question Can we Help Nick Find Istvan’s Kastely?

I received this note from Nick just an hour or so ago …


Thanks so much for your support with reposting some of my articles. I’m glad people seem to be finding them interesting. I’ve got one question about the Romanian leg of the journey — do you have any idea where Istvan’s kastely was? It’s somewhere east of Zam, near the river Mures, but there’s nothing more specific than that. I’ve had a lot of help on the other kastelys from someone called Ileana who works for this organisation – http://monumenteuitate.blogspot.com/ – involved in restoring and preserving historic buildings in Romania. She contacted me having found my blog somehow, and is really helpful. I’m not sure if she has any more clues about the location of Istvan’s place.
Hope all is well with you. Have you been travelling recently? Best wishes from Budapest… and soon from the Great Hungarian Plain.
Any clues or answers please email me or add a comment. I am sure we will crack this so thank you in advance!

A Year of Memory: the top ten posts on the Patrick Leigh Fermor blog

As the year comes to a close it is time to reflect upon what has passed and to look forward to 2012. I make no predictions for the coming year. There are some things which are almost certain such as the continuing Euro crisis and the much anticipated publication of Artemis Cooper’s authorised biography about Paddy, but forecasts tend to be overtaken by events and are quickly forgotten.

What we can do is to look back on this year in the life and times of Patrick Leigh Fermor. The major event of course was Paddy’s death on 10 June at the age of ninety-six. A sad event for his family and close friends, but also for those of us who admired him for his writing and the life he lived. As the year closed it was time to celebrate his life at his Memorial Service held on 15 December in London.

As I hoped the blog has become a significant source of material about his life including rarely seen video. There have been over 228,000 visits over the last year and you have made it a much more interactive experience by using the comment facility to exchange information, provide your own memories of Paddy, and to express your admiration for him. At the time of his death I opened a page where you could express your thoughts about Paddy which has run to over 120 comments.

Paddy would probably have been somewhat bemused by the whole idea of the blog, but perhaps even more so by the interaction we now have with social networking sites with nearly 4,500 visitors finding the site from Facebook, and 850 via Twitter.

To conclude the year, and as the 365th post on the blog, let us take a look at some of the most popular articles over the last twelve months. Perhaps I can make one promise to you all which is that there is much more to come on the blog in 2012 which includes a lot of material submitted by you the readers of the blog.

The Funeral Service of Patrick Leigh Fermor, 16 June 2011 

Paddy’s funeral service was held on a typical English summer’s day at his home in Dumbleton. He returned to England just one day before his death and is buried beside his beloved Joan.

Obituary from The Independent by Paddy Leigh Fermor’s biographer Artemis Cooper 

Perhaps the definitive obituary.

Patrick Leigh Fermor … This is Your (Ill Met by Moonlight) Greek Life 

The amazing video from the Greek TV programme which reunited the participants of the Ill Met by Moonlight kidnap including Paddy, many of the Andartes, and General Kreipe and his wife.

Anthony Lane’s New Yorker article on Fermor is now free to view 

One of the most comprehensive profiles of Paddy which is now freely available to all. (the pdf download appears to be no longer available – click on the article to magnify to read and then drag your cursor to move around the page)

Intimate portraits from Kardamyli by Miles Fenton 

A series of personal photographs sent to me by Miles Fenton who is Paddy’s nephew and who now lives in Canada where he works as an artist.

Patrick Leigh Fermor recounts the kidnap of General Kreipe on video 

The ever popular video where Paddy talks in some detail about the Kreipe kidnap. (press play on Battle of Crete 7).

Colonel David Smiley 

David Smiley was a fellow occupant of Tara in Cairo with Paddy and Billy Moss et al who continued his military career with some distinction after the war and even led Japanese soldiers in a charge against VietMinh rebels!

Paddy’s eye for detail: Ian Fleming, Bondage, James Bond and Pol Roger 

It is probably the James Bond/Ian Fleming association which maintains the popularity of this article.

If food be the music of love … Bánffy’s lover in Cluj (Kolozsvár) 

No list of popular posts can be complete without the compelling combination of my passions for Paddy, Romania, Miklós Bánffy, and Cluj.

Patrick Leigh Fermor Memorial Order of Service 

The order of service from the joyful occasion that was Paddy’s Memorial Service.

Finally I would like to thank so many of you for your encouragement and support during 2011, and wish you all a very Happy New Year!

Tom Sawford

An eye for detail and the memory of the Hotel New York in Cluj

There is often a debate about Paddy’s ability to recall so much of his journey with accuracy so long after the event and often without his precious notebooks. Benedict Allen put him to the test at the Red Ox Inn in Heidelberg and the Romanian spa resort of Baia Herculene: Paddy passed that test with flying colours.

During one of my recent trips to Cluj I was able to enter the famous Hotel New York (now the Continental) during a small exhibition as part of the Transylvanian Film Festival. Immediately I reached for my copy of Between the Woods and the Water and turned to page 144 …

“An hotel at the end of the main square, called the New York – a great meeting place in the winter season – drew my companions like a magnet. István said the barman had invented an amazing cocktail – only surpassed by the one called ‘Flying’ in the Vier Jahreszeiten bar in Munich – which would be criminal to miss. He stalked in, waved the all clear from the top of some steps, and we settled in a strategic corner while the demon-barman went mad with his shaker. There was nobody else in the bar; it was getting late and the muffled lilt of the waltz from Die Fledermaus hinted that everyone was in the dining room. We sipped with misgiving and delight among a Regency neo-Roman décor of cream and ox-blood and gilding: Corinthian capitals spread their acanthus leaves and trophies of quivers, and hunting horns, lyres and violins were caught up with festoons between the pilasters.”

… and given the costume display, this next paragraph came to life for me as Angéla tries to disguise herself with a scarf Paddy and István suggested it might be better to turn into someone else:

“King Carol, Greta Garbo, Horthy, .. Groucho Marx … Queen Marie, and Charlie Chaplin; Laurel and Hardy, perhaps; one of the two; she would have to choose, but she insisted on both.”

Related article:

Angéla, Paddy, István and Tom in Cluj-Napoca

If food be the music of love … Bánffy’s lover in Cluj (Kolozsvár)

I am currently reading two books. The first is a little known series that Paddy contributed to in 1962 about which I will say more very soon. The second is volume two of Bánffy’s trilogy. I am convinced of the semi-autobiographical nature of these books and I have become obsessed with trying to find the house in Cluj of the married woman, Adrienne, who becomes the lover of the hero Balint.

There are many clues, including street names, but Bánffy has been able to mix fact and fiction, and what is more, many of the street names have been changed from the traditional Hungarian to new Romanian names since 1918. I was discussing this with one of my work colleagues in Cluj, Boglarka Ronai, and I happened to say that I was convinced that Bánffy also had a lover in Cluj, and that Adrienne’s house in the story may have been based on this woman’s house.

We are not sure about the house part, but Bánffy did indeed have a long-term lover in Cluj, and Boglarka sent me the following article about her: Baroness Elemér Bornemissza née Karola Szilvássy. Quite bizarrely it is about a cookbook that she wrote. What is interesting is how the writer of the article positions the contributors to the cookbook within the context of the decline of the Hungarian nobility of Transylvania, and in some cases this had tragic endings. It was into this world that Paddy walked in 1934 as he enjoyed his long summer in Hungary and then Transylvania. I have not had the time to cross-check, but Paddy may well have met some of the characters mentioned in the article and written about them in “Between the Woods and the Water“. Many of those mentioned in the article were writers and members of a Hungarian-Transylvanian writer’s group, the Erdélyi Helikon. In the picture below I believe Count Miklós Bánffy can be seen second right sitting on the chairs.

Photo made at the second Erdélyi Helikon meeting at Marosvécs in 1927 (Banffy seated second from right?)

Here is the article by Iván Bächer from the Hungarian Quarterly. If ayone knows any more about the story or the people involved please get in touch with me:  tsawford[at]btinternet.com

The Taste of Old Transylvania

Baroness Elemér Bornemissza: Kipróbált receptek (Proven Recipes). Edited and with an Introduction by Ildikó Marosi. Csíkszereda–Budapest, Pallas—Akadémia Könyvkiadó, 1998, 153 pp.

A friend of mine brought a heartrending cookery book from Transylvania. At first sight the slim little volume looked ordinary enough; I expected some amusing oddity when I picked it up and read the name of the author—Baroness Elemér Bornemissza née Karola Szilvássy—and the title: Proven Recipes.

The cover showed a copperplate print of Marosvécs in the last century—I was able to identify it by the four sturdy corner towers. This Renaissance building on the site of the Roman castrum was, until recently, in the possession of the Kemény family—the descendants of János Kemény (1607–1662), Prince of Transylvania, who had fought the Turks and had been abandoned by the Habsburgs and Montecuccoli.

When I read the first recipe, I still thought I would be treated to a bit of “blue-blooded” diversion. Who in their right mind could take a recipe of Goose-liver paté à la Salzburg seriously, which requires three whole goose livers, of which two have to be soaked in lukewarm milk overnight, then fried with onions and white bread rolls previously also soaked in milk, then pounded in a mortar, pressed through a sieve, mixed with finely sliced truffles which had been soaked in sugared wine, then with more wine added, with cloves and pepper, and the whole mixture finely layered with the third goose liver, which had been fried, cut into thin slices, and then the whole thing finished in a hot oven.

Who would have time for all that today?

It was only when I read the foreword of more than thirty pages and then went through the recipes that my heart suddenly sank. Every single recipe permeated the air with transcience and death. What I held in my hand was the frozen, fossilized evidence of a social class, a culture and a world, which have been obliterated from the face of the Earth.

This class was the Hungarian aristocracy of Transylvania, which, as well as distinguishing itself in the culinary arts, maintained an extremely rich Hungarian tradition, culture and literature.

As Ildikó Marosi’s Introduction reveals, the book is the first publication of a hand-written cookery book. Besides being a fascinating document, an original collection of recipes found among the estate of János Kemény, the last titled resident of Marosvécs, it is invaluable also because in the case of most of the recipes the author also names the source: when and where the baroness had learned the secrets of preparing the dish concerned. And if we use Ildikó Marosi’s guide to keep track of the sources, then the book will, indeed, make heartrending reading.

Let’s get a foretaste of the names of people who cooked for Hungarian writers, poets and editors in Transylvania between the two world wars.

The author of the cookery book was Baroness Bornemissza née Karola Szil-vássy, daughter of the landowner Béla Szilvássy and Baroness Antónia Wass.

Karola’s character was captured in two novels by two twentieth-century Transylvanian writers of aristocratic blood, Count Miklós Bánffy (1874–1950) and Baron János Kemény (1903–1971).

Ever since her youth, Karola was a stunningly beautiful, unbridled and proud woman with a passion for fine food as well as for interesting, eccentric and talented people. She liked to have excitement around her, and when there were no scandals at hand, she personally intervened to remedy the situation. For many years, Karola had a housekeeper, who had been a convicted murderer’s lover, and whom she took into her house along with the hanged man’s child. Accompanied by one of her friends, herself a baroness, Karola travelled to South Africa—on rail, by boat and on a donkey—to erect a tombstone for her cousin, Albert Wass, who had died there while fighting for the Boers.

This extraordinary woman had a difficult time to find herself a husband; eventually she married Baron Elemér Borne- missza, but the marriage was a failure, and their only child died, so they lived separately, with Karola receiving a handsome allowance from her husband.

Between the two world wars, Karola made herself the heart and soul of the Kemény Zsigmond Society of Marosvásárhely, the publishing house Erdélyi Szépmives Céh, and the magazine Erdélyi Helikon. (Erdély is the Hungarian name of Transylvania.)

The society, which bore the name of the Kemény family’s greatest son, the novelist and liberal thinker Zsigmond Kemény, was formed after the writer’s death in 1876, and functioned until 1944. It acquired a unique role after Transylvania’s annexation by Romania in 1918, organizing and rallying the Hungarian writers and maintaining links with the mother country.

Erdélyi Szépmíves Céh was the most prestigious book publisher in interwar Transylvania, and Erdélyi Helikon, the magazine started by János Kemény, was published by them.

The writers who were associated with the publisher and the magazine—Károly Kós, Aladár Kuncz, Károly Molter, Jenoý Dsida, Benoý Karácsony and many others—annually gathered in János Kemény’s château in Marosvécs. On these occasions, Karola’s attendance could always be taken for granted, and all the memoirs name her as the spirit of the company. (below Karola is fourth from right)

In the castle park (Marosvécs?) 1942 From left to right: István Asztalos, László Szabédi, Albert Wass, Karola Bornemissza, Elemérné Szilvássy, Gizella Kemény, Berenice Kemény, Jánosné Kemény

In this way, Karola, the compiler of our cookery book, was at the centre of Transylvanian literary life, and her kitchen produced, from “proven recipes”, the fine food enjoyed by the writers and editors. Continue reading

Images of Cluj by Alin Niculescu

There is one respect in which I have a definite advantage over Paddy in terms of the places he visited. I have been lucky enough to get to know well the city of Cluj-Napoca due to my regular visits. Paddy had but one night there with Angéla, but it was one of one of love and passion!

Last week I visited Bucharest for the first time. If this had been my first introduction to Romania I doubt that I would have been keen to return. To be fair it was literally a flying visit, and I did not make it right into the centre, however, it cannot compare with the genuine attractions of Cluj: its compact size; the Baroque architecture; the lively bars and restaurants in the old centre; the intimate cultural life; and its position in a valley surrounded by gently rolling hills. I have also made some good friends in this capital of Transylvania.

I have often written about Cluj, but to many of you the city probably remains a mystery. To help you get more of a feel for a place that I have come to feel strongly about, I wanted to showcase the work of  Alin Niculescu, a professional cameraman from Cluj. He has made a number of short films about the city, highlighting it over the seasons. They are just a few minutes long and if you are curious to know more about the city, they will give you a feel for its size, architecture, and position. In some scenes he also captures the relaxed and friendly mood of its citizens.

This first film is entitled Snowy Night at Cluj. This is broadly how the city looks at the moment.

Snowy Night at Cluj Full HD from Alin Niculescu on Vimeo.

This second movie shows a panorama over the city in the summer.

Cluj-Napoca from Alin Niculescu on Vimeo.

You can see more of Alin’s work on his website here

Related category:

Articles about Cluj and Transylvania

The Dark Memories of Cluj from 1989

The Hotel Continental in Cluj (or as we know it The New York) was not only the location for a great cocktail, but outside its doors in December 1989 a massacre occurred during the Romanian Revolution.

For those of you who have followed my stories about Cluj it was a pleasant city in Paddy’s time and remains so to this day. However, like so many towns and cities in Romania, it experienced its fair share of discontent during the last days of Ceauşescu. I can’t be sure of the figures but around a dozen people were killed, mostly by the Army, and these events took place virtually on the steps of the Continental. The video below shows some of the traumatic scenes that took place twenty-one years ago this week.

On the main road out of Cluj to the south is a very interesting cemetery. Its inhabitants include not only the citizens of Cluj, but generations of soldiers from Europe’s great wars and revolutions of the twentieth century. There are Austro-Hungarian soldiers with names that seem to indicate that they came from all over that once great Empire. Romanian soldiers from the Second World War and around three hundred Russians from the struggles of the dying days of that conflict. But in a quiet corner stand some graves of those that died in the revolution of 1989, amongst them one or two young women.

As we prepare to celebrate the great gift of Christmas, let us take a moment to reflect on these momentous events, and those that continue to this day. Maybe we can give thanks for those that were prepared to lay down their lives for their friends, and for those that do so today.

This video appears to have a full Roll of Honour for those who came from Cluj and its environs who died not only in Cluj but elsewhere. It is very moving.

The Crows of Cluj

It may seem strange but Crows are some of my favourite birds and never before have I seen so many as when in Cluj.

I first wrote about them during a visit to the city back in September 2010. There were thousands of them, flying in their squadrons in two streams. They took many minutes to fly past and I wondered from whence they had come and where they were flying to. During my last visit I was told that they spend their days at the city rubbish dump and fly back into the city in the evening. So the mystery was solved, and indeed confirmed by others in the pictures below.

This morning we had some crows in our garden and I thought of those Cluj crows once more. To my delight I found some photographs  after a Google search and thought I would share them with you.

The poetry of Ted Hughes is also amongst my favourites. His 1970 collection Crow includes a number of dark poems where the crow is often portrayed as a dark protagonist. In 1985 Hughes explained his inspiration for Crow:

“Crow grew out of an invitation by Leonard Baskin to make a book with him simply about crows. He wanted an occasion to add more crows to all the crows that flock through his sculpture, drawings, and engravings in their various transformations. As the protagonist of a book, a crow would become symbolic in any author’s hands. And a symbolic crow lives a legendary life. That is how Crow took off.”

You can listen to Ted Hughes’ wonderfully soft Yorkshire voice as he reads from Crow in this You Tube video.

The copyright of the photographer’s below is acknowledged.

Crows over Cluj-Napoca by Dragos Ludusan

Crows across Cluj by theophilus_austin

A Winter Afternoon in Cluj

Between the Woods and the Water

I am very fortunate to be able to visit Cluj quite often. We all know a little about the city from Paddy’s visit here during his brief love affair with Angéla in the summer of 1934. Today I find myself here again after a busy week in my company office. It is a cold overcast day, and the low cloud seems to make the sounds of the city travel a long way; the squeals of children playing, dogs barking and the famous Cluj crows cawing as they weave their way between the apartment blocks and the spires and domes of Cluj’s many churches.

Romania is not a country that many people visit on holiday, and Cluj is almost certainly not on many lists. I fail to understand why this is. You only have to visit the (open to public) Facebook page of Visit Romania and look at some of the incredible photographs to see that this country has varied and stunning scenery, and enough history on offer, from the Roman site at Parolissum, the artistic beauty of the painted monasteries of Bukovina or the wooden churches of Maramureş, and the castle of Hunyadi that Paddy visited during his walk south in the area of the Retezat on towards the Danube and the end of his journey as described in Between the Woods and the Water.

At its heart Cluj has wonderful Baroque architecture which dates from its heyday under the Austro-Hungarian Empire. Many of these buildings have fading, crumbling facades. The absence of western chain stores means that the streets are not despoiled by those so familiar signs. I may be wrong, but this general absence of branded outlets means that many Romanians (but to be fair probably only those that can afford it) still have a very individual sense of style.

The statue of Matthias Corvinus

When one wanders just a few yards from the main roads in Cluj one enters a maze of smaller streets, many cobbled, with a myriad of bars, cafes and restaurants which all offer excellent value. Today I walked from the newly restored and very splendid statue of King Matthias Corvinus, past St Michael’s Church, towards Corvinus’ house. It is only a one minute walk. Paddy and Angéla stayed somewhere in those back streets within the sound of the bells of the church; quite where we shall probably never know. I too heard them ringing this evening as I walked to dinner.

Cluj is a very sociable place, possibly because there are something like 100,000 plus students here (an incredible number but that is what I have been told). It is also somewhere that makes you feel quite safe. I am sure it has its moments, but I have never encountered any problems and one feels safer here than in many places in England, particularly late at night.

What started out as just a short article about Cluj today, seems to have ended up as copy for the Romanian Tourist Board, and that is fine. In these difficult financial times, Romania offers a tremendous holiday alternative, and it remains low cost. So when making your plans for 2011 you could do worse than visiting this country, and possibly walking in some of Paddy’s footsteps. Romania could also do with the income. I call that a win win outcome.

Related articles:

Angéla, Paddy, István and Tom in Cluj-Napoca

Angéla and Paddy’s visit to Cluj-Napoca with pdf describing his visit


Facebook – Visit Romania

Angéla and Paddy’s visit to Cluj-Napoca

Balasha Cantacuzene

In response to requests from many of the citizens of Cluj who inhabit the pages of I Love Cluj on Facebook, I have scanned the pages which recount the story of Paddy and Angéla’s 1934 visit to Cluj in full.

This is taken from “Between the Woods and the Water”, the second volume of Patrick Leigh Fermor’s journey from London to Constantinople which commenced in December 1933 and ended with his arrival in Constantinople on New Year’s Day 1935. His time in Romania captures the beauty of the landscape, and the friendliness of the people be they aristocrat or peasant. It describes a time that would be lost forever due to the Second World War, which Paddy later described in an article for the Daily Telegraph as “Travels in a Land before Darkness Fell”.

His own extended sojourn in Romania was at Belani in Moldavia with the first love of his life, a young painter and Byzantine princess, Balasha Cantacuzene, whose family Paddy describes as part of an “old-fashioned, French-speaking, Tolstoyan, land-owning world. They were intensely civilised people.”

You can find pdfs of the story of the Cluj visit as follows (Cluj part starts page 143 but 142 gives you an introduction):

p142, p143, p144, p145, p146, p147 ………………. enjoy!

Related article:

Angéla, Paddy, István and Tom in Cluj-Napoca

Related category:

‘Between the Woods and the Water’

Angéla, Paddy, István and Tom in Cluj-Napoca



Matthias Corvin’s house Cluj-Napoca

If the lifespan of a crow can be up to thirty years, it is conceivable that the grandparents of the present day crows of Cluj observed Patrick Leigh Fermor and Angéla on their clandestine assignation to the city in 1934 when they were chauffeured by the understanding István. Their journey was a secret, but maybe the crows saw all and have passed on to their offspring the story of the young Englishman and the unhappily married Hungarian woman who was as ‘nimble as an ibex’.



As the sun set this evening I emerged from a restaurant near the Orthodox Cathedral to the sight and sound of thousands of crows flying westward at rooftop level, weaving in and out of the spires of the Cluj National Theatre. It was as if they were on some raid; they were in the stream, in squadrons of one hundred or more. I could neither see where they had come from, nor where they were going to, but this lasted for more than ten minutes and somehow it made me think of Paddy and Angéla.

The statue of Matthias Corvin dominates the square. St Michael’s church behind.

Cluj is today a fast growing city. The centre is dominated by crumbling Austro-Hungarian Baroque buildings. One can see that in 1934, before the darkness came that engulfed Europe and Romania, the pink and yellow painted walls would have been bright and welcoming to the small party that crept into town that warm August day.

Never missing an opportunity I have followed some of Paddy’s descriptions of his short stay in the city found in ‘Between the Woods and the Water’. He said that he and Angéla took a room near the house of Matthias Corvin who is a hero to both the Hungarians and the Romanians of Transylvania. This part of the old town has substantial houses and I wonder where in those cobbled streets, near the museum, they awoke, entwined, in their ‘handsome vaulted room’ to the sound of ‘recriprocally schismatic bells’. The bells would have sounded from the Gothic Saint Michael’s church in the Matthias Corvin square. His statue, which Paddy describes as magnificent, dominates the open space.

The New York/Continental Hotel

It was in a corner of this square that last night I set out on a search for the New York hotel, where the three of them had such fun and enjoyed an amazing cocktail, only surpassed, so István said, by the one called ‘Flying’ in the Vier Jahrszeiten bar in Munich. I was hoping that the secret of the cocktail had been passed down from generation to generation of barmen, but it was not to be. The hotel which is now named the Continental is closed, and the windows covered in posters proclaiming the Iron Maiden concert that took place last month to celebrate the success of the local football team, CFR-Cluj, in winning the Romanian league. It is a sad sight, but the building is nonetheless very grand with a turret on the corner facing the square and the Bánffy palace, which is now an art museum and next to the Melody nightclub with it’s huge neon sign, in the opposite corner.

So I did not get to sit in the seat of Patrick Leigh Fermor, nor drink his cocktail,  but instead walked in good company to my favourite bar in Cluj – Insomnia – and drank Ursus beer, whilst explaining to my Romanian friends Daniela and Vlad, why Patrick Leigh Fermor is the Greatest Living Englishman.