True beauty is often hidden in the most unexpected places; stories, times, parts of the world and people. Moreover, we find meaning, uniqueness and real beauty every time we accidentally encounter… imperfection, incompleteness, turmoil. The fact that nothing is ever perfect, in life and travel, inspires us, as it helps us realize that nothing beautiful in the world would be born of flawless events and that we would not even need such a thing. Because the stories that really deserve to be told, heard, understood, similar to interesting people, have in them something that goes out of the natural and desired order of things, they have crossroads, trials, wanderings, wars, losses, rebirth, imperfection.
Bethlen-Haller Castle is for us the beautiful story and the winning good, which hide, not too far from the surface, an imperfect history.
It was on our list for some time and today we are delighted and deeply impressed to have discovered it, as the only guests inside, to have lived a complete experience in terms of accommodation, gourmet menu, activities carried out here. The beautiful energy of the people, the new things we discovered about the castle, its history, about us and the world in contact with us. At the same time we learned the story of Jidvei Romania, that owns the castle today, understanding their involvement in the community, the contribution made at the same time to the progress and international recognition of Romanian wine.
Once in Cetatea de Baltă, in Alba County, on the banks of Târnava Mică and discovering the castle that seems to guard the entire horizon, we cannot fail to notice the new life that seems to have been offered to it. Our hearts are filled with gratitude, noticing that we can easily get lost in a landscape that makes us think of France or Italy, observing the beautiful reborn castle, its details, the order and the surrounding air.
We are greeted and guided through the days spent here with good energy, smile and a lot of passion by Bogdana. As we love the places that breathe through their people, we understand from the beginning that we will be very happy to return.
A troubled history
The journey at Bethlen-Haller begins with a tour of the castle that has a troubled history, unknown sometimes and last but not least, controversial. Similar to the styles in which it was built, rebuilt (Renaissance, Baroque, avant-garde and extravagant for that period, in some areas) its days, owners, stories are. Typically Renaissance built, the four-tower castle was built between 1615-1624 by Miklos Bethlen, Chancellor of Transylvania at the time. However, it has undergone numerous transformations over time, between 1769-1773, being renovated in Baroque style. It was bought from the Tax Office, sold, bet and lost at card game, passing from the possession of Bethlen family to Haller family, starting with the second half of the 19th century, until the year of expropriation, 1948.
During the communist period, the castle became vinification section, while the original furniture, decorations and collectibles disappeared or were destroyed. After 1989, it was claimed and returned to Haller family, then bought by Necşulescu family, who restored it, brought it closer to its original identity, turned it into a symbol of Jidvei and in 2020 opened it completely for the public, with the possibility of accommodation and living a special experience on the domain of Jidvei.
Many corners, windows, details that are worth sniffing in a personal rhythm
We are grateful for the generous tour, for the small imperfections we observe, which make the castle more beautiful, interesting, completely fascinating to discover. In one of the towers there is an old wooden staircase, circular, hand made and hanging on the walls surrounding the staircase we see old clocks, one for each birthday celebration of the owner. Also in this space it is said that at the base of the stairs, the old door we are looking at today would have been in the past the passage to a secret tunnel that connected the two castles of the Bethlen family, this one and the one in Sânmiclăuș.
We also find out that the current objects and paintings inside the castle have been collected over time from various collections and collectors and some of the rooms have been painted by students from the University of Arts. However, one of the painted walls has only an outline, without a completed model, a symbol, we find smiling, of the beauty of imperfection, the specificity of this place, the lightness and openness of those who enjoy it today. We stop next to an old piano, the only object left in the castle from the period when it became a warehouse and a ruin. Made in Vienna, today it looks tired, completely out of tune, but with a symbolic beauty and value, that only a trial can offer as gifts. We can feel the emotion while touching it.
The castle is, therefore, a story. It needs to be discovered in peace, understood, valued. It has many corners, windows, details that are worth sniffing in a personal rhythm.
We arrive to our room, one of the four currently available and renovated: time travel, tall windows under which a beautiful field and sunset appear, perfect furniture, white bedding, painted walls and an elegant bathtub, romantically surrounded by a transparent curtain. For a moment you are there, back in time.
2500 ha of vineyard, the largest single-owner area in Europe
On the first day we better understood the history and current story of Jidvei wineries and started a tour. We were glad to find out so many new things. Jidvei has 2500 ha of vineyard, the largest single-owner area in Europe, processing over 25 million kg of grapes annually.
At the same time, it inaugurated the first gravitational winery in Europe and today it produces 54 different labels. Jidvei has four wineries, in Jidvei, Tăuni, Blaj and Bălcaciu, with a storage capacity of over 35 million liters. Jidvei winery, built in 1974, has the largest storage capacity, being equipped with a modern fermentation technology, fully automated. Blaj Winery, founded in 1989, hosts the oldest wines. Bălcaciu (1958) has the sparkling wines and wine distillates. Established in 2014, Tăuni winery is unique, thanks to fermentation and storage tanks, equipment and facilities, modern technologies, using gravitational energy for minimal intervention in the winemaking process.
So we enjoyed the tour of the wineries, understanding once again the complexity of this world. The visits culminate in the second part of the day with tasting, a gourmet menu, shared stories and a better knowledge of Jidvei varieties.
In the following days we discovered the field, we visited the small and beautiful church located right in front of the castle and we practiced for the first time our archery skills. The farm on the property can also be visited.
We enjoyed the same mastery in telling stories and preparing all kinds of goodies found in the gourmet menu. It is adapted to food needs and habits, being established and designed before your stay. We were pampered with wonderful dishes, cheese, soups, meat and vegetarian options such as a delicious risotto or vegan pasta. All perfectly combined with the wine. Our winners were those from the Owner’s Choice collection: Ana Sauvignon Blanc, Ana Chardonnay, Maria Fetească Albă and Maria Pinot Gris, but also the velvety and balanced Mysterium Sauvignon Blanc, the noble rosé Mysterium (Cabernet Sauvignon + Pinot Noir + Syrah) and the precious Eiswein, produced only in exceptional wine years, from grapes harvested in early winter.
At dinner we also had the pleasure to meet and talk to Mr. Claudiu Necșulescu, the owner of Jidvei Romania and Bethlen-Haller Castle. We always appreciate meeting such personalities of the Romanian business environment, promoters and ambassadors of the Romanian specificity, of the products of our lands, at the same time being a fighter for the constant progress of the Romanian wine. We learn something beautiful every time, the journey being enriched, especially by the modesty, simplicity and natural tranquility that these people show.
In the area of Cetatea de Baltă there are some objectives that can be visited, but many are in ruins. Among them, a Roman camp from the second century AD, the Calvinist Reformed Church from the XIII-XV centuries, the monument of the Romanian Heroes from the First World War, the Romanian Church United with Rome, the Holy Trinity, dedicated to Saint Anton of Padova.
Beyond history, stories with and about wine, events and places, we discover, as the people from Jidvei say, that joy actually comes from people. In fact, true joy is inspired by their stories. Stories and history keep us alive, allow us to move forward, make us learn so much about ourselves and the world. We discovered at Bethlen-Haller that joy, light and tranquility, specific to a happy ending. Beyond history, ruin, fate, imperfection, the castle survived and lived hundreds of lives, not even similar. We always enjoy the emotional discovery of all these one of a kind places, receiving a new life, a better one, meaningful, never being too late.
Joy comes from people and their stories and they also sanctify and give life to places, history, lands. We are grateful for every story like this. Still imperfect, but complete, unique, and happy, in the end. Like the old piano, which rests in one of the rooms of the castle, finding, after many storms, its place and shape.
Cetatea de Baltă, Alba County
#bethlenhallercastle #jidvei #winery #wine #history #tradition #vineyard #rebirth #brand #story #people #tasting #ownerschoice #romanian_romance #traveltheromance