Once upon a time there was a manor hidden in an endless forest…
Transylvania is a fascinating place for any traveler who has had the opportunity to taste it, to experience its feelings, to discover its secrets and to be part of its mysteries. Transylvania means history, traditions, wild nature, but also nobility, manors and stories of honor, dedication and belonging.
Today I will tell you about the Zabola estate in the locality of Zăbala, Covasna, which is one of the few historical domains inhabited by the descendants of the family that had built it.
Zabola estate is located in a 50-hectare park where we find historic buildings, lakes and countless plant species. If you are patient enough, you can see deer, wild boar, bears, wolves, squirrels, owls, bats and many storks here. The history of the Mikes Estate in Zăbala dates back to the 15th century when there was a fortified building with a bastion on the site of today’s castle. The Mikes family has been known since the Middle Ages, being mentioned in historiography as emissaries of Transylvania to Venice or, in the 16th and 17th centuries, as generals or chancellors. In the 17th century, Mihaly Mikes became the commissioner of the territory. Another historical episode in which the Mikes family is mentioned is the moment when two of the brothers kidnapped the daughter of a famous Protestant family, in 1634, which had serious repercussions on the Mikes house.
The first documented mention of the estate dates back to 1629, and the Renaissance origin is proved even today by the presence of frescoes on the castle floor. Count Mikes Benedek (1819-1878) and his wife roofed the old manor in 1867 when the building regained its current shape. Later, Count Mikes Ármin (1868-1944) built a new building between 1910 and 1912 (today known as the New Castle) with the purpose of guest rooms. The new building is connected to the old castle by an underground passage and a multi-storey bridge. During World War II, the buildings were looted and the area devastated. In 1949 the property was nationalized and the family evacuated. The castle changed its function several times, at the beginning being a holiday village of the communist press, later an orphanage, a school and a sanatorium. The property was claimed by the Roy-Chowdhury family (successors to the Mikes family, Katalin Countess de Mikes married Shuvendu Basu Roy Chowdhury) in 1999. However, only in 2005 was the family able to take possession of the estate. Part of the buildings (The Machine House, The New Castle, The Old Saddle House, The Garden House and the Old Stables), together with the English park serve as a hotel-castle. The Countess along with her sons, Alexander and Gregor Roy Chowdhury, are the current owners of the Zabola Estate.
A very interesting detail about the family history concerns Count János Mikes (1876–1945), Bishop of Szombathely/ Steinamanger (1911–1936), who was the first bishop to visit the Pope at the Vatican by plane in 1911. László Almasy (“The English Patient” – from the film of the same name in 1996) was his personal secretary before leaving for Africa.
Today the castle-hotel welcomes us in the guest houses of the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, and they are named after the original functions: The Machine House, The Old Saddle House, The New Castle.
The Machine House, initially the building used to house water pumps, electricity generators, and later, looms for the textile production of the family, hence its current name.
The Old Saddle House, the building at the gate of the estate was intended for the staff of the stable (for housing and service) and all the harnesses for the family horses were kept here. At the beginning of the 20th century, this function moved to a farm on the outskirts of the village.
The New Castle, the impressive building is the result of the work of Count Mikes Ármin dating back to the early twentieth century. Currently the New Castle is the main building of the estate with 11 rooms and apartments and an elegant restaurant.
Besides the houses for tourists on the estate, we can also find the former stables that over time have housed the best horses brought from Budapest, Vienna, Munich, London or even St. Petersburg. Today this restored building is used for events or exhibitions.
A visit to this estate is not complete unless you try a sauna in the woods or horse riding on the Zabola Estate. You can also take part in a bear hunt or relax with a carriage ride in the area.
The location itself is a paradise of relaxation, staying here means a delight of tastes especially since the menu is carefully selected and is constantly changing to highlight the local ingredients, which are so important to feel the culinary specifics of the area. Each room is a spectacular combination of new and old, a sanctuary of intimacy and comfort. The abundance of colors in the gardens and deciduous forests turns your stay here into a fairy tale. As you walk through the gates of the estate you realize that something really extraordinary awaits you, especially when you cross the magnificent alley that leads to the castle.