Surroundings
Gyergyoszentmiklos2 Gheorgheni
We can find Gheorgheni (Gyergyószentmiklós) on the northeastern corner of Szekelyland in Harghita County, between Borsec and Marosfõ pass. The town is built along national road DN12, which travels north-to-south.
Neighboring mountains to the north are the Kelemen and Besztercei Mountains. To the east, the Ceahlau Mountains and to the south, the Ciuc Mountains. Located to the west is the Gyergyo Basin and at the opposite side, the Harghita Mountains and at their base, the Belchia Stream.

The geographical coordinates of Gheorgheni are 46 42′ north latitude, and 25 35' east longitude. The town’s average height proper is 818 m above sea level. The highest point on the periphery ranges between 1600-1650 m in altitude.
The highest mountain visible from the town to the north is the Pricske Mountain 1545 m. Also visible high on a hill in the north, is an easily identified landmark, the St. Anna’s Chapel. To the southeast, is Mount Csiszér, which is 1364 m in height.
The climate of Gheorgheni is influenced by its geography and altitude, as well as the closed nature of the Gheorgheni basin. The local people commonly say, “For nine months out of year it is cold, for the other three months… it is not hot”.  This isn’t surprising, because for many years, the average temperature of the region was 51 degrees Celsius (41 degrees F). A detailed weather study of Romania called the region “the North Pole of Europe”.

Over 55 percent of the region of Gheorgheni is forested. The dominant trees of the area are Spruce. The undergrowth consists of various brush species. In the more open and wetter areas are found blueberries and cranberries. It is a local tradition for people go to the forest to collect these fruits, to make jellies and jams and blueberry liquor. Also popular, is collecting the many varied mushroom species native to the forest.
According to the 2002 census, the population of Gheorgheni ranked third highest in the region at 20,081 people, of which 17,500 are Hungarians.

Bekasi1Bicaz Pass
The Bicaz Pass (Cheile Bicazului in Romanian, Békás-szoros in Hungarian) is one of the most spectacular places in Romania, located in the north-east part of the country, in Neamþ and Harghita counties.

The pass was formed by the waters of Bicaz River and it serves as a passageway between the Romanian provinces of Moldova and Transylvania. It is a noted location to see the wallcreeper, an uncommon cliff-dwelling bird, and rare plants such as the hard to reach Edelweiss, the Hens and Chichs (Sempervivum Tectorum) and the Yew tree .

The road along the 8 kilometres of ravines, often serpentines, and features  200-300 m high vertical rock walls which is a rarity for Europe, and a paradise  for mountaineers. It is one of the most spectacular drives in the country.

The three main parts of the pass are sometimes referred to as, the Gate of Hell, the Limbo of Hell and the Throat of Hell.

Also within the pass is Lacu Rosu (the Red Lake), with its traditional cabins, hotels, and famous lake (situated at 980m altitude) caused by a landslide in the 19th century.

The average height of the surrounding mountains is 1300 m. One of the most famous mountains there is the Altar Rock, 1154 m, with its distinctive cross at the top.

The Red Lake and Bicaz Pass was officially recognized by the state as a national park in 1996


LazarLázár Castle

The castle of Lazarea, Harghita County, is a major tourist attraction, alongside the Gothic cathedral in Ditrau, only 6 km away. The 19th Century Hungarian writer, historian, ethnographer and journalist Orban Balazs mentions the Lazarea Castle in his writings: “a noteworthy old castle of the Lazar counts.”

What distinguishes it from other castles is its Renaissance architectural style. The Lazarea Castle, built under Prince Bethlen Gabor in the first half of the 17th Century, is one of the few in Transylvania built in this style.

As the name of the castle indicates, the castle belonged to the Lazar family, of the local nobility, which was rising in the early Baroque age. It was built in several stages, by successive generations of the family. The first stage began in the 15th Century, when the stone tower above today's portal was built. The tower used to be surrounded by a wooden fence, intended to protect the housing area. The name Lazar was first mentioned in the early 15th century, in a document dating back to 1406.

A century later, in 1506, Lazar Andras, a notable Szeckler, chairs a local council. He is the one who orders the construction of a stone wall and of a watchtower. His son, Lazar Janos I, extends the wall to its current size, builds two rooms above the gate tower and later adds a second floor. The text on the gate, written with Gothic characters, mentions the year 1532 as the date when the construction was completed.

But with the Ottoman power on the rise in the 16th Century, which the local nobility regarded as a threat, one of Janos' sons, Lazar Istvan II, strengthens the defence features of the building. He builds the outer bastions, reinforces the weaker walls facing the Szarmany Hill, where he builds double walls and several towers, and consolidates the north-western bastion.

The best-known member of the family, Lazar Istvan IV, was born in 1597. Much of his huge wealth was the result of the privileges he received in exchange for services provided to the Prince of Transylvania, Bethlen Gabor.

He monitored the completion of the fortifications of the castle to which a council hall, a Franciscan monastery and a prison were subsequently added. The Italian Renaissance style with turrets and loopholes dates back to his time. This style can also be encountered in Austria, Slovakia, Poland and Hungary.

Lazar Istvan the 4th got involved in the anti-Ottoman fight started by Bethlen Gabor and continued by his successors. His son, Ferenc, was the ally of the Habsburgs and at 22, years of age, in 1702, he received the title of count. His promising career was ended in 1706 by the emperor of Austria for the fact that Ferenc had allied with the anti-Habsburg movement of Rakoczi Ferenc 2nd.

In 1707 Austrian general Acton set the castle on fire in retaliation for the fact that Rakoczi’s insurgents had taken refuge there. The fire marked the beginning of the decline of the castle that was never re-constructed to reach its former grandeur. During the 18th century the castle was the bone of contention between heirs while by mid 19th century it had gone derelict. Reconstruction works only partially managed to turn the castle into a local museum and an area for fine artists to create new works.

The castle in Lazarea, is today a contemporary art museum. It is also home to a permanent exhibition of painted eggs and zoological specimens. The council hall is the venue for medieval, choral and chamber music concerts while the premises of the castle offer visitors a full panorama of the surroundings.

 


SugoSugo Cave
The 65 million year old Sugo Cave is a natural rarity. Situated 13 kilometers from Gheorgheni, the first description of the cave is from 1930. The cave’s name, “Sugo”, is due to the rustling or sighing noise made by the constant flow of air through the complex.

There are three known entrances and three levels of which two are dry and one is wet. At various points of the main tunnels are significant halls within the cave: (Buzoganyterem, Letrasterem, Gyokerterem, Szoszek, Rokak terme, Omlas terme). In every tunnel of the cave there are unequalled specimens of stalagmites and stalactites. The known length of Sugo Cave is about 750 meters.

In 1931, the bones of the Cave Bear (Ursus Spelaeus), which became extinct 27,500 years ago, were found in Sugo Cave. These bones are now held in the museum at Cluj Napoca.