Hideaway Report editors constantly strive to uncover new and surprising destinations, and to provide the kind of information about them unlikely to be found in other travel publications. Although the world may have grown smaller, fortunately it is still possible to find regions where a distinctive landscape, architecture and culture all remain intact. Transylvania, a vast province in the heart of Romania, is one such place. Despite being off the beaten track, this undiscovered corner of Europe now has a number of atmospheric guesthouses that make it a pleasant and comfortable region in which to travel, plus scenery that is every bit as enchanting as that of Tuscany or Provence.
We particularly enjoyed our stay at Count Kálnoky’s Transylvanian Guesthouses, an inn with 10 accommodations distributed among several whitewashed houses and farm buildings. This is the project of Count Tibor Kálnoky, who, after the fall of Communism in 1989, set about buying back his family’s former properties in order to create a new type of rural tourism that would offer work to the locals, preserve Transylvania’s natural and historical heritage, and offer an authentic and intimate experience of the region to visitors.
On this trip, we also visited Romania’s capital, Bucharest, a city of nearly 2 million that is one of the rare European capitals so far unaffected by mass tourism. As the Romanian economy has grown, it has become an appealing and lively place, where renovations of the surviving Belle Epoque architecture now lend credibility to its pre-World War II sobriquet, the “Little Paris of the East.” Bucharest is also becoming a city for food lovers, with a variety of excellent restaurants (the best of which is The Artist, a charming place run by Dutch chef Paul Oppenkamp, set within a turn-of-the-century house).
In complete contrast, we also spent time in the great city of Chicago, which, despite its size and importance, has long lacked a luxurious hideaway hotel. (All our previously recommended properties have more than 200 rooms.) Alas, our experiences were extremely mixed and, in the case of The Hotel at Midtown, positively dire. We don’t often encounter a hotel about which we have almost nothing constructive to say, except that closing it down would probably be advisable.
The only qualified success of our reporting was the Sophy Hyde Park, a 98-room property with a fine restaurant, which is located in a part of Chicago rapidly coming to greater prominence thanks to the planned Obama Presidential Center. Despite our hotel disappointments, we had better luck with Chicago’s restaurants, discovering eight notable additions to the city’s vibrant dining scene.