By Douglas Williams
Ten years ago Nicolette Keizer pitched up in deepest, darkest Transylvania with a notion to buy a plot of land – she’d seen one online. Having just passed her half century and having spent a good deal of time re-appraising her life and what was important to her, she’d decided she was aiming to engage in a more natural way of life, closer to and more tuned in with nature. Half Dutch, half French and brought up in England, Nicolette had heard Romania could be just the place for such an existence. Ten years later it would be safe to say Keizer has accomplished this. Bears regularly roam around the amazing 4 hectare property Forest Garden Transylvania, wolves can occasionally be heard in the distance, she lives more or less “off grid” – water from a spring, electricity from solar panels, heating from a wood-fired stove, she’s practically vegan, the nearest village is a 15 minute drive.
CLOSE TO NATURE
Groups of like-minded individuals, families, colleagues, workshops, basically whoever, can stay self-catering at Forest Garden, there is ample space for six to eight guests and the location would fit perfectly with those wishing to explore this wild part of Romania with its unique Hungarian heritage – there are attractions galore within the vicinity including skiing in winter. Alternatively guests can just completely chillax amidst the natural splendour.
Nicolette has had a number of quite different careers from paramedic to college lecturer, landscape gardener to property developer and, before living in Forest Garden, she hadn’t lived any one place for longer than 18 months since she was a kid – she’d even had a couple of stints living aboard boats. Importantly, Nicolette spent two prolonged periods in communities, one in Glastonbury in south-west England and the other in the Findhorn Community in northern Scotland. These periods greatly influenced Keizer’s approach to life, they still do, and the idea of reproducing something of the ethos of these places at Forest Garden glows warm in this resourceful and independent woman’s heart.
“In many ways the old community spirit is alive and well here in rural Romania, it’s one of the things that attracted me and one of the things I like best about living here. It’s not all about money, money, money. There still is the traditional lifestyle, it’s much slower, Romanians are good at sharing things together and it’s priceless. I’m not sure if even the Romanians themselves realise just how priceless this is,” says Nicolette. “There is the modern stuff but there is also the clean air, the clean water, herbal remedies, handed down recipes, and a whole lot of knowledge that, elsewhere, has been forgotten and lost. And the food is naturally organic and of course it’s locally produced. In many ways it is an idyll.” And certainly with its views and surroundings and the house with its undeniably peaceful energy, Forest Garden could definitely be described as an idyll.
From Bucharest, Forest Garden is an approximately five hour drive over expansive plains, across dramatic mountains, over more deep, loamy-soiled plains, climbing up into mountains again and Tușnad before dropping to the historic city of Miercurea Ciuc and then climbing up into the forests of Harghita.
Reached down a well kept track, Nicolette has done most of the renovation on her property herself and the quality of the end result is impressive. Wood work is one of Nicolette’s things and there is an abundance of wood, finished to perfection, solid but smooth. Wide forested horizons stretch far off east and south. On the land there are a couple of small ponds, frozen solid when we visited, another cottage and a barn. It feels a world away from the husstle and busstle of the capital.
CREATIVITY AND ALTERNATIVES
Nicolette would like to see the land and the property used more, particularly for purposes that some might describe as “alternative”. Courses on permaculture, eco-building techniques and photography have taken place there already.
“I would like to welcome people interested in plant consciousness, meditation and yoga, creative people who are interested in connecting with their inner self. There is a fast growing army of folks who wish to lead an alternative lifestyle, a lifestyle that is more balanced and more at one with nature. All across the world and here in Romania, people are waking up to lots of stuff that they were previously closed to. I’d like for there to be a small community of people here, those interested in living an off grid lifestyle, eco building and those interested in creating their own reality. Land can be made available for self builders to join. This place may seem remote but I don’t feel remote, I have the internet, I’m in regular contact with lots of people from all over, like-minded people and of course I’m regularly inundated with all sorts of visitors, it’s wonderful!”
People can stay at Forest Garden for a retreat and deep connection with nature. Various means of exchange are a possible way to stay, ideally those that enjoy self catering in Nicolette’s latest creation, her beautiful hand built, recycled and surprisingly well equipped kitchen!
For more details visit:
www.forestgardentransylvania.org and contact Nicolette for more information.