In Alma Vii, a small idyllic village situated in the “heart” of Transylvania, a historical Romanian region, two German corporatists decided to give up successful careers and just follow an old and beautiful dream. They bought an old, traditional Saxon farmhouse, restored it and transformed it into a charming guesthouse, with a lot of attention for details and respect for local traditions and customer’s needs. Following the tradition, but with all the facilities of a modern unit, the place has charm, stories, good vibe and the good feeling you get when things are made with love, from heart. The guesthouse was opened last year, and people from all continents choose to stay here and enjoy the magic. And Mike and Marion, two people who lived in three European capitals before, are smiling, are at home and are really happy.
I must admit from the very beginning, I have “something” for Alma Vii – an idyllic Romanian village with no more than 200 inhabitants, that I’ve discovered many years ago. It can be from the astonishing views, ever since you start driving on the road to the village. Or it can be from the feeling that the time simply stops there, hanging on the tower of the old, fortified church, dating from the XIV-th century.
Or could be from the old streets where people you meet say Hello to you, even if they see you for the first time, or from the fact that there’s no mobile phone signal. Or it could be the image of the old Saxon houses, that seem detached from another time. Or maybe it’s just the peace of the place, a kind of magic silence where you can almost hear your thoughts, a place to breathe, to reconnect, to go back in time and enjoy the beauty of simplicity.
From three capitals to Alma Vii village
Ten years ago, Marion (45 years old) and Mike Stapelfeld (50 years old) were both corporatist with successful careers in Germany, in marketing and advertising. Never heard about Romania till Mike was sent to Bucharest, the capital of the country, by the company he was working for. He was supposed to stay there 2 weeks, but he remained for 2 years. During this period, Marion visited him very often, and that’s how they discovered Romania, driving from one place to another, enjoying the experiences and, little by little, falling in love with the places.
Then he was sent to work in Budapest for 6 years, but they kept on coming. Meanwhile, their baby was born and they started to think where they would like to raise him. And realized that, although they were on top in their fields of activity, they wanted something else for them and for their child. “I think it was also because our son was born in Budapest, and we asked ourselves what we want to do for the next years. And thought it would be nice to build something together, where we don’t have to go to office every day and work for somebody. And the dream to have a guesthouse was always there”, Marion explains. “I’ve had enough from big city corporate life and I needed a change”, she adds, laughing, after living in Hamburg, Berlin, Bucharest and Budapest.
So they started searching for an old, traditional house, to buy, driving from one village to another. And when they got to Alma Vii, they just knew they found THAT place, for a dream of a lifetime. “With Alma Vii we just had a good feeling from the beginning”, Marion says. And, after searching and thinking, they decided to buy an old, traditional saxon farmhouse, dating from 1871.
They bought it in 2014, but the place was almost a ruin. So, in 2015, they started renovating, and the process lasted almost 3 years. During this period, they lived in Richis, a village nearby, in conditions that were not easy. But never gave up. In summer 2018, Alma Via was finally opened.
Now, the guest house is a small jewelry, restored with respect for tradition, attention to the details and to the customer’s needs. Mike and Marion were always there, working with the people they hired. They worked with locals and still do, trying, this way, to help the community. Mike built the bathroom tables by himself, the bar from the restaurant also. And did much more. When you look at the pictures “before and after” realize even more how amazing the transformation is.
The 5 guest rooms, each of them with own bathroom, have handmade carpets especially ordered in Sibiu, a city nearby. They also have old, handmade tablecloths bought from local fairs, beautiful old furniture, no TV, bright windows and a perfume of old and magic – as if you returned in your welcoming grandparent’s home.
Restaurant in an old barn
The guesthouse also has a small, coquette restaurant, and that place is also another story. Because the barn was not there anymore when they bought the house, they got help in finding one. They bought from a village near Brasov an old barn, dating from 1900, brought it to Alma Vii, reassembled it and turned it into a beautiful small restaurant, with the same attention to tradition and small details.
“Here, we can organize events for our guests, we had a wedding with 60 people, for instance”, Marion says. A Romanian lady cooks here traditional Romanian food, while Marion cooks herself the international food served in here, “a more western type of food”, as she defines, smiling.
In front of the restaurant there is a large, beautiful veranda where you can just stay and relax. It’s the perfect place to stay with a good book, but for those who can’t give up technology there is wifi connection, also. You can also climb the small hill near the house for an astonishing view of the surroundings and the fortified church. There, they started arranging a natural swimming pool, that will be ready this summer.
Tourist from all continents
The 5 rooms have 17 beds, in all, and it’s a family friendly place. People from all continents stayed here, since opening, attracted not only by the place but also by the wonderful surroundings where you can take long walks and feel the history and the spirit of the small community.
“We had German families who stayed for a week, bicycle groups, Romanian families, we actually had tourists from every continent already, from Australia to Africa, Europe or Asia”, Marion says.
The courage to restart your life completely
Away from a very vibrant life they had up to one point of their life, Mike and Marion are two very happy people. You can see this in their eyes when they talk about Alma Via, feel it in their voices, Alma Vii it’s not a house, it’s home. Their child goes to school in Medias, a small city nearby, and they have no thoughts of moving somewhere else. “At the moment we are here – we just started”, Marion says, laughing. The small community received them with wide open arms, happy for them being there, saving the house and offering a few people a place to work.
To many people, what they did, giving up good jobs in big international companies to move in a small village might sound a little bit crazy. But, on the other side, there are so many people caught in so called “perfect” lives who are not actually happy at all but who don’t have this courage, to make that step out of the comfort zone and give themselves the chance to be really happy.
Marion admits that you need a lot of courage to do something like this and a lot of patience, also, because things must be built step by step and it’s not easy. “My husband and I are just lucky that we are adventurers and we had the courage to do this. It does take a lot of courage and a lot of determination – we lived in Richis with 10 degrees in the room in winter – you have to make sacrifices. We just have to reach our goal, everything that comes afterwards will be a reward”, Marion says.
You can find out more about Alma Via on their Facebook Page, HERE
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