Somewhere in the direction of Zalau, in a village called Gâlgău Almaşului there is an unique and one of the most weird natural places named by the locals Grădina Zmeilor Natural Reserve. Translated in English, it would mean The Dragons’ or Ogres’ Garden. In the Romanian folk mythology a ‘zmeu’ is a fantastic creature, imagined as a giant with supernatural powers, embodying evil.
But what is this place actually all about? It’s a group of big rocks (up to 12m) that have taken different shapes due to the force of wind, rain, snow and freezing. They all have been given names by the locals : The Old Man, The Monks, The Captain, The Soldiers, Eva.
The trip in this Natural Reserve takes you about 2 – 3 hours. First you should climb up the hill to have the bigger picture of these big rocks and then climb down and observe them from their base. When going down you will have some nice surprises, that will make you just wonder how amassing nature actually is. The shapes of the rocks, the spaces between them, they all look like this is a sculpture made by human hand and not something that just happened without any interference.
This one is called Cleopatra’s Needle.
The Ogre and his wife.
Somewhere well hidden you will also find a cave and if you have the courage, go explore it. It has some 2 – 3 tunnels, about 300 meters deep, so bring a flash light. Actually this is an old brown coal mine. I stayed out, but the boys went in to see what it’s hiding. Nothing in particular, just long, dark tunnels, but it will sound really adventurous.
Overall, Gradina Zmeilor is really a miracle of nature, as it is said, something that the locals can really be proud of. So hurry to see it, you never know when the next heavy storm will come and change completely the shape of these rocks.
You can get to Gradina Zmeilor from Cluj on the E81 road towards Zalau, until you get to Sanmihaiul Almasului. There turn right towards Hida-Balan-Jibou and drive until you reach the village Galgaul Almasului. Soon you will see a sign telling you to go left to Gradina Zmeilor. you will have to drive another 1 km and you have reached your destination.