In the village of Ogra, 22 km from Târgu Mureș, in an almost aristocratic atmosphere, Haller Castle welcomes its guests. Originating in the 17th century, Haller Castle has stood the test of time not only because of the high social and political positions of its founders, but also because of the women who were part of the Haller family. We decided to spend a day there to find out more about the story of this wonderful location.
Haller Castle – some history
We first found out about the name “Haller” in the summer of 2018, when we moved to Sibiu. There is a building in the Great Square – “Casa Haller” (The Haller House – translation from Romanian). It is one of the best known in the city; it belonged to the Haller family for over 300 years and was among the top five houses in the city with the highest tax (after 1470).
The family has its origins somewhere in southern Tyrol. Its first representative arrived in Transylvania in 1526. The Hallers played important roles in the political and cultural history of the region. The current aspect of the Ogra castle dates from the end of the 18th – the beginning of the 19th centuries. The land came into the possession of the Haller family in 1609. When we say “the land”, we mean both the area of the villages Ogra and the neighboring Sânpaul – there was also a castle. Unlike the building in Ogra, the one in Sânpaul became a ruin.
Therefore, the first Haller to become the owner of these lands was Haller Istvan I. The castle was the property of the Haller family until 1949, when the nationalization began. After that the descendants of the family received it back, but it was in an advanced state of degradation; they decided to sell it in 2011. Luckily, the property ended up in good hands of two women. They decided to bring its formerly architectural and aristocratic brilliance back.
The role of women
In fact, throughout the years women played an important role in the care of the Haller’s family fields. For example, Countess Grassalkovich Anna Maria, the daughter of one of the most influential politicians in the Kingdom of Hungary, Count Grassalkovich Antal, was the wife of one of the Hallers – Gábor, a general, respectively politician. He was named for several times inspector of city of Târgu Mureș in the 18th century. It is said that Emperor Joseph II, after a visit to Transylvania in 1773, would have stated referring to Count Haller that in fact he owed political career not necessarily to his talent, but to his wife’s influence. Which was probably true, admit the current administrators of the castle. This leads us to believe that she also had an influence on property management.
Another Haller, also Gábor, who died very young, was married to the daughter of Count Sándor Károlyi. He was a general of the Kurucs (those who started the rebellion against the Habsburgs in the early 1700s). His daughter was Károlyi Klara. She not only continued the education of their children, but also continued the administration of the properties on her own. Klara’s story is very interesting:
“… she was born on August 12, 1697, and grew up under the gentle and caring supervision of her mother and grandmother. But Klara inherited the Kuruc spirit from her father – she was stubborn, sometimes to the extreme, defying her teachers as well. Her mother wrote to her husband almost desperately, “I’m afraid of God because of her”. Klára was not even 13 years old when she met Count Gábor Haller, a noble and educated Kuruc officer who served in the Rákóczi camp. This acquaintance was soon followed by mutual attraction: they had been engaged since 1710.
Marriage has changed the girl’s way of thinking in many ways: she has become more shy, but her beauty has become even more prominent. Klara has decided that she wants to dedicate herself to her family, her country and her people. She chose no other glory, despite the fact that her father had invited her to Bratislava and Vienna: the only daughter of the richest Hungarian family did not want to participate in the so-called pleasures of the aristocracy, but preferred to spend time near her family. Out of modesty, she did not even use her title: in her writings she described herself as “the orphan Klara Károlyi.” Her only strong passion was religion and she also liked to support the poor.
Gábor Haller and Klára Károlyi had six children. She became a widow at just 26 years old. In a very short period of time all the household and administrative problems remained on her shoulders; Sándor Károlyi, her father, being in charge of national affairs. She governed the extensive estate, reported to her father on economic developments, cared for her ailing mother, and also raised her children.
Klára Károlyi was a follower of Catholicism”Source
The last owners of the Haller Castle
The last owners of the Haller family were Count Haller István and his wife Baroness Schell Maria Luiza. István took over the leadership of the estate in 1922. He stayed away from politics, dealing only with the administration of land and buildings. The two witnessed the devastation left by the two World Wars and of course by the nationalization. In 1968 they emigrated to Germany.
Today, on the ground floor can be seen several objects that belonged to the couple: photos, glasses and even a menu from 1948 from their daughter’s wedding.
Haller Castle and the era of the Foris family
In 2011 two sisters – Kinga and Reka Foris – bought the property. The Romanian press called the restoration of the castle as a model for the conservation of the national cultural heritage. And the two new owners – the authors of one of the most successful historical reconstructions in Transylvania. So, the castle in Ogra became the only property of the Haller family that was consolidated, unlike those in Coplean – Cluj, Gârbou – Sălaj and Sânpaul – Mureș.
The investment started in 2007, lasted 4 years, and it costed about 1 million EUR.
Accommodation in Transylvania – Haller Castle
Here we come to the part dedicated to our stay in the castle. We booked a double room, located on the 2nd floor. The price for a night was 306 RON or almost 63 EUR (the price may vary depending on the booking platform). Breakfast included.
By the way, everywhere in the castle you will see portraits of the most influential members of the Haller family, including its coat of arms.
The owners managed to save some of the original furniture, coming from both the castle of Ogra and the one from Sânpaul.
The oldest part of the castle is the cellar. Today it is a winery. There are organized especially wine tastings, in collaboration with wineries from Transylvania, Muntenia or Moldova, but not only.
The food at Haller Castle
As far as we could realize, most of the castle’s revenues are from organized events and the restaurant. A lot of people come to eat at Haller’s, without having to stay over the night. Because the restaurant is on the 1st floor, guests are allowed to visit the lobby and the first floor, where most of the Haller family objects are exhibited. The floor is almost always full of people eager to take pictures in the select atmosphere of the castle.
We had lunch and dinner at the castle. For lunch we chose a pork neck steak, with aromatic herbs and red wine sauce (38 RON), but also a duck soup with wild mushrooms, spinach and ravioli with ricotta (19 RON). At dinner, I opted for pork wings with mashed potatoes, baked peppers and brown sauce (47 RON), and my wife preferred a desert: a portion of Lava cake with ice cream.