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Behind the Smile: Green Transylvania Remetea Servicii

Behind the Smile with Gabriela Nelson, Green Transylvania Remetea Servicii

I speak five languages well and another three pretty well, but above all, I speak with my feelings. I have lived in many European countries, I adapted to places, people, habits, traditions and languages spoken. I made friends and kept friendships for long years. People open up with me. And that happens during the tours I organize, too. People feel safe with me. They talk to me.

So, when in 2008 I started-up my company, I knew that a lot of the customers will become friends. I knew that they will feel at ease during their holiday. I knew I was not the bullying tourist guide that people going on tours are used with. I am living here, I know all that one needs to know about Transylvania, best hotels, restaurants, nicest hidden places, best spas, the most charming locations and I am not sending  an “employee” guide on my tours. I am a small, family-run business and I take care of my customers personally. When you call, I, Gabi, pick up the phone. You talk directly to the owner of the company. You don’t talk with a call-center. If you book a tour with me, you are sure to see me. I shall be waiting for you and accompanying you. Each of my customers is important to me. I don’t want to build a huge company. I want to stay human-size and to give the best to the people who have the curiosity to discover Transylvania. Transylvania is an unknown place for most people and I want them to be fond of it, to see it as you can only see it if you are part of it, as I am. I don’t want to organize 10 tours every week and employ guides for each of them. I am happy to have one tour at a time and be part of it. I want to see the faces of my customers. I don’t want to see them only on pay-slip. I want to see them laughing, enjoying, admiring, eating, I want to see all their feelings and emotions. I want to share this moment with each of them.

Gabriela-Green-Transylvania

What is it about your location that makes you and your customers smile?

Say Transylvania, that’s where I am proposing holidays, and the first thing that you hear is: “Ah, Dracula, I know”. That is something that makes me smile. Yes, I can take you to visit the house where he was born, his castle and other things connected to him, but Transylvania is first of all a land where Hungarians, Szekler as they are called here, Germans, known as Saxons, and Romanians share the last of the real wilderness of Europe. The Carpathian mountains delimit Transylvania to the South and East, the North being Ukraine and the West Hungary. The Carpathians are populated by wildlife like nowhere else in Europe. They have the largest number of bears, wolfs, foxes, lynxes and many rare birds like the mountain cock. Animal and bird watchers have a large choice  here. Nature is wild and people are very friendly. This is another reason for me to smile. Travelers arrive here a bit cautious, thinking about possible dangers and once they are here they feel so happy, peaceful and cheerful due to the welcoming inhabitants, their delicious food and good alcohols and partying temperament of the locals. One Hungarian word they all learn is “mulatas”, which means partying. Old style. With everybody singing and dancing after a good meal and some drink. This is the the first word that Sissi, Empress of Austro-Hungary learned in Hungarian. People here love singing and dancing the famous “csardas”. You can find a lot more about this subject on our website http://greentransylvania.com/.
Stressed as you might be in your everyday life, here you will sleep and eat well, laugh a lot, dance and even sing (forgetting completely that you are not gifted for it). Lots of friendly smiles for this.

Can you tell us more about Green Transylvania?

I started organizing  holidays for people from all over the world, simply because I know that in a few years time the genuine magic of Transylvania will be destroyed by modern life, arriving here at an incredible speed. HRH Prince Charles, who fell in love with Transylvania, is doing his best to draw attention to this fabulous land and warns the international community about the risks of its disappearance. My grand-father was a Szekler born in the village in which I am right now. I was born in Bucharest and lived over twenty years in France. In 2007 I returned to the village for my personal affairs and the magic of the place got to me. I felt it was a kind of duty to share this with people from all over the world, so I started my company in 2008. Since that day until now, I have gathered all the proof I needed that I was right to show this wonderland to people from other countries and even continents.

In my youth, I used to be guide on the Black Sea coast, working with tourists from many different countries, and although employed by big Travel Operators, I tried to adjust the tours to my idea of organized holidays. I couldn’t do it fully as I would have liked it in those days, but now, when I work for my own company, I try to give a chance to all the travelers to enjoy freedom during their “organized” holiday. I hate even the word “organized” because the word itself suggest that you don’t have a choice, everything is “organized” for you. I want people who come to discover Transylvania to have as much freedom as possible. They must be free to choose how they want to spend their holiday.

When they arrive here and they discover how flexible our “organized” holidays are, they become really happy to have chosen us. We talk a lot over suppers and we decide together what the small group would like to do the following day. We are more like a family traveling together. Everybody feels at ease, comfortable and joyful. It is a real pleasure to accompany people with this frame of mind.

What is it about your tours & holidays that makes your customers smile?

Our tours range from discovering Transylvania to celebrating Easter or Christmas according to Catholic or Orthodox religions. We propose active tours in natural parks, or trekking in the Carpathians or being spoiled in a Wellness Resort. Transylvania is place famous for its mineral water springs and its healing salty lakes. Travelers come with us on a holiday and they find the solution to heal a disease they were suffering from sometimes for many years. It is such a pleasure! First of all for them, but also for us. Frequently they come here as guests and leave as friends. They love the joy and friendliness here, the belly laughs people have frequently. Sometimes they smile when they see how seriously people take here their Hungarian ancestors. Sometimes they smile when I take them to eat a desert that I consider fabulous because its taste runs in my blood since childhood, and they just think that they are eating a cake. More than smiling, they laugh when they see old peasants on top of the hay in a horse-driven carriage speaking on a modern cell-phone.

Our tours take travelers in the Saxon area of Transylvania in towns like Sighisoara, where Dracula was born, and where they can live a kind of medieval life. Transylvania is filled with historical sites, a lot of them being part of the UNESCO World Heritage, sites that emanate legends and superstitions and which are located in dreamlike landscapes. Endless forests, mountain lakes, mineral water springs, deers walking down village streets. It is a magic place.

Can you share an experience with your business that made you smile?

One day I had a French couple visiting Transylvania. I took them to some of the most charming places. I took them to a famous Hungarian restaurant with gypsy music and the lady, seeing dried paprika hanging on the walls, exclaimed: “It is exactly like the Basque restaurants!” I took them to visit an old village and the lady saw washing hanging on a washing-line and she exclaimed: “It is exactly like in Italy”. Another time I took them to eat a typical Szekler dessert, and, what do you expect, the lady exclaimed: “It is exactly like in Austria!”. This situation went on throughout their holiday. So, discovering that in fact Transylvania has nothing authentic, that it is a mixture of Europe and a bit of North Africa, I ended up smiling each time when she started a sentence with “it is exactly like …”

What gets you out of bed in the morning?

If I were with my customers, I would say that what gets me out of bed in the morning is a good, strong coffee. This is not the right answer, I know what you mean. Motivation. Now that I returned to my roots in Transylvania, after many years of living abroad, I would like to make it known for people from other countries, without contributing to a destructive mass-tourism. I would like to contribute to preserving the beauty of it. I am hoping that by bringing tourists here who might love the arts and old crafts still existing here, and who might buy some of the local products, as they almost always do, without me pushing them, I can contribute to keeping these crafts alive. The hand-weaving is on the way of being a lost craft because it involves a lot of work, and if there is nobody who buys these beautiful fabrics, than, normally people stop making them. Young people here are giving up the superb hand-weaved dowry and prefer to buy modern fabrics from IKEA. Which is good, too. During communist years they had no chance to buy Western products. Now they fill up on 50 years of frustrations and they buy brands. The traditional art is slowly getting lost. So, when I get out of bed in the morning, I am hoping to contribute to saving the jobs of these craftsmen and women. I am dreaming of creating a school where young people can learn old crafts. So, yes, on top of the coffee, my dreams get me out of bed.

Gabi

Can you share something about yourself that others may not know?

My customers and the readers don’t know many things about me. A lot of them are interesting. Some are fun, older ones can sound sad, although for me they are not, they are just part of a very complex life. In fact, what do we define as being interesting? For me it was interesting when I arrived in Paris, after years of dreaming about seeing Montmartre and the Moulin Rouge, coming from communist Romania and I did not have the right to work, therefore I did not have money, not to drink a coffee in a French Bistro, but no even to buy a “baguette” to eat. At that point, the only thing that saved me from starving was borrowing small coins from the beggars sitting on the floor in the Metro stations. And, they looked at the well-dressed, young woman I was at that time, with a surprised look on their face, and all of them gave me money. And I survived until I became a high level Interpreter. At that point, I went back to all the Metro stops where I got money from the beggars and I paid them 10 times what they gave me. Does it sound sad? For me it was a wonderful experience that made respect humans and humanity.

Something interesting? My entire life is interesting. All my customers with whom I share bits of my life, tell me to write a novel. So, I always share things about myself with my customers. One way to find out more about me, is to come on a tour in Transylvania.

Gabi

If you could share one piece of advice for other tour or activity operators, what would it be?

I don’t like to advice people. But if had to choose only one piece of advice for running a tour activity, I would say, do it only if you really love it, if you chose the places where you take your customers yourself and if you would love to spend a holiday there yourself.

Gabi

See the smiles for yourself, visit

http://www.transylvaniaforyou.com/

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Share what is Behind the Smile?

Behind the Smile is a series of posts designed to celebrate the best tour operators in Europe and elsewhere, who use Rezgo and the people behind them.  Each week we feature a number of tour or activity businesses and ask them about what makes them different, interesting, and happy. If you use Rezgo for your tour or activity business and you would like to tell us about what is behind your smile, please send us your story.

Written by

Stephen is the CEO and Co-Founder of Rezgo. He has been working as a travel & tourism technology consultant since 1995. Stephen is active in fostering tourism technology and is a Past Chair of the OpenTravel Alliance. He is also a regular contributor for Tnooz, a leading travel technology media site, and speaks regularly at conferences around the Globe on travel & tourism technology, messaging standards, and industry trends.

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