The monastery of NICULA, 7km southeast of Gherla, is the oldest and best-known centre of painting icons on glass, a Transylvanian speciality since the seventeenth century. There’s an eighteenth-century wooden church, moved here after the monastery burned down in 1973, and a miraculous icon of the Virgin and Child painted in 1681, which shed tears in 1699 and is the object of a huge pilgrimage on August 15 (the Assumption of the Virgin Mary).
One of the best villages to hear traditional music in this area is SIC (Szék), 20km southeast of Gherla, with a number of churches and municipal buildings testifying to its importance as a salt mining centre since Roman times. Every street in Sic seems to have its own band (normally just three musicians, on violin, viola and double bass), typically playing ancient Magyar and Romanian melodies woven in with Gypsy riffs. The village festival is on August 24, when the largely Magyar population wear their distinctive costumes – men in narrow-brimmed, tall straw hats and blue waistcoats, and women in leather waistcoats, red pleated skirts and black headscarves embroidered with flowers.