Apr 21

BALCIC CASTLE – THE HEART OF THE QUEEN (BALCIC)

Balcic is a small town some 40 kilometers from Varna and it used to be a part of the Romanian Kingdom, together with the rest of the southern part of Doborgea, when the political region named Cadrilater was a Romanian territory (1913-1940). In those times, the Romanian royalty and artistic and cultural elite considered Balcic their favorite place for leisure time.

It has been inhabited for a very long time, since Antiquity, when it was known by the name Crunos / Crunon / Crunoi, or Dionysopolis, named after the Greek god of wine and banquets.

balcic1

http://www.srsff.ro/

The places hardly preserves the romantic touch of the between wars period, due to the newly built communist blocks, but the Castle belonging to Queen Mary of Romania is the centerpiece of the area, which the visitor will love and admire. It’s a classical and simple building, rather modest, compared to what one might imagine when thinking of a royal residence, but it has a scenic look that transmits tranquility and peace. The surrounding garden wears the print of Queen Mary who was passionate of nature and built this park after her own desire and here you can admire a great diversity of plants and flowers.

As the matter of fact, the entire edifice was built at the order of Queen Mary and it represented the summer residence and her favorite place to spend her time in.

http://www.agerpres.ro/

http://www.agerpres.ro/

The botanic garden, gathering a few hundred species of cactuses and Mediterranean vegetation is unique in Central and Eastern Europe. Queen Mary appealed to the experience of the Swiss garden decorator, Jules Jany, to give it the pattern of the Cretan labyrinth and the rock was built from Crete.

The inside of the castle keeps the same air of austerity, by the small number of rooms. The entrance continues with a 50+ squared meters, the first floor holds a Turkish bath, a living / bedroom, a dressing room and a terrace where you can admire the sea. The white walls contrast the blue of the sea, reminding of Greece.

http://martha-nc.blogspot.ro/

http://martha-nc.blogspot.ro/

The Queen suggested the two Italian architects – Augustino and Amerigo – to blend different styles: Moorish, Italian and Turkish – hence the minarets that make it resemble a mosque.

Inside the castle, there’s a restaurant, where the Queen used to serve her meals and now you can take part of this royal adventure and have a taste yourself.

Within the area of the castle there are several villas, a well-known holy spring, a cascade, a chapel and the tomb of Queen Mary. One of the most stunning parts of the areal is Allah’s garden, paved with Moroccan stone.

The entire domain is very vast and you might need a map – which will be sold to you at the entrance, together with the access ticket – to go around.

The first thing that you encounter is the Sentry Box, a triumphal arch, followed by the Silver Well, where you can throw a coin and the legend says that if you make a wish, it will come true. Allah’s garden connects the Silver Well to the Blue Arrow Villa, where you can admire the amazing cactuses and numerous antique objects, stone benches, dating from Queen Mary’s times and beautiful cypress trees.

http://aventurierii.ro/

http://aventurierii.ro/

You will be mesmerized by the Temple of Water, the Stella Maris Chapel, the Blue Wave Lane, the English Court and the Waterfall, among many other surprises.

It is one of the most picturesque places on the Eastern shore of the Black Sea that will definitely offer you beautiful memories and will take you back to the nostalgic ages reigned by an icon of elegance and dignity.

http://www.bookaholic.ro/

http://www.bookaholic.ro/

 

 

Dec 21

The Brukenthal Palace (Palatul Brukenthal)

In Avrig, right beneath the Carpathian Mountains, lies an architectural treasure which undoubtedly deserves the attention of the passers-by. This is the Brukenthal Palace, a unique castle which is the singular one in Romania to be surrounded by a park wonderfully created in the Baroque style.

The palace was constructed as the summer residence of the Governor Samuel von Bruckenthal. It was erected on the highest point in Avrig and it faces the River Olt. The craftsmanship with which it was designed has led to it being renowned throughout the country as the “Eden from Transylvania.”

Brukenthal Palace- http://commons.wikimedia.org

The artistry of the architectural design is mainly the result of the fine tastes of von Brukenthal, the influential political figure who had been the governor of Transylvania for 13 years. The castle contains a wonderful collection of paintings, books and ancient manuscripts, as well as elements of numismatics.

The palace, which has been constructed in the 18th century, together with the garden by which it is enclosed, extends over a surface of 16 hectars.  The construction was in fact initiated in the second half of the 18th century by the then governor Adolf Nicolaus von Bucow, but the one to stand by it in the later stages of the construction and the one to leave his mark on it was von Brukenthal – who had fashioned it to its particular taste. Due to the fact that the Governor of Transylvania had travel around the world it was impossible for him not to draw inspiration from some of the well renowned buildings in Europe. So it is basically no surprise that the constructions after which the Brukenthal Palace was fashioned are the Luxembourg Palace in Paris and the Schonbrunn Palace in Vienna.

http://www.lapensiuni.ro

In terms of structure, we are talking about a U shaped building which consists of a central body and two lateral wings. In order to comprehend the fondness that Brukenthal had towards art you should know that the palace contained 212 paintings and 129 engravings displayed on its walls. The passage of time had not destroyed these works of art, in fact those who want to have a look at a beautiful collection should know that these works are preserved in the Brukenthal Museum (which is located in Brasov). The same thing cannot be said by the palace itself as this has not been preserved adequately. In time, the building had passed through several hands and the numerous owners did not look after it as they should have. The degradation of the edifice was further enhanced in the Second World War when it had been used as a military hospital.

U-shape structure – http://www.flickr.com

But with all the tumultous moments it had seen in its lifetime, the building had survived and it can still be admired by people interesed in fine architectural designs and in historical monuments. At present, the palace is protected under the law.

The park posed quite an interest due to the fact that it follows a Baroque design, being organized in terraces. The gardens were not characteristic to a singular architectural pattern, these being arranged after the French, English and Dutch models. This variaty was definitely enticing in the sense that, depending on your location in the park, you had a different perspective over the entire arrangement. Due to the fact that, like the building itself, the park had not been tended to properly, the original design got lost.

Intensive restoration is required in order to regain the former look. But in spite of it all, the Brukenthal Palace, as well as the park, still maintain a glimpse of their original self, their historical character still “beaming.”

Sep 21

Golubac Fortress (Cetatea Golubac)

The Golubac Fortress is an important tourist attraction located in Serbia. The history behind the edifice together with the impressive natural surrounding have contributed extensively to the way in which the fortress has established itself as a valuable touristic site located in Serbia.

The position it occupies offers a breathtaking view of the Danube River, but the moment it was constructed, the only thing that mattered was the strategic position it held. Built around the 14th century, the fortress is situated in the southern part of the Danube, at approximately 4 kilometers of the town of Golubac.

http://www.suvenirisrbije.com

The edifice was constructed in three stages – one dedicated to each of the 3 parts which form the Golubac Fortress, and contains 10 towers and 2 portcullises.

The historical background of the fortress is definitely worth looking into. Even before the stronghold was erected, the site  was inhabited by Romans. The Middle Ages were a tumultuous period in the history of the fortress as it became the battlefield of many wars, the most frequented oponents being the Ottoman Empire and the Kingdom of Hungary. In time, the fortress had changed many masters, having been owned by Turks, Bulgarians, Hungarians, Serbians and Austrians.

http://www.likesbooks.com

At present, Golubac is visited by tourists coming from all over the world. It is situated right near the Romanian border and it marks the entrance to the Derdap National Park. The historical past of the fortress is actually shrouded in mystery. Even if there is certain evidence about the development and evolution of the fortress, there are still certain details which remain unknown even to this day. For instance, it is ambiguous who the founders of the edifice are. Should the construction of the fortress be attached to the Serbian or to the Hungarian population? And how many towers were there originally? These are only two of the questions which might never find their answer.

The exact moment when the construction work began cannot accurately be established, but the first time the fortress was mentioned was in 1335 when it is said to have been occupied by the Hungarian military.

http://www.balkantravellers.com

Golubac Fortress has experienced certain modifications throughout time. For instance, the towers were actually constructed as squares which meant only one thing: that at the time when the fortress was built, and for years to come after that, the battlefield was conquered with swords. Only when the firearm was invented, did the structural design of the edifice shifted. The towers were ‘upgraded’ so to speak in order to contain within their walls cannons, but more importantly, there were alterations conducted to the walls in order to allow the combatants to fire at their opponents.

Nine towers measure 20-25 meters in height, while the tenth, the cannon tower, is the shortest of them all and it has been created with the purpose of controlling the traffic on the Danube River. The oldest tower of the fortress has been nicknamed ‘Hat Tower’ consists of an octagonal base. The towers vary in terms of the shape they have at the base. While the second tower to the west is circular, the third is square, as well as the fourth and the fifth.

http://www.colourbox.com

One of the towers, the 4th one, contains an Orthodox chapel within its walls.  The interesting thing about this is that the chapel seems to have been erected the same time as the tower, not that it had been constructed at a later date. As time went by and as the fortress fell prey to the decaying process that naturally instills itself with the passage of time, restoration work was initiated with the purpose of enforcing the structure. As a result, some of the towers had had their square base improved.

Golubac Fortress bears a significant value not only to the Serbian history, but to the historical past of the world as important battles have been carried out here. Due to the historical events it had witnessed throughout time, the Golubac Fortress had been recognized as a Monument of Culture of Exceptional Importance back in 1979, becoming a protected monument under the State of Serbia.

Apr 24

Peles Castle (Castelul Peles)

Peles Castle is situated in the Romanian Carpathian Mountains, at a 44 km distance from Brasov, in Sinaia locality. This is one of the most well renowned castles in all of Europe, and one of the most beautiful ones as well.

Construction

Carol I of Hohenzollern chose the site for the castle and the architect appointed to design it  was Wilhem Doderer, of Viennese origin. But from 1876, the project was supervised by Doderer’s assistant Johann Schultz of Lemberg. The construction work began in 1873 but reached a halt between 1877 and 1879 because of the Romanian Independence War. Peles was constructed in its entirety by 1883 and was inaugurated on the 7th of October.

http://www.castelul-peles.com

 

In the years that followed, other edifices were added to Peles Castle. These were the Economat (a building used for supplies), the Guard Headquarter, the Hunting House, the Stables, the Electric Power Plant, the Sipot Villa and Pelisor Castle. Pelisor was designed by the architect Karel Liman and was erected between 1889 and 1903. This castle would later on become the royal residence of King Ferdinand and Queen Mary of Romania.

Structure

The materials used in the construction of the Peles Castle were bricks, stones, marble and wood. The edifice was made out of 160 rooms. During the communist era, Peles, whose rooms were furnished so as to reflect the architectural design and decorations specific for particular European countries, was transformed into a retreat for leaders from all over the globe.

http://www.romanianmonasteries.org

 

The dominant architectural style encountered at Peles is specific for the German Renaissance, but there are also marks of the Gothic period, the German Baroque and French Rococo architectural designs and of the Italian Renaissance era.

The edifice is enclosed by 7 terraces decorated with pieces of art made by the sculptor Romanelli, of Italian descent. Other ornamental items encountered are the beautiful wells made out of stone and the decorative vases. Carrara marble and wood are the main materials used to decorate the castle, both inside and out, and the architects did a great job choosing them as they give a certain allure to the edifice.

http://www.castelul-peles.com

 

Peles is impressive in its entirety, but there are certain rooms which stand out more than the rest. These are the Grand Armor Room, the Small Armor Room, the Florentine Room, the Reception Room, The French Room, the Turkish Room and the Imperial Suit, just to name a few. Inside the Reception Room, tourists can admire paintings and sculptures made out of wood  – all representing the 16 castles owned by the Hohenzollern family.

The Grand Armor Room holds 1.600 weapons and armors. It is here that one of the most impressive collections of hunting equipment and weaponry in Europe is found – these date from the 14th up to the 19th century. The weapons on display are pistols, muskets, swords, sabers, hunting spears and many more.

http:// www.webshots.com

 

According to the general belief, the Imperial Suite has been built in honor of Franz Joseph I. The Austrian emperor has come to Peles on one of his visits to the Romanian royal family and because of this the person in charge of the decoration (Auguste Bembe) has decided to get inspiration from the Austrian Baroque style – so as to please the Austrian ruler. One wall of the room has been transformed into a “tool holder” made out of Cordoba leather and it has maintained itself in a perfect condition for five hundred years.

The Small Armor Room mainly features silver and gold Oriental weapons (Ottoman, Arab, Indo-Persian) which are adorned with precious stones. Tourists can gaze upon the armors and weapons used in the past, such as helmets, axes, spears, daggers or matchlocks.

http://www.draculasland.co.uk

 

Inside the walls of the Peles Castle, lays one of the most valuable collections of paintings in all of Europe. Almost 2.000 pieces of art make up this impressive collection. Other items which are highly appreciated are the ceramic objects of decoration, the plates made out of silver and gold, the Meissen and Sevres porcelains, the stained-glass windows (of German inspiration), the weapon collection, the exquisite sculptures made out of ivory and ebony and the artistically crafted Murano crystal chandeliers.

Pelisor (the “Little Peles”) was constructed by the order of King Ferdinand. It is said that the king did not feel comfortable in the Peles Castle due to the immenseness of the edifice. Thus Pelisor Castle came into being. This edifice has 70 rooms, follows the art-nouveau architecture, and it is furnished in the Viennese style (from the turn of the century). At Pelisor, tourists can also find one of the most exquisite collections of glassware: the artistically crafted glasses and vases bearing the names Lalique and Tiffany.

http://www.wonderfulromania.ro

 

Further information

Tourists should know that they cannot visit the entire castle. Only 35 rooms are opened for visitation – these include the basement and the chambers located at the 1st floor. There is an entrance fee that has to be covered, to which a photography fee is added (if this is the case).

Peles can be visited in the following interval:

Wednesday to Sunday: 9:00 – 17:00;

Tuesday: 11:00 – 17:00:

Monday – closed.

The castle can be visited throughout the year, except in November, when maintenance work is  scheduled.