Sep 20

CISNADIOARA CASTLE – A RELIC OF THE OLD TIMES IN THE HEART OF SIBIU (CETATEA CISNĂDIOARA)

A visit around Sibiu, the former cultural capital of Europe in 2007, cannot be complete without seeing the castle of Cisnadioara, a place that is loaded with positive energy and serenity.

As you arrive in the village of Cisnadioara, which is located 10 kilometers from Sibiu and two kilometers from Cisnadie, you have to go up the Saint Michael Hill, from the village, on a path that is not very steep and a quarter of an hour you shall get to Cisnadioara Castle, in fact, a Roman basilica, which has its first historical mention in the year 1223 (when its  construction ended); it is mentioned in the archives that was donated to the Cistercian monastery of Carta, by Magister Goulinus. They say, moreover, that Cisnadioara village itself had been founded by a group of French monks, caregivers of the Cistercian order.

The fortified church is surrounded by six meter high walls and offers a splendid view over the valley of Sibiu. Built on a narrow place, it had acted as an observation point. The church is simple, composed of a nave, two side aisles and larger. The windows are narrow and inside was brought in 1940, the funerary monuments of Austro-Hungarian and German officers who died on duty during the First World War, in fighting in and around Sibiu.

Some time ago, the deal of divorces among the Saxon community settled in the area was quite complicated those days. If a couple was no longer getting along and wanted to divorce, the villagers offered the two the chance to come to common terms, trapping them in the city until they reached the conclusion that life must continue together. Otherwise, the two were left there for life. Of course, it’s a legend but perhaps this has some truth in it.

Another legend of the site has in the spotlight the young men who, before marriage, had to undergo a ritual in which to prove their manhood by rolling a boulder up the hill above the city. Boulder size depended on the “size” the lad’s love for his future wife was. Boulders can be seen today in the courtyard and had the role of … cannon-balls against besiegers.

If we mention the picturesque scenery of the region, the beautiful mountains and awesome fresh air, then you have even more reason the come visit the surroundings. For accommodation and meals, you have a lot of options in any of the pensions located near the city.

Photo source:

Picture 1: trecator.ro; Picture 2: sibiul.ro; Picture 3: cavalerintaramea.ro; Picture 4: sibiul.ro; Picture 5: citynews.ro; Picture 6: cartitaplimbareata.ro; Picture 7: cartitaplimbareata.ro
Jul 14

THE UNDISCOVERED CASTLES OF ROMANIA (V)

Our trip across the castles of Romania has reached its end. But we still have two wonderful castles to see.

Cantacuzino Castle, Busteni

This beautiful castle in the town of Busteni was designed and built by architect Gregory Cerchez in the year 1911, on the orders of Prince Gheorghe Grigore Cantacuzino, former Minister of Romania, between the late 19th and early 20th century. The architectular style is Neo-Romanian and it preserves elements of Medieval inspiration. Until the nationalization in 1948, the castle belonged to the Cantacuzino family, and afterwards it became a sanatorium. Since 2010 it re-entered the tourist circuit.

Spread over an area of 3148 meters and built of stone and brick, Cantacuzino Castle consists of four buildings and is surrounded by a park where there used to be a cave, several waterfalls and fountains. In the reception hall there is a collection of heraldry, unique in Romania, escutcheons representing families of landowners and their affinity with the Cantacuzino family.

One of the modern attractions nowadays is represented by the Canta Cuisine restaurant, with a capacity of 110 seats. Here you can organize dinners and from the terrace you can admire the staggering panorama of Bucegi Mountains. Preparations are made by the restaurant’s chef, Mrs. Romica Harabagiu, who completed her gastronomic experience in countries like Japan, China and more than 7 years in Marseille. In the restaurant there operates a bar and a cigar lounge.

Schedule and rates:
Cantacuzino Castle is located on the Zamora Street in the neighborhood that goes by the same name. Many events, such as conferences, concerts, product launches, fashion shows, photo shoots, etc. are often organized here.
The castle is open for visit Monday to Thursday between 10 and 18 o’clock and Friday to Sunday between 10 and 19.

Peles Castle, Sinaia

Next to Bran and Corvin Castles, Peles is probably the most famous and most visited in Romania. In 1874, the village Podul Neagului, a town with an area of 24 kilometers, was renamed Sinaia, at the initiative of King Carol I, the first king of Romania. Between 1873 and 1875, again at the same initiative of King Carol, the foundation of Peles Castle is being settled; the King wanted it as a summer residence, vested with political, cultural and symbolic value. The works were conducted under the direction of three architects Johannes Schultz, Carol Benesch and Karel Liman, and they ended in 1883, being completed but, over the years, until 1914 – the year when King Charles I had died – it has been completed step by step. Also, between 1889 and 1903 nearby was built a smaller castle named Pelisor, small-scale replica of the castle, and it was the birthplace of King Michael of Romania.

Between 1914 in 1947, the castle served as a space for official visits, hosting military ceremonies as well. In 1948, Peles has been closed down by the Communist authorities and all heritage assets have been inventoried, some of them being transferred to the Art Museum in Bucharest. In 1953 it became a museum and now it still is open as a part of the tourist circuit. On the day of February 20th, 2007, it was returned to the former King Michael I, still remaining open to the public.

From the architectural point of view, Peles Castle is built in Neo-Renaissance German style. It is considered one of the most beautiful castles in Europe, is equipped from the start with some modern elements: interior elevator, central heating and, in particular, its own power plant, located on the river bank nearby. Peles has 170 rooms, but only 10 of these are accessible to tourists (among them, Maura Hall, the Florentin Salon, Columns Hall, Armory). In the castle there are also several valuable collections of sculptures, armor, paintings, tapestries, furniture, ceramics, silver and porcelain.

Schedule and rates:
During summer it can be visited between May 15 and September 15: Tuesday 11 – 16.15 Wednesday to Sunday between 9.15 and 16.15, Monday is closed.

Remember, these are the 10 best-known castles, but there are many others as well, that will make the subject of other posts.

Photo source:

Picture 1: romanianturism.com; Picture 2: project-romania.com; Picture 3: blogdecalatorii.ro; Picture 4: en.wikipedia.org; Picture 5: en.wikipedia.org; Picture 6: crazysexyfuntraveler.com; Picture 7: deviantart.com
Jul 14

THE UNDISCOVERED CASTLES OF ROMANIA (IV)

In this part of our journey among the legendary castles of Romania we will visit the famous Dracula’s castle, a place which has been the source of inspiration for many writers and movie directors. Ironically, this place has only been visited once by Vlad the Impaler, the famous historical figure who is as the base of the fictional character – the blood-thirsty vampire.

But let us see what this is all about!

Bran Castle, the place where Dracula actually never lived! In 1211, the Teutonic Knights belonging to a Catholic order founded by German crusaders in Palestine in the late twelfth century receive a gift from King Andrew II of Hungary for defending the southeastern border of Transylvania against the attacks of nomad invaders coming from the far-east; that lace was the beautiful and picturesque Barsa district. Teutons raises a fortress at Bran but in the year 1226 they are driven out of there by the locals. This is the first official mention of Bran castle, which will rise after the document issued by King Louis I of Hungary (in 1377) that gives the Saxons seated in the surroundings of Brasov the right to build a new stone castle on their own money and expense.

Over the following years, the castle was used as a strategic base by Sigismund of Luxemburg, who gave it to the Romanian prince Mircea cel Batran in 1407. About two decades years later, the castle became the property of the Crowned King of Hungary, who had to fortify it, expand it and, in 1498, rent it to the leaders of Brasov. Also in the 15th century – more precisely in the year 1459 -, Iancu of Hunyad has commissioned Vlad Tepes to defend the pass to Transylvania by guarding the entrance to this city – which is why the myths about “Count Dracula” have occurred; however, it seems that Vlad Tepes never actually lived at Bran Castle.

On the 1st of December 1920, the castle was donated to Queen Mary as a symbol of gratitude for the contribution to the Great Union of 1918. The Queen of the castle had declared it as one of her favorite places, and under her personal care, Bran has lived one of its most glorious eras since its construction. In 1938, Princess Ileana receiver the castle on testamentary rights, but shortly after, the royal family is to be banished from the country and the castle became the property of the communist state. Continuously degrading, Bran was closed to the public during 1987 – 1993. It was then returned to the touristic circuit and currently it belongs to Dominic von Habsburg, the heir of Princess Ileana. After the handover, the castle was stripped of the most important pieces becoming quite austere. The furniture was moved by the Ministry of Culture and the rooms were decorated with pieces belonging to the owners, but its charm is not diminished, as the amazing architecture and the inner yard and the lovely fountain in the center of it preserve the timeless beauty of this place so heavily charged with history and myths.

You can visit it any time and you can enjoy the beauty of the surroundings, which gets a different hue depending of the season: from bright green during the warm season, to rusty-yellowish shades, during fall and if you necessarily want to feel that horror movie shiver down your spine, you can visit it in winter time, when the leafless trees cast a gloomy and somber appearance over the landscape.

Note that on each Halloween, there are theme parties where you are supposed to have a vampire suit, or at least a set of fake teeth, so enjoy your time at a glad of delicious boiled Romanian wine!

Photo source:

Picture 1: 4x4-tours.com; Picture 2: timpul.md; Picture 3: hotelalpin.ro; Picture 4: infotravelromania.ro; Picture 5: camitravel.com; Picture 6: transylvaniantouring.co.uk.
Jul 14

THE UNDISCOVERED CASTLES OF ROMANIA (III)

On our third visit we shall encounter other two old castles that have represented an important landmark in the troubled history of Romanians.

Both of them can be found in in the beautiful region of Transylvania and the first one is Karolyi Castle in Carei, Satu Mare.

In 1482, Count Laszlo Karoly built a house that would arouse the envy of the nobility of Satmar committee, conflict that was put down by Matthias Corvin. In 1592 Karoly Mihaly needed to strengthen the construction built a century ago to face Turkish incursions; hence, he surrounded the building with thick walls with bastions and dug a ditch outside which had a suspension bridge, turning it into a veritable fortress that was to be noted as an important defense fortress in Transylvania during the late 17th and 18th centuries. At the dawn of the 18th century, after having ended his military mission, Karoly Jozsef demolished the walls and backfilled the trench, reconstructing the castle. The works were finished in 1794 and the new building was built in Baroque style, with 41 rooms and a chapel, plus a riding hall and a botanical park. Unfortunately, the earthquake in 1834 largely demolished the castle, which was restored once more in 1896 in Gothic style, returning to the old military elements – the bastion and moat – but this time only for decoration purpose.

Between the two World Wars, a part of the castle was transformed into a sanatorium, and the other was hosting a casino. During the second great conflagration, Karolyi family gave the permission for the building to function as a military school and later a military hospital. During the communist period, the castle turned into the headquarters of diverse cultural institutions: a museum, the house of culture of Carei town, Town Library livestock but also a high school.

Currently, the castle is managed by Carei City Hall, which implemented a European project of 4 million Euros for restoration and introducing it into the tourist circuit. Here are held various cultural events, exhibitions (three of them are permanent), concerts and you can also officiate your marriage here. Annually, about 40,000 tourists visit the castle of Carei, attracted by its beauty, the local history and interesting legends and the beautiful and unique arboretum that surrounds this castle.

Corvin (Hunyad) Castle, Hunedoara

The best-known medieval fortress of Hunedoara County called Corvin Castle or Hunyadi Castle was built in the 15th century, on a rock near the river Zlasti, by John Hunyadi – the ruler who stood in the way of the Turkish expansion in Europe. Very well-preserved, the Gothic castle covers an area of 7000 square meters, with 42 rooms, two bridges and two terraces. During Iancu of Hunedoara ruling, the castle was not only a point of great strategic importance but also a lively medieval seat of numerous events. The access to the castle is done through a wooden bridge supported by four stone pillars that supports it over Zlasti river bed. Ravaged over time by several fires, the castle has undergone several restoration processes after entering 1997 in a grandiose project of valorization. The museum inside houses a lot of collections of archeology, ethnography, numismatics, ethnography and military equipment.

The Corvin Castle has also served as scenery for several feature films, the last shooting being held in 2015.

All tourists can visit this beautiful and majestic castle between 9 and 17 o’clock, so you are welcome here any day.

Photo source:

Picutre 1: provinciacrisana.blogratuit.ro; Picture 2: statiuneatasnad.ro; Picture 3: voceatransilvaniei.ro; Picture 4: municipiulcarei.ro; Picture 5: descoperaromania.net; Picture 6: thousandwonders.net; Picture 7: touristinromania.net
Jul 11

THE UNDISCOVERED CASTLES OF ROMANIA (II)

We are continuing our travels through the castles of Romania and today we will talk about two such edifices – one in the heart of Moldova and the other in Transylvania -, both of them bearing a very interesting and vast history and a fate that resembles the cycle of the mythical Phoenix Bird: from grace to decay, and then back to grace.

Castle Sturdza, Miclauseni Village, Iasi

Located 65 km from Iasi, the capital city of the historic province of Moldova, Miclauseni Village includes a beautiful castle in Gothic style, built between 1880 and 1904 by George and Maria Sturza, on the site of an old mansion. During the First World War, the castle was transformed into a military hospital, where Maria Ghica and Ecaterina Cantacuzino – the daughter of George Sturdza – were helping the wounded from the position of nurses. Elena remained for a while to manage and take care of the castle up until 1944, when she was forced to leave because of the war.

The castle used to keep valuable collections of documents, medieval costumes, jewelry, paintings, weapons and books – about 60,000 volumes, some of them extremely rare. Unfortunately, in the winter of 1944, with the stationing of Germans prisoners in the castle, many books have been used as fuel for stoves, others were sold and used for packaging goods and some of the remaining ones were saved and safely submitted to Iasi, or sold to the Central University Library in Bucharest.

After 1947, Ecaterina Cantacuzino donated the Castle to the Diocese of Roman, towards the establishment of a place of worship. But the monastery was disbanded after a few years of communist rule, when the castle was nationalized and converted into military warehouse until 1960. Throughout times, several fires have burned the old furniture and the castle walls contributing to its state of degradation, but it was brought back to its original state, becoming an elegant and imposing edifice.

Owned by the Moldova and Bucovina Metropolitan, the Sturdza Castle was reopened and introduced into the touristic circuit after 10 years of restoration.

Castle Pekri Radak, Ozd Village, Mures

A castle whose origins remain in darkness, which allegedly it was built in the tradition of Renaissance before 1705 (some sources state the year 1682) and rebuilt in 1732, by General Lorincz Pekre who participated in the anti-Habsburg uprising led by Francis Rákóczi II, between 1703 and 1711. Set on fire by the Austrian soldiers, the castle was rebuilt by Radak Adam, the son-in-law of Pekre Radak. In the first decades of the 20th century, the owners of this castle were Baron Ianos Kodradshein and his wife, Ilona Teleki, who have been forced to leave the country in 1945 after the nationalization program. The castle become state property and was turned into the headquarters of the local Cooperative of Agricultural Production and house of culture. After 1989 it was returned to the daughter of Ilona Teleki, who donated it to the Christian Bonus Pastor Foundation, which leased the property for 99 years, coordinating the restoration process, as well, which continues until today.

Photo source

Picture 1: iasi4u.ro; Picture 2: melidoniumm.wordpress.com; Picture 3: romania-redescoperita.ro; Picture 4: commons.wikimedia.org; Picture 5: mirceaturdean.blogspot.ro; Picture 6: turismistoric.ro.
Jul 08

THE UNDISCOVERED CASTLES OF ROMANIA (I)

Europe is full of castles, more or less imposing and beautiful, but full of history. Regarding Romania, we can say that the castles do not represent one of its touristic strengths; however, if you look carefully, you can discover some surprising ediffices, along with the famous Peles, Bran and Huniad Castles.

We are preparing for you a small serial in which we will present some of the most outstanding buildings that are less known, but deserve a greater exposure.

Banffy Castle in Bonţida, Cluj county

Nicknamed “the Versailles of Transylvania”, this castle with four towers was built between 1437 and 1543 by Dionysius Banffy, adviser to Prince Michael Apafi I of Transylvania. The central unit of the castle was built in Renaissance style and subsequent expansions were made in Baroque (18th century) and Romantic (19th century). Many generations belonging to Banffy family lived in the castle until 1944 when residents were evacuated by German troops, who turned the place into a military hospital and after their leaving, they set it on fire, thus destroying the gallery of portraits and art, furniture and library.

After the war, the building functioned as a warehouse and agricultural cooperative station, falling into decay as time went by. The restoration of the castle began in 1999, the work being done under the patronage of Prince Charles of Welles. Transylvania Trust Foundation currently conducts the restoration of such monuments, depending on the pace of funding. The final assembly will include a restaurant, a cafe, a souvenir shop and a conference center. Note that the Electric Castle festival takes place here, at Banffy Castle. And there are many event that take place to the delight of the tourists; among them we must mention that, since 2002, the Banffy Castle Days are organized in the last weekend of August. The castle can be visited daily between 9 and 18.

Sükösd-Bethlen Castle in Racoş, Braşov

Count Istvan Sükösd is mentioned as the builder of the castle, in 1624, after receiving a piece of land as a gift from Prince Gabriel Bethlen. Although built as a family residence, the castle has the appearance of a fortification on two levels. Over time it had had several owners and it had been burned severely in 1848 and in 1903. Racoş bought the estate and castle from Teleki family. Unfortunately, during the communist era, the castle had entered an advanced state of decay, after being used as barn and granary. The 1977 earthquake put his imprint on the already deteriorating walls, as the northeast tower was demolished. After 1990 the authorities tried to restore it but because of the lack of funds, the works have been left unfinished. The castle can be visited, though, being currently administered and the access to the interior is allowed.

Vlad Tepes Castle, Bucharest

The history of Tepes Castle in Carol Park is relatively recent. It was built in 1906 on the occasion of the Romanian General Exhibition, which marked King Carol I 40 years of reign. Built by architects Stefan V. Burcus and Stephanescu, the castle reproduced Poenari Fortress on a smaller scale; this fortress was built by Vlad Tepes in Arges during his reigning times. Initially, this construction was meant to be a water tower. A huge reservoir of iron was placed in the 23 m high tower with a capacity of 200 cubic meters, but became unfunctional, shortly after the inauguration.

Over time, the Tepes Castle served for several purposes: it hosted several painting exhibitions, it was the barracks for the body guards that defended the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, it kept shelter for soldiers who worked on the debris removal resulting from the demolition of the former Palace of Arts, was transformed into a giant dormitory for women workers who worked on arranging the Carol Park and during the communist period was used by soldiers guarding the mausoleum of the park. After 1990, the castle served as dwelling for a subunit of gendarmes.

Tepes Castle is owned by the Defense Ministry and since 2004, it hosts the National Office for the Cult of the Heroes.

These are the first three, but we shall continue our travel across Romania, in seek of spectacular castles.

Photo source:

Picture 1: www.flickr.com; Picture 2: www.urma.ro; Picture 3: transylvaniacam.com; Picture 4: transilvania-medievala.ro; Picture 5: pinterest.com; Picture 6: ziare.com; Picture 7: panoramio.com