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