Photo Credit Cover & Article: PATRICIA A. ANDRONIC
A fairytale land, wild and untamed, Romania is the enchanted treasure of the old continent. Its mighty, mysterious, forest-covered mountains that seem to hide myths and legends are crossed by flowing waters that whisper the secrets of passing years. Among tall and robust firs, there are architectural jewels, masterpieces that show the exceptional minds that conceived them and the craftsmanship of those who built them. Let me take you on a journey through some of the most captivating places Romania has to offer, part of the country’s cultural legacy. I promise you will be bewitched by these tantalizing, best old money spots.
“I don’t see today’s Romania as an inheritance from our parents, but as a country that we borrowed from our children.”
King Michael I of Romania
Google Map Itinerary
Săvârșin Royal Domain: The Royal Village and The Royal Park
Driving a vintage Mercedes down pittoresque country roads to your breathtaking, luxury domain… Now, that’s what sweet dreams are made of. A grand mansion to host fabulous summer parties, a tennis court where you can play with your posh friends and a pavilion to watch the seasons pass by, doesn’t sound bad, does it? Not to mention a tuscan garden, a rose garden and a secret garden, a whole lake and an alley of old oaks to watch over you and your lover when you are walking under the pale rays of the autumn sun.
LOCATION: Săvârșin Castle
CONTEXT: The Săvârșin Domain has gone through five centuries of history. Unfortunately, we can say that the manor hasn’t seen sunny days only. At one point it was even set on fire. It was later rebuilt in a neoclassical style. Since then, the castle has undergone other transformations along the way, as it has passed through the hands of many. However, today we can happily say that the domain is under the direct management of Her Majesty Margaret, Custodian of the Crown. By Her Majesty’s grace, the castle, the park and the buildings on the estate have been almost entirely rehabilitated.
RECOMMENDATIONS: I recommend you to make sure that the domain is open to the public during the period you are planning to go there, because the visiting schedule can undergo changes from one week to the next. Also, when you’re there, don’t forget to visit the other attractions: the Royal Village, the Tea House, the Automobile Museum and King Mihai’s Auto Workshop.
INTERESTING FACT: It is said that Ludwig van Beethoven and Franz Liszt have been guests at the Săvârșin Castle. Just thinking how incredible it would have been to listen to them playing the piano in one of the opulent halls of the castle, can give one goosebumps.
For more information visit: Savarsin
I Giardini di Zoe
It’s love that some people use to create beauty, artistry that brings joy to others. They don’t have to use words to make you understand, because they use another form of communication, something superior, something that touches the soul and leaves it colored. There is a place like this, created to make you feel like you are stepping into a painting. It’s a safe place, where you can really stop and smell the roses. It’s a garden, but not just that. It’s a space that breathes class and that will definitely inspire you to bring more elegance to your life.
LOCATION: I Giardini di Zoe
CONTEXT: I Giardini di Zoe is the soul project of the owner, Mr. Giovanni Salvatelli, an Italian from the Ancona area, Marche region. The garden is named after his granddaughter, Zoe. At first a personal space, Giardini di Zoe later became a tourist attraction. It managed to gain popularity thanks to the harmonious combination of plants with decorative objects brought from Italy. What is even more impressive is the fact that the place was designed according to Giovanni’s own plans, which he developed without the help of any specialist.
RECOMMENDATIONS: I recommend you to visit the garden in the spring and summer season, because the place deserves to be experienced in good weather. Also, take your time when you decide to go, so you can enjoy its beauty fully, without feeling under pressure.
INTERESTING FACT: According to the official page, even though it is named after Mr. Salvatelli’s niece, I Giardini di Zoe could also represent the prototype of the ideal woman, because the garden has the gift of making one feel peace and comfort.
For more information visit: I Giardini di Zoe
Brukenthal Summer Palace
You know those summer days in the city when the hot air feels like it’s pressing on your chest? Wouldn’t it be nice to have a lavish property at the foot of the mountains, an oasis of peace surrounded by towering trees, away from all that hustle and bustle. Just imagine a wonderful garden in which you can spend the warm July mornings, reading pages after pages of your favorite novel, standing on the edge of a fountain in which the sun reflects its golden rays. A place like this gives you the opportunity to reflect, to be present and to simply enjoy life.
LOCATION: Brukenthal Summer Palace
CONTEXT: Brukenthal Palace in Avrig was the main summer residence of Baron Samuel von Brukenthal. It is a wonderful and exceptional place, full of history and which was once considered the „Eden of Transylvania”. According to the official page, the former summer residence of Baron Samuel von Brukenthal “was awakened from its deep sleep” quite recently, being renovated in full respect of Brukental’s vision. After that it was opened to the general public. This residence is a “historic jewel of the Baroque” and is a place where grace, culture and good taste reign.
RECOMMENDATIONS: What’s great about this place is that you can have a complete aristocratic experience by staying at Villa Rozalia, which is part of the estate. I also recommend dining at the chic restaurant located there and definitely visiting the museum. To get into the atmosphere even better, you can take pictures in costumes inspired by the baron’s period, all provided by the palace.
INTERESTING FACT: The palace is shaped like the Schonbrunn Palace in Vienna, as it was designed by the same architect and at the same time, the Brukenthal Palace being a miniature seven times smaller. The two baroque palaces are united both artistically and architecturally.
For more information visit: Brukenthal Palace Avrig
Dressed to impress, guests arrive in the courtyard of the grand castle. Everyone is ready for an unforgettable night. Graceful waltz rhythms and cheerful voices are heard everywhere. In the air you can feel the divine smell of flowers that decorate the whole place for celebration. In the ballroom, elegance radiates. The massive wooden doors are opened so that the warm and fragrant May evening air can enter. But the thing that really takes your breath away is when you walk on the grandiose terrace and you look at the most extraordinary view of the Bucegi Mountains.
LOCATION: Cantacuzino Castle
CONTEXT: Cantacuzino Castle preserves a great architectural, historical and artistic value. It was built at the request of Prince Gheorghe Grigore Cantacuzino, also called Nababul, due to his incredible wealth. He came from the old noble family, Cantacuzino, being a descendant of the Romanian voivodes, respectively the Byzantine emperors Cantacuzino. Built in neo-Romanian style, the castle is surrounded by a park whose paths lead you to waterfalls and artesian fountains. From a decorative point of view, the ambience of the interiors has a pronounced romantic character.
RECOMMENDATIONS: I recommend taking one of the castle tours as the inside is just as much worth a visit as the outside. Also, if you choose a tour you will have the opportunity to participate at the art exhibition that is taking place at that time. Now, if you are fond of French cuisine, I recommend you dine at the excellent restaurant of the castle, where you can enjoy the most incredible delicacies in the area.
INTERESTING FACT: Cantacuzino Castle is one of the places in Romania where the famous and much-loved series on Netflix, Wednesday, was filmed. In the series, Cantacuzino Castle is the Nevermore Academy, where Wednesday learns how to use her paranormal abilities. By the way, the series was filmed in eight locations in Romania and in this post I have introduced yet another one, so keep reading if I made you curious.
For more information visit: Castelul Cantacuzino
Sinaia’s Royal Railway Station
It is a dark but glorious winter evening. Looking out the foggy window of the train, you can see intimidating and majestic mountains, black shadows of ghostly trees and iridescent snowflakes glistening in the moonlight. It’s quiet in your private compartment, and your hands are warm from the hot cup of tea, but you can still feel the chills down your spine as you look at the eerie yet mesmerizing scenery. In all this calm your thoughts are interrupted by an announcement: “You have arrived at Sinaia Royal Station, ladies and gentlemen.”
CONTEXT: We can say that Sinaia is one of the few cities in Europe that has two royal railway stations. Important historical events are connected to them, but also moments of pomp due to the stop in this area of the famous Orient Express train. The resort has a total of three stations that form an architectural ensemble: one for passengers and two royal stations, reserved for the Royal Family or high dignitaries. The first railway station in Sinaia was built by the Romanian state and had a classic appearance for that time. Also in that period, the first royal train station was constructed. The second royal train station was built by order of King Carol II and it was made with more “flair”, being a modern, cubist construction.
RECOMMENDATIONS: For the complete experience, I recommend that you arrive by train when you want to visit the stations. I also recommend you to visit the interactive museum space dedicated to railways, located in the building of the older royal station.
INTERESTING FACT: I told you that we will discuss in this post about another place in Romania where Wednesday was filmed. Exactly, one of the scenes from Tim Burton’s series was filmed at the Royal Railway Station in Sinaia. If you haven’t seen the series, maybe now is the time.
For more information visit: Gara regala, Sinaia
The Casino of Sinaia
It was evening. At the big hotel in Central Park, all the ladies and the gentlemen were preparing for a weekend at the Casino. Before entering the spectacular white building, the most confident among them were throwing silver coins into the fountain. Jazz music and astonishing oriental fragrances were creating the perfect atmosphere for a night of celebrating vices. Illuminated by huge crystal chandeliers, each room had its own purpose: the Hall of Mirrors for roulette games, in the Oval Hall, chemin-de-fer. But by far the most interesting characters of the evening were to be found in “la salle privée”, the place where fortunes were lost and destinies changed.
LOCATION: The Casino of Sinaia
CONTEXT: The Casino of Sinaia, located in the northern part of the Central Park, better known as the “Dimitrie Ghica Park”, is even today one of the symbols of the resort, being a place with an interesting history and an outstanding architecture. The wonderful building was constructed in record time, just one year, on the place where the villa Ghica once stood, erected by Prince Dimitrie Ghica. Today, the monument hosts the International Conference Center and is subordinated to the local council of the city.
RECOMMENDATIONS: I wholeheartedly recommend that you take part in a tour of the building, because its splendid interiors are worth seeing and admiring. If you are a lover of luxury, but also of historical buildings, I recommend you to dine and stay at the astonishing Hotel Palace. It was built more than a century ago and is located right next to Casino Sinaia.
INTERESTING FACT: The main shareholder of the Sinaia Casino was Baron Edgar de Marçay, also a shareholder of the Monte Carlo Casino. It was speculated that this building would be the faithful copy of the French edifice. However, there are only a few elements of the interior architecture that can confirm the similarity.
Peleș National Museum: Peleș Castle and Pelișor Castle
There are some chosen souls who are noble. They shine like the first rays of the morning, bringing hope in the deep darkness of the night. Intelligence, beauty, joy, passion, love, you can find all these rare gems in their hearts and minds. And you know, people like these never die. If you go to the places where they lived you will see, they are still there. You will find them everywhere… in the books, in the objects left on the tables, in the paintings on the walls. The atmosphere of these places breathes their spirit. These are the souls of kings and queens who reign forever.
LOCATION: Muzeul Național Peleș
CONTEXT: The beloved Peleș castle was built by the first King of Romania, Carol I and it was mostly used as a summer residence by the royal family. Throughout time the castle suffered some transformations. According to the official page, in the first shape, both exterior and interior stylistic dominance is provided by the German neo-Renaissance style with two exceptions, the neo-Ottoman and the neo-Rococo styles. In the second stage, fundamental changes to the volumes, façades and interiors enriched the previous stylistic range, adapting the castle to the stylistic pluralism of Historicism. The Pelișor castle is part of the architectural ensemble and it was built as a residence for the Royal Heirs to the throne of Romania, Prince Ferdinand and Princess Marie. As opposed to the solemnity of the Peleș Castle, the Pelișor Castle, although on the exterior one can easily recognize the German Neo-Renaissance style, is decorated in a new, modern style.
RECOMMENDATIONS: Pelișor Castle may seem more impressive to tourists, however please take the necessary time to visit Pelișor Castle. I promise you won’t regret this choice. If you are a lover of art and aesthetics, you will feel inspired for a long time after visiting Pelișor Castle.
INTERESTING FACT: Peleș Castle was at its time the most modern castle in Europe. In addition to many other innovations, it was the first castle in Europe to be completely electrified. Peleș has its own power plant, the first hydroelectric plant built on the territory of present-day Romania, and one of the first in Europe.
For more information visit: Peles Castle
This is the end of our journey through Romania, a journey worthy of the Orient Express. After walking through blossoming and vibrant gardens, staying in secret-filled, awe-inspiring mansions and castles and losing fortunes at the casino, I want to know what was your favorite spot on my list. Please comment on your impressions and thank you for taking part in these adventures with me.
For collaboration contact the author at Patricia Andronic.