I’ve traveled to many countries, but my favorite is Romania, in particular, the republic of Transylvania. Many people who go to Transylvania want, especially, to see Bran Castle, associated with the stories of Vlad the Impaler and the novel Dracula, created by the Irish writer, Bram Stoker, over a century ago.
Although Bran was fascinating, I felt my imagination soar in Sinaia (pronounced “Sin-EYE-ah); a village nestled deep in the Carpathian pine forests. It seemed to me a timeless place right out of a fairytale with its unique cross-timbered buildings tucked against lush steep mountain slopes.
I remember, one clear night as darkness settled, I unlatched my window and leaned out. It was so quiet I could hear the sighing of the trees in the forest. I don’t know how long I lingered there listening, but after a
while, I became aware of the howling of wolves echoing in the mountains. Before long, dogs in the village joined in the eerie chorus. I’ll never forget that stillness and those haunting sounds. They were both beautiful and frightening; conjuring up images and memories of the tales I’d heard or read of this exotic land of vampires and nocturnal creatures.
The next day, I visited Peles Castle at the edge of the village. It is truly the most exquisite building I’ve ever seen. Both inside and out. While not a new castle as castles go, its building was begun in 1883 by Romania’s longest serving monarch, King Carol I, as a summer residence. I was amazed to learn this magnificent royal palace, with its fairytale turrets and pointed towers rising above acres of green meadows, was the first castle in Europe to have central heating and electricity.
The characteristic features of the external architecture are specific to the German neo-Renaissance style. The interior is dominated by the same elements, but have combined various styles: Italian and Gothic Renaissance, German Baroque, the rococo, Hispanic, Moorish and Turkish styles. The architects used an abundance of wooden decoration both inside and out, which gives the building that fairytale quality.
Quite outstanding are the big Armory Room, the small Armory Room, the Florentine Room, the Reception Room, the Moresque Room, the French Room, the Turkish Room, the Council Room, the Concert Room and the Imperial Suite, 160 rooms in all.
The library conceals a secret passage leading to the second floor of the castle. There is a gallery of mirrors and the dining room has a leather clad ceiling. Scenes from age old Romanian fairytales adorn the stained glass windows in the Poetry Room. Paintings, sculptures, silver, gold and marble are everywhere.
During Ceausescu’s era, the castle was used as a private retreat for leading communists and statesmen from around the globe. U.S. presidents Richard Nixon and Gerald Ford, Libyan leader Moamar Gaddafi and Yasser Arafat were all entertained by the Romanian dictator in Pele’s fanciful rooms, each furnished to reflect a different European country.
Peles Castle truly took my breath away. If you ever travel to Romania, I cannot recommend highly enough, a visit to Peles Castle and Sinaia.
Have you visited a place whose very essence made your imagination soar?