The last part of this amazing Unesco Tour in Romania. A perfect ending for a perfect tour in one of the most surprising destination of central Europe.
DAY 7 BRAȘOV – BRAN – SINAIA – BUCHAREST
Today in the morning will start our journey going straight to Bran Castle , consider by some people, Dracula Castle.
In the XII century and before, the pass of Bran was one of the most important trade routes. From the other side, the importance of this pass which was used by the Cuman riders (a Turk population adopting the name of the small river and transferred it to the fortress and the medieval village “Turcu” in the neighbourhood) was obvious to the Teutonic Knights brought here by the Hungarian king Andrew II in 1211 for the defence of Barsa Lands (now Brasov County) against attacks of the pagans the Cumans. There are other reminders in local names eg. Tohan from the turkish dogan = hawk.The old Turkish adopted name for the River from the Turks, shows us that there was the old route for the Cumans to enter into Transylvania. At the beginning of the XIIIth century the Teutonic Knights on their true name „The Knights of the Hospital of Saint Mary from Accra“ with their High Commander from Venice came into the Barsa Land. (the old name of the Brasov County) The entire order did not arrive, but a small group. During the time when their high commander Hermann von Salza was on the Holy Land, those settled in the Barsa lands were ruled by the crusader Theodoric, who, obtained an important fiscal privilege from the king on 7th May 1212. Because the rock where would eventually be built Bran Castle was called prior to 1377 Theodric’s rock (lapide Teodrici), it seems likely that a wooded fortification was built here by his order. Maybe it was one of the 5 citadells of the Teutonic Knights in Transylvania. The citadel at Bran, was built because of the war between Ludovic I, the Hungarian king, between 1375-1377 and his neighbours to the south and east. It was also a direct result of the fighting in the summer of 1377 against the ruler of Romanian Country Radu I. The new citadel was a perfect solution to block the valley. Today when you say Bran, people understand usually only the castle on the rock, 60 m. high. Just a few of them will see 2 ruined walls situated at a distance of 200 m. which closed the pass between the Citadel Hill and Magura Hill, creating an interior yard which together with the castle formed the Bran Citadel.
From 1380-1382, king Lodovic I of Anjou, imported crossbow archers here from Scotland and brigands, to defend the castle. In this place, in 1690 the soldiers of the Austro Hungarian Empire stopped the Romanian army of Constantin Brancoveanu, forcing him to detour and then defeat the Austrian army to Zarnesti. The Bran Citadel fulfil edits military purpose until the XIXth century. On December 1st, 1920 the City Council of Brasov gave the castle to Queen Maria as a donation. This would be restored under Karel Liman’s direct guidance and become the Queen’s summer residence. The changes following the 1920 restoration did not affect the medieval aspects, but gave added special charm and comfort; electricity and running water were introduced and the rooms were remodelled and redecorated. For the first time in south-eastern Europe, the Castle had an elevator which was used by the Queen. A small lake was dug around the Castle and a there was also a „tea house“ where the Queen served tea according to the English custom. The Bran Castle is situated on top of a rock which rises above the surrounding terrain and is bordered by an outer wall, a dungeon, a gate tower and a round tower. The outer stone wall has arrow slits and observation points. The dungeon is situated in the north and also had an observation role. One can see the original wall 57 m. high from the courtyard of the Castle. In 1948 the castle turned into a museum which has three departments. The first department - „The Castle“, is the medieval history and art department which reveals the original functions of the castle in the Middle Ages and during the royal residence period. Over 6000 items are exhibited here, belonging to decorative art, mouldings and folk art, weapons, and period furniture. The collections were from Queen Maria’s former collection (acquisitions or donations). The oldest piece of furniture is a table in the Gothic style from the 14th century. Other valuable pieces are the canopy bed in the Italian Baroque style from the 18th century, a set of furniture in the neo-Rococo style from the 19th century and some rural pieces of painted furniture from the 18th century. One can also admire an amazing collection of ceramics, carving and China with works from Italy, Germany, Persia, Holland, England, Spain, France, China or even Romania. Among these, the tea set from Talavera, Spain, a 17th - century Chinese tray belonging to the Tin dynasty, an 18th century Italian amphora are specially outstanding. Nearby there is „Queen Maria’s Heart“ Chapel where, according to the monarch’s last wish, the casket containing her heart was deposited in 1940.
Sinaia is a relatively new settlement, situated 100 km north of Bucharest in the Carpathians. The first construction was Sinaia Monastery in the XVIIth century. A settlement began to develop here, once the Austrians constructed roads along the Prahova Valley, so they could cross the mountains from Transylvania to attack the Ottomans in Wallachia. The inns were established at the same timeas traders’ chariots arrived there and the region became populated. The interest in Sinaia increased during the second half of the XIXth century, after the first king of Romania, Carol I, visited the little mountain village and, charmed by the landscape decided to build a royal residence there. Peles Castle was completed in 1883, after 10 years, and Sinaia found itself growing in popularity as place to spend the summer as a consequence. King Carol I bought the domain from Sinaia from his personal funds. Peles Palace was used as a royal summer residence, and also as a venue for important political events, such as the crown council in 1914 that decided the initial neutrality of Romania in WW 1 The Great War. The royal family welcomed important guests at Peles including emperor Franz Josef, who was enchanted by the castle.
The exterior of the castle/palace (I consider that the difference between a palace, which is a royal/aristocratic residence and a castle, which is a military residence used mostly for defence, made Peles, a palace not a castle at is called in all the travel guides) is German Neo - Renaissance style, while about 160 rooms are finished in a variety of different styles, including German, Italian and English Renaissance, German Baroque, French Roccocco etc. The Council Room, the Florentine Room, the Moorish Salon, the Armoreys, the Playhouse, the Concert Hall, the Turkish Parlourand others are all sumptuously decorated and are among the most spectacular in the palace. The smaller Pelisor Palace, completed in 1903 as the residence for royal heirs, is situated close to Peles. The communist regime confiscated all the royal properties in 1948 and Peles Palace became a museum 5 years later. However, in the last years of the regime, the whole area was closed to the public and the properties reserved for use by Ceausescu.
After 1990 Peles and Pelisor were reopened to visitors.
Bucharest - The Capital Of Romania
The capital of Romania is first documented for the first time in 1462 during the time of Radu cel Frumos brother of Vlad the Impaler. It first, became the capital of Romania in 1859 when Alexandru Ioan Cuza established the capital of the new state Romania in Bucharest. Bucharest was developed very well during the time of Carol I our first king of the Hohenzollern -Sigmaringen dynasty. He developed the city changing it into a new architectural style which give it the nickname of „Little Paris“. Later in time the city grew and today even though Ceausescu destroyed many buildings we can still visit buildings such as the ones that I will describe. First of all you arrive in the Revolution Square and near the statue of the King Carol I riding a horse. In front of it you will find The Royal Palace built on this site, where stood the house of the Grand Chancellor Dinicu Golescu. After the union of Moldova and Romanian Country it was the residence of prince Alexandru Ioan Cuza. Rebuilt between 1930 -1937 it became the royal palace. This was thee place where Romania took the decision to change sides in the World War II turning their weapons against the Germans, in 1944 and where in 1947, on December 31st the King Mihai I was forced to abdicate and the communist regime proclaimed The Peoples Republic. Behind it , is The Library of the University and a little bit to the right, The Romanian Athenaeum, having a round shape,was built by public subscription, in neoclassical style, with concert and lecture halls. On the left side of the statue is the monument for the heroes from the 1989 Revolution and near it a massive building with three black doors and a small balcony above, from where Nicolae Ceausescu spoke to the people. On the other side of the street stands Kretzulescu Church which was moved from its place about 12 meters on the south to avoid being observed by Nicolae Ceausescu from his balcony during his speeches. Then continuing along the Boulevard Victoria you’ll pass the Ramada Hotel while on the left will appear Capsa Hotel, the place where the writers, painters and artists from the period of the years 1870-1940 met.
Progressing on the same left side, you will discover Lipscani street. It leads from the old Bucharest close beside the Old royal Court. On the street you can find now some places where the foundations of the old houses and inns or even old streets were exposed to the public. If you continue on the streets always keeping parallel to the Victoria Boulevard you arrive at the Stavropoleos Church, and to Carul cu Bere an old and famous restaurant in Bucharest, and to the old royal Court and Church. Close to it is situated Manuc’s Inn another very famous Inn in Bucharest. Stavropoleos Church, it was reopened as a monastery but on April 1, 2008, 120 years afterwards, it was closed as a convent. The abbot Ioanichie, built an inn and in the year 1724 also the Stavropoleos church and near it the rooms for the monks. In 1733 the monastery took its final shape. The paintings and the stone decoration are the same as today. At the beginning of the XX-th century some old buildings were replaced and those completed being the bell tower and the buildings which are today the main office, the rooms for the nuns, the library and the refectory. All Stavropoleos belongs in style, to the post Brancovenesc era and shows a mixing together of the oriental tradition with the occidental influences of the time.
The Royal Court was re-inaugurated in 1972, being the oldest medieval monument in Bucharest starting in 1660 as the capital of Wallachia and from 1862 the capital of the Romanian Principality and then of Romania. In the second half of the 14th century was built a brick citadel of 160 Square meters, developed by Vlad Tepes - Dracula between 1458 -1459. During the time of the voivod Mircea Ciobanul after the year 1550 a large palace was built here, having, extensive cellarsand, the church which can still be found near the palace. This new palace extended its surface area to 3000-5000 square meters (32292.78 square feet) on the perimeter between the Dambovita river and Lipscani street to the south and north, and Selari/Smardan Streets and the Boulevard Bratianu from west to the east. At the end of the 17-th century and the beginning of the next, other rullers especially Constantin Branvoveanu also extended the palace. These improvements included a water tank and a Turkish bath. The fires, the earthquakes, the floods, the plagues, the wars all had as a consequence, the degradation of the Court. In 1798 Constantin Hangerli sold it and over the ruins of the court especially to the north and east another building was built. The visitors coming here can see the material proofs of the past of Wallachia which demonstrate very well the history of this part of Romania. The Royal Church, is the oldest church in Bucharest having been built by Mircea Ciobanul, on the same place as a former church built by the Voivode Mircea the Elder, founder of the Princely Court in Bucharest. In 1715, Prince Stefan Cantacuzino added an impressive stone porch at the church entrance. On March 23-rd 1847, the church of the capital was burnt down by a devastating fire which also destroyed part of the royal Church. The painting was restored by the famous painter Constantin Lecca. Today, the church it is a functioning church situated near the Manuc’s Inn one of the most important hotels, restaurants, and buildings of Bucharest. Arriving at the River Dambovita which crosses Bucharest and going against the stream you’ll see in about 10 – 15 minutes on the left side, the imposing silhouette of The Parliament, the second largest administrative building in the world in dimensions after the U.S. Pentagon. The building began in 1984, on a site where old districts of the city were demolished. Its dimensions are: 270 m. long , 240 m. wide and 84 m. (275 ft) tall. It is entirely of Romanian manufacture: decorated with marble from Ruschita, Moneasa, Capriori and Alun, ornaments with gold leaf, panelling of oak, beech, cherry, walnut; curtains and carpets, crystals chandeliers from Medias. Now it is an official building of the state as the Romanian Parliament.
National George Enescu Museum is situated at the entrance to the Victoria Boulevard from the Victoria Square. The sumptuous entrance covered by the big canopy in the Art Nouveau style, announces that here the luxury and the refinement from the era met here to build one of the most bright and imposing palaces in Bucharest.
The palace it was built between 1901 -1903 for Gheorghe Grigore Cantacuzino (former mayor of the capital, prime minister, leader of the Conservative Party) and after his death in 1913 the palace was owned by his son and his widow Maria, who after the death of her husband, Mihai Cantacuzino, remarried in 1937 to George Enescu the most important Romanian composer and the violin teacher of the jewish conductor Yehudi Menuhin.
During the 1940-s the palace was the headquarters of the Council of Ministers and since 1947 the Institute of Romanian - Soviet Studies. From 1956 here functioned the National Museum George Enescu and since 2007 the building appears on the European Heritage List.
Here is ending one of the most complete and popular tours of our agency in Romania.