Friday, September 30, 2011

Accommodations: Prince Charles in Romania. Saxon areas, Transylvania. Guesthouses; Other Projects

Projects in Conservation, Guesthuoses, Education, Trusts and Charities
International Benefactors
Preserving, Conserving Old Ways
By Accommodating the New

Saxons in Transylvania
Old villages; historical renovation sponsored by accommodations
Update on international benefactors:  Even the Financial Times recognizes the efforts by Prince Charles, through his trust, and others to preserve the heritage of Romania, here the Saxon: at Romania property, a stake in Transylvania, at  Read that entire article, by Teresa Levonian Cole 3/17/2012.  The history of Saxon migration into Romania, at the invitation of a medieval Hungarian king, growth to some 200 Saxon villages, then World Wars, expulsions, and now interest back again.
1.  Housing:  Citizen and Visitor
Prince Charles of England has made and is making a substantial difference, in Transylvania in particula.  He promotes and otherwise sponsors saving old houses, conservation, encouraging visitors with planned guesthouses at intervals, and training villagers in traditional building methods that use local materials.
He has bought "endangered" properties and is turning them into guesthouses, or showing local people how to do it. 
William Blacker wrote Fit for a Prince, The Financial Times, August 28-29, 2010, at page 8, Life and Arts.  See  This is a well-written description of Romania.

Look up also the
These organizations foster "traditional craftsmanship" as well as how to succeed at small-scale farming, and raise money in many ways that attract non-builders..
Prince Charles - Royal Highness, Prince of Wales, with a worthy set of projects here, rescuing traditional properties, morphing them into guesthouses; sponsoring education, skills.
We found the small hotels along the way, well-spaced for the traveler,"cabanas" or pensiones, to be just fine.  We found them clean and warm.  No complaints about any of the accommodations we found in Romania, but choice is nice.
Many little hotels were threadbare.  Inside the duvets were blankets, heavily felted, but with holes. Nonetheless all bedding was spotlessly clean.  We never minded threadbare in felted blankets, or sheets. We never questioned the cleanliness. Bricks, tiles from terracotta techniques.
Villages we missed, but you could see: Visceri, Zalanpatak (Hungarian:  a Romanian friend told us that the old people in her family would say, Hun-GAR and spit. Those times, we understand, have passed. Hungarian and Romanian history are intertwined, although village animosities remain. The Prince owns his own house in Romania, address not given.  Smart.  It is said to be modest, delightful.
2.  Welcome to preserving.
The Prince is not against modern development, but wants it to proceed alongside the preserved original, where the original is also now productive.  It is too late in many places. Whole villages were destroyed even after Premier Ceausescu was executed in 1989, along with his pattern of bulldoze it now, think later. The bulldozing did not stop. Was this mainly for Roma villages, or other peasant? Or did it matter?
Euros pouring in do not help in conservation of culture.  Euros just find pockets, as dollars do here -- it all does not get to the purpose intended. The article correctly states that the replacement block building for mass residences are hideous.
I am tempted to reproduce here all our (to us) wonderful rural photographs, people, costumes, ox carts.  What about the gypsy village where we stopped to ask directions for a night's lodgings, got a fine deli sausage sandwich and an orange soda.  To take pictures seemed intrusive, so we did not. Now I wish we had.  Will others see the same hospitality, open welcome.
Prince Charles of England. Good work. Tell Wills. Tell Harry. Welcome to Romania.  Carry on. Sally forth.  Even ordinary people want to see your fostering of traditional talents and lifestyle and architecture, remain.  Salute. Prince Charles fosters Romanian guesthouses.  Yes. More. Cultural conservation in Romania. Cultural trusts.  High time. Go there.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Bistrita, Piatra Fontanele and Hotel Castel Dracula: Bram Stoker's Dracula Story

Bram Stoker's "Dracula"

Bistrita is the town located near the area where the "Dracula" author, Bram Stoker, located his fictitious Dracula's castle.

His character, Jonathan Harker dined at the Golden Crown here.  Bram Stokerwas born in Dublin -  see This is the Literature Network site.

1.  Weekend slowdown.

On weekends in Bistrita and other towns, things do close down, so don't plan for museums or sites after lunch and especially on Sundays. Find an overview of the town at

A walk around was all we wanted.

2. Hotel Castel Dracula

It was time for kitsch, so we stayed here.  The good news is that the kitsch is restrained, and localized. The rest of the accommodation is a fine hotel, although in need of some repair. 

Hotel Castel Dracula, near Bistrita, Romania

Hotel Castel Dracula is to the east, past Bistrita, and supposedly at the place where the fictitious castle in the novel, Dracula, was supposed to be located.

3.  Kitsch

The hotel has a secret passageway and room, that you have to search for yourself and then - gasp - it is there. The Coffin. And cape for dressing up.

Dan Widing locates The Coffin, Hotel Castel Dracula, Romania

Other than that, it is a full-service, comfortable hotel: good food, books for sale in the lobby, much research on the Stoker's Dracula-Vlad comparison.

Wish for a foggy morning so that driving is risky. The horsecarts are a hazard despite reflectors.

Then you will have to stay a few hours longer, and curl up with a good book.

4.  Hiking Center

The hotel has been discovered by serious hikers. It is near a wilderness park, with Big Animals (real wolves and bears), and the trails look great.

5.  Games

There is also a pool table and pub up the tower. For enviro-tourists, despite the touristy name Castel Dracula, stay here as your base for side hikes. Any big facility needs upkeep, and they are working on it.

Other accommodations:

6.  Warmth

We had no difficulty with cold nights.

Usually we stayed at any family pensione, or a "cabana" in outlying areas. A cabana is like a villa, small hotel-hostel-pensiones for travelers, at well-spaced intervals in mountain or recreation areas. All clean, safe, warm, with thin compact mattresses, but plenty of felted blankets in the duvets. The felted blankets, think heavy, tight wool blankets, soaked and dried several times to tighten it up and make the felt, very thick - not like hats. We sometimes put the additional duvet underneath.