Everyone of us wished to be King or Queen for a day, living in a fairytale castle. How is unlikely that such a wish could become reality, at least you can visit fairytale palaces and imagine owning them, and that you just gave a day off to your servants, to waltz peacefully in your castle. Therefore, I suggest a dream journey through Romania’s castles. The itinerary has as a starting point, Sinaia, Valea Prahovei, where our country’s most beautiful castle is located – Peles.
Peles Castle, located on to the valley of Peles river, on what is called Pietrele Arse (burned stones), is not the only amazing landscape surrounding it, but also its „little brother” – Pelisor Castle. This one is a modern replica, but smaller, of the main building, and it was the residence of King Ferdinand I and Queen Mary.
Peles Castle can be considered Romania’s most important historic edifice, due to its unique character, and it is, through its artistic and historic value, one of the most important monuments of this kind, in the 19th century Europe.
Maybe you’re wondering how the two castles’ building site was chosen. According to the legend, King Charles I, stayed overnight in this area, at the monastery of Podul Neagului, as it was named back then, the little mountain village, which transformed, in what we know today as the famous Sinaia resort, and, impressed by the wild landscape, ordered the building of a summer residence for the royal family.
Thus, several years after his visit to Podul Neagului, in 1873, King Charles I of Romania, decided to begin the castle’s construction. The works took place according to Johannes Schultz and Karel Liman architects’ plans, the castle being decorated by the renowned decorators J.D. Heymann, from Hamburg, August Bembe, from Mainz and Berhard Ludwig, from Viena. The interior design was prevalent a german neo renaissance style, only two rooms differing in style: the turkish salon and Queen’s Elizabeth neorococo boudoir, which, nowadays, no longer exist. The option for the german neo renaissance style was both an expression of taste for the 19th century, 70′s fashion, in Germany, and the King’s Charles I ilustration of his aesthetic convictions.
But, building the castle has not been without obstacles. The 300 workers, who took part in the building of the castle, fought with nature’s caprice, such as the underground water courses and the landslides. The castle rising works lasted between 1873-1914, in two stages, being supervised by King Charles I, itself.
In 1883, takes place the official inauguration of Peles, a place seen by the King as the new dynasty’s „headquarters”. Also, its location on the Valea Prahovei valley, was not random, because, nearby, at Predeal, Romania was bordering with the Austro-Hungary. Though, after Transilvania’s and the Old Kingdom’s union, the castle’s location will be in the heart of the country.
Afterwards, Peles gain more and more importance, becoming the summer residence for the romanian royal family, which spent enough time here, usually from May till November. Peles Castle hosted many important political meetings, such as the 1914 Crown Councils – when, Romania’s neutrality was established, during the World War I, and in 1925.
Peles castle was, also, visited by renowned personalities of the time, such as: writers, musicians, but also Kings and Queens. The most important visit was the one of the Austro-Hungary’s old King, Franz Joseph, in 1896. The emperor was impressed by the landscapes beauty, by the castle’s opulence, and made numoerous photos as a souvenir from his journey, in Romania. In 1906, another visit from the King is expected, at the 40 years celebration of King’s Charles I reign. With this occasion, the castle’s imperial suite was arranged, though, Franz Joseph’s visit never occurred.
Although, the Peles Castle was opened in 1883,it has been modified till 1914, when it reached its present form. For example, the hall of honor glass rooftop swivels, and it can be powered by an electric motor. Further more, since 1883, the castle has central heating.
Besides the castle, were built, also: the Guard, the Economat, the Foisor Hunting House, the stables, the Electric Plant and Sipot Villa. Until the end of the castle building, in 1883, King Charles I and Queen Elizabeth, lived in the hunting house, due to the fact that it was finished before the castle did. Thanks to its own electric plant, Peles was the first castle with electricity in Europe.
The Peles Castle has a special historic significance. Here was born, in 1893, the future King, Charles II (1930-1940), dynasty’s first born king, on romanian land and the first to be baptised in the orthodox religion. In 1921, at Foisor, his son was born, King Mihai I. Another especially important event, for the royal family, takes place, in 1921, at Peles Castle – the wedding of the princess Ileana, one of Charles’ II sisters. At this royal event, attended many personalities of the time, as well as Nicolae Iorga. Two years later, the celebration of the semi-centennial of Peles Castle (50 years since the begining of its construction), was held.
This castle was the royal family’s residence till 1948, when it was confiscated by the communist regime. In 1953, Peles transformed itself in a museum, although, we should mention that visits were allowed since King’s Charles I reign. In 1990, the Pelisor also, was opened to the public.
It is said that, Elena and Nicolae Ceausescu weren’t often visitors at the Peles Castle, though, in the ’80s, there were rumors that the couple was thinking of establishing a protocol residence at Peles. To avoid possible changes, made at the dictators’ orderes, these, known by their anger to demolish and change, the curators frightened the Ceausescu couple, by telling them, that, inside the castle, there was a fungus, very harmful for humans, which was also attacking the building’s wood structure. There is, indeed, such a fungus, which attacked the building’s beams, but this wasn’t harming the human body. Precisely because of this, the restauration works began, and the whole resistance structure, of the hall of honor, was replaced, as well as the one from the ground floor living room. Scared by the curators’ warnings, concerning this fungus, the Ceausescu couple spent only one night at the castle, with extreme cautiousness, preffering to sleep in the Foisor.
After the revolution of December 1989, the Peles Castle and Pelisor were reinstated in the tourist circuit. In 2006, the romanian government announced the retrocession of the castle to Romania’s King Mihai I. Although there were rumors that the romanian country had bought the Peles Castle from its owners, paying 30 million euros, this transaction never took place. Thereby, nowadays, the Peles Castle returned to the possession of the royal family, but King Mihai I decided that the castle would remain as a museum, still opened for the public.
After familiarizing with Peles’ history and its stories, in the next article I will invite you in the museum castle, which attracts hundreds of thousands of visitors, each year