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Thursday, Sept 26: Day 157 – Castles

Today we go on a castle tour with Dan. He has been giving tours for four years after being let go from his previous job. He is happier now.

“A kick in the bottom is a step forward.”

He was a little late picking us up because he couldn’t find his purse. I can relate!!

As we are leaving the city, he pointed out a few interesting sites.

A maternity hospital which once was a boys school! That’s ironic!! We saw apartments and a theatre built during communism. We traveled down the former Lenin Boulevard which used to be a cobblestone street in the communist times. It has been renamed 15th of November after the date of the fall of communism. It is now a 4-lane highway.

Election Day is in November. The candidates are controversial. (What else is new?) Ex-communists are now social democrats. The last elected president is in jail for corruption. One candidate is a puppet of the ousted president.

I counted at least three WWI memorial graveyards along the drive. Romania was twice the size after WWI. We in the USA forget at times that it was a world wide war.

Saxon row homes have large arched gates to bring in the hay wagons and crops into the courtyard.

Saxons are Germans. During WWII Germans were deported to Russia. Many left after WWII when the country became communist. Any that remained left at the the fall of communism in 1989.

We listen to Beethoven. Dan says that one can sing along to adagios…and he did. And then he sang opera, Sinatra, Andy Willams, etc. We were a boom box on wheels.

Our first castle was Peleș Castle, the Pearl of Romania.

This is just the outside. The castle was jaw-dropping. Every room (and there are 167 rooms) was an exquisite masterpiece. Words cannot adequately describe, but pictures come close. By the way, I don’t have 167 pictures. One had to pay a fee if one wanted to take pictures. It was worth it. I wish that we had taken more!!

A lot of mirrors were used especially in windowless rooms. Huge mirrors as high as 16 feet were imported from Venice which would not be easy to transport. The mirrors are flawless. See Rob in the photograph.

King Carol I of Romania started building the castle in 1873 and finished at his death in 1914. It was inaugurated in 1883. It was the first castle in Europe to have electricity. Carol had money from the sale of property. He was an avid collector.

The Hall of Honor was completed in 1911. Note the spiral staircase carved out of wood.

The hallmark of this room is the wood carving details. Here is St. George killing the dragon. Note the walls in the background!

This room is topped by a stained glass ceiling. (It even opens.)

Some ceilings even had tapestries. Here are a few more ceilings.

Of course what would a castle be without secret passages.

And fireplaces!!

Carol I liked to support young painters. He commissioned 22-year old Gustav Klimt to paint copies of the Masters for this room along with these sculptures.

This picture is absolutely my favorite. Look closely and you will see that it is a beautiful mirror reflecting the painting on the ceiling and the fireplace pictured above!!

The king and queen had a daughter Maria who died of scarlet fever at three years old. Elizabeth could not have any more children. They never got over it!

Elizabeth wrote poetry and books under the pen name of Carmen Sylva.

Carol I had a reputation for being pompous and abrupt. Discussions were short. He was also a fast eater, and when he was done so was everyone else.

The Dining Room

When shaking hands, he would only offer his index finger. (I wonder if anyone ever pulled it!)

Each room had a theme.

The Music Room

The Armory

The Concert Hall.

Even the walls are covered in Cordoba leather that has been worked and texturized.

There is an organ in this room as one might expect in the concert hall. The pipes are shared with another organ in the adjoining room for more intimate recitals.

There are other rooms displaying different cultures.

The Alhambra Room

The Turkish Parlor

There was a Roman hall with an elevator. No modern convenience was spared.

There was a theatre which was then made into a cinema.

Carol I was a friend of Franz Joseph of the Austro-Hungarian Empire, and he built opulent accomodations for him.

There was even a room to house 30 cats which were a favorite of Elizabeth.

During communism the castle was closed and sometimes used as a museum. Nicolae Ceaușescu wanted to live in it, but there is a mold problem, and it would affect his health. He was a germaphobe.

We stopped at Bran Chalet for a fun lunch. Maria from Atlanta was part of our private tour. All “five” of us posed for this photo.

I asked Don, “Do you have a lot of bears?” A quick answer of yes. “Everyone should be scared of bears.”

We saw a display of cheese. Smoked cheese was beautifully braided. Large circular cheeses were aged and packaged in pig bladders. The ultimate zero waste solution.

The next castle was Bran Castle. It was made popular because an image similar was placed on the front cover of Bram Stoker’s Dracula.

Stoker even used a local name Dracul which means evil. How sad to be saddled with that name!

I think that Vlad Dracul lived up to that name as history calls him Vlad the Impaler. I had to read more. The gruesome fact is that he impaled 20,000 Turks lining 60 miles. That’s one every five feet or perhaps a forest garden made up of the unfortunate impaled. I was just imagining the logistics of that.

This might be a biography that tells more about Vlad.

The Impaler: A Biographical/Historical Look at the Life of Vlad the Impaler, Widely Known as Dracula (2002).

As a child, he and his brother Radu were taken to Istanbul in order to force their father to pay the tax for not being Muslim, and the Sultan held his sons to ensure payment.

Our last stop was the Rasnov Citadel.

The Hungarian king gave land to Teutonic Knights who wanted to give it as a gift to the Pope. The Teutonic Knights were here only 14 years and were kicked out by the Saxons and headed to Poland. Rasnov Citadel may have been built by the Teutonic knights.

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