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Invitation to the Carpatians
The river Prahova Valley and the Sinaia Town
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Invitation to the Carpatians
The river Prahova Valley and the Sinaia Town

Until mid-19th century, the upper Prahova Valley, known to that date as The Plaiul Prahovei, was an uninhabited glade snaking along the Prahova River, which was flanked on its banks by the Bucegi and Garbova massifs of the Southern Carpatian Mountains.
By foot or on horseback, one had to take up a trail in order to get to the Plaiul, the only way of approach through the straight from either end of the gorges. Previously, in that place there was only a monastic establishment of Christian-Orthodox monks, raised by Spatharus Mihail Cantacuzino in 1695 and called The Sinaia Monastery. The ruler built it up to show his gratitude to the Lord (as he was chased by the Turks many years before, he found refuge into the mountains and was given shelter by the hermits).
Spatharus Mihail Cantacuzino was born in a big family of boyars and rulers of the Walachia, whose works and foundations marked a flourishing stage of art and culture in late 17th and early 18th centuries.
The Prahova road was the shortest avenue that connected Bucharest to Brasov and since earliest times it had accommodated a relentless two-way circulation by merchants, who charted commodities in big wagons to the Plaiul. Once at their destination, they would load their stuff on horse-back, walked the horses some 60 km across the Plaiul, and passed the load onto wagons awaiting at the opposite end.
In 1866, prince Carol I of Hohenzollern, who was to become Romania’s King, visits the Sinaia Monastery and becomes profoundly impressed with the marvel of the scene. From that day on, he and his wife, Queen Elisabeta (poetess Carmen Silva), will frequently come here to spend their summer holidays in the monastery’s cells, in the center of a magnificent scenery of vistas.
One day, as they used to stroll around the monastery, they saw a glade drained by a creek named Peles, and that appealed to them so greatly that soon they ordered a summer house built for themselves, The Royal Court and their guests.
This marked the bebinning of the construction of the Peles Castle (1875), which lasted eight years, disrupted only by the independence war (1877-1878).
On October 3rd, 1833, the royal couple and a congregation of domestic and foreign guests came to assist at the inauguration of the castle.
Seen from the outside, the Peles Castle is an architectural gem, a palace emerging from a fairy tale.
In silhouette against the massive walls of the Bucegi Mountains, in a glade engulfed by deep coniferous forests, the Castle breathes the idyllic elegance of German Renaissance, in an unfailing communion with the environment.
The works began under the coordination of Wilhelm Doderer, an architect from Vienna, who later passed the baton onto architect Ioan Schultz of Lemberg and sculptor Martin Strohr. The Castle is a blend of a variety of interior styles: from the Italian and English Renaissance to the Baroque and Rococo, in harmony with each other thanks to the lavishness of framing and woodwork, the mural paintings and the intarsias, the stained-glass windows, the carpets and the furniture, along with valuable pieces of art and museum collections.
The King always made his presence felt to keep a close eye on the progress of works: in-roads and paths of access, the buildings - houses, the Guard Corps board, the stables, the parks and the fountains (all constructed once with the palace), the interior decoration, the paintings, the arms collection, the furniture, the carpets. His vision and guidelines would never VACANTAp the smallest detail.
Deeply in love with the construction, from 1896 until his death in 1914, Carol I, together with the Czech architect Carol Liman, conducted a relentless work to enlarge and enrich the Peles Castle and make it look as majestic as it does today.
In the lapse of eithteen years, from fall to spring, when the royal family lived in Bucharest, the pace of reconstruction at the Castle became hectic, with works at full sway, and when the warm season came, the entire activity was brought to halt and the place perfectly tided up to accommodate the King until next fall.
At this time the honour hall came to life, and so did the weapons and trophies rooms, the Florentine, Moresque, French, Turkish halls, as well as the theatre and the music enclosures, the council hall, the library, which all made The Peles move so much from its original pattern.
Seen from the outside, the central tower belies additional height and paraphernalia alteration. Around the palace, there is a display of terraces set up on three levels, with rails, flights of stairs and marble-carved fountains, adorned with statues produced by the artist Romanelli of Florence and stone-cut busts brought from Venice.
During the same time, King Carol I has a second castle built further up the Peles, which he offered to Prince Ferdinand Of Hohenzollern (his nephew and heir to the throne) and his wife, Princess Maria De Wied (by father decendence, niece of Queen Victoria of England and, by mothe decendence, of the Russian emperor Alexander II).
This is the Pelisor Castle, which was opened in 1903, much smaller than the Peles, yet providing for more intimacy, with a canopy of harmonious, lively colours, from the glazed tiles on towers’ roof to the framing of external wood beams, from the windows and the balcony to the white wall-sides and the carved stone at the first level.
As shining and cheerful as The Peles, the interior of Pelisor bears a much heavier imprint of modernity. Padded walls resplendent in bright colours, moulding ceilings, ironworks, carved gold-plated furniture, carved doors, warm-coloured drapes and tapestry add tranquility and a refined sense of elegance to the building.
Designed by architect Carol Liman, The Pelisor Castle hosted in its 70 rooms King Ferdinand and Queen Maria and their children Carol, the future King Carol II, Maria, the future Queen of Yugoslavia, Elisabeta, the future Queen of Greece, Nicolae, Ileana and Mircea.
As we said above, before the Peles Castle was raised, the summer house of Carol I and Elisabeta was sheltered by the precint of the Sinaia Monastery.
They lived in the newly-constructed cells, which composed the second quadrilateral (compared to the old monastery), holding in its middle a new church, bigger than the foundation that Spatharus Mihail Cantacuzino had erected 150 years before.
The eleven summer seasons spent by the sovereigns at the monastery, in the simplicity of the white-painted cells, the quietness and beauty of the place and the fondly memory of their daughter Maria, who was always having a happy time when she came to the monastery, made the Queen-poetess, Carmen Silva, utter: "The most beautiful memories of my life are those that I spent at the Sinaia Monastery”.
As the sovereigns had desperately grown in love with the monastery and since the church they used to congregate at on festival days fell short of Royal House’s standards, once with the erection of the Pelisor, master-builders raised the big church of the Sinaia Monastery. This church was designed by architect George Mandrea, who gave the exterior wall-sides a typically-Romanian architectural style. Belts of red bricks stretching beneath the cornice, niches housing painted saints, and, underneath, another belt, a bunch of twisted ropes of green enameled ceramics, give the exterior decoration a sense of completion.
At the entrance, monumental stone-carved columns of Brancoveanu style (after the name of ruler Brancoveanu’s Epoque) and three towers with golden chains on top of domes lend greatness to this Christian-Orthodox religious establishment.
Danish master-painter Aage Eoxner gave the interior painting the touches of the neo-Byzantine style. At the entrance, on the wall, portraits of Carol I and Elisabeta and their baby-girl Maria were painted to remind of the years spent by sovereigns at the Sinaia Monastery.
After the royal family began the construction of the Peles Castle, in a pursuit to establish their residence at Sinaia, many politicians and top businessmen decided to build leisure houses up there. Over the last 25 years of the 19th century, the glade that stretched along the river Prahova and meandered around the monastery became the town of Sinaia, a modern one, dotted with elegant villas located in parks and garden flowers, with cobble-stoned streets, ten hotels, a hydro-therapy Bath facility, a casino, a large central park where the Royal Guard’s fanfare gave concerts, and numberless sport fields for horse riding, chasing, skating and cricket, and, years later, tennis playing.
Sinaia was the first town illuminated with electricity in Romania (1890).
Blessed with the aestethic refinement of its location, so obvious at every step, by the year 1900 this resort of the Romanian aristocracy was baptized the Pearl of the Carpathians.
After 1900, the number of villas and tourist and sports facilities increased manifold. Among the newly-emerged constructions it is worth-mentioning the Hotel of Bathes, which provided helio and hydrotherapy, the luxurious Palace Hotel and the Casino. The last two buildings are located in the central park and connected by an underground tunnel to facilitate access to the gambling on hostile weather.
Resembling Monte Carlo’s building, the Casino has majestic roulette halls, bank facilities, chemin de fer and entertainment rooms, which attracted hordes of holiday-makers on Christmas and Holy Easter.
The increasing tide of tourist straming into Sinaia made the authorities of the Epoque set up a special train connection originating in Bucharest (120 km), which circulated on a daily time-table, reached Sinaia at 4:00 PM (when Casino opened) and started back to Bucharest at 10:00 PM (when the roulette closed), on the same day.
Whoever traveled from Budapest (Hungary) to Sinaia and backward, did not need to produce a passport at the border checkpoint.
Advertising publications issued by the Palace Hotel and the Casino always mentioned: "Sinaia is on the route of the ORIENT EXPRESS train”. This was not a fruitless invitation, as travelers on that train always got off to check in the Palace Hotel and visit the Casino.
Shut-down more than 50 years ago,for most of the time at the communists’ behest, the Casino has now fallen under the liability of Town Hall notables, who intend to restore it to its former glory and make it a must for all travelers to Sinaia.

 

 







        








       






 
   
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