Dimitrie Ghica Park is named after a famous Romanian explorer who travelled in Africa, killing everything he saw, and who thankfully for African wildlife, died in 1923. The tally from one of his African hunting expeditions was four lions, five elephants, fifteen crocodiles, a dozen rhinos, one giraffe, two panthers, seven hyenas, fifteen zebras, three wild asses two greater kudu, eleven lesser kudu, eight hartebeest, twenty five gemsbok, eight warthogs, around one hundred different gazelles plus numerous foxes, jackals and monkeys. Even though an avid hunter, he did not neglect flora, and picked every rare species he saw.
His park stands in front of Sinaia Casino.
Sinaia Monastery was founded in 1690 by Mihai Cantacuzino (1650-1716), who was inspired to build it by a pilgrimage with his family to Mount Sinai, where he saw the fourth century St Catherine's Monastery. It took five years to build. It was badly damaged in the 1730s by invading Turks. The monastery didn't reopen until the nineteenth century, and it wasn't fully restored until the twentieth century.
Highlights of the monastery complex include the Great Church built in 1842-6, the Bell Tower built in 1892, the Old Church built in 1695, and the museum.
The original Economat building was quite small, but it was rebuilt in German Renaissance style between 1908 and 1909. It hosted the members of the royal court, whenever the royal family visited Sinaia.
Nowadays, like the other buildings annexed to Peles Castle, it is used as a hotel.
Next to its grand neighbour, Peles Castle, Pelisor Castle seems like a rather modest home for royalty: more a large country house, than a castle. Nevertheless, it is still interesting to look around inside. Its exterior is rather ugly as its eclectic architectural style makes it look like a cross between a French chateau and an English mock-Tudor mansion.
Pelisor Castle was built between 1899-1903 by order of King Carol I for the future King Ferdinand and Queen Maria. Until the completion of the castle the young couple lived in Foisor castle. The castle reflects the personal style of Queen Maria. The walls of the reception room are covered with oak. The gilded sculpted wood design of the Golden Room as well as the design of the working cabinet was created by the queen herself. The thistle which is the floral emblem of Scotland and reminder of her birthplace is also present on the wall of the Golden Room. The royal offspring spent their childhood in this castle: the future King Carol, Queen Mary of Yugoslavia, Queen Elizabeth of Greece and Prince Nicolae.
Peles Castle is one of those fairy tale castles that you occasionally come across in the countryside of Eastern Europe which were built more to indulge the fantasies of royalty then for any defensive purposes. Completed in 1883, Peles Castle was built as the summer residence of the Romanian royal family, by King Carol I (1866-1914) and today it is a national monument and museum.
Several other buildings, annexed to the castle, are worth visiting, including Pelisor Castle, The Guard's Chambers, the Foisor Hunting Lodge, the Stables and the Sipot Villa. Until the completion of Peles Castle, the royal couple lived in the adjoining hunting lodge. Peles Castle was the first European castle to be entirely lit by electricity.
It is well worth taking the guided tour inside the castle where there are spectacularly lavish furnishings, wood panelled walls, stained glass windows, chandeliers and works of art.
To really experience the beauty of Bucegi mountains you must do some hiking! The mountain trails are marked with colored signs, so it is hard to get lost if you follow the trail and the signs.
All the areas are also patrolled by the mountain rescue teams. There are also many mountain huts that offer food and accommodation, so they can be used if one is planning a longer journey.
Franz Joseph Cliffs are located near the Sheepfold Meadow, just outside Sinaia. There are stairs and railings that help you climb up on top on them. On a sunny day you can see a large part of the upper Prahova River Valley. The cliffs are considered a belvedere place.
If you decide to go to the Saint Anne Cliffs instead, you will notice a small clearing at its base. The grotto was a former shelter for a hermit. You can see traces of the icons painted on the rocky wall at one point in time. The cliff is located at the crossroads between the road that goes at Cota 1400 and the road that goes to Sheepfold Meadow. If you get here, don't stop. Move on and hike to Cota 1400. The hike is fun, relatively easy and you will be rewarded with beautiful views of Sinaia valley and the city.
George Enescu, one of the greatest Romanian composers of all times, was a favorite of Queen Elisabeta. She noticed Enescu's talent and offered him a room inside Peles Castle where he could study and compose his music. Peles Castle become the place where Enescu made his name well known all over the world through his creations. He loved Sinaia so much that he decided to build a house here by using all the money he earned during his first tour in the USA . The house construction started in 1923 and ended in 1926. Enescu decided to call his house "Vila Luminis" The house became the place where he came to rest as often as he could.
The political events that took place in Romania in 1946 forced Enescu to leave the country after a very brief stop at his mother's grave. He was never able to come back to Romania and he lived the rest of his life in Paris.
In 1947 Enescu decided to donate his house to the Romanian Cultural Ministry to be used as a retreat for all the artists that needed some rest.
The house is a museum today and it can be visited by anybody. I have pictures of it taken on sunny days, I just need to find them and load them up. I found one with his piano, but the rest of the pictures taken that day did not turn out too good since it was raining and foggy outside.
In the main room of the house you can see the original "Ibach" piano that Enescu used to play and compose his pieces at.
He was often heard saying: "I love the gift that was given to me and that helps me compose my music. There is no grater happiness that somebody can have in this world! If the number of my compositions is not too large, is because I wanted to give each piece all the best there is to give."
The Old Sinaia Train Station was built in 1913 by the Demeter Cartner Company, and it was reserved exclusively for the Royal Family and its guests at Peles Castle. It is located about 500 meters away from the newly build train station, the one that serves as a main train station of Sinaia today.
On the station platform there is a memorial plate that is marking the spot where Prime Minister Ion Duca was assassinated by the Iron Guard in 1933. I have a picture of this plate somewhere in my many picture files. I just need to find the time to look for it :)
Sinaia Monastery was founded by Prince Mihai Cantacuzino in 1695 and named after the great Sinai Monastery on Mount Sinai.
The monastery consists of two courtyards surrounded by low buildings. In the centre of each courtyard there is a small church built in the Byzantine style. One of them - "Biserica Veche" (The Old Church) - dates from 1695, while the more recent "Biserica Mare" (The Great Church) was built in 1846.
If you have time, go inside and ask the monks to show you the collection of valuable jewelry belonging to the Cantacuzino family. You can also see the earliest Romanian translation of the Bible, dated 1668.
All the paintings inside the church are painted on gold mosaic by the Danish painter Aage Exner. The main paintings show 5 people: Iosif Gheorghian (he is the one who opened in 1903 the new building), King Carol I (1866—1914) dressed as an officer and with his right hand upon a rock pillar missing a piece as a symbol of the missing Romanian territories at that time (Bucovina, Basarabia and Transylvania), Queen Elisabeta (known in the literary world as Carmen Silva), Princess Maria (queen's only child who died at an early age) and Mihail Cantacuzino (builder of the old church).
The Bell Tower was added to the church during the leadership of Nifon Popescu (1888-1909). It was finished in 1892. The bell weights 1700kg and it was brought from the Coltea Tower in Bucharest.
Peles Castle is considered one of the most beautiful castles in Europe. The castle location was chosen by the German prince Carol I de Hohenzollern (he became the king). This is also the place where he died in 1914.
Peles Castle was the first European castle entirely lit by electrical current. This was possible because electricity was produced by its own electrical plant which was located on the bank of Peles creek.
The castle construction began in 1873 under the direct order of the Viennese architect Wilhem Doderer and was continued in 1876 by his assistant, Johann Schultz de Lemberg. Work was put on hold during 1877-1879 because of the war. This is the reason for which the castle was inaugurated only on October 7, 1883.
Several other buildings, annexed to the castle, were built simultaneously: The Guard's Chambers, The Economat Building, The Foisor Hunting House, The Royal Stables, and the Electrical Power Plant. The Sipot Villa was constructed later. This would serve as the work site of architect Karel Liman. Liman would later supervise the building of Pelisor (1889-1903, the future residence of King Ferdinand and Queen Mary of Romania), as well as of the King's Ferdinand Vila in the Royal Sheepfold Meadow.
The castle was built in wood, stone, bricks and marble and has more than 160 rooms. Several styles can be seen around the castle: German Renaissance, Italian Renaissance, Gothic, German Baroque and French Rococo.
Peles is surrounded by seven terraces decorated with statues, stone-made-wells, ornamental vases and Carara marble. An abundance of wooden decoration was used, both for the exterior and for the interior of the castle, which confers a very special quality to the building.
My favorite rooms in the castle are: the Big Armory Room, the small Armory Room, the Florentine Room, the Reception Room (where paintings and wooden sculptures depicting 16 castles of the Hohenzollerns are exhibited), the Moresque Room, The French Room, the Turkish Room, the Council Room, the Concert Room as well as the Imperial Suite.
You will also see a large collection of ceramics, gold and silver plates, Murano crystal chandeliers, ebony and ivory sculptures.
Peles Castle is also the home of one of the most important and most valuable painting collections in Europe, almost 2.000 pieces.
Pelisor Castle is almost adjacent to Peles Castle. King Ferdinand, who succeeded Carol I, intended to use Peles Castle as a summer residence. Supposedly he found Peles too big and overwhelming, so he commissioned the smaller, art-nouveau style, Pelisor Castle. Pelisor's 70 rooms feature a unique collection of turn-of-the century Viennese furniture and Tiffany and Lalique glassware.
Though you'll miss at present the beauty in the frescoes in the interior (the Old Church was closed for restoration), the exterior ones don't lack in beauty: Scenes from the Last Judgement (frequent in Romanian Monasteries), Assumption of Mary, scenes from Christ's life, Apostles and on the top young Christ as Pantocrator.
The Old Church built in 1695, was closed for restoration during our visit. Neverthless the exterior frescoes are impressive and a fine introdustion to the painted monasteries in Bucovina. You can have a partial glimpse to the frescoes in the interior by looking through the windows.
The original painting is made by Pârvu Mutu and restored for the first time in 1795.
While entering the monastery one of the first sights apart from the new church is the imposing bell tower finished in 1892.
The bell weights 1700kg and it was brought from the Colþea Tower in Bucharest.