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CASTLES IN THE OLT LAND

Surrounded by the stately crests of the FÓ‘gÓ‘raÅŸ Mountains, the Olt Land reveals some of the most enchanting sceneries to the traveler. Smooth hills bathed by the Olt River, peaks which seem to pierce the sky, wide valleys and picturesque villages form a genuine oasis of quietness, ideal for a relaxing vacation. Transylvania’s smooth hills hide architectural jewels which remind of the exuberance and refinement of nobiliary courts.  So discover the princely atmosphere and the less known stories of the counts during a fascinating journey in time.

Olt Land

 

Fagaras Fortress

FÓ‘gÓ‘raÅŸ Fortress

At the heart of FÓ‘gÓ‘raÅŸ city there is one of the most beautiful and well preserved feudal fortresses in Eastern Europe. The fortification has a very rich history, having been own throughout time by Transylvanian lords and princes, Hungarian kings and Ottoman sultans. Initially, there was a wooden fortress surrounded by earth here, but its strategic position drew the nobles’ attention. In the 16th century, the fortress became a lordly residence, having a defense wall, towers, bastions and a water ditch. The interior yard was destined for living, being decorated in the Italian Renaissance style, with open loggie, coats of arms, floral motifs and stucco works. The maintenance works and the esthetic transformations turned FÓ‘gÓ‘raÅŸ Fortress into an elegant, pompous and imposing castle. In 1599 Michael the Brave gave it to his wife, Lady Stanca and 100 years later the castle became the property of the Habsburg Crown. Later on, it served as a garrison and prison for political prisoners.  Fortunately, the restoration of the monument brought back its look from the old glory days.

In the interior you can visit rooms furnished in the Saxon style, with ornaments which preserve the air of the medieval epoch. The Hall of the Throne, the Hall of the Lord, Bathori Hall – these are a few rooms which recreate the seductive atmosphere of the days of old. In the Fortress Museum you can admire collections of numismatic items, ceramic pieces, weapons, traditional fabrics and religious art. If you go on a complete tour of the fortification you will see the defense towers, the gaol or the scaffold. It is said the some of the cruelest punishments were inflicted at FÓ‘gÓ‘raÅŸ, the most frightening being the meeting with 'The Iron Virgin'. Under the pretext of a last prayer, the convict experienced a horrible death in front of a statue which lacerated his body with dagger blows.  The legends also mention tunnels and secret escapes, but also a few coffins discovered in the Diet Room.

FÓ‘gÓ‘raÅŸ Fortress is an important testimony of the past.  Over the water ditch which is still full, a captivating history page stands to be discovered. The tourist will learn the stories hidden between the walls and see the places which remind of heroes and acts of bravery.

Fagaras Fortress

 

Fagaras Fortress

 

Fagaras Fortress

Brukenthal Palace in SâmbÓ‘ta de Jos

The nobiliary residence in SâmbÓ‘ta de Jos was built in the middle of the 18th century by Jozef von Brukenthal, on a land leased by Empress Maria Theresa of Austria. As a sign of gratitude, the count raised one of the most imposing Baroque style palaces. At that time, the story started many rumors. Some locals say there was a love affair between Josef and Maria Theresa and that the Empress used to spend her summers at the castle. There is no conclusive evidence to support the theory, but maybe this is why speculations still hover over the legends of the place.

In the middle of the dendrological park there used to rise a solid building, with thick walls decorated with neoclassical elements. The castle consisted of 35 rooms aligned consecutively in the right and in the left of the central staircase, after a Viennese model. The rooms had oak floors, ceramic stoves brought from Vienna, and the walls were decorated with paintings. In the grand hall of the palace, which hosted pompous balls, there was an impressive fresco portraying hunting scenes and landscapes from the FÓ‘gÓ‘raÅŸ. Presently, the castle is in ruins. Renovations could restore its past charm and its towering silhouette meant to impress the Empress of Austria.

On the domain of Brukenthal Palace there is also the SâmbÓ‘ta de Jos Stud Farm, one of the few Lipizzan farms in Europe. Equestrian shows are organized here, along with sleigh and carriage rides, horseback hikes or horseback riding lessons. Horse lovers can visit the stalls, the race track and the training section, where they can learn how to handle the stallions.

Brukenthal Palace Sambata de Jos

 

Stud Farm Sambata de Jos

Brukenthal Palace in Avrig

Also in the second half of the 18th century, another representative of the Brukenthal family was building his summer residence in Avrig, at the foot of the FÓ‘gÓ‘raÅŸ. Maria Theresa’s counselor and the governor of Transylvania, Samuel von Brukenthal had an imposing palace surrounded by a splendid park. The late baroque building used to house elegant balls and cultural events, becoming a meeting place for the Transylvanian nobility.

The garden of the palace, then called 'The Eden of Transylvania' was in fact a real complex which consisted of parks of different structures. Famous landscape architects set up a baroque garden of Viennese inspiration, an English one, with winding alleys, cascades and footbridges, a Dutch conservatory with flowers and trees and a French garden in steps. The park was traversed by a brook which supplied the beautiful artesian wells with water, creating delightful water games. Although less spectacular than before, the garden is presently carefully tended, offering moments of complete relaxation to the visitors. For the tourist to truly take advantage of the princely atmosphere, the former orangery of the palace, where the exotic plants were held during winter, has been turned into a hotel. The grandiose castle, the rich vegetation of the park and the soft murmur of the brook traversing it, the quietness of the surroundings and the stories at the court, they all complete an unforgettable vacation.

Brukenthal Palace Avrig

 

Brukenthal Palace Avrig

 

Brukenthal Palace Avrig

Austere and imposing, but elegant at the same time, the castles in the Olt Land are symbols of the times of the noble. Important architectural monuments, they preserve the stories and the secrets of the epochs they traversed. In order not to let their greatness and value fade away, it is necessary that the authorities consider restoring them; included in the tourist attractions of the area, the Transylvanian castles would offer the visitor a sample of medieval atmosphere.

[An article written by Andreea Bertea]