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SINAIA

Sinaia is the royal town on the Prahova Valley and one of the most beautiful Romanian mountain resorts. A property of the Cantacuzino and Ghica boyars at the middle of the 19th century, Sinaia later became the summer residence of the royal family. Throughout time, the PeleÅŸ domain and the Casino have attracted important personalities and numerous wealthy people, so the city at the foot of the Bucegi soon became known as a luxury resort. The rich architecture, the distinguished atmosphere, the bits of history you discover at the castle, the memory of composer George Enescu and the picturesque sceneries make Sinaia the perfect holiday destination. No matter the season, you will be greeted by the unique landscapes at the Royal Sheepfold (Stâna regalÓ‘) and at the altitude of 1400 meters, by the glamour of the old buildings, the fresh air and the rich forests gradually making way for the white rocks.

Prahova Valley

The Sinaia Royal Domain. PeleÅŸ and PeliÅŸor Castles

The Royal Domain is the emblem of Sinaia town and one of the most spectacular architectural ensembles in Europe. For the Romanians, PeleÅŸ is the symbol of the monarchy, of the consolidated and independent state. A genuine architectonic jewel, the place has an incontestable historical value, being especially appreciated for the art collections it holds, many of them unique.

In 1866, when he first visited Sinaia, Carol I, Prince of Romania, was impressed with the beauty of the small mountain village and decided to build a summer residence here. The works started under the guidance of German architects and first of all, it was necessary to arrange underground water courses and to prevent landslide. In 1875, the Prince buried several golden coins with his image at the foundation of the castle and in 1883 he inaugurated the PeleÅŸ, the headquarters of his new dynasty. In time, the building expanded considerably, reaching its present form only in 1914. The Sinaia domain has hosted important political meetings and renowned personalities of the time. As a matter of fact, Romania’s neutrality in World War I was decided here. 

Peles Castle

 

Peles Castle

PeleÅŸ is an architectural masterpiece of worldwide recognition. The imposing edifice combines the precision of German constructions with the Italian refinement, largely sticking to the Renaissance trends. At the exterior, Saxon influences prevail, and the rooms are decorated in the baroque style. It is said that the building of the castle cost 16 million lei in gold. No wonder, for PeleÅŸ was the first castle in Europe to have electricity, central heating and an elevator. 

At a first glance, the palace impresses with its size and the richness of the ornaments meticulously carved in wood. The 160 rooms stand out with their high ceilings, huge chandeliers, their walnut paneling, the frescoes and the stained glass, the Venetian mirrors and the vintage furniture. At the ground floor you will see the Hall of Honor, whose mobile ceiling ensures the ventilation of the castle, the Weapons’ Rooms, where King Carol I’s crown is displayed, the Royal Study, the Library, whose secret door connects it to other rooms, the Music Room and the Florentine Room. The floor and the upper storey where destined for living and the royal family’s daily activities. The luxury and the refinement of the apartments are overwhelming even today, as they are decorated with exquisite taste and valuable pieces of furniture and décor. 

Peles Castle

 

Peles Castle

In the immediate vicinity of the PeleÅŸ there is the PeliÅŸor Castle, built for King Ferdinand and Queen Maria. Although smaller in size, the edifice retains the same noble style, with carved furniture, stained glass and German motifs. Decorated after the Queen’s plans and drawings, the interior shows an exceptional aesthetic sense, bearing the mark of her mysterious personality. Nearby you will also find the FoiÅŸor Castle, which was initially a hunting lodge. King Mihai was born here in 1921. The building presently serves the State Protocol. If you are visiting the royal domain, you should definitely take a walk on the alleys of the garden, decorated with Carrara marble statues and stairs flanked by stone carved lions. The view opening over the Bucegi Mountains and the spectacle of the clouds mantling the rocks is breathtaking. On the green background of the forests, the reddish silhouette of the castle stands out harmoniously and enchanting, speechlessly promising an unforgettable visit. 

Pelisor Castle

 

Pelisor Castle

 

Foisor Hunting House

A tourist attraction which completes this incursion into the times of the Romanian monarchy is the Royal Sheepfold Glade (Poiana Stana Regala), situated 7 kilometers from Sinaia in the Sheepfold Glade Reservation. The place used to belong to the royal domain and it comprised an Austrian style chalet, a MaramureÅŸ church and stables for animals. The members of the Royal Family often retreated in this glade for walks or during rustic festivities. The location is superb and it offers a wonderful panorama while the road – a former royal pathway – is interspersed with footbridges, small waterfalls and abrupt cliffs.  Close by there is the Franz Joseph Rock, a spectacular lookout point in the Bucegi. It got its name after the 1897 visit of Austria-Hungary’s emperor and it is set up with steps, offering a wide view over the Prahova Valley. Don’t hesitate to take a hike up to The Royal Sheepfold to take advantage of the breathtaking landscape and the tranquility of the forest.

Peles Castle

 

Peles Castle

The Sinaia Casino

After Sinaia became the summer residence of the Royal Family, investors and the financially prosperous elite of the time began to show a growing interest in this small town on the Prahova Valley. Gradually, political and artistic personalities came to choose the town at the foot of the Bucegi as a holiday destination. And so, many elegant villas, hotels, promenade parks, restaurants, luxury shops and the cinema appeared. It was in this context that the initiative of building a casino emerged, a proposal of King Carol I which came to life in less than a year. In 1912, the inauguration of the edifice occasioned a sumptuous show at which George Enescu himself performed.

Shortly after, the Casino became the irresistible attraction of the resort. Gambling enthusiasts from the country and abroad came to Sinaia lured by the prospect of winning. Every weekend, the town was filled with members of royal houses, industrialists and bankers gambling huge amounts of money. Courageous ladies did not hesitate to venture into money games, often losing their furs and jewelry. It is said that inside the halls of the casino huge fortunes were gambled away and the epoch’s great political plans and business were set in motion. After a peak period in which the casino rivaled with similar premises from the great European capitals, the edifice was closed in 1947, at the orders of the communist leader Gheorghe Gheorghiu Dej, who considered it a symbol of the bourgeois decadence. Presently, the Casino hosts private events, concerts, exhibitions and press conferences.

Sinaia Casino

 

Sinaia Casino

Located in the northern part of the ‘Dimitrie Ghica’ Park, the casino building is one of the town’s architectural monuments, distinguishing itself with its immaculate walls and large windows. A tour of the inside reveals one by one the Foyer, decorated with immense mirrors, the Theatre Room, Baron de Marcay’s Cabinet, nothing that de Marcay was also a shareholder at the casino in Monte Carlo, the Hall of Mirrors, with 13 roulette tables, the Green Salon, where only the richest guests played, the Baccara Hall and the former restaurant. The rooms were decorated with symbols of luck and wealth, like the cornucopia or the ram’s head. In the Royal Gallery you can admire many works of art signed by famous or debutant artists, as the casino features a remarkable picture gallery.

Sinaia preserves captivating stories about the leading personalities of the time who used the secret tunnels of the Casino to keep their gambling addiction private from the eyes of the curious, stories about the Budapest Express, filled with gamblers crossing the border only to try their luck, about Benli the Turk who lured the ladies to the bazaar with oriental jewelry and sweets like those in Istanbul.  In the park you can also visit the Museum of the Bucegi Natural Reservation, with exhibits of flora and fauna characteristic to the Bucegi massif. The collections include rare and protected by law species, some of them endangered. Among the exhibits you will find rocks, minerals and crystals from the natural park area, hunting trophies and wax figures.

Caraiman Hotel

 

Cutitu de Argint

The Royal Train Stations

Sinaia is the only town in Romania to have two royal train stations. The first was built in 1886 for King Carol I. The famous Orient Express, which travels Paris to Istanbul once a year, stops here. In the interior, there is a permanent exhibition of toy trains which will delight the children. Along 300 meters of track, the locomotives and cars make way through the tunnels and over bridges, among trees and mountains, leaving behind train stations, depots, ski slopes, ice rinks, houses and  crowded highways.  Outside the train station you can see, this time in natural size, old locomotives and Ana Pauker’s limousine converted into a rail vehicle. 

The second train station was built in 1939 at the orders of Carol II and it was reserved to the Royal Family and important guests. The Romanian style stone building still bears the insignia of the monarch (CC) on the doorknobs. In the reception room there is a painting depicting a hunting scene, inscribed ‘Prince Basarab, 14th century’. The station is not open to the public.

Sinaia Railway Station

 

Royal Train

Sinaia Monastery

Sinaia Monastery is the first building on the present territory of the town, dating back to the late 17th century. Impressed with the holy places in Jerusalem, the sword bearer Mihail Cantacuzino came back to the country with the desire to raise a place of worship here by the name of Mount Sinai. Built only for 12 monks at the beginning, the monastery was extended so that nowadays, in the monastic courtyard there are two churches.

The old church, built in the Brâncovenesc style, had simple ornamentation (floral and vegetal motifs) and was surrounded by cells. The numerous sieges have gradually damaged it, so consolidation works were required. The new church, built 150 years later, is richly decorated with neo-byzantine paintings made on a background of tessellated gold and furnished with pieces carved in wood. The royal chairs, the icons offered by Tsar Nicholas II and the epitaph embroidered in gold are the items that stand out.

At the exterior, the high massive walls and the belfry had a defensive role and in the interior, above the corridor connecting the two yards, there was a watchtower. The buildings of the halidom are displayed on the four sides, surrounding the church. Among them, there was the museum of the monastery, with exhibits of historical value: a collection of icons, religious items and the first Bible translated into Romanian and printed here. Surrounded by greenery, Sinaia Monastery is an oasis of peace and spirituality, an ideal place to retreat in nature. 

Sinaia Monastery

 

George Enescu Memorial House

 

George Enescu Music

‘George Enescu’ Memorial House

The name of Romania’s most famous musician, George Enescu, is related to Sinaia. It wasn’t by chance that the great composer chose Sinaia as a place of refuge between concerts. As a matter of fact, the atmosphere of the resort inspired him to create some of his most prominent work. Furthermore, the artist enjoyed Queen Elisabeth’s support, who had kept a small apartment for him at the PeliÅŸor, for Enescu to study freely in. Enescu spent 20 years in the LuminiÅŸ Villa, situated on the right shore of the Prahova River in a quiet area, favorable for rest. The modest house, built in an authentic Romanian style and decorated with oriental elements, evokes the musician’s personality, with its refinement, creativity and originality. The piano crafted at Lausanne with which the master performed for his acquaintances is also here.

Sinaia still evokes the distinguished atmosphere of the royal residence. The town’s bohemian air is still felt on the train station platform on which several personalities have stepped, eager to discover the beauties at the foot of the Bucegi. The Casino awaits for you to discover its stories and intrigues, and the silhouette of the PeleÅŸ Castle takes you on a journey back in time.  Whether you want to relax, enjoy the fresh air and the tranquility of the resort or you want to explore the surroundings and go on mountain hikes, Sinaia is a delightful destination, with a special charm.

[An article written by Andreea Bertea]