advertisement

Brasov's relatively new (late 2006) Casa Wagner, Piata Sfatului (tel. 0268/41-1253/4; www.casa-wagner.eu), enjoys a prime position overlooking the main square, and with just 12 guest rooms -- all relatively large and done out with antiques -- is another of the better, more intimate options in town. So, if Bella Muzica or Casa Rozelor are full, you know where to turn.

Hobnobbing with Royalty: Romania's Finest Village Stay

In the predominantly Hungarian village of Miclosoara (known as Miklósvár in Hungarian), Count Kalnoky's Estate (tel. 0742-202-586; fax 0267/31-4088; www.transylvaniancastle.com) offers some of the finest accommodations in the country. The project is the brainchild of born-in-exile Count Tubor Kalnoky (a dead ringer for Ralph Fiennes), whose family left Romania in 1939 with the rise of fascism; after the fall of Communism, he spent nearly a decade in court fighting to get his family properties back from the government and has since set to work reclaiming his 750-year-old aristocratic heritage by restoring a series of houses scattered around the rural village; they've become luxurious and lovely cottagey guest rooms for visitors seeking an authentic treat in the heart of Transylvania. With a population of 500, Miclosoara's village life is confined to old people sitting on benches outside their homes, literally waiting for the cows to come home. These villagers are descendants of the Szeklers who came to Transylvania to defend their empire's eastern border.

At the main house -- or "Hunting Manor" -- there's a lounge with fireplace, and drawing rooms with books and antiques. There's also a 17th-century wine cellar, where dinners are usually served. Guest quarters are spread around the village, although you can stay in the old "serfs' house," near the main kitchen. Painted a fantastic blue, it's a favorite of regular visitors, so you'll need to reserve it in advance. Not that it really matters: Lodgings are all immaculate, with solid wooden floors, antique furniture, ceramic wood-burning fires, good lighting, comfortable beds, and wonderful modern bathrooms. There are no televisions or radios; instead, there's plenty of atmosphere and an in-room sauna. Accommodations go for 98€ ($124) double with breakfast, but rates go down the longer you stay, and there's an all-inclusive rate of 145€ ($184) per person per day.

To keep you busy between breakfast and dinnertime, the Count offers scheduled activities; spend the day with a shepherd, hang with a villager, ride on a cart, go horseback riding, or milk the cows; there are visits to neighboring villages, and the option of fishing or hiking. Tubor himself studied to be a vet, and birders should ask if he's available for a specialized tour. There are also various cultural excursions and explorations of local natural phenomena, including the nearby cave where the lost children of Hamelin supposedly made their reappearance. One drawback may be adhering to the daily program of organized events, so it's worth asking for a detailed schedule well in advance so you can request any tailor-made changes. Also note that dinner is communal; if you'd prefer privacy, make prior arrangements. In summer, it's worth requesting at least one outdoor dinner. If you've got your own car, this is a fantastic base from which to explore southern Transylvania, the only problem being the treacherous potholed road leading to the village itself. Alternatively, transfers are available from Bucharest or Brasov.

If Kalnoky's stay appeals, you can also opt to bed down at another royal guesthouse -- at Prince Charles's 18th-century farmhouse in Viscri, another Transylvanian village, this time with a rich Saxon heritage. A well-known supporter of Romania's villages and its Saxon culture, the Prince of Wales bought the house in 2006, and -- after painstaking restoration -- it is now administered by Count Kalnoky's team. Rates are the same, but it's a far more intimate affair, with just three double bedrooms, two bathrooms, and a kitchen.

Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.