Peleş Castle is considered by many one of the most beautiful castles in all Europe. It is a Neo-Renaissance castle placed in an idyllic setting in the Carpathian Mountains, in Sinaia (44 km from Braşov and 122 km from Bucharest), in Prahova County, Romania, on an existing medieval route linking Transylvania and Wallachia.
King Carol I of the Romanians (1839–1914) first visited the region and future site of the castle in 1866, when he fell in love with the rugged but magnificent mountain scenery. So, in 1872, a total of approx. 1,300 acres (5.3 km2), was purchased by the King and Piatra Arsă region becomes The Royal Domain of Sinaia, destined to be a royal hunting preserve and summer retreat for the monarch. The building of the castle began on August 22, 1873 under the direct order of the Viennese architect Wilhelm Doderer and was continued in 1876 by his assistant, Johann Schultz de Lemberg. Because of the the Independence War, between 1877-1879 the works were abandoned. That's why 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 'Foişor' Hunting Chateau (with 42 rooms, designed in the Swiss style), the Royal Stables. The power plant was also constructed then, and Peleş became world's first castle fully operated by electric power. The 'Şipot' Villa was constructed later. To the initial castle the Czech architect Karel Liman added, during 1896-1914, Pelişor, a small castle with 70 rooms.
Between three and four hundred men worked consistently on it. Queen Elisabeth of the Romanians, during the construction phase, wrote in her journal: "Italians were masons, Romanians were building terraces, the Gypsies were coolies. Albanians and Greeks worked in stone, Germans and Hungarians were carpenters. Turks were burning brick. Engineers were Polish and the stone carvers were Czech. The Frenchmen were drawing, the Englishmen were measuring, and so was then when you could see hundreds of national costumes and fourteen languages in which they spoke, sang, cursed and quarreled on all dialects and tones, a joyful mix of men, horses, cart oxen and domestic buffaloes".
The castle was built in wood, stone, bricks and marble and comprises more than 160 rooms. The representative style used is German Renaissance, but one can easily discover elements belonging to the Italian Renaissance, Gothic, German Baroque and French Rococo style. Peles is surrounded by seven terraces decorated with statues (sculptured by the Italian Romanelli), stone-made-wells, ornamental vases in Carrara marble. The architects used an abundance of wooden decoration, both for the exterior and for the interior of the castle, which confers a very special quality to the building. Quite outstanding 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 Hohenzollern are exhibited), the Moorish Room, the French Room, the Turkish Room, the Council Room, the Concert Room as well as the Imperial Suite.
Other exquisite attractions such as the statues, the ceramics, the gold and silver plates, the Meissen and Sèvres porcelain, the Murano crystal chandeliers, German stained-glass windows, walls covered with Cordoba leather, ebony and ivory sculptures, as well as the extensive weapon collections are worth mentioning. It is also important to know that Peleş Castle shelters one of the most important and most valuable painting collections in Europe, almost 2.000 pieces.
Peleş Castle has 3200 sq. meters of floor plan, over 170 rooms, 30 bathrooms, many with dedicated themes from world cultures (in similar fashion with other Romanian palaces), themes that can vary by function (offices, libraries, armouries, art galleries) or by style (Florentine, Turkish, Moorish, French, Imperial) all extremely lavishly furnished and decorated to the slightest detail. The establishment hosts one of the finest collections of art in East and Central Europe, consisting of statues, paintings, furniture, arms and armor, gold, silver, stained glass, ivory, fine china, tapestries and rugs; the collection of arms and armour has over 4000 pieces, divided between Eastern and Western war, ceremonial or hunting spreading over four centuries in history. Oriental rugs come from the finest sources: Bukhara, Mosul, Isparta, Saruk and Smirna, porcelain from Sèvres and Meissen, leather from Córdoba but perhaps the most acclaimed are the hand painted stained glass, mostly Swiss.
Almost adjacent to Peleş Castle is Pelişor ("Little Peleş"). King Ferdinand, who succeeded Carol I, intended to use Peles Castle as a summer residence. Supposedly he found Peleş too big and overwhelming, so he commissioned the smaller, Art Nouveau style, Pelişor Castle. Pelişor's 70 rooms feature a unique collection of turn-of-the century Viennese furniture and Tiffany and Lalique glassware.
After King Michael's forced abdication in 1947, the Communist regime seized all royal property, including the whole Peleş Estate. The castle itself was opened as a tourist site for a short time. It also served as a recreation and resting place for Romanian cultural personalities. The castle was declared a museum in 1953. During the last years of the Communist regime, between 1975–1990, Nicolae Ceauşescu closed the entire estate. The only persons permitted on the former royal estate were maintenance and military personnel. The whole area was declared a State Protocol Interest Area.
After the December 1989 Revolution, Peleş and Pelişor Castle's were re-established as heritage sites, open to tourists. Today, the Foişor Castle serves - like in the past - as a presidential residence, unlike the rest of the estate. The Economat Building and the Guard's Chambers Building are now hotels, restaurants and terraces having been established as well. The rest of the Peleş Estate became either tourist villas or state protocol buildings. In 2006, the Romanian Government announced restitution of the castle to King Michael I of the Romanians, the former monarch. Soon after re-obtaining the property, negotiations began between the former King and the Government and Peleş once again became a national heritage site open to the public as a historic monument and museum. In exchange, the Romanian Government granted 30 million euros to The Royal House of Romania. The sum for the remaining villas and surrounding chalets and chateaus are still being negotiated but will eventually remain in possession of the state and touristic circuit after repurchasing (2007). Every year since opening, Peleş Castle received a half million visitors every year. Of the 168 rooms in the castle, only 35 are accessible to the public. While an important area is in the upper levels, this is off limits. Only the museum in the basement and the rooms on the first floor can be visited.
After Wikipedia, Braşov Travel Guide, and other sources.
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