How to relax like Prince Charles, on a budget

Gazdele dvs: Prințul Charles de Wales, Arhiducele Dominic de Habsburg și contele Tibor Kalnoky (de la stânga la dreapta)

Prince Charles of Wales, archduke Dominic of Habsburg and count Tibor Kalnoky (from left to right)

The passion of the heir to the British Throne for Transylvania is not a secret to anyone. Prince Charles first visited Transylvania in 1998 and since then he has returned almost every year, being involved in several sustainable development projects run by NGOs.

In 2006, Prince Charles has bought a property in Viscri (Deutsch-Weisskirch), Braşov, and in 2008, one in Valea Zălanului (Zalànpatak), Covasna. The two properties were restored in compliance with best practices. From time to time, Prince Charles retreats here for a few days to enjoy the refreshing simplicity of everyday life in rural Transylvania.

When not occupied by the prince and his retinue, that is more than 90 percent of the time, the Prince’s houses from Viscri and Valea Zălanului are available for tourists.

The management of the two properties is ensured by Count Tibor Kalnoky, the descendant of an old aristocratic family of Szekler Land. Raised in France, Count Kalnoky returned in Romania after 1990, where he restored several of his family’s houses in the village Micloşoara (Miklósvár), Covasna, which he introduced after in the tourist circuit.

To these three tourist destinations with “blue blood”, there will be added very soon a fourth one – a wooden house on the Bran Castle domain, owned by Archduke Dominic Habsburg, grandson of Queen Mary.

So, how much must a visitor eager to benefit for several days from the atmosphere existing in the house of a prince, an archduke or a count pay and what will he receive in return?

Una din camerele de la Valea Zălanului/ Foto: Șerban Bonciocat

One of the rooms at Valea Zălanului/ Photo: Șerban Bonciocat

Prince Charles’s property from Valea Zălanului (Zălanului Valley)  was recently listed by the American magazine Vanity Fair in the top ten “private paradises” in the world. The property covers approximately 12 hectares and belonged to the former duke of the village being about 150 years old. “The guest house of the Prince of Wales are some old houses, farmhouses, restored and authentically furnished. Most rooms have private bathroom with modern equipment”, says Viola Harmati, representative of Count Kalnoky’s travel company.

The Prince’s property is bordered by forests, amongst  Prince Charles’s “neighbours”, one can count wolves, lynx and a few brown bears, as noted by the London press.

The price estimated by Vanity Fair  for renting the whole area of ​​the Valley Zalan starts at 4550 dollars a week. For those who can not afford to rent the entire property, prices are more reasonable. According to Viola Harmati, a night with breakfast included costs 49 euros per person, dinner costs 18 euros per person, and lunch, 15 euros. So, one night accommodation with all three meals included, amounts to 82 euros per person.

This is the standard price of accommodation in Valea Zălanului (Zălanului Valley), but Romanian citizens receive a discount that starts from 10 euro and  cand reach up to 39 euro per person for an overnight stay including breakfast, plus dinner and lunch (18+15 euro) for a general price of 72 euros / day.

“We offer tourists a traditional menu, specific to the area. Also, we provide transportation for our guests from / to the airport and from / to the nearest train station”, says Viola Harmati.

Optionally, those who come to stay here can enjoy cultural and nature tours. “Valea Zălanului (Zălanului Valley) is a small, Szekler village, hidden among the hills and woods in a quiet area, and  is ideal for those who want to just relax in nature”, concludes Viola Harmati.

Cameră de cazare în gospodăria de la Viscri

Guestroom at the princely estate in Viscri

Viscri was the first Transylvanian jewel in the crown of Prince Charles. This property consists of a typical Saxon farm, and it covers 1.300 square meters. The international media compared the area with Tuscany, due to its beauty, and the village is included in the UNESCO World Heritage due to its fortified church, located less than 200 meters from the house of Prince Charles. The restoration of the property took about two years and it was carrefuly made in order  to preserve the original Transylvanian Saxon style, without PVC window profiles and steel, as pointed by Viola Harmati.

“This traditional household consists of two residential buildings, separated by a big wooden gate, a courtyard with a vegetable garden, a large shed and stables. There are two double rooms with one bathroom in one of the guest houses, and a double room with bathroom and kitchen in the other. The property is simple and unpretentious in manners of style, reflecting the old rural culture of Transylvanian Saxon villages. There are guides for cultural and culinary tours in the area”, shows the travel agency “Responsible Travel” that promotes this destination in the UK.

Prince Charles’s houses are probably the cheapest aristocratic domain in Europe. Here, the accommodation prices for foreigners are lower with 30 percent as compared to Valea Zălanului, reaching € 35 for one night accommodation with breakfast included. Dinner and lunch, consisting of local dishes, costs here 18 and 15 euros, for a total of 68 euro per one night and three meals.

For Romanian citizens, the prices are even lower, the  standard rate of 39 euros being also reduced by 30 percent, up to 27.3 euros, that is about 125 lei (Romanian currency) per night, breakfast included.

An alternative to Prince Charles’s domains in Transylvania are the two properties of count Kalnoky from Micloşoara, which sum up 10 rooms. Another accomodation space is about to be arranged on the domain of Bran Castle, returned to Archduke Dominic Habsburg in 2006.

„Camera Prințului” de la Micloșoara

„Prince’s room” at Micloșoara

The Kalnoky domain from Micloşoara is known as the most famous ecotourism destination in Romania. The accommodation condition  in the houses with traditional furniture and fabrics, and the special atmosphere creted by the count for its guests, were reflected in numerous articles in international media – the New York Times, Die Welt and Le Figaro – TV coverage or tourist guides.

Also, independent travelers are excited about the domain of the Count from Micloşoara. “The house was charming. I was charmed by every piece of furniture, each of them an antique piece. I totally enjoyed every moment of my stay here, every breakfast, every dinner served in the basement of the 17th century! I want to be very clear and to protect people from any confusion: this is not a place for those familiar only with five-star hotels that are not open to something new. They would probably be very disappointed. This is a place to go back in time and enjoy the simple and natural lifestyle of a small village in Transylvania “, says a review from the 3rd of August  2012, published by a user of the portal Tripadvisor.com .

Micloşoara’s accommodation prices are identical to those of Valea Zălanului: a night with included breakfast costs 49 euros / person. Dinner is 18 euros / person, lunch 15 euros / person. Romanian citizens pay 39 euros / person / night with breakfast.

Also, on the domain of the Bran Castle, owned by Archduke Dominic Habsburg, is being prepared the inauguration of an accommodation space. Here there will be a wooden house, situated in an idyllic area near the Little Lake from the Royal Park. “The castle’ administrators will make available to those interested in an accommodation space. It is a wooden building, renovated at a rate of one hundred percent, furnished and equipped with everything necessary for rest and recreation. It is located at the basis of Bran Castle, near the Little Lake from Royal Park and it is structured as follows: living room, children’s bedroom, a small kitchen, a service bathroom on the ground floor and in the attic, a bedroom and a room with twin beds and a bathroom”, said Alexander Priscu, PR& Marketing Manager at Bran Castle. But he could not specify when it will be available for accommodation and the prices to be charged.

Interiorul viitorului spațiu de cazare de pe domeniul Castelului Bran

Interior of the future guesthouse at Bran Castle

For the three domains managed by Count Kalnoky, more information is available at the telephone number 0742.202.586 or at http://www.transylvaniancastle.com. For Bran Castle  domain one can find more information at tel. 0268.237.700 or email office@bran-castle.com.