Neo-Romanian style doorway pediments

I went out yesterday in the freezing winter cold at -10C temperature, on a crisp, sunny afernoon, for an architectural photography round. Here are two exquisite Neo-Romanian doorway pediments from that trip, decorated whit the ubiquitous grapevine motif, which I found in the Kieseleff area of north central Bucharest.

Neo-Romanian style doorway pediment, mid-1930s house, Kiseleff Park area, Bucharest (©Valentin Mandache)

Neo-Romanian style doorway pediment, mid-1930s house, Kiseleff Park area, Bucharest (©Valentin Mandache)

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I endeavor through this daily series of daily articles to inspire appreciation of the historic houses of Romania, a virtually undiscovered, but fascinating chapter of European architectural history and heritage.

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If you plan acquiring a historic property in Romania or start a renovation project, I would be delighted to advice you in sourcing the property, specialist research, planning permissions, restoration project management, etc. To discuss your particular plan please see my contact details in the Contact page of this weblog.

Neo-Romanian – Art Deco syncretism style doorway

A magnificent Neo-Romanian - Art Deco syncretism style doorway, early 1930s house, Domenii area, Bucharest (©Valentin Mandache)

I found the doorway in the image above as marvellously expressing in a flamboyant manner the syncretism between the Neo-Romanian and Art Deco styles that characterised the Romanian architectural scene of the 1930s. The Islamic motif ornaments originating in the Ottoman and Persian art from which the Neo-Romanian style draws a great deal of inspiration, with their angular geometry, represent the background on which the Art Deco outlines can develop in a natural manner. That can can be seen here in the mihrab like outlines of the small courtyard gate, the doorway windows ironwork or the resplendent group of three plaster ogee arches of the door pediment.

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I endeavour through this daily series of daily articles to inspire appreciation of the historic houses of Romania, a virtually undiscovered, but fascinating chapter of European architectural history and heritage.

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If you plan acquiring a historic property in Romania or start a renovation project, I would be delighted to advice you in sourcing the property, specialist research, planning permissions, restoration project management, etc. To discuss your particular plan please see my contact details in the Contact page of this weblog.

The White Hall, Cotroceni Royal Palace, Bucharest

The White Hall, Cotroceni Royal Palace, Bucharest

An inclusive descritpion, in Romanian, by the historian Diana Mandache (Fotescu), written in 1992, of the White Hall from Cotroceni Royal Palace in Bucharest. The hall is known today as Cerchez Hall after the architect who re-designed it in the 1920s. The great reception room became a source of inspiration for architects who applied its design principles to  their inter-war Neo-Romanian style projects.

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I endeavor through this daily series of daily articles to inspire appreciation of the historic houses of Romania, a virtually undiscovered, but fascinating chapter of European architectural history and heritage.

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If you plan acquiring a historic property in Romania or start a renovation project, I would be delighted to advice you in sourcing the property, specialist research, planning permissions, restoration project management, etc. To discuss your particular plan please see my contact details in the Contact page of this weblog.

The Crows of Bucharest

Crows coming home to roost :) in the early evening hours in the Kiseleff park Bucharest among a snowy landscape at -8C temperature. The whole scene is very evocative of Bucharest’s  environmental identity in winter and is typical to prairie/ steppe regions of Eastern Europe encountered from Romania, Ukraine to Russia.

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I endeavor through this daily series of daily articles to inspire appreciation of the historic houses of Romania, a virtually undiscovered, but fascinating chapter of European architectural history and heritage.

***********************************************

If you plan acquiring a historic property in Romania or start a renovation project, I would be delighted to advice you in sourcing the property, specialist research, planning permissions, restoration project management, etc. To discuss your particular plan please see my contact details in the Contact page of this weblog.

Targoviste: 1920s zodiacal signs wall

Zodiacal sign representations on a 1920s Neo-Romanian style building, Targoviste, southern Romania. (©Valentin Mandache)

An interesting representation of zodiacal signs, crowned by a faux clock, decorating the backyard wall of a 1920s Neo-Romanian style building in the vicinity of Targoviste town hall, southern Romania.

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I endeavor through this daily series of daily articles to inspire appreciation of the historic houses of Romania, a virtually undiscovered, but fascinating chapter of European architectural history and heritage.

***********************************************

If you plan acquiring a historic property in Romania or start a renovation project, I would be delighted to advice you in sourcing the property, specialist research, planning permissions, restoration project management, etc. To discuss your particular plan please see my contact details in the Contact page of this weblog.

Neo-Romanian monkey

Neo-Romanian style Garden of Eden as jungle scene representation, late 1930s house, Kiseleff area, Bucharest (©Valentin Mandache)

The Neo-Romanian style decorative panels depict most usually themes from the Romanian peasant mythology or Byzantine church imagery. These are expressed in decorative motifs containing animal and plant symbols inspired from the local flora and fauna found in this area of south east Europe at 45 degree north latitude. Among those representations is the omnipresent grapevine plant associated with the tree of life motif or peacocks and doves that express the beauty and serenity of the Garden of Eden. Other typical representations are those of oak leaves, berries, wolves or even bears and squirrels.

The panel above is most unusual and probably unique among the Neo-Romanian style depictions, in the sense that it contains a jungle motif panoply centred on the image of a monkey. That is a portrayal of the Garden of Eden, pointed out by the two gracious peacocks and the two orchids springing up from a flower pot. The sense of abundance is given by the pineapple-like fruit grabbed and eaten by the monkey. I very much like how the monkey sits with its legs on the slender necks of the peacocks.

I believe that the primate species in this panel resembles the macaque monkey, a sacred animal in India and the question that renders itself is: who would have decorated his or her house in this corner of the Balkans with symbols inspired and adapted from the remote Indian environment and creeds? That should be a person notably linked trough profession or travels to that country. The house which sports the panel is a hybrid 1930s inter-war Venetian and Art Deco modernist Italian palazzo inspired edifice.

That kind of a quite opulent building decorated with this combination of symbols should have belonged to a rich person from the Romanian aristocracy or high bourgeoisie, who would have experienced life threatening events and travelled to those sort of exotic places. The person which springs to my mind and fits somehow the bill is the aviator Prince Valentin Bibescu, who has been one of the first and most famous Romanian pilots, an early graduate of Louis Blériot’s school and who in 1931 undertook a famous long distance airplane ride from Paris to Calcutta. The airplane pilot in that era was in most aspects a dangerous profession and Bibescu, for sure, had his fair share of life threatening experiences, which would explain the Phoenix Bird panel. That air-raid to Calcutta would on the other hand explain the Indian flora and fauna inspired panel in a Neo-Romanian guise on that house. Of course that is only a supposition, which has to be further verified and documented, but nevertheless is a starting point of a very intriguing quest. I am looking forward to hearing suggestions from my readers, which would unravel the mistery of that fascinating panel!

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I endeavor through this daily series of daily articles to inspire appreciation of the historic houses of Romania, a virtually undiscovered, but fascinating chapter of European architectural history and heritage.

***********************************************

If you plan acquiring a historic property in Romania or start a renovation project, I would be delighted to advice you in sourcing the property, specialist research, planning permissions, restoration project management, etc. To discuss your particular plan please see my contact details in the Contactpage of this weblog.

Campina Art Nouveau style round window

An Nouveau style round window rendered in a picturesque provincial manner, 1900s house, Campina, southern Romania (©Valentin Mandache)

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I endeavor through this daily series of daily articles to inspire appreciation of the historic houses of Romania, a virtually undiscovered, but fascinating chapter of European architectural history and heritage.

***********************************************

If you plan acquiring a historic property in Romania or start a renovation project, I would be delighted to advice you in sourcing the property, specialist research, planning permissions, restoration project management, etc. To discuss your particular plan please see my contact details in the Contact page of this weblog.

Architect Jean Monda: 1931 ‘sober’ Art Deco design

Jean Monda has been one of the most long-lived and creative Romanian architects, active from the 1920s until the 1980s. His name is mostly associated with the development of the International Modernist style in Romania, being one of the post-war standard bearer architects that helped maintain the architectural profession at high level during the difficult conditions of the communist era. There is a biography of him in French, for those who would like to find out more details about his inter-war creations: “Jean Monda, architecte”, Luceafarul Publishing House, 1940. I found, during one of my Bucharest fieldwork days, a very interesting early Monda designed building (form 1931, as the year on the name tablet presented bellow shows), which through its more unusual design abundantly betrays him as a talented and resourceful architect.

Architect Jean Monda and builder J. Berman name tablet affixed on the 1931 Art Deco building from Mantuleasa area, Bucharest. (©Valentin Mandache)

The style of the edifice is an Art Deco, in general lines, with Modernist and inter-war Classical Monumentalist echoes, including some Bauhaus inspired elements. The building is like a drawing board on which Monda has tried his hand in the architectural trends of his day.

Architect Jean Monda designed building, 1931, Mantuleasa area, Bucharest (©Valentin Mandache)

The Art Deco rule of three can be seen everywhere throughout the building as is the case with the design of the multi-floor bay windows, the abstract motifs decorative panels or the doorway decoration (see bellow).

Architect Jean Monda designed building, 1931, Mantuleasa area, Bucharest (©Valentin Mandache)

The Classical Monumentalist features, that were were popular in Romania of that era through the strong influence of the Italian fascist architecture, can be seen in the massive false four pillars enclosing the doorway in the middle, the two circular profile columns decorating the glazed stairs case window or the rusticated wall base.

Architect Jean Monda designed building, 1931, Mantuleasa area, Bucharest (©Valentin Mandache)

The Bauhaus inspired elements are in my opinion the openings of the stairs case windows, interestingly distributed and of a design of that brings to mind Paul Klee’s or Mondrian’s paintings.

Architect Jean Monda designed building, Mantuleasa area, Bucharest 1931 (©Valentin Mandache)

The modernist features stem from the right angle outlines of the building, minimalist decoration and the air of sobriety conveyed by the design as a whole.

Architect Jean Monda designed building, 1931, Mantuleasa area, Bucharest (©Valentin Mandache)

I believe this is a remarkable example of Romanian inter-war architecture from a defining moment in time charged with intense creative energies, angst and searches among the architects of that time, where Monda has been one of the Modernist current exponents, that marked the built landscape of the Bucharest and many other urban areas of the country for years to come. My biggest regret is that because of the lack of a wide lenses camera, I could not take pictures which would have shown this noteworthy building in a greater degree of plenitude and actual urban context.

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I endeavor through this daily series of daily articles to inspire appreciation of the historic houses of Romania, a virtually undiscovered, but fascinating chapter of European architectural history and heritage.

***********************************************

If you plan acquiring a historic property in Romania or start a renovation project, I would be delighted to advice you in sourcing the property, specialist research, planning permissions, restoration project management, etc. To discuss your particular plan please see my contact details in the Contactpage of this weblog.

Exclusive Interview with the Crown Princess Margarita of Romania (via Jurnal de istoric)

For those of you who speak or read Romanian, this is an interview taken by my wife, the historian Diana Mandache.

via Jurnal de istoric

Drobeta Turnu Severin: Fin de Siècle architecture and Roman heritage in south western Romania

The Danube’s Iron Gate gorge system separates the Carpathian and the Balkan mountain ranges, controlling the main waterway, and thus one of the important trade routes, between Central Europe and the Balkan peninsula. The city of Drobeta Turnu Severin sits immediately downstream from the Iron Gate and thus is excellently positioned to benefit from the traffic passing on the great river. Its history can be traced down to the period when the area was inhabited by Celtic and Dacian tribes, the place name “Drobeta” being probably, in my opinion, a Celtic origin toponym having similar roots with that of Drogheda in Ireland, which means “bridge of the ford”. In fact one of the most audacious civil engineering and architectural master-works of the Roman Empire, the Emperor Trajan’s bridge over the Danube (inaugurated in 105 CE), immortalised on the Trajan’s Column in Rome, both built by the architect Apollodorus of Damascus, stood in the vicinity of the city at a place where the river has one of the lowest depths in the area, which tallies with the meaning of the word mentioned for the Irish case. The “Turnu Severin” part of the city’s name came into use during medieval times and it means a northern (“Severin”) located tower (“Turnu”) provided fortification, originating probably in the old-Romanian language of early Middle Ages. An abstract depiction of the ancient Trajan’s bridge is presented bellow on the reverse of a bronze Roman coin, sestertius (RIC 569-C), issued by the emperor to commemorate its inauguration.

Roman coin issued in 105 - 108 CE depicting the Trajan's bridge over the Danube, close to Drobeta Turnu Severin (Valentin Mandache collection).

After the fall of the Roman imperial rule in the region, Drobeta flourished again economically and as an urban centre comparable with the Roman times, only eighteen centuries later, in the reign of Prince, later King, Carol I of Romania (1866 -1914). That was the result of freeing the Danube navigation in the second part of the c19th both physically by the blowing up of the dangerous underwater rocks from the Danube’s cataracts at Cazane, upstream Turnu Severin, and politically by wars against a dying out Ottoman empire, the erstwhile overlord of the region, and subsequent international treaties. Those circumstances allowed the navigation of large modern vessels on the river course, which allowed goods to easily travel from Vienna as far as the Aegean Sea or grains from the Wallachian plains to reach markets in the heartland of Europe.

Old warehouses (1890s - 1900s) that once stored goods from the Danube river trade, Drobeta Turnu Severin, south western Romania.

Drobeta Turnu Severin greatly profited from the important trading opportunities generated by its favourable geographical location and those auspicious political circumstances prevalent at the Fin de Siècle. A remnant of those glorious times is the large warehouse pictured in the photograph above, today left neglected as the region is currently adversely affected by the actual recession and government maladministration. The city was also endowed in that period with beautiful buildings, a very small sample being presented in the images bellow.

Little Paris style house, late 1890s, Drobeta Turnu Severin, south western Romania.

The usual architecture of those houses is the Little Paris style, which represents French c19th historicist styles, interpreted in a picturesque provincial manner in Romania from the “La Belle Époque” period.

Little Paris style house, dating from the late 1890s, Drobeta Turnu Severin, south western Romania

The edifices presented here are quite large by any standard and richly ornamented, more than positively comparable with the best houses in this style of the late 1890s Bucharest.

Neo-Gothic - early Renaissance style house dating from the late 1890s, Drobeta Turnu Severin, south western Romania.

There were also buildings in other styles as the one shown in the image above testifies, due to a diversity of increasingly sophisticated tastes among a very cosmopolite population that numbered Romanians, Germans, Serbians, Jews, Hungarians, Greeks, Italians and many other ethnicities.

Little Paris style house, late 189s, Drobeta Turnu Severin, south western Romania.

Turnu Severin, in 1906, together with the rest of Romania celebrated King Carol I‘s forty years of glorious and prosperous reign and eighteen centuries since the Roman conquest of Dacia (in 106 CE), a historical watershed moment that set into motion the formation of the Romanian people.

The bust statue of the Roman emperor Trajan, inaugurated in 1906; the cental park of Drobeta Turnu Severin.

As part of those celebrations, a bust of the emperor Trajan was inaugurated in the central park of the city, whose history and identity is so much linked to the events at the start of the second century of the Christian era.

The column shaft of the bust statue represnting the Roman emperor Trajan, inaugurated in 1906; the cental park of Drobeta Turnu Severin.

Trajan is also considered in the Romanian nationalist discourse and imagination as the founding father of the nation, a role shared with the Dacian king Decebalus whom he vanquished in two devastating wars. Those conflagrations represented the largest scale military engagements in Europe until the advent of the Great War, as stated by the historian Julian Bennett in his seminal biography of Trajan.

1906 Royal Jubilee Exhibition - "Expozitia Generala Romana" postcard decorated with Neo-Romanian motifs expressed in an Art Nouveau manner. (old postcard, Valentin Mandache collection)

The 1906 celebrations culminated with a great exhibition, “Expozitia Generala Romana”, in Bucharest, where the country’s achievements in arts, science and industry were presented to the wider public. The Neo-Romanian style, the new national architectural order has also been one of the main themes of that exhibition, seen in the graphic motifs of the postcard presented above, circulated with that occasion. The two personages whose deeds the country, including the people of Drobeta Turnu Severin, were then enthusiastically celebrating, the Emperor Trajan of the two millennia ago (on the left hand side) and King Carol I, were facing each other across an altar with the Roman She Wolf emblem inscribed on it, blessed by a woman figure personifying Romania, a veritable effusion of national identity symbolism, giving an idea about the ebullient atmosphere and pride felt by the people of that era.

The photographs containing examples of period architecture from Drobeta Turnu Severin were provided by Irina Magdalena Bivolaru, a native of the city and a keen reader of this blog.

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I endeavor through this daily series of daily articles to inspire appreciation of the historic houses of Romania, a virtually undiscovered, but fascinating chapter of European architectural history and heritage.

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If you plan acquiring a historic property in Romania or start a renovation project, I would be delighted to advice you in sourcing the property, specialist research, planning permissions, restoration project management, etc. To discuss your particular plan please see my contact details in the Contactpage of this weblog.

“Historic Houses of Romania” blog author cited in the latest book of Prof Giurescu

I had the pleasant surprise while reading Prof. Constantin C. Giurescu’s latest book, to find myself cited on page 194. He mentions there details from an interview published last May in the newspaper Puterea, where I spoke about my activity as a period property consultant and the high level of education, skills and experience needed to work efficiently in that specialist field. For me it is a great honour that Prof Giurescu, the best contemporary Romanian historian, has considered necessary to include those points in his eminent book.

The volume is entitled “Arhitectura Bucurestilor- Incotro?” (“Bucharest’s Architecture – which way?”) and has been published at the end of 2010 by Vremea publishing house. Through his methodology, diversity of sources and direct style, the work represents a rarity within the Romanian publishing scene, inflated by books written in a mediocre fashion, going in circles and lacking method. Prof Giurescu thus mentions and analyses the grand and small scale abominations suffered by the historic built landscape of Bucharest in the last two decades, from the lunatic government decision more than a decade ago, to gift the magnificent old parliament building to the Romanian Orthodox Church, one of the institutions most active in defacing and destroying the historic edifices in its care, to the countless demolitions and ‘renovations’ performed by ignorant period property owners, who think themselves as absolute masters of their property, forgetting that they are also custodians of a heritage good belonging to the community.

I highly recommend this book to all those preoccupied by this singular phenomenon within the European Union of wholesale architectural heritage destruction performed ironically not by outsiders, but in most cases by the native citizens of this “European” city, EU’s 6th largest metropolis.

1940s Neo-Romanian style doorway

A delicate and well proportioned 1940s Neo-Romanian style oak wood doorway, Domenii area, Bucharest (©Valentin Mandache)

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I endeavor through this daily series of daily articles to inspire appreciation of the historic houses of Romania, a virtually undiscovered, but fascinating chapter of European architectural history and heritage.

***********************************************

If you plan acquiring a historic property in Romania or start a renovation project, I would be delighted to advice you in sourcing the property, specialist research, planning permissions, restoration project management, etc. To discuss your particular plan please see my contact details in the Contact page of this weblog.

Gustave Eiffel in Romania: Trajan Grand Hotel, Iasi

Gustave Eiffel, the famous French engineer and architect that has cast his creative shadow all over the world with great metallic structures and constructions based on metallic frame and prefabricated elements, such as the Eiffel Tower in Paris or the Statue of Liberty in New York, has also been present in Romania with two noteworthy projects. The amplest one is the design and construction of the Trajan Grand Hotel in Iasi (1882), the capital of the former principality of Moldova, presented in the photographs bellow, and a railway bridge (1877) over the river Prut, build under the jurisdiction of the Russian Empire, that linked its then frontier province of Bessarabia (the precursor of the contemporary Republic of Moldova) with Romania.

Grand Hotel Trajan Hotel, Iasi, designed and built by Gustave Eiffel in 1882.(©Valentin Mandache, 2009)

The Trajan Hotel in the 1920s, Iasi, north-east Romania (old postcard, Valentin Mandache collection)

The Trajan Hotel is built on a metallic frame structure with prefabricated elements and light weight brick, wood and glass walls. Its architectural style is an avant-garde, industrial-like, Beaux Arts design typical of other of Gustave Eiffel’s edifices. It is a an engineering and architectural marvel of the Victorian era, which is still excellently preserved and maintained by the actual hotel owners and Iasi municipal authorities that seem to realise the crucial importance for the local cultural and architectural identity of this beautiful buildings, a situation which contrasts so much with the indifference and lack of professionalism in this field of their counterparts in Bucharest. The moment of glory for the Trajan Grand Hotel has been during the Great War when it hosted Romania’s government while Iasi became the temporary capital with most of the country occupied by the Central Powers led by the German Empire’s forces. In that extraordinarily dramatic time, the city’s populations swelled ten times to over one million of refugees in the space of just a few weeks, with the Russian allies troops stationed in the territory becoming hostile and disorganised due to their succumbing under the Bolshevik ideology. The patriotic spirit held on and the government, hosted at the Trajan Grand Hotel, together with King Ferdinand, managed to repel both the Bolsheviks and the Germans at the end of the war.

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I endeavor through this daily series of daily articles to inspire appreciation of the historic houses of Romania, a virtually undiscovered, but fascinating chapter of European architectural history and heritage.

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If you plan acquiring a historic property in Romania or start a renovation project, I would be delighted to advice you in sourcing the property, specialist research, planning permissions, restoration project management, etc. To discuss your particular plan please see my contact details in the Contactpage of this weblog.

Art Deco service door

A simple, but well proportioned Art Deco service door of a small late 1930s block of flats, Kogalniceanu area, Bucharest. (Valentin Mandache)

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I endeavor through this daily series of daily articles to inspire appreciation of the historic houses of Romania, a virtually undiscovered, but fascinating chapter of European architectural history and heritage.

***********************************************

If you plan acquiring a historic property in Romania or start a renovation project, I would be delighted to advice you in sourcing the property, specialist research, planning permissions, restoration project management, etc. To discuss your particular plan please see my contact details in the Contact page of this weblog.

Ethnographic identity veranda poles

Ethnographic veranda poles, mid-1930s Neo-Romanian house, Campina, southern Romania (©Valentin Mandache)

This is a well preserved example of veranda poles adorning a large mid 1930s Neo-Romanian style house in central Campina, southern Romania, inspired from the ethnographic motifs of Prahova county. The main particularity of this ethnographic province is that it features a mix of Carpathian and Ottoman Balkan (especially Bulgarian-like) ethnography. The Carpathian ethnographic motifs and artefacts are typically very geometric and angular, a sort of “peasant cubism” reflecting the artistic traditions of a population settled in the area since the first arrivals of the Indo-European populations more than five millennia ago, seen here in the shape and symbols of the capitals adoring the poles. The Ottoman Balkan ethnography is characterised by a more cursive, round geometry with floral motifs, reflecting the influence of the subsequent waves of populations that settled the area in the course of history from Slavs and especially Central Asian origin Turkish populations, seen here in the motifs embellishing the poles’ base. The veranda poles presented in this photograph, the creation of a talented and well informed inter-war Romanian architect, display excellently in their choice of motifs the ethnographic identity of the people of the area where the house was built; it is practically a statement of regional Prahova county identity.

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I endeavor through this daily series of daily articles to inspire appreciation of the historic houses of Romania, a virtually undiscovered, but fascinating chapter of European architectural history and heritage.

***********************************************

If you plan acquiring a historic property in Romania or start a renovation project, I would be delighted to advice you in sourcing the property, specialist research, planning permissions, restoration project management, etc. To discuss your particular plan please see my contact details in the Contact page of this weblog.