Clamshell doorway awnings from the La Belle Époque period in Ploiesti

Bellow are two wonderful clamshell house entrance awnings that I photographed in Ploiesti, the oil town 60km north of Bucharest. They date from the La Belle Époque period (late Victorian and Edwardian periods) and belong as an architectural “species” to the Art Nouveau current, constituting a part of what I call the Little Parish style built landscape of the urban areas of that period in Romania. The clamshell awnings are widespread in Bucharest, which make me consider them as one of the main architectural symbols of Romania’s capital, but also popular throughout the country before the Great War (which was then formed by the provinces of Moldavia and Wallachia, without Transylvania). Ploiesti was developing spectacularly in that era on the proceeds of the newly emerging oil economy and as an important regional market town. The clamshell awnings are a superb reminder of those times of economic boom and architectural finery.

Clamshell doorway awning from the La Belle Époque period in Ploiesti (©Valentin Mandache)

Clamshell doorway awning from the La Belle Époque period in Ploiesti (©Valentin Mandache)

Clamshell doorway awning from the La Belle Époque period in Ploiesti (©Valentin Mandache)

Comarnic wood fretwork

Comarnic wood fretwork dating from the 1890s. (©Valentin Mandache)

This is a wood fretwork panel fragment from among the myriad of such embellishments that adorn house façades on the main street of the city of Comarnic, on Prahova Valley, about 100km north of Bucharest. It dates from the 1890s, created at time of economic well being in the late Victorian period, when the town benefited from the opening of the first direct railway link between Bucharest and Brasov in Transylvania and from there to the rest of Europe, and also because of the set up there of a lime and cement factory, which supplied Bucharest’s booming building industry. Comarnic is the repository of probably the amplest and finest Victorian era wood fretwork architecture in this part of Europe, which is now ignored by the official tourist trails and companies, remaining virtually unknown, despite the town’s relative short distance from Bucharest. The panel presented here is a composition of floral and Romanian ethnographic designs. The ethnographic patterns are constituted by the rope motif short columns of opposing twists and the full and half solar discs adorning their base and capital.

1900s Ploiesti doorway

1900s Ploiesti doorway

I found in one of my occasional trips to Ploiesti last summer, a well preserved house dating from the 1900s in a style halfway between neo-baroque and neoclassical, which was also embellished with a splendid wrought iron doorway that displayed some interesting Art Nouveau motifs. The area endowed with the amplest such design was the upper window of the doorway, presented in the second photograph bellow. It shows a flowing, whiplash shape, flower motif typical of the Art Nouveau decorative panoply. The house is illustrative for the urban architecture of the first decade of the c2oth Romania, when the historicist style buildings also encompassed and often seamlessly integrated fashionable Art Nouveau elements, as is the case with this doorway assembly.

The doorway of a 1900s Ploiesti house (©Valentin Mandache)

Art Nouveau style ironwork decorating the upper window of a 1900s doorway in Ploiesti, southern Romania (©Valentin Mandache)

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I endeavour through this series of periodic 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 or selling a historic property in Romania or start a renovation project, I would be delighted to advice you in sourcing and transacting the property, specialist research, etc. To discuss your particular plan please see my contact details in the Contact page of this weblog.

Art Deco style school

I continue here the series of posts dealing with the historic architecture of the city of Ploiesti, the major oil extraction and refining centre of Romania. Today I would like to present a remarkable Art Deco style school building, dating probably from the second part of the 1930s, located on Republicii Boulevard, just across the street from the Art Deco era tram, which I documented in a post published yesterday. The school is named “St. Basil Gymnasium” (“Colegiul Sfantul Vasile”), presenting a symmetrical street façade, where the rule of three is noticeable in the window partitions at its centre. The building features a number of interesting Art Deco elements, seen in the following photographs, comprising details such as well designed doorways for boys (“baieti”) and girsl (“fete”) to a nicely preserved 1930s clock. I will let the photographs to speak for themselves and hope that you would enjoy this short visual Art Deco in this corner of south east Europe.

Art Deco style school, Ploiesti (©Valentin Mandache)

Art Deco style school, entrance for girls, Ploiesti (©Valentin Mandache)

Art Deco style school, detail of the doorway ironwork featuring the Greek key motif, a suggestion that the school is envisaged as a "temple of learning", Ploiesti (©Valentin Mandache)

Art Deco style school, entrance for boys, Ploiesti (©Valentin Mandache)

Art Deco style school, detail of the doorway wall opening decoration, Ploiesti (©Valentin Mandache)

Art Deco style school, detail of the doorway for boys pediment, Ploiesti (©Valentin Mandache)

Art Deco style school, detail of the doorway for girls pediment, Ploiesti (©Valentin Mandache)

Art Deco style school, detail of the letter architectural rendering used for doorway inscriptions, Ploiesti (©Valentin Mandache)

Art Deco style school, close up of the late 1930s, made in Germany clock, Ploiesti (©Valentin Mandache)

Art Deco style school, details of the side façade and doorway, Ploiesti (©Valentin Mandache)

Art Deco style school, Ploiesti (©Valentin Mandache)

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I endeavour through this series of periodic 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 or selling a historic property in Romania or start a renovation project, I would be delighted to advice you in sourcing and transacting the property, specialist research, etc. To discuss your particular plan please see my contact details in the Contact page of this weblog.

Art Deco era streetcar

Art Deco era streetcar, Michael the Brave Park, Ploiesti (©Valentin Mandache)

The streetcar in the above photograph is a transport history exhibit placed in Michael the Brave Park in Ploiesti, the major oil production and refining centre of Romania. It dates from the 1930s, a time when the Art Deco architecture was highly fashionable there, along with the Neo-Romanian style. Ploiesti boasts the largest, in my opinion, Art Deco style building in the south east Europe: the Central Market Halls, designed in the first part of the 1930s by the great architect Toma T Socolescu, a native of the area, and also a multitude of other such wonderful edifices, such as the house which I documented in this blog article. The tram seen here, with its fine and simple outlines, also reminds of the Art Deco fashions found besides architecture, in a multitude of domains such as industrial machinery or jewellery design.

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I endeavour through this series of periodic 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 or selling a historic property in Romania or start a renovation project, I would be delighted to advice you in sourcing and transacting the property, specialist research, etc. To discuss your particular plan please see my contact details in the Contact page of this weblog.

Art Deco style semi-detached houses in Ploiesti

I would like to present you another magnificent period building photographed during my trip last week to Ploiesti, the oil town 60km north of Bucharest. The previous house I wrote about was a La Belle Époque period Little Paris town mansion; that article can be read at this link. This one is a well designed mid-1930s Art Deco example of semi-detached houses, which has an extraordinary personality. The edifice is located on Independentei Street, not far from the city’s main train station. It had escaped, by a miracle in my opinion, the epic 1943 American Air Forces bomber attack that devastated the area, which although was aimed at the destruction of the oil refining industry from around Ploiesti, many stray bombs fell on the city itself. That operation against those oil fields that in the Second World War supplied the German war machine, is known in the military annals as Operation Tidal Wave, one the costliest actions in terms of pilot and aircraft losses of the US Air Forces in Europe.

Art Deco style semi-detached houses dating from the mid-1930s, Ploiesti (©Valentin Mandache)

The main feature of the building is embodied by its monumental twin staircase towers around which a multitude of Art Deco design elements get unfurled, from extraordinarily attractive doorways, streamline-like balconies with eyebrow awnings, a well proportioned street fence or ample rooftop verandas.

One of the doorways embellishing the Art Deco style semi-detached houses dating from the mid-1930s, Ploiesti (©Valentin Mandache)

The door displays sunbursts among motifs that look like clouds, while the doorway opening is decorated with a “fleshy” Art Deco floral motif, in the manner of the local Brancovan and Neo-Romanian styles, which reminds me of some of architect’s Toma T. Socolescu‘s designs. He was extremelly influential in Ploiesti and Prahova county during the inter-war period and there could be a possibility that he might be the designer of this building too.

The staircase towers: Art Deco style semi-detached houses dating from the mid-1930s, Ploiesti (©Valentin Mandache)

The twin staircase towers are embellished with a ziggurat motif, very characteristic of the Art Deco style.

Art Deco style semi-detached houses dating from the mid-1930s, Ploiesti (©Valentin Mandache)

The structure, through its wonderful proportions and high design qualities, stands out among the built landscape surrounding it. I hope that the current renovation works, which seem to take place, would bring something back from its former glory.

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I endeavour through this series of periodic 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 or selling a historic property in Romania or start a renovation project, I would be delighted to advice you in sourcing and transacting the property, specialist research, etc. To discuss your particular plan please see my contact details in the Contactpage of this weblog.

Quaint Little Paris style house in Ploiesti

Little Paris style house from the La Belle Époque period in Ploiesti (©Valentin Mandache)

This Thursday I undertook a short trip to Ploiesti, the centre of the Romanian oil industry, 60km north of Bucharest, and managed to photograph a sample of its great multitude of architecturally remarkable houses, built in large part by money generated by its oil wealth and also from Ploiesti’s traditional role as major market town in the region. Its urban development and architectural mix resembles at a smaller scale the historical trajectory followed by Bucharest. One of those noteworthy building, which I encountered there, located on the Independentei Street, is presented in this post’s photographs. It is a picturesque Little Paris style (what I call the French c19th historicist architecture provincially interpreted in Romania of the La Belle Époque period) dwelling, dating probably form the second part of the 1890s or the first years of the c20th at the latest, which seems quite well preserved. This type is often encountered within the territory of the Old Romanian Kingdom (pre-WWI Romania, which did not contain Transylvania and other territories gained after the war). Its general outlines remind me of an evocative Bucharest house from an impressionist style painting, about which I wrote a past article, see this link. I like its compact, box-like appearance, with rounded corners, central wrought iron doorway and ample shell-shape awning. The roof boasts two protruding round attic windows, an ornamental crest and spiky details dotting the drain trough at regular intervals. The decorative register for this type of house is generally inspired from the rococo style panoply, often containing interesting Art Nouveau elements for edifices built at the turn between the c19th and c20th. The Art Nouveau style bits in this particular example are seen in the glazed shell-shape doorway awning and parts of the design of its wrought iron gateway and street fence, fragments of which are presented in the photomontage bellow.

Wrought iron doorway with shell-shape glazed awning, Little Paris style house dating from the late 1890s or early 1900s, Ploiesti (©Valentin Mandache)

Details of the Art Nouveau style elements adorning the gateway of a Little Paris style house (1890s - 1900s), Ploiesti (©Valentin Mandache)

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I endeavour through this series of periodic 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 or selling a historic property in Romania or start a renovation project, I would be delighted to advice you in sourcing and transacting the property, specialist research, etc. To discuss your particular plan please see my contact details in the Contactpage of this weblog.

Exquisite Comarnic wood fretwork for birthday celebration

Today is my birthday and I would like to celebrate it in style :) with the photomontage of samples from the extraordinarily flamboyant wood fretwork decorations that adorn the gables, balconies, verandas, columns and often most of the façade of the end c19th houses that line up the main street of the city of Comarnic on the Prahova Valley, north of Bucharest. These are jewels of vernacular architecture created at a time of economic well being in the late Victorian period, when the region greatly benefited from the opening of the first direct railway link between Bucharest and Brasov in Transylvania and from there to the rest of Europe. I recommend anyone visiting this beautiful place, only 90 minutes by train from Bucharest. Unfortunately the Romanian heritage authorities do not promote it in any way and the Comarnic fretwork houses suffer damage and some are even demolished as a result of Romania’s amateurish and misguided tourism industry development policies.

Wood fretwork (end c19th) decorating the high street houses in Comarnic, Prahova Valley (©Valentin Mandache)

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I endeavour through this series of periodic 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 or selling a historic property in Romania or start a renovation project, I would be delighted to advice you in sourcing and transacting the property, specialist research, etc. To discuss your particular plan please see my contact details in the Contactpage of this weblog.

Neo-Romanian roof finials shaped as steam train smoke stacks

The finials adorning the roofs ends of the Neo-Romanian style house are some of the most spectacular elements of this architectural style. They come in a diversity of shapes from those resembling hay stacks to medieval weapons or ethnographic totemic poles. During a visits last year to Sinaia, I found the very unusual finial examples presented in the photographs bellow, which adorn the monumental Neo-Romanian style train station of this famous Romanian mountain resort from the southern slopes of the Transylvanian Alps. Their shape resemble that of the steam train smoke stack, a very usual sight in the late 1920s when the main section of the railway station has been built (I believe the architect is Paul Smarandescu, but some of my readers may know better about that and look forward for their opinion)

Neo-Romanian style roof finial shaped as steam train smoke stack, Sinaia train station (©Valentin Mandache)


Neo-Romanian style roof finials shaped as steam train smoke stack, Sinaia train station (©Valentin Mandache)

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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.

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

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.

Unusual conical structure

Strange conical structure dating probably from the WWII period, Campina (©Valentin Mandache)

I encountered the unusual structure in the photograph above during my trip to Campina last autumn. It reminded me like a flashback from my childhood of similar structures which I seen in my very early years in some Romanian train stations: steep conical or ogee profile concrete roofs, a quite terrifying sight for a child, usually sitting next to the trains station main building. Most of them were demolished in the last two or three decades and probably only a handful still exists now. From what I remember, the locals there said that these unusual constructions were bomb shelters designed in such a way to repel the deadly blows and shrapnel of airplane launched bombs. Many Romanian cities, especially the oil towns such as Campina, have seen a great deal of bombing from the Allies as well as from the Luftwaffe during the Second World War and was not a real surprise the building of bomb shelters to alleviate somehow that menace. I am however not entirely convinced of their role as bomb-shelter, especially if you notice the large windows from the base of the example presented above. They look strangely similar with the overnight prisons, the “lock ups“, built in c18th and early c19th in small English towns before the establishment of the state police force. Could this structure from Romania have had the same role during the war time or the early Stalinist period? Perhaps some of my readers have more precise information about the role of that type of highly unusual structure!

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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.

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.

Art Deco brick pattern

An elegant Art Deco brick pattern panel embellishing a late 1930s building in 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.

1970s Romanian Modernism

Romania has seen its last strokes of quality architecture during the 1970s, when many of the talented inter-war generation architects were approaching the end of their professional life and their pupils were worthy followers of their masters. The subsequent decade marked the heightening of Ceausescu’s personal dictatorship to Orwellian levels, when the country was saddled with megalomaniac industrial and public architecture projects like the infamous House of the People palace, which today houses the Romanian parliament, allegedly the second largest building in the world. That crass political expediency, very similar with that of the North Korea, at the expense of quality and professionalism marked a terrible deterioration of the architectural profession in Romania, a situation from which has not yet recoverd even now, two decade after the fall of the communist dictatorship. I sometime encounter architecturally notable post-war modernist buildings during my fieldwork assignments throughout the country, which generally fit the rule that were designed and built before 1980 – ’82 (when Ceausescu’s totalitarianism finally griped the society to all levels). One such encounter is the building presented bellow from the city of Campina in southern Romania, dating probably from the late 1970s. Its hallmark is the well designed doorway with a very bold concrete awning, like the ascending path of a jet aircraft. The edifice is now empty and left unmaintained, an indication sign that its future is grim. Many such good examples of post-war modernist architecture are now slowly disappearing from Romania’s built landscape, being replaced by coarsely designed architectural concoctions, products of the rapacious real estate speculation that has engulfed Romania in the recent.

Romanian 1970s modernist architecture, Campina (©Valentin Mandache)

Romanian 1970s modernist architecture, Campina (©Valentin Mandache)

Romanian 1970s modernist architecture, Campina (©Valentin Mandache)

Romanian 1970s modernist architecture, Campina (©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.

The House with Griffins: oil wealth and Beaux Arts architecture in Romania

Campina is a prosperous oil town in the Prahova county, on the southern slopes of the Transylvanian Alps’ piedmont. The wealth generated by the oil business was responsible for a remarkable architecture ever since the inception of the oil industry in late c19th. Romania has been one of the first countries in late c19th to extract and export oil on an industrial scale, with some of the main oil fields located in the Prahova Valley, where Campina became one of the main extraction and refining centres. The images bellow document one of the first and most flamboyant houses built from oil fortunes at the beginning of the c20th, named the House with Griffins, which now hosts the local town hall and mayor’s offices.

The House with Griffins, Campina, southern Romania (©Valentin Mandache)

The building is a very eye pleasing and well proportioned Beaux Arts style edifice with a symmetrical structure erected in 1901 – ’02 by Gheorghe Stefanescu, a wealthy local businessman active in the oil industry. I have not yet been able to find the name of the architect who designed this house, but my inkling is for an Italian architect, from among the pleiad of Italian architects and builders active in that period in Romania, who built numerous Beaux Arts style public and private houses throughout the country. A few weeks ago I documented a similar example in that of the Targoviste Town Hall.

The House with Griffins, Campina, southern Romania (©Valentin Mandache)

The two griffins, from which the building derives its name, stand guard at the centre of roof for more than a century now, being remarkably well preserved, looking as they were just out of craftsman’s hands.

The House with Griffins, Campina, southern Romania (©Valentin Mandache)

The two magnificent square cupolas are covered by well preserved zinc tiles resembling a pointed fish scale model and are crowned by weathervanes of a standard design, which I encountered in many Fin de Siècle house examples from throughout southern and eastern Romania.

The House with Griffins, Campina, southern Romania (©Valentin Mandache)

The monumental doorway contains two Renaissance type columns inspired from the Doric order that flank a quaint wooden door in its original state.

The House with Griffins, Campina, southern Romania (©Valentin Mandache)

The first floor veranda still preserves it original wooden window and door frame, which looks of a northern Italian Renaissance type, crowned by a broken arch.

The House with Griffins, Campina, southern Romania (©Valentin Mandache)

The building is flanked by two smaller outbuildings next to the street line, which probably accommodated the administrative quarters and the servants dwellings. The photograph above presents the beautiful roof-line of one of those smaller outbuildings, flanked in the background by the equally magnificent square cupolas of the main building.

The House with Griffins, Campina, southern Romania (©Valentin Mandache)

Another view of one of the outbuilding’s small square cupola.

The House with Griffins, Campina, southern Romania (©Valentin Mandache)

The House with Griffins is famed in Campina as being the first in town provided with electrical lightning, an absolute luxury in provincial Romania at the start of the c20th and a testimony of the great wealth that started to be amassed by the local entrepreneurs from the oil business. Another remarkable fact was that Gheorghe Stefanescu, the first owner, donated the building after the Great War, when he retired, to function as an apprentice school for oil rig workers, one of the first such establishments in Europe. It is one of those noteworthy examples of Victorian and Great War era philanthropic work in Romania, performed by wealthy native industrialists interested in social reform and betterment of the condition of the industrial workers. I documented in previous articles another two similar examples of local Victorian era philanthropists: one who built a magnificent mansion in the village of Casota and another who built a school for the local peasants in the shape of a Doric temple.

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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.