Princess’ Nest: a royal tree house in the Transylvanian Alps

Princess’ Nest, Princess Marie of Romania’s tree house in Sinaia. Old post-card (1900s), Valentin and Diana Mandache collection.

Queen Marie of Romania is well known for her multiple artistic qualities, ranging from writing, furniture design to theatre. She also indulged in architectural pursuits, especially in matters of interior design (see her remarkable creations at Pelishor Castle in the Transylvanian Alps for example) or gardening, ideas which she condensed in an interesting essay published in the 1920s, entitled “My Dream-Houses“. Somehow less known is a peculiar tree house structure, illustrated in the old post-card above, built following Marie’s detailed specifications, which she used for recreation in the years when was a crown princess of the Romanian Kingdom. It was known as “Princess’ Nest”, located on the property of the grand Pelesh Royal Castle in Sinaia. Bellow is the finest description of this phantasy house, which I so far found  in my research, by Maude Parkinson, an expert gardener from England who worked for many years in the service of the Romanian Royal House:

In the neighbouring forest Princess Marie, as she then was, had a “Crusoe” constructed. I understand that she adopted the idea from a celebrated arboreal restaurant in the Forest Fontainebleau, which is named after the castaway of Juan Fernandez.

A strong wooden platform was constructed amongst the trees at a considerable height from the ground, and upon this was built a house consisting of two rooms, a kitchen, and a salon.

The kitchen is fitted up with everything necessary for cooking simple dishes or preparing tea. The salon is very prettily furnished, and books in plenty, drawing and painting materials, etc., are always to be found there.

The Queen only takes her special friends to visit her “Crusoe” and a very charming retreat it is. The windows and open door command a most beautiful view. Access to the “Crusoe” is gained by means of a ladder with wide steps, which is let down when required. When the visitors are safely up, they remain there shut in three sides by foliage and cut off from communication with the world bellow save by telegraph, for a wire connects it with the palace. Nothing disturbs the perfect calm and quiet at such a height, and many pleasant hours have been spent by her Royal Highness and a chosen few in that little nest. Nest is indeed the word, for that is the meaning of the Roumanian name “cuib” by which the retreat is generally known.

Maude Parkinson, “Twenty years in Roumania”, London 1921

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.

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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.

Mock Half-Timbered Neo-Romanian Style House

Mock half-timbered Neo-Romanian style house, dating from mid-1930s, Sinaia, the Transylvanian Alps. (©Valentin Mandache)

The architecture of the mountain resort of Sinaia in the Transylvanian Alps, 120km north of Bucharest, is a colourful and interesting gathering of period styles ranging from the historicist orders of the late c19th to the Neo-Romanian, Art Deco and modernism of the inter-war period. Some of the imposing chalets of Sinaia display unusual combinations of architectural orders, such as is the case shown in the photograph above, which I managed to shoot during a downpour on one of many mountain slopes criss-crossing the town. The main features of this house are in the vein of the Neo-Romanian style from the arches of the corner tower veranda, flanked by Byzantine type columns, to the finial crowning its spire or the aspect of the chimney stack, etc. The odd presence here is the mock half timber façade decoration and the steep angle of the tower spire, elements inspired from German historicist architectural models. Responsible for that interesting juxtaposition is the fierce local competition, if I can put it that way, between the architectural models fashionable in Sinaia during the inter-war period. There was much prestige attached to the patriotic Neo-Romanian style, which was also exercised by the Bavarian renaissance style of the Royal Pelesh Castle, one of the country’s most prestigious edifices, hosted within the town’s confines. The architect in the case of this particular chalet seems to have solved the conundrum faced by the owner in that regard, by combining elements of the two architectural orders. The results are quite attractive in my opinion and constitute another proof of the effervescent creative atmosphere of that era in Romania.

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I endeavor through this 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 Glazed Façade of c19th Beer Restaurant

A well preserved intricate late c19th beer restaurant glazed façade located in Sinaia city park; the Transylvanian Alps. (©Valentin Mandache)

The mountain resort of Sinaia, in the Transylvanian Alps undertook a fast development in the last quarter of the c19th once the railway that crossed the mountains, connecting Bucharest with the rest of Europe was opened, and the Romanian Royal Family built its magnificent summer retreat there, the Pelesh Castle. A multitude of private individuals also erected attractive Alpine chalet type villas throughout the town as week end or summer residencies to escape the sweltering weather of Bucharest. Businesses were flourishing in the booming resort and the restaurants and casinos were some of the most obvious manifestations of the emerging prosperity. The above photograph, which I took in early spring last year, shows an early example of such Sinaia establishment: a beer restaurant with what once must have been a large front garden. It uses a relatively cheap timber frame structure and glazed surface, with interesting saw-cut latticework on some of its sectors.  It lays now empty, perhaps because of ownership disputes among the descendants of pre-communist owners, or more probably because the new owners intend to demolish it in order to make way for a more profitable modern building (the structure is listed and the easiest legal way to obtain a demolition permit is to leave it, in a discreet way, deteriorate beyond repair- a terrible phenomenon affecting the built heritage of Romania on a huge scale). The timber-frame restaurants were popular in late c19th small town Romania, many of them still surviving in various states of repair, constituting excellent potential renovation projects for those willing to undertake such an enterprise.

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

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

If you plan acquiring a historic property in Romania or start a renovation project, I would be delighted to advice you in locating 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.