Most people know that the Prince of Wales is fabulously wealthy and will one day become the King of England. But how many of you know that he recently renovated a country cottage in Romania and, in order to generate local employment, is making it available as a guest house?
I recently spent a weekend at this guest house, which opened a few months ago, and I can report that it is sensational. There are no “royal” pretensions at this humble abode, in fact the whole set up is quite down to earth: you need to go outside in order to reach the dining room; at night it is pitch black and you can hear the sounds of wildlife. The only indication of the owner’s identity is his coat of arms on one of the walls. The previous owner was the local judge in the village of Zalanpatak, a 120 soul settlement in the heart of Covasna county (just north of Brasov). The buildings are over 200 years old.
What makes the guest house in Zalanpatak a sensation is partly the location, in one of the most remote villages in Romania, and also the beautiful way it has been renovated. The rooms have been done up in the best of taste in the old peasant style, with lots of antique wood detail and hand painted furniture, but with mod cons too. Each room has a shower room, a kettle, an eccentric array of lighting and wonderful bedding. The renovation was done by Count Tibor Kalnoky who has other incredible guesthouses (and a couple of ruined castles) slightly nearer to Bucharest (see www.translyvaniancastle.com). In my opinion he has the most tasteful and impressive rural tourism operation in Romania.
Food is provided by local Hungarian villagers and is delicious. Other locals provide driving and guiding services and there is a host of things to do in the area: playing in the river (my kids loved this one); walks in the forest, bear and bird watching, visiting caves, horse riding. Most of the guests seem to come from UK and many of them stay for two weeks — each day of which is packed with activities.
The best times to visit Zalanpatak is in October, when the meadows are filled with beautiful wild flowers, and also around Christmas time when the whole area is covered in snow. But he only has about 5 rooms available so make your booking soon
Zalanpatak in Hungarian (Valea Zalanului in Romanian) is located about 90 minutes north of Brasov. The nearest town is Baraolt (Covasna County). There is a direct train connection from Bucharest to a micro-station with a grand name: Augustin. The 6am train from Bucharest has a bike wagon (I got that train up on Saturday morning and the 1622 return on the Sunday – with my bike). Zalanpatak is about 25km from Augustin – an easy ride for any cyclist who is reasonably fit. They will pick you up from the station if you ask; it’s all part of their excellent service.
To contact Count Tibor Kalnoky and book a room call 0742 202 586 or email firstname.lastname@example.org. Although he’s an aristocrat he’s very friendly and down to earth. And check it out online at www.transylvaniancastle.com (search for Zalanpatak or Prince Charles’ guest house).