Would you like to head off on a path less travelled this September? Why not try Transylvania and, in particular, the Bethlen Estates, whose wonderful new private guesthouse and restaurant have just been opened and are all set to show guests the best of what Romania has to offer.
With Romania’s borders open to double-vaccinated travellers and the country’s recent addition to the UK’s green list, this rich and diverse nation is firmly on the UK travel radar for a late summer escape. In the wilds of Transylvania – often referred to as Europe’s last wilderness – Bethlen Estates is a multi-generational restoration project rooted in cultural heritage preservation.
An ongoing legacy endeavour created by the late Count Miklós Bethlen and now led by mother and son, Gladys and Nikolaus Bethlen, the duo are sympathetically restoring ancient ruins in their ancestral village of Criș into stylish boltholes for the upscale traveller. This September, the latest chapter of Bethlen Estates’ evolving story will unfold with the launch of the estate’s second guest house, the two-bedroom Depner House, and culinary hub, the Kitchen Barn.
Surrounded by lush forest, wild-flower filled meadows and ancient castles, Depner House is an enchanting two-bedroom cottage available for exclusive hire. Originally built over 300 years ago as a base for the Depner family to tend to the surrounding agricultural lands, this traditional Saxon cottage has been meticulously restored externally to respect its original architectural and heritage features, with its pastel blue façade holding an unmistakable likeness to its 18th-century origins.
Inside tells a different story, as interior designers Stefanie de Castelbajac and Melanie Etten-Rüppell have worked their magic alongside a team of local craftsmen to retain the building’s original charm with exposed beams, traditional ironmongery and a central cast-iron staircase while opening up the spaces and giving them a relaxed yet sophisticated feel.
Two double bedrooms offer purposefully light and calming interiors, with natural printed fabrics, traditional linens and handmade furniture, from wooden beds to beautifully crafted brass and iron lamps, whilst en-suite bathrooms feature tumbled limestone floors and locally-crafted cast iron vanity units.
Depner House’s adjoining barn has been reimagined as a contemporary wood and glass-walled living space, complete with sumptuous sofas, an open fire and an exhaustive collection of books for cosying up on chillier days. The opening of Depner House takes the capacity of the estate up to 12 alongside the four-bedroom Caretaker’s House, which will also unveil its private swimming pool in September.
Just a stone’s throw away is the Kitchen Barn, where head chef Robert Tordai creates daily changing menus of elevated Transylvanian fare: traditional dishes with a creative twist, all inspired by the changing seasons and local bounty. With space for up to 24 diners, the Kitchen Barn is the perfect setting for guests to share stories after a day spent exploring the Transylvanian wilderness, as well as serving as a beautifully rustic venue for private parties and milestone celebrations.
With wood-panelled walls, upholstered armchairs and a large central fireplace, guests can opt for cosy indoor dining, whilst sun-dappled terraces allow for al fresco feasting. Menus highlight fresh, seasonal produce and all ingredients are sourced from within 15 miles of the estate: organic fruit and vegetables come from the Bethlen family’s orchards, and farmland, whilst everything from meat and cheese to jam, honey and ice cream is supplied by trusted local farmers and producers.
Torch-lit wine tastings can be arranged in the ancient wine cellars at the Count János Bethlen Manor House, whilst gourmet picnics await those wanting to spend as much time as possible in the spectacular surrounding countryside. Meanwhile, a host of explorations in the wild await: from guided hikes, cycle rides, bird-watching and bear spotting to horseback rides, winery visits and historical tours of the many nearby UNESCO-protected sites.
With an unwavering commitment to preserving this idyllic corner of Transylvania and supporting the local community, funds raised through tourism at Bethlen Estates are channelled back into the protection of more heritage buildings in Criș, in turn creating additional employment opportunities for those living in and around the village.
The family have now set their sights on other preservation projects in Criș: the four-bedroom Corner Barn will open in early 2022 available to rent by the room, whilst for the longer term, the old School House will add five more bedrooms, a bar and a second restaurant to the estate.
Bethlen Estates Transylvania Booking Information
To book: Depner House starts from €400 per night, including breakfast, based on two sharing. The Caretaker’s House starts from €600 per night, which also includes breakfast, based on four sharing. For more information, visit www.bethlenestates.com.
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