Next on our journey in the search for an Easter spring holiday is Valea Prahovei and Sinaia, the beautiful mountain area close to the capital city, Bucharest. The area is just 2 hours drive from Bucharest and it consists of a series of beautiful mountain resorts along the Prahova River. We start off with Sinaia mountain resort and its breathtaking scenery that was untouched by man until the 17th century when monks started to retreat in forests and caves to live a hermit life forced to hide because they would have to give up either their religion or their head. They build refuges and praying altars in front of which they would meet from time to time. It is said that one night, in a grove next to a river, the monk that guarded the shrine of St. Nicolas on mount Molomat, heard angelic voices singing about the Virgin Mary. The monk took it as his mission to go to the capital to the ruler of Romania, Mihail Cantacuzino.
Cantacuzino was a religious man, and before hearing of the monk’s vision, made a journey with his mother and sister to mount Sinai to visit the holy graves and fell in love with the beauty of the monastery there, and decided to build one in Romania also. After hearing about the vision he decided to build the monastery in the mountains near the Prahova River. The monastery was built at first for 12 monks, to represent the 12 apostles, but was later enlarged and surrounded by fortified walls. It was built with wood from the forest, rock from the river, and brick that was burnt in the ovens of the masons in the village Comarnic and transported to the construction site in baskets, with donkeys. The original bell of the monastery was moved in Bucharest, and it weighs 1 ton. During WW2 the monks hid all valuables inside the bell and this is how they survived plundering.
Because the monastery was inspired from the monasteries on mount Sinai, the mountain and the area was called Sinaia.
The monastery is constructed in the Romanian Brancovenesc style, and it is still used today, and there are monks that live there.
Not far from the monastery another beautiful building was erected by another ruler of Romania. The Peles Castle was built by the first king of Romania, Carol I. The castle is the jewel of the Carpathian Mountains, built in the Neo-german style still intact and fully furbished and decorated. The castle is located in a beautiful valley surrounded by mountains and tall fir trees. An elegant statue garden in front of it, presents to us some mythological creatures and representations of the king and queen. The castle has over 100 rooms, amazing reception halls in French, German, Italian, Moorish and Turkish style, walls covered in sculpted birch, oak, and rose wood. The weapon rooms display collections of weapons that come from all over the world, daggers encrusted with jewels, swords wrapped in gold or sharkskin, ivory or bone handle knives and many more wonders.
This place can’t miss from your vacation itinerary as it is one of the most beautiful castles in Europe.
Another attraction of the area are the Hallewood wineries and wine factory. Formerly known as the Prahova Valey Wineries, this company was the sole wine provider during WW2, and was later known as “Provider for the House of His Royal Highness King Michael I” . The factory is located in Azuga, just a few minutes’ drive from the castle, and it can be visited. The manager will explain the process of production and even let you bottle some wine. After that you can enjoy a wine tasting and a meal right there in the restaurant of the company, just to get your mind of the fact that Easter is not forever and vacations will eventually end.
Photo source: peles.ro, halewood.com.ro, pinterest.com