Transylvanian village shines under new British king’s patronage


The Romanian village of Viscri, in the picturesque region of Transylvania, won the heart of the then prince Charles when he first visited in 1998.

Enchanted by its dirt streets, horse-drawn carriages and brightly coloured houses nestled in green hills, the environmentalist and nature lover became a regular visitor.

In 2006, he even bought his first house there: a bright blue building known to all the locals.

What was initially an occasional princely residence has since been transformed into a museum dedicated to botany, another of the new king’s passions.

“His Majesty the King has not stayed here for a few years, but he has left many traces,” Caroline Fernolend, president of the Mihai Eminescu Trust, told AFP.

Under Charles’s sponsorship, the foundation has renovated several properties in Transylvania with traditional methods and materials to preserve the heritage.

“He also financed an ecological wastewater treatment plant based on reeds and a new water drainage system for the village, without advertising it,” she said.

Every year, tens of thousands of tourists discover the timeless atmosphere of Viscri.

Guest houses have sprouted up in response to its popularity — in contrast to the abandonment that characterises much of the Romanian countryside, one of the EU’s poorest members.

“Viscri was a forgotten village and now small houses are selling for over 40,000 euros ($40,000)!”, said retired sports teacher Ion Stoica, who cycles from his neighbouring village to Viscri every evening.

That sum is a small fortune in this region, he added. – Royal stamp –

Not all residents of the hamlet, home to 400 people and dominated by a UNESCO-listed church, share Stoica’s enthusiasm.

Royal honours “did not bring prosperity” to Viscri’s inhabitants, says another resident, seated on a bench in the village. Yet no one denies the restoration efforts undertaken under the leadership of Charles.

Charles claims descent from a 15th-century prince known as Vlad the Impaler, the historical inspiration for Bram Stoker’s “Count Dracula”. He has even said that Transylvania is “in my blood”.—APP


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