In Prahova Valley, almost 130 km from Bucharest, one of Romania’s lesser known – but no less valuable – castles still stands after nearly 100 years, when Prince Gheorghe Grigore Cantacuzino, known as “the Nabob”, inaugurated it.
Built between 1901 and 1911 at the behest of Prince Cantacuzino, and designed by architect Grigore Cerchez, the castle stands out for its large, imposing stone and brick building. The Cantacuzino compound in Busteni was nationalized in 1948, and used as hospital for Romanian military leaders of the time, and it was not until 2004 that it was given back to the Cantacuzino family. In 2008, the castle was purchased by a group of foreign investors, who decided to work to get it on the tourist map nearly 100 years after its inauguration. Currently, businessman Kurt Neuschitzer is in charge of the edifice. In December 2012, he also opened a restaurant in the castle cellar, named Canta Cuisine.
The gem behind the trees
With a built area of nearly 3,200 sqm, the castle is constructed in the neo-Romanian style. Brancoveanu, Byzantine and Celtic influences can also be detected in the building.
In 1948, the edifice was facing difficult times, having been almost emptied of its furniture and ornaments, and turned into a TBC sanatorium for the Securitate. Most of the interior walls, and implicitly the original design, were in green. The new masters had some taste for art, so the paintings were not completely destroyed, the uppermost decorations were left on the walls and in some rooms restorers brought to light parts of the original pattern. The castle is composed of a basement, ground floor and first floor with concrete foundations and walls of carved stone. Covered with tiles, it has only five bedrooms.
The castle’s tower cannot yet be visited, but the staircase that leads to it is impressive, while the stanchion is supported only by the walls, transforming it into a true work of engineering and architecture.
Keeping the originals
Tourists can admire the castle’s original stained glass windows, made by Murano specialists, as well as the original parquet and floor, comprised of Florentine ceramics. Moreover, the old-time ambience is kept alive by stucco marble, fireplaces fashioned from the stone of Arbesti, Mures County, festooned with polychrome mosaics, large wooden doors with panels into which the coat of arms of the Cantacuzino family has been carved, a staircase whose steps are made of Carrara marble and banisters from wood, stone and wrought iron. Only one original chandelier remains in the whole castle, hung in the lobby of honor, which hosts a unique heraldic collection in Romania. This collection includes the coats of arms of the aristocratic families who were part of the Cantacuzino clan throughout the years, as well as a gallery of large-scale pictures on Cordoba leather by Austrian painter Johan Frankerberger.
Open Monday to Thursday from 10.00 to 18.00 (last entry 17.15), Friday to Sunday from 10.00 to 19.00 (last entry 18.15), with Romanian-language guided tours. Tickets cost RON 20 for adults and RON 10 for children.
Canta Cuisine Restaurant
A visit to the castle can bring you directly to the restaurant, as Canta Cuisine is situated in the cellar of the edifice. Designed to blend upscale dining with a cozy atmosphere, it offers a culinary experience that is romantic and elegant. In summertime, one can dine on the terrace to a breathtaking landscape featuring the Bucegi mountains and Caraiman cross. Chef Romica Harabagiu has an impressive CV, with gastronomic experience in Japan and China, among other countries, and more than seven years near Marseille, France.
The menu is more contemporary French and international than a Romanian one based on secret castle recipes, but has some traditional dishes. The talk of the town is the mushroom cappuccino with truffles (RON 18), a delicious soup served with toast and milk foam. Chef Harabagiu told BR that the recipe was his own, with the truffles provided by a local supplier from Sibiu. As the chef said, if you don’t find something to excite your taste on the menu, speak to him and you will receive an unexpected treat. The majority of the diners are connoisseurs, and fish and meat are popular entrees.