Weekend at the Castle

A few words about the Bánffy Castle, a Transylvanian treasure.

Traveling to Transylvania, Romania is always a joy. This region features not only some unique sightseeing, but also some well-preserved old villages (such as Viscri) and a few gorgeous ancient castles.

Banffy Castle on map

We’ve spent these last few days mostly in Bonţida village at the Bánffy Castle, which is one of the most significant historic monuments in Transylvania. You might be wondering why we are showing you photos not so much of a castle but rather of its ruins. Well, at this very moment, the castle is undergoing heavy restoration work.

Ruins of the castle’s walls

During our visit to the castle, we were lucky enough to catch the Transylvania International Film Festival (TIFF), which transformed our already awesome weekend into an even better one. We’ll get to that soon, but first, let us tell you a bit of the castle’s story.

Bánffy Castle is a 14th-century construction. To this day, the castle is still owned by the descendants of the Bánffy family, one of the oldest and most important noble families in Transylvania. The castle has suffered several architecture modifications over the years. It began as only a medieval fortress, then was remodeled in the 17th century; a military report from 1680 records fortifications surrounding the Bánffy’s residence, including Renaissance buildings and corner bastions.

Bánffy Castle in 1890 (source: Wikipedia)
Bánffy Castle in 2015

In the 18th century, the castle was rebuilt in an Austrian Baroque style, granting it a whole new configuration. In 1944, it served as a dormitory for a field hospital. Later that same year, German troops devastated the castle, leading to furniture, the library, and a gallery of paintings being lost forever. During the Communist regime, the whole building was used as a cooperative farm and a hospital for children.

In 1963, a Romanian movie was shot at Bánffy Castle, which involved a short scene involving fire. The scenographers accidentally set one of the buildings alight, causing massive damage. Since 1999, the castle has been under restoration and subject to continuous rehabilitation work. The castle has recently become the venue for various cultural events, such as music and film festivals.

Bánffy Castle

Ironically, more than 50 years after movie-makers caused the dreadful fire, we, along with hundreds of other people, are watching films in front of the castle. We have to admit that the place provides an excellent backdrop for this kind of event.

Despite the fact that it was freezing cold outside, watching the recent documentary film about Kurt Cobain’s life and a 1927 silent movie about pre-WWII Berlin, accompanied by a live band (both provided by TIFF — see photos here), was an incredible experience.

And, to top it all off, we even witnessed the Compagnie des Quidams’s performance of FierS à Cheval (some gigantic inflatable puppets lit from within and set in motion by bold puppeteers), which created some surreal images of horses galloping through the night.

“FierS à Cheval” show at the Bánffy Castle

The film festival continues this week in the city of Cluj-Napoca, 30 km away from Bonţida. Thus, if you plan to travel to Transylvania at the end of this month, you might want to join Electric Castle, Romania’s largest music festival, which will also take place at the castle.

But speaking frankly, with or without festivals, the beauty of the Bánffy Castle is always a must-see.

Written by Alexandra Palconi.

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We have also written about Krk Island, Budva, Mileştii Mici Winery, Ljubljana, and Rupea Fortress.

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