The Prince of Wales first visited Romania twelve years ago and fell in love with the wild beauty of the country. Unfortunately he found that the historic village architecture was being destroyed at a furious pace... Sounds like a project for the man-who-would-be-architect, as well as king.
Romania's countryside is a journey back in time; a place with few hotels or restaurants, no advertising, few cars and fields of wild flowers. But it is also a country whose historic architecture needs saving -- quickly.
The Prince has bought several properties in Transylvania and turned them into guest houses such as the one pictured. He has done this in rural Romania to help protect the unique way of life that has existed for hundreds of years through the promotion of sustainable tourism.
In 2006 the Prince of Wales bought and restored an 18th Century Saxon house in Viscri, Romania, a designated UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Then in 2010, the Prince purchased a property, now an Inn, in a village which was founded four centuries ago, but is now only home to 150 people. The inn's grounds have a rich biodiversity with native plants, mushrooms, insects and birds. Guests are looked after by local staff and the resident ecologist. Activities depend on the season and range from bear-tracking over horse and cart trips, wild flower botany, mushroom picking, or hiking.
His Royal Highness said: "Ever since I first visited Romania in 1998, I have been doing my utmost to ensure a sustainable future for the Saxon villages of Transylvania and their people. Tourism clearly has a vital role to play in this."
Charities such as the Mihai Eminescu Trust, the International Network for Traditional Building, Architecture and Urbanism (Intbau) and the Transylvania Trust train villagers in traditional building techniques.
The hope is that by preserving the villages and encouraging traditional craftsmanship and farming, the small villages can be given an economic means of supporting themselves again.
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