Located amidst the wilds of Transylvania, Bethlen Estates is a legacy project rooted in cultural heritage preservation, led by mother-and-son Gladys and Nikolaus Bethlen. Over the past 15 years, the family has been quietly acquiring crumbling Saxon ruins in their ancestral village of Criş, sensitively restoring them into one-of-a-kind guesthouses in a way that respects the region’s traditional architecture and storied history – some eight centuries after the family’s ancestors first founded the village. This year, Bethlen Estates has opened the doors to the four-bedroom Corner Barn, the estate’s third guesthouse and the first to be available to rent by the room.
The 300 year old traditional Saxon building stays true to its roots and heritage architecture, featuring original roofing, age-old tiles and exposed wooden beams. Interior designers Stefanie de Castelbajac and Melanie Etten-Rüppell have worked to create a rustic countryside retreat with colourful and contemporary touches, featuring bold prints and locally-crafted furniture, whilst an eclectic array of artwork has been hand-picked by the owner. The cosy lounge acts as a communal space for you and your family to gather after a day exploring the surrounding countryside. A sweeping staircase leads the way to four spacious suites sleeping up to eight guests, each adorned with textiles in striking prints and hues of vivid ochre and deep blue, sumptuous king-size beds and contemporary terracotta and Zelliges tiled en-suite bathrooms. Outside, a spacious terrace decked out with comfy loungers is the perfect spot for early-morning coffee and sundowner cocktails.
At the newly-opened Kitchen Barn, talented local chef Robert creates elevated Transylvanian fare and seasonal menus that celebrate local produce, all sourced within 15 miles of the estate. Robert’s signature dishes are made from local produce and celebrates the region’s varying terroirs, including smoked river trout with mussels and lavage; wild venison with smoked beetroot; and morchella with deer heart and seasonal vegetables.
While away the hours taking in the surrounding sights and chose from guided hikes, cycle rides, birdwatching tours and horseback rides. Further afield, take a trip to one of the nearby UNESCO-protected sites, ancient settlements and medieval villages, or take an exhilarating road trip along the Transfagarasan and Transalpina Roads.
Sitting alongside the existing four-bedroom Caretaker’s House and two-bedroom Depner House, both of which are available on an exclusive use basis, the opening of the Corner Barn takes the capacity of Bethlen Estates to 20 guests. With the singular aim of preserving this enchanting corner of Transylvania and creating employment opportunities for their local communities, the Bethlen family are currently restoring several additional historic buildings on the estate, including the five-bedroom School House which will be added to the line up in 2023 – watch this space!