Sitting in the heart of Transylvania, amidst wild woods and alpine meadows dotted with medieval citadels and fairytale castles, Bethlen Estates is a legacy project rooted in social purpose and the preservation of cultural heritage. The Bethlen Family has played an integral role in life in Transylvania since the Middle Ages, founding the village of Criş and building its Medieval castle some 800 years ago. Forced to flee to Austria in 1948, the late Count Miklós Bethlen dedicated his life to supporting the communities left behind, bringing supplies and fundraising to protect the many crumbling buildings left to ruin.
Following in his footsteps, since 2007 his wife and son Nikolaus and Gladys Bethlen have been acquiring tumbledown buildings in and around Criş. What began as a quaint family venture and has since evolved into a large-scale project, creating immaculately restored guest houses that aim to channel funds raised through tourism to the preservation and protection of this idyllic corner of Transylvania.
From Spring 2021, visitors can choose from the four-bedroom Caretaker’s House; the two-bedroom Depner House – both available for exclusive use – or the four-bedroom Corner Barn available to rent by the room. Each building’s façade has been restored traditionally to its former glory, while interiors offer a stylish and contemporary take on rural living. Designers Stefanie de Castelbajac and Melanie Etten-Rüppell have worked hand-in-hand with local artisans to create light and calming interiors, peppered with antique kilim rugs, warming tiled stoves and original wooden beams, as well as luxurious touches such as sanariums, Tom Dixon lighting and contemporary sculptural staircases.
Meals can be taken in the privacy of each house, or in the central Kitchen Barn, where Tatiana the in-house chef whips up nourishing breakfasts, indulgent picnics and traditional evening meals made entirely from locally sourced produce and organic fruit and vegetables from the family’s orchards, farmland and forests. A carefully curated selection of experiences will allow guests to delve into Transylvania with its historic citadels, raw and untamed countryside and spectacular wildlife – often referred to as Europe’s last true wilderness.