At home with a Tran­syl­va­nian count

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this day: or­nate chan­de­liers hang from the gilded ceil­ing of the din­ing sa­lon, large old oak doors pay homage to the cas­tle’s long his­tory, and tra­di­tional terracotta stoves re­main in­tact.

The count has now de­cided to re­store the cas­tle to its former ar­chi­tec­tural splen­dour. But this will be no easy task: it has prob­lems with its electrics and the roof. Dur­ing the Com­mu­nist pe­riod it was ran­sacked and then turned into a pre­ven­to­rium for chil­dren whose par­ents had con­tracted tu­ber­cu­lo­sis. Some rooms are still adorned with paint­ings of car­toon char­ac­ters, which Teleki says is all part of the cas­tle’s his­tory and will re­main un­touched. The court­yard, like much of the cas­tle, bears the marks of ag­gres­sive ren­o­va­tion with lit­tle care for her­itage. Through­out the cas­tle, a mish­mash of styles are on dis­play, with small char­ac­ter­less rooms joined up for prac­ti­cal pur­poses in con­trast with the glitzy chan­de­liers.

In the in­te­rior court­yard, to Teleki’s dis­may, old nat­u­ral paving stones were buried be­neath a thick layer of con­crete. “We tried to open it up here,” says Teleki, look­ing be­wil­dered as he stares at the 3ft-wide hole and the po­ten­tial task of open­ing up and restor­ing the old court­yard stones. “I don’t know if we’ll con­tinue.”

With funds low and aware of the huge costs in­volved with restor­ing it, fundrais­ing for restora­tion works re­quires him to get cre­ative: in Au­gust, his cas­tle hosted a 10,000-ca­pac­ity music festival, called Awake. All of the pro­ceeds – which he says are mod­est – go to­wards the restora­tion and main­te­nance of the cas­tle.

“The prob­lem is that we don’t have enough money to de­cide on one ar­chi­tect to de­sign the whole project,” he says. “It would be around

50,000 and we don’t have that. I hope peo­ple come here and per­haps de­cide to help us for small fees.”

Fur­ni­ture was do­nated to Teleki Cas­tle by friends and fam­ily af­ter he re­turned in 2011. To­day, the cas­tle ex­udes a kind of shabby, ex­trav­a­gant air, be­fit­ting a ca­su­al­ly­dressed count keen on pre­serv­ing his fam­ily’s past.

Liv­ing in the cas­tle, which is open to the pub­lic and hosts myr­iad events such as wed­dings and cul­tural ac­tiv­i­ties, how­ever, is no fairy­tale.

“It’s dif­fi­cult to live here be­cause if you for­get some­thing then you have to go back 500 yards,” says Teleki. It is a sen­ti­ment shared strongly by his wife Ni­cole, a Bel­gian with Tran­syl­va­nian roots. “Liv­ing in the cas­tle is not an easy way of life,” she adds.

The Teleki fam­ily is in the process of fil­ing an ap­pli­ca­tion for fund­ing from the Euro­pean Union, which they say will cost around 60,000 alone. “We need re­searchers, be­cause if we want to win a Euro­pean grant for the restora­tion of the cas­tle, then we need an enor­mous amount of pa­per­work, in­clud­ing ar­chae­o­log­i­cal and ge­o­log­i­cal doc­u­ments,” says the count’s wife.

A small team of ar­chae­ol­o­gists have be­gun ex­ca­vat­ing a low fortress wall, which lies un­der­neath the cas­tle and is vis­i­ble from in­side the deep cel­lars. Restora­tion tasks at the cas­tle are un­der­taken when funds and re­sources be­come avail­able.

“The real prob­lem is there are so few [con­struc­tion] pro­fes­sion­als, as many have gone to work out­side of Ro­ma­nia,” says Teleki. “We know the prices in Bel­gium, and the prices here are ex­actly the same.”

The cas­tle has 700,000 sq ft of gar­den and cut­ting the grass “is a full­time job”, says Teleki, stand­ing next to a re­cently re­stored gar­den statue.

But does he feel at home in his cas­tle? “No, no, no,” he says qui­etly but em­phat­i­cally. “Tran­syl­va­nia is home for me, but not re­ally this cas­tle.”

Still, af­ter a child­hood cooped up in a Com­mu­nist-era base­ment flat, Teleki feels re­lieved to have re­gained his fam­ily es­tate, some­thing he’s re­minded of reg­u­larly as he tends to the tow­er­ing Ginkgo biloba tree in the grounds planted by his an­ces­tors. “Ev­ery year, we try to make small im­prove­ments,” he says.

Teleki Cas­tle in Tran­syl­va­nia, which is hold­ing events in order to pay for its restora­tion to former glory

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