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Old 3rd September 2006   #1
Emily
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Default Restoring beauty in...Transylvania

I read a great article in The New York Times yesterday that I'm sure will be of interest to many readers here, since this forum often discusses how the restoration of feminine beauty is tied to ongoing efforts to restore beauty in the world generally.

This is a fascinating story about how one Romanian aristocrat -- a count, no less -- has returned to his ancestral homelands in Transylvania (famous in Dracula lore), and is leading efforts to bring beauty back to a land that was ravaged by decades of communism.

Direct links to the article appear here:

http://travel2.nytimes.com/2006/08/...d%2c%20Nicholas

and here:

http://travel2.nytimes.com/2006/08/...agewanted=print

but I'll post the text below. It's a remarkable and encouraging story.

....................................


Next Stop

In Transylvania, a Count Invites You to His Castle


By NICHOLAS WOOD

August 27, 2006

THE road to Miklosvar seems almost designed to keep visitors away. Anyone hoping to make their way to this village deep in the center of Romania must brave potholes and gravel that pummel the bones of passengers in even the most luxurious of vehicles.

The reward for enduring the three- to four-hour trip from Bucharest is a part of Transylvania that appears to have changed little over the last century. Farmhouses, adorned with outsized, ornate wooden gateways, hug cobblestone and dirt roads. In nearby fields, men and women cut hay with scythes. Traffic, for the want of a better word, consists of horses and carts passing by once in a while.

For most people though, the idea of Transylvania conjures images of Bram Stoker’s “Dracula,” and by all appearances, Miklosvar seems well qualified as an appropriate backdrop. While Bran Castle, the towering fortress most closely associated with Vlad the Impaler, is 41 miles away, Miklosvar offers a deserted manor cum castle, bats that fly through the unlit streets at night and even a charming count who speaks in faintly accented English.

But these are not the reasons why the said count, the man responsible for bringing most outsiders there, would have you visit.

For the last decade, Count Tibor Kalnoky, a former veterinarian and ornithologist, has been working to turn this village on the eastern edge of Transylvania — the Hungarian-speaking region in central Romania — as well as the surrounding woodland into an environmental retreat and a preserve of the region’s architectural heritage.

Descendants of the feudal overlords of the area, whose roots there date back as far as 1252, Count Kalnoky and his family run a company that provides tours and accommodations for up to 20 guests in four farmhouses in Miklosvar. The money raised from Count Kalnoky’s Estate, as his company is known, goes toward restoring the humble steep-roofed buildings in the village as well as two of the family’s ancestral homes (one in Miklosvar and another nearby).

The company is also committed to promoting and protecting the local wildlife. It is lobbying for the woodland behind the village, home to such rare birds as the lesser spotted eagle, black storks and white-backed woodpeckers, to be protected under Romanian and European law.

Guests stay in one of four farmhouses, all of which have been restored over the last decade.

The 19th-century main guesthouse, or Upper House, has two stories and a cellar. Drinks are served in a drawing room with high-backed armchairs and a table covered in embroidered white cloth. At one end of the room stands a fireplace with a band of blue and white tiles that bear the Kalnoky crest. Meals are served in the cellar on a long wooden table in front of an open fire.

Another guesthouse, formerly a serf’s dwelling, is up a path. It is a much simpler affair, painted in light blue (the color of houses belonging to serfs or bonded workers) and with wooden gutters that hang from the roof.

The two other guesthouses are a five-minute walk away and face each other across an enclosed yard.

The family’s former hunting manor, which combines Renaissance, Baroque and neo-Classical architecture, is the most ambitious restoration project, and lies empty at the northern end of the village in its own park. During Communist times, it was used as the village’s main meeting hall and fell into neglect. Now it is open to visitors as the Kalnokys restore the stonework and frescoes on the outside walls.

While many villages in this region share this heritage, what makes Miklosvar different is that it has retained much of its original population. The villagers still make their livings almost exclusively from the land. Visitors can set out to track bears or wolves, visit bat-filled caves, walk through primeval forests and return each evening to the comfort of farmhouses with open fires and antique furniture, and eat rich local dishes like goulash with caraway seeds and sour cream.

Nearby there are numerous castles, former manors and fortified medieval churches to visit as well as crumbling Saxon villages, home to members of Romania’s ethnic German minority for 800 years until nearly all emigrated to Germany after the collapse of Communism. The beauty of this area and the Kalnokys’ restoration work have attracted interest from both architecture and wildlife enthusiasts, including Prince Charles, who is involved in a similar environmental and restoration program in Viscri, a nearby Saxon village.

The creation of Miklosvar as a rural retreat began some 19 years ago, when Count Kalnoky, the second son of a Hungarian aristocrat exiled to France, was just 21 and Romania was still under the grip of the Communist dictator Nicolae Ceausescu.

The count’s family fled Romania on the eve of the Second World War, and subsequently saw all their property seized by the Communists when they came to power at the war’s end. In 1987, about two years before the collapse of Communism, Count Kalnoky and his father made an illicit visit to their family’s former home, a U-shaped 19th-century manor house built around a courtyard, in Korospatak, a village close to Miklosvar. When they came out of the house, a huge crowd had gathered to greet them in the courtyard.

People were crying and embracing my father,” Count Kalnoky said.

The crowd disappeared as quickly as it gathered though, as word came that members of Ceausescu’s much-feared Securitate, the secret police, were making their way to the village. As aristocrats and foreigners traveling in a country where foreign tourism was virtually forbidden, there was a risk that they could be accused of spying or trying to foment unrest. They made a hasty departure down a back road.

That, said the count, was “the trigger moment,” when he decided to dedicate himself to taking back his ancestral home.

The collapse of the Berlin Wall a year later and a revolution in Romania paved the way for people to reclaim property seized by the state. By 1997, Count Kalnoky had regained Korospatak, the former family home. He then started building up neighboring Miklosvar.

It’s my answer to globalization, if you like,” said Count Kalnoky, 39.

“It was as if it was thrown into a deep freeze,” he said of the Miklosvar area when he found it, and that’s the way he would like to keep it.

IN late May, a short trip on top of a hay cart drawn by two horses brought the count and two guests to the woods overlooking the village. Over the next two hours, our guide, Gabor Tompos, led us on foot through thick grass to a burrow dug out by bears for hibernation. The paths were littered with wild orchids. Overhead, we spotted a large eagle’s nest in a birch tree.

Back in one of the guesthouses, we sank into armchairs, surrounded by antique oak, walnut and pine furniture, the kinds of items the family says would until recently have either been thrown away or used as firewood. Heavy eiderdown-filled bedcovers, crisp white sheets and traditional wool-filled mattresses would ensure a deep sleep that night.

Just as Miklosvar has remained largely unscathed by modern progress, it has also remained poor. Even while urban areas in Romania experience sharp growth as it prepares to join the European Union in next January, the accompanying wealth eludes many rural areas. And so Kalnoky appears to have given at least some in the village a renewed sense of pride and purpose as foreigners flock there.

But there is an odd feeling, too, of a hint of a return to a feudal order. Villagers refer to the Western-educated veterinarian as “the count” (guests usually call him Tibor). The kitchen staff and housemaids wear traditional dress, and linguistic barriers mean there is little communication between the visitors and the employees or villagers.

Miklos Cserei, who runs a small bar just near the Kalnokys’ main farmhouse where the walls were decorated with a fading Cindy Crawford calendar and a poster of J. R. from “Dallas,” remembers the apprehension of many villagers when the count won his property back.

“I think the older people were afraid,” Mr. Cserei said. “They could still remember stories when people here were peasants who worked for the count.” He said that some of those fears subsided when the count gave gift packages to the elderly at Christmas, a tradition he has kept up ever since.

Yet, in some ways, even Count Kalnoky himself sees his family fulfilling the role their ancestors did before them.

“The real value of aristocracy is something I’d like to deepen here,” he said. “A sense of responsibility toward the place and people here.”
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Old 10th September 2006   #2
vargas
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Smile Re: Restoring beauty in...Transylvania

It is wonderful to hear of people making efforts to restore a rich and old cultural heritage that exists in their country's past. I have always had a special interest in eastern European history.

Globalization and "progress," as it is presently defined, has often blinded people to the beauty and importance that lies in the old, in the past. When you destroy the past you are no longer connected or anchored to anything of substance. Much of 20th-century "progress" has produced lost generations of people. They've destroyed the past (religious values, art works, architecture, customs, etc) and the new ideologies haven't worked out. Going back to the beauty and wisdom of the past and restoring it is a good sign.

Now if only someone would tell the ridiculous developers in my city to stop mowing down beautiful old historic buildings in order to erect these concrete and steel monstrosities!
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Old 17th October 2006   #3
HSG
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Default Re: Restoring beauty in...Transylvania

"I have had a long talk with the Count. I asked him a few questions on Transylvania history, and he warmed up to the subject wonderfully. In his speaking of things and people, and especially of battles, he spoke as if he had been present at them all. This he afterwards explained by saying that to a Boyar the pride of his house and name is his own pride, that their glory is his glory, that their fate is his fate. . . . I wish I could put down all he said exactly as he said it, for to me it was most fascinating. It seemed to have in it a whole history of the country."
(Stoker, Dracula, 1897.)
Count Kalnoky's aristocratic attempt to restore beauty to his ancestral lands, after a protracted, politically-motivated assault on the region's heritage by the former Communist regime, perfectly mirrors the theme of our Web project.

In a similar fashion, timeless feminine beauty has been demeaned and suppressed for decades, due to precisely the same political ideologies that caused the Romanian people such misery.

It is not coincidental that the ideal of full-figured femininity remained intact throughout millennia of Western history, from the Classical Greeks until the 19th century, and only became displaced once the aristocratic order of the Old World was destroyed.

The timeless feminine ideal is an aristocratic ideal--but not in the sense that it is "for" the aristocracy alone. Quite the contrary. The adoration of the opulent fullness of the female figure, like the veneration of the sumptuous aesthetic of Baroque painting, (or of Classical sculpture, or of Romantic music), is motivated by an essential human love of genuine beauty--a love that is shared by all. From the Holy Roman Emperor to the lowliest peasant, from lord to vassal, from knight to serf, every member of the Old World order revered plus-size femininity. A curvaceous princess, or a buxom farmer's daughter, would both have been celebrated as the most gorgeous maidens in their respective milieus. Whether dressed in royal silks and ornate finery, or in linen blouses with folkloric embroidery, voluptuous vixens always reigned as the "beauty queens" of their particular strata of Old World society.

This ideal was a natural outgrowth of popular preferences, intimately connected to the people, rather than produced in contempt of them (in the way that modern culture is constructed). Despite all Marxist sniffing about "bourgeois" tastes, there was never any such thing as "class-specific" taste in the Old World, under the aristocratic order. There was simply human taste. Mozart's operas were beloved by emperors and townspeople alike. The Queen and her servant both enjoyed Shakespeare's plays.

Likewise, every member of society venerated the fuller female figure--not because their perceptions were shaped by the material conditions in which they lived, but because they enjoyed an undistorted apprehension of the essential ideal of beauty, which resides in the human heart.

Although this ideal was shared by nobles and commoners alike, it may justifiably be termed "aristocratic," because it was the warrior class that protected it, preserved it from the forces of resentment that exist in every era--forces that are ever eager to tear down all that is great and good in any civilization.

The nobility also interceded between the artists, with their ever-outlandish visions, and the populace. As the patrons of the arts, the nobility mediated between artists' peculiar creative inclinations, and popular desires, and encourage artists to use their gifts to produce works that accorded with the hopes and dreams of the people.

But like a fair maiden whose knight is slain, and who is subsequently molested by ruffians, the timeless feminine ideal lost its protector once the aristocracy fell, and was victimized by the resentful political elements that gained ascendancy in its wake.

Just as the castles, cathedrals, and other masterpieces of the European tradition were disfigured or dismantled by the hyper-democratic hordes that overran the continent after the world wars, so was Classical femininity shunned. Banished.

It is still in exile today, even as the public yearns for its return.

Count Kalnoky's efforts to restore the heritage of his corner of Romania are truly inspiring. Let us hope that more individuals are inspired to follow his example, in every aesthetic field, including feminine beauty, so that the natural allure of the curvaceous female figure is re-established as a healthy ideal for women to emulate, and for men to worship.

Katylouise (Brigitte Models) looking sinfully pampered and indulged amidst aristocratic settings, at Faik Sonmez:

- Falk Sonmez

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Old 30th October 2006   #4
M. Lopez
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Default Re: Restoring beauty in...Transylvania

Quote:
Originally Posted by Emily
The 19th-century main guesthouse, or Upper House, has two stories and a cellar. Drinks are served in a drawing room with high-backed armchairs and a table covered in embroidered white cloth. At one end of the room stands a fireplace with a band of blue and white tiles that bear the Kalnoky crest. Meals are served in the cellar on a long wooden table in front of an open fire...

The family’s former hunting manor, which combines Renaissance, Baroque and neo-Classical architecture, is the most ambitious restoration project, and lies empty at the northern end of the village in its own park. During Communist times, it was used as the village’s main meeting hall and fell into neglect. Now it is open to visitors as the Kalnokys restore the stonework and frescoes on the outside walls.

I thought of this article again today, perhaps because of the proximity of Halloween. Above are just two of the observations in the original NYT article that really caught my imagination. I love the idea of enjoying a meal in an Old World environment, such as the count's home possesses. And the detail of the family crest makes it so authentic. This isn't just a costume drama, but the real thing - the count and his family are tied by blood to this place, this land, this art and architecture.

And the comparison between restoring the architectural beauty of the hunting manor, and restoring timeless feminine beauty, is very persuasive. After all, full-figured womanly curves were celebrated in each of the eras that the manor's architecture represents - "Renaissance, Baroque and neo-Classical" - and didn't come under assault until the 20th century, just as this manor was (and for the same ideological reasons).

I find it regrettable that today, there is so much emphasis on preserving natural beauty (which the count is doing as well, “promoting and protecting the local wildlife,” as the article notes), but so little emphasis on preserving man-made beauty (art and architecture). The latter is even more precious and irreplaceable than the former, because while nature may restore itself, if the right environmental conditions are offered, nothing can bring back a castle, or cathedral, or sculpture, or painting, once those are destroyed.

I would love to see a movement that is as devoted to preserving and restoring the Western world's architectural and artistic beauty as current movements are devoted to saving its natural beauty.
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Old 30th October 2006   #5
kirsten
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Default Re: Restoring beauty in...Transylvania

Quote:
I would love to see a movement that is as devoted to preserving and restoring the Western world's architectural and artistic beauty as current movements are devoted to saving its natural beauty.


There are a few organizations that embark on this quest on both the local and national scale, although they do not receive nearly as much publicity as the environmental organizations. An example of such an organization is the National Trust for Historic Preservation which seeks to maintain historic buildings and sites in the United States.
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Old 7th November 2006   #6
Emily
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Default Re: Restoring beauty in...Transylvania

Quote:
Originally Posted by M. Lopez
I would love to see a movement that is as devoted to preserving and restoring the Western world's architectural and artistic beauty as current movements are devoted to saving its natural beauty.

One of the very few organizations that is devoted, not just to preserving the past, but to reawakening an appreciation for it -- which is just as important as preserving it -- is the Art Renewal Center, which has often been discussed on this forum:

http://www.artrenewal.org/articles/...philosophy1.asp

The richness of Western culture derived from the fact that throughout history, each generation of artists interacted with the past, in a living chain stretching back through the ages. Thus, successive artistic movements evolving out of those that preceded them. Classicism informed Neoclassicism, the Middle Ages informed the Neo-Gothic. The Art Renewal Center attempts to reconnect these cultural links, which were brutally severed in the 20th century.

It is essential, however, that the greatest cultural values of past ages be restored, if their artistic values are to be revived, and that further cultural deterioration be prevented, as far as possible. Everyone can do their part, however small, to ensure this.
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