- The Washington Times - Friday, February 2, 2007

MICLOSOARA, Romania — This remote Transylvanian village of 512 persons in the wilds of the Carpathian Mountains has a count — and he isn’t Count Dracula.

Count Tibor Kalnoky is a dashing 40-year-old entrepreneur and son of Transylvania descended from a noble family that settled in these misty lands in the 13th century and lived there until communism forced the family to flee.

Mr. Kalnoky, a former veterinarian who grew up in France and Germany, moved back to the ancestral home after communism ended in 1989. In the past few years, he has created one of Romania’s most successful tourist ventures out of his ancestral hunting manor and has counted Britain’s Prince Charles among his guests.

The manor, which opened in 2001, lies deep in southern Transylvania, an area where myth and reality are loosely entwined. However, you’ll hardly hear a word here about Dracula, the Romanian warlord Vlad the Impaler, or Bram Stoker’s novels.

Mr. Kalnoky lures guests with the Old World’s Transylvanian customs.

Many visitors come from Britain and the United States to feast on tasty pork or chicken stew, mashed potatoes tinged pink by paprika, and home-baked cakes served by women dressed in traditional old Hungarian costumes.

Dinner is accompanied by red Romanian wine, and guests are warmed by a roaring log fire in the wine cellar before snuggling into decades-old goose eiderdowns in rooms decorated faithfully in the style of the Szeklers, the ethnic Hungarian minority to which Mr. Kalnoky belongs.

Hikers may come across bears and wolves. Bird lovers can look out for eagles, black storks and woodpeckers.

You also can travel in a horse and cart for a mountain picnic, cycle to nearby Transylvanian towns or visit the Kalnoky family hunting lodge. Just north of Miclosoara is the cave where legend says the Pied Piper lured the children of Hamelin.

When visitors return to the manor at sundown for dinner, they are serenaded by Szekler music in the soft-green drawing room, with antique furniture and dark wooden floors. It’s low-key and relaxing.

Mr. Kalnoky’s property was seized when the communists came to power, and it took him eight years to get the lands restituted after the Soviet collapse. Szekler peasants plow the fields with sturdy horses.

Cows and horses amble down the streets. Peasants draw water from wells and store corn in their barns.

Mr. Kalnoky is modest about his success and the reviews he has received over the past few years for his manor and smaller guesthouses, which can host a maximum of 20 people.

“It’s all very unpretentious,” says Mr. Kalnoky, sipping caraway brandy that is on tap at every moment for the guests.

“My view of Romania was skewed until I got here,” says Alison Sarson, a police officer from Britain. “More people should come and see how pleasant it is. The horses and carts are lovely,” she says at the end of a three-day visit.

On the bookshelf in the rooms where the prince spent a night earlier this year are tomes on Transylvanian mushrooms, bird-watching and lighter reads by Catherine Cookson.

A teka, a painted cupboard in the wall, is in every room, keeping mineral water and beer cool for guests.

Prince Charles was the manor’s most famous guest. He is restoring houses in the Saxon part of Transylvania just down the road in the town of Viscri, a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

The famous no-show at the manor is Omar Hayssam, a Syrian businessman who was charged with setting up the kidnapping of three Romanian journalists in Iraq in 2005 and was recently accused of plotting to kidnap the youngest daughter of President Traian Basescu. He is believed to have fled Romania this year from a Black Sea port on a ship full of sheep.

Romanian Intelligence Service came looking for the vanished businessmen and questioned the startled staff. Mr. Kalnoky said workers had to sign an affidavit saying they had not seen the Syrian on the lam.

• • •

For more information on Kalnoky Estate, visit www.transylvaniancastle.com or call 40/742-202-586. Rooms are available in the main manor as well as in smaller guesthouses on the estate. Nightly rates per person, double occupancy, are $63, including breakfast. Dinner or lunch, $23 per person. Packages include day trips with tours, activities, food, wine, fees and taxes, $162 per person, as well as deals for weekends, week-long and longer stays.

You can fly to Bucharest’s Henri Coanda Airport or the city of Targu Mures in central Romania and Mr. Kalnoky will arrange transportation to the manor. Trains run hourly from Bucharest to Brasov, and Mr. Kalnoky will arrange transportation from the station. If you plan to travel farther afield after staying at the manor, you can hire a car at the airport and make the four-hour drive.

The nearby Saxon city of Brasov and the medieval fortress cities of Sighisoara and Sibiu are in the area. Sibiu is the European city of culture in 2007.

Bran Castle, known as Dracula’s castle because Vlad the Impaler spent a night there, is about an hour’s drive away. The capital, Bucharest, is four hours south. In the winter, tourists also can go skiing in Poiana Brasov, close to the city.

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