50 km away from Timişoara (see map), hides the Kárácsonyi Castle of Banloc. Time has stolen its glow, the restoration attempts have destroyed it even further and people have vandalized it so many times that no one can keep track anymore. Not even nature has forgiven it, being hit by a powerful earthquake in 1991.
Everyone’s castle vs. no one’s castle
The castle was built in 1793, by Lázár Kárácsonyi. Until the beginning of the 20th century, even a park with valuable species of trees and statues is arranged around the building. In 1935, the property is told by Kárácsonyi – Keglevich Imre to Queen Elisabeth of Greece, the sister of King Carol the 2nd of Romania.
In 1948, after the queen left, the park statues were vandalized and the archive and library were burned. Between 1950 and 1958, the Banloc Castle passes through the hands of two other owners and then is turned into a nursing home and into an orphanage after that. Since 1983 and until the earthquake, this building functioned as a school for 1st through 10th grades (source). Today it is leased by the Banat Metropolitan but it is rumored that the royal grounds and the castle will be returned to Prince Paul of Romania.
I don’t have anything to tell you, other than ruin, decay and all you can see.
This is what we were told by mister Alexandru, the Kárácsonyi Castle of Banloc guard, last fall, when we visited. We had met his wife 10 minutes earlier. She was bringing a few fresh cut hubs from the castle park, probably for the purpose of firewood. Alexandru asked us if we were there to buy the property, because the European Union was sending a representative who was supposed to buy it. It had been returned. He was supposed to come and see its situation and the state it was in, he told us, referring to Prince Paul, we suspect. I am a guard. When I wasn’t a guard, look at the gutters, they were made out of cooper and they were taken, every one of them. On this side and the other one. In the end, the Parish decided to bring a security guard here. For the moment, they’re in charge.
Next, a moment of silence followed, after which, Alexandru described to us how the Kárácsonyi Castle could be highlighted in a flattering way: Oh, how beautiful it could be…Repairs done, a few pools in the back, a few kiosks for the children (the guard’s wife giggles). Every Sunday in the summer, the place fills up with children. But the bigger ones also come, having nowhere else to go. It would be so good. With sweets, juice, pools, beautiful and clean. For those who want to have a beer, for the others, there’s juice. They would come. And they do come: “We’re here to film!” What film? For Borsec, maybe you’ve been there: everything’s the same. I’ve seen it on TV, but I wasn’t there.
There is a tube with thermal water, same as in Deta, and it could be restored and used. Here, we have one too, that hasn’t been used in 30 years. It isn’t used. Temperatures of 30 and 40 degrees Celsius. At Deta, I don’t know if you were there, where tube extractions are done, there are some sort of baths. Baths that are in accordance with the health laws, everything, people go to Banloc for rheumatism treatments, for different diseases. If you have the chance, go and take a look. It is beautiful to see.
When we were saying goodbye, Alexandru told us: If you want, you can come back another time, BUT only if you plan on buying it.
Written by Alexandra Palconi. Translated by Doiniţa Spuză.
Photo credit: Flavius Neamciuc