We haven’t had a sunny day in Bucharest for a month and this is starting to get me into a rather gloomy spirit. A perfect match to the place I’m planning to tell you about: Corvin Castle.
Set in the town of Hunedoara, the castle is a hallmark for the Gothic, dark and mysterious image that hovers over Transylvania. The castle and its grounds are majestic and breathtaking but unfortunately not many get to see it as it’s still an off the beaten path attraction. Trust me, if you visit Transylvania, Corvin Castle is well worth the detour.
The story begins in 1446 with John Hunyadi’s reign in Transylvania. He is the one who built the castle on a medieval citadel, turning it into his royal residence.
First thing that I noticed on the grounds: ravens. The name of the castle comes from the family that owned it: Corvin, name that comes from the Latin ‘corvus’ which literally translates to raven. It is believed that John Hunyadi was the illegitimate son of the great Medieval king Sigismund of Luxemburg and Elizabeth of Margina whom he met on a visit to Transylvania. Before leaving, Sigismund gave Elizabeth a ring with a precious stone that would allow her to enter his palace if she needed him.
Out of their brief love, John Hunyadi was born and when the boy was old enough, his mother considered that it's time for him to meet his father. They packed their bags and left for Sigismund's castle taking the ring with them. On their journey, in a moment of carelessness, a raven stole the precious ring. John saw it and without any hesitation, took the bow and killed the bird with a single arrow. The raven with a ring in its beak thus became the family’s coat of arms. Seeing that, after 5 centuries, ravens still live there, was a nice touch to the story.
The grounds of the castle
During warm days the castle hosts medieval tournaments and welcomes a large number of tourists but on a cold winter afternoon it was empty. We wandered through chambers with thick walls, arcades and Gothic-Renaissance fire places. Only the colourful stained glass would break, from time to time, the heavy, grim ambiance.
Two questions wouldn’t leave me alone: How on Earth did they manage to heat up the castle? How many candles did they use daily to light up those dark rooms? Some of them, the kitchen for example, is a dungeon with only a couple of tiny windows. But, Medieval Ages were not the times to care about the health of the servants.
The well in the small courtyard has a fairly tragic story behind it. Three Turk prisoners were promised their freedom by John Hunyadi if they dug a well. The prisoners found water 28 meters down after 15 years of hard labour. Meanwhile, John Hunyadi had died and his wife decided not to honor her husband’s promise and killed them. ‘You may have water but you have no soul’ it is said to be written on the well, one of the prisoner’s dying wish.
1. The Chapel 2. Coat of Arms, the first on the left is the Corvin one 3. The well
The castle is open daily from 9 to 5. For the holidays it has special hours: 24th of December 2014 open from 9 to 13 25th of December 2014 open from 13 to 17 31st of December open 10 to 16 1st of January 2015 closed
The ticket is 25 lei with special fees for pupils, students and pensioners. Photographing inside castles in Romani is troublesome as it’s either entirely forbidden or the costs are ridiculous. Not at Corvin Castle! The photo tax is just 5 lei and the video 15 lei. Kudos for that!
To get to the castle you have to go through the town of Hunedoara which looks deserted. It is a town that was mostly prosperous during Communism as a major industrial and mining center. When Communism fell the industry in the area went with it. Now it’s just dust, abandoned buildings and stray dogs.
Tip: If you go there by car, the first parking lot that is advertised is a tourist trap. You cannot pay for less than 24 hours which is 7.5 lei for a max. two-hour visit at the castle. It’s more expensive than a two-hour parking in the center of Bucharest.
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