Until a year ago, Cantacuzino Castle was just another historical building you visited (or didn’t) if you happened to be in the vicinity of Bușteni resort.
Despite the fact that this interesting vestige “abounds” in history and extremely valuable information for anyone who wants to enrich their general culture, among the few who, in the past, stepped over its threshold or courtyard were those eager for a few impressive photos, with the castle and the Bucegi Mountains in the background.
The scenery there is truly magnificent, and you notice this as soon as you step into the courtyard of Cantacuzino Castle.
Incidentally, according to the guidebook, there is an explanation why Cantacuzino, while not necessarily the most beautiful, most eye-catching, largest and richest castle in Romania, has the most beautiful view – but I’ll come back to that in this article soon.
Recently, the building has started to be much more appreciated, but not necessarily for historical reasons, but rather for cinema-related ones. The first season of the hit Netflix series Wednesday, directed by Tim Burton, was filmed here, among other locations around the country.
How Cantacuzino Castle became Nevermore Academy and how it now talks more about Wednesday than “Nabab”
As previously mentioned, acclaimed director Tim Burton took his cast and crew and set down on Romanian soil, choosing Cantacuzino Castle as one of his filming locations.
Obviously, rumours that it’s a bit cheaper here than elsewhere also played a part. However, Burton ran into a big stumbling block: the Romanians who chose to take advantage and raise prices a little above the Caraiman Cross, so the first season is also the last one in which Jenna Ortega or Catherine Zeta-Jones will set foot here for filming, with the team choosing Bulgaria for the second season.
However, what’s left behind Burton is a completely changed castle. A gate that reads Nevermore Academy, dozens of “printed” photos of the Wednesday characters in the places where the actors actually stood to film certain shots, the shooting scene left intact in the courtyard, some (horrible) mannequins dressed as the Addams Family inside the building at the entrance, and a series of panels where children can insert their faces for photos.
And, speaking of children, I should mention that I’ve made a tradition of visiting Bușteniul in February, so I was able to make a little comparison with last year when, in the courtyard of Cantacuzino Castle, you could barely see a child’s eyes. And if you did see it, it was definitely crying and “wiggling its butt on the ground”, demanding to get out of there as soon as possible.
Well, this year the situation was totally different, with the main visitors to the castle being under 18, and that’s thanks to the Wednesday phenomenon, no ifs and buts.
The historical part of Cantacuzino Castle, almost as interesting as Burton’s series
They say history is the best story, but only if you have an appetite for it, I would add. Moreover, it could be said that you have to be of a certain age to distinguish between the compulsory lessons at school, the ones that can make you feel repulsed, and the stories of yesteryear.
Despite the fact that Wednesday’s idea was outside, not inside, with no scenes from the famous show filmed inside, this year was the first year I chose to visit the rooms of this beautiful building – and I’m not at all sorry I did.
At the entrance, we were greeted by the guide who introduced himself as Gabriel, a gentleman with absolutely impeccable diction, visibly passionate about what he had to tell us.
He told us about Prince Gheorghe Grigore Cantacuzino, nicknamed “Nababul”, because of his impressive fortune, but also about his competition with King Carol I.
If the King was to build a more beautiful and richer castle, the Prince had the most beautiful view, towards the Caraiman Cross, which could not be replaced by anything.
As for the rooms, it might be necessary to know that immediately after the arrival of the communists, most of the unique possessions of the Cantacuzino Castle “made legs”, disappearing forever.
What’s more, the walls were, in places, covered in coarse oil paint, the only frescoes remaining being those on the walls at the top (you can see in the photo below), which were surreptitiously covered by someone (who would deserve a medal, if his identity were known) with sacks, and then a layer of cement and paint was applied on top.
Thus, on restoration, they were found and put, once again, in value.
You may be wondering how I managed to take these photos and, more importantly, how much I spent on the photo fee. The answer is: zero lei, and the status of a press person didn’t come into it, being there strictly from the perspective of a regular tourist.
Right from the entrance, Mr. Gabriel informed us that photography is not only allowed, but encouraged – here’s something you don’t really hear every day in museums in our country, and not only.
Bonus: exhibition of graphic works by Salvador Dali and Francisco de Goya
The second pleasant surprise was viewing an exhibition of signed graphic art by Salvador Dali and Francisco de Goya, where I must admit I questioned the authenticity, but was quickly assured by our guide that at least some of the works were as original as possible.
The Art Gallery of Cantacuzino Castle in Bușteni is thus hosting, until the end of February 2023, an exhibition in which over 100 engravings and lithographs signed by Francisco de Goya and Salvador Dali, belonging to the private collection of lawyer George Șerban, can be admired.
On display are 32 of Francisco de Goya’s “Caprices” and 14 original lithographs from the “Caprices” series, this time by Dali.
So while you don’t have much time left to take advantage of the opportunity, if you don’t have anything to do this weekend, it might not hurt to shoot three birds with one stone: history, cinema and lithography.