by Sean Hillen
Hard to imagine a more relaxing scenario than sipping a glass of crisp local wine while gazing across the fir-clothed mountains of Transylvania as the sun casts its warmth over the open patio of Schuster Boarding House in Brasov.
Below and around stretch wavelike the ochre rooftops of charming Old Town houses while beyond stands the colorful clock-face of the medieval Black Church in the cobblestone central square.
Somewhere, not far away, the soft rhythms of traditional Romanian music waft through the quiet of a soft summer Sunday afternoon. Sitting here, listening to the playful cries of children and a church bell tolling in the distance, time seems not to stand still but to pause for a slow intake of breath.
Opened earlier this year after three years of renovation, Schuster Boarding House is a city location with a distinct rural feel, embraced as it is by the steep forested slopes of Tampa Mountain, part of the eastern Carpathians.
Its owner, fashion designer Christian Stupariu who owns ‘Cato,’ a chain of clothes shops throughout Romania, spent an estimated three million euro transforming a private house into an elegant 22-room boutique hotel, where modern decor including plush furnishings and decorative floor tiling complement original brickwork. The roof soffit and ground floor windows and doors have been manually restored and painted and a preserved bow window attests to the art nouveau period in which the house was built at the turn of the 20th century.
Now the property is managed on a lease basis by Ana Maria Ciosa who returned to her native country from Israel after gaining comprehensive experience in the hospitality industry. She describes Schuster as “highly sensorial, a hotel that raises one’s spirits.”
In his search for elegance, Stupariu has also borrowed some ideas, including impressive design mirrors, from leading hotels such as the 5-star Armani in Milan and the Pulitzer in Paris. Our spacious room up a short flight of steps at the end of the first floor featured Chevron style floors, bow windows, varnished wood walls, floor-to-ceiling mirrors, a writing desk and an overall gray and black color scheme. A discreet corner displayed part of the original brick wall.
My companion and I were informed the building’s original construction was the brainchild of Gabriel Schuster, a Saxon banker who hired an architect from Vienna and workers from Budapest in 1910 to build him a home in art nouveau style. The project took four years and elements can still be seen in restored original paintings on the façade.
Among the memorable highlights of our visit – aside from the efficient and friendly service of staff such as Adriana Meres – were relaxing mornings and evenings spent on the panoramic rooftop. This experience is frequently enhanced for guests when Ana Maria’s 18-year-old daughter, Maya, a talented singer, performs jazz renditions accompanied by a guitarist.
Schuster Boarding House and other elegant properties like it are soon to reap the benefits of a new international airport expected to be completed in Brasov next year, the first such development for the city.
Possessing an enchanting Old Town that reminds me of the Latin Quarter of Paris with lively outdoor cafes, restaurants and bars dotted along every street, scenic hiking trails and winter skiing in nearby Poina Brasov and an abundance of festivals, including jazz, film, blues and theatre, the city should soon become an even more popular all-year holiday destination.