ZABALA, Romania — Like Transylvania itself, the century’s-old estate owned by Gregor and Alexander Roy-Chowdhury in the Carpathian mountains of central Romania is a work in progress.
The Austria-born Hungarian aristocrats are toiling to give the Mikes estate, once confiscated by the communists, a new life and create jobs in the village of Zabala, where horse-drawn hay carts ply the roads and the closest supermarket is miles away. They started selling lumber and opened a pension on the estate, an hour’s drive through woods and fields from Prince Charles’s own rural property. Still, one building remains gutted and red tape stymies the property’s development.
„Despite the difficult circumstances, we’re trying to build up a sustainable tourism and forestry business and create an environment that keeps the young people here,” said Alexander Roy-Chowdhury as his two young daughters ran around the pension lobby chattering in German.
A trek through Transylvania, best known abroad for the legend of Dracula, is often like time travel to the 19th century. Almost 25 years after communism ended, aristocrats from as far away as London, including the heir to the British throne, are being drawn to its dark forests and rolling hills to bring long-term investment to one of the European Union’s poorest regions.