Some of Eastern Europe’s most spectacular castles and country houses stand forgotten among the hills and forests of Transylvania, unmentioned by guide books and unvisited by tourists. These were once the homes—many dating from the Middle Ages—of the great noble families of Hungary, Europe’s last feudal aristocracy. For 1,000 years Transylvania was part of Hungary. But in 1920, under the Treaty of Trianon, following World War I, Hungary was forced to cede the country to Romania. Overnight, two million Hungarians, ten centuries of Hungarian heritage, and an area the size of Ireland passed into Romanian hands.

For a while the Hungarian aristocrats continued to live in their old homes in a world of gradually fading splendor. The crunch came for them, as for landowners throughout Romania, after World War II, when the Communists seized power. The Decree collectivizing the...


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