Transylvania

Chris Patton-6th period

Alitte history

In the 12th and 13th cent. the areas in the south and northeast were settled by German colonists called (then and now) Saxons. Siebenbürgen, the German name for Transylvania, derives from the seven principal fortified towns founded there by the Saxons. The German influence became more marked when, early in the 13th cent., King Andrew II of Hungary called on the Teutonic Knights to protect Transylvania from the Cumans, who were followed (1241) by the Mongol invaders. Large numbers of Romanians, called Vlachs or Walachians, were in the region by 1222, although the exact date that their penetration began is disputed. Originally seminomadic shepherds, the Vlachs soon settled down to agriculture.

A little more history

The administration of Transylvania was in the hands of a royal governor, or voivode, who by the mid-13th cent. controlled the whole region. Society was divided into three privileged "nations," the Magyars, the Székely, and the Saxons. These "nations," however, corresponded to social rather than strictly ethnic divisions. Although the nonprivileged class of serfs consisted mostly of Vlachs, it also included some people of Saxon, Székely, and Magyar origin. A few Vlachs, notably John Hunyadi, hero of the Turkish wars, joined the ranks of the nobility. After the suppression (1437) of a peasant revolt the three "nations" solemnly renewed their union; the rebels were cruelly repressed, and serfdom became more firmly entrenched than ever.

Vampires in Transylvania!

In Transylvania, there used to be several ethnic groups ( mentioned inBram Stoker’s novel) whose verbal traditions were recorded and later published. The word “vampire” did not exist in the local culture. Romanian vampires were known as Moroi ( from the Romanian word “mort” meaning “dead” or the Slavic word meaning “nightmare”) and Strigoi, being either living or dead. It was believed that Strigoi had the ability to send out their souls during the night to meet with others of their kind and feed themselves with the blood of livestock and neighbors. Bram Stoker based the creation of his character Dracula on the life and cruelty of a real Romanian ruler, known as Vlad the Impaler (Vlad Tepes or Vlad III in Romanian).

Transylvania today

Transylvania presents visitors with none of the logistical hurdles encountered in the hardscrabble lands to its east. Trains go almost everywhere, and tickets cost roughly two dollars an hour for first-class travel (first-class Romanian-style, that is, with tatterdemalion but comfortably upholstered compartments and equally tatterdemalion but solicitous attendants). There is no need to rent a car: taxis may be hired in the cities at a rate of only thirty cents a mile (if you are not a poker-faced bargainer, have a concierge or a Romanian acquaintance arrange this). Serviceable, clean hotels run a reasonable $15 to $40 a night. Latinate Romanian comes easily to the ears and tongues of French- or Italian-speakers, and English is no longer a rarity. All in all, ten to fourteen days should make a good trip, allowing you to see the places described below and perhaps a couple of others, such as Cluj, the vibrant fin-de-siècle Magyar capital of northern Transylvania, and Sibiu, the German bastion of the south. Transylvanians tend to be unpretentious and hospitable, and you may well be invited home to share a meal.