July 16, 2017

Why Should I Visit Transylvania?

Let's play a game.  Say you want to do a bit of traveling outside of the normal routes.  Say that for you, London, Paris or Berlin are places which you have been to, and would want to visit something not too hot, so not Italy nor Portugal or Spain.  A bit of history is what you are after, along with some very interesting local stories.

You want to see some older buildings which have bloody histories, and some which have world famous people who have lived in them.  You want to visit small towns which date back centuries which seem to be lost in time.

Where should you go to travel?

Let's be clear, you want something a bit different and you have been to all the places listed before, but something familiar would be fine with you.  This is why you should visit Transylvania.  Take for examples its castles, at nearly 700 of them, they range from the famous- Bran Castle- to ruins which you can explore as a tourist. There are older abbeys which have histories dating back more than a 1,000 years.  There are converted churches- from the Lutheran Churches to the Romanian Orthodox.

The food is also impressive, it begins which the mix of Hungarian, the Romanian and the German.   There is a great deal of Asian flavour and Middle Eastern, as the Mongols and the Ottoman Empires would attempt to invade from the East.

Some tourist go to see the land, because of the fact that it was the 'gateway to Europe.'  The past and the present seems to collide, when in a few hours one can drive in a very metropolitan city such as Brasov, only to find centuries old villages which have stood the test of time, and they are still inhabited. For people who have not lived in Transylvania, but have family who did, it is always amazing to search on Google Maps, and see the villages that the family grew up in, and where much of the village is intact and is maintained.

There are religious aspects to the land, this is where cultures seemed to have an idea of how to live, or co-exisit in some fashion with Catholics, Lutherans, Jews and Romanian Orthodox living and worshiping in the same area.  This is a land where the people have both much, and very little.  It is a land which survived and thrived under many types of politics.

The cultures have survived and carried on, and they are a link between the past and the future in Transylvania.  It is a land where the community and the culture are still an important part of Transylvania.

Transylvania, is a place you should visit, not only for the major attractions but also for the less important ones- the people and the smaller communities, where the investment and the memories are so vital.  It is a place you should see to learn about, and to enjoy.  Give yourself the credit, and not only go to see a place such as Bran castle, or to the city of Brasov, but also to the outlying communities which have as much if not more history to them as.

May 21, 2017

Transylvania and "Cool"

Writing about Transylvania
Cool and Things about Transylvania 
Transylvania is cool.  While that might not seem as if that's academic or even remotely smart, what it does mean is that people who don't know about the area, find it interesting.  This conversation has happened time and again when I mention that my family lived in Transylvania.

This conversation usually goes with "wow that's cool." Or, most notably in the last while, "wow, Transylvania is pretty cool."  I'm reasonably certain that they are not making reference to the weather, although the mountains are high enough to be cool for most of the year. Sometimes, they will ask questions about the area to confirm they had heard it correctly.(If I am honest, there is also a good chance that the person will mention Dracula, but I digress)

It's making it easier to be in a more positive mindset about writing and talking about Transylvania when you hear the words it's cool.  It's fun to write about a place where the people and the history is so varied and unique and where each bit of detail can change who and what you see of as "Transylvania."

Going for a bit of a travel with family who once lived there was also an experience which was also both cool and sad.  Google maps proved to be very useful in terms of seeing the villages that people who lived there once saw.  For the most part, the buildings in the smaller villages remained the same. For some people, who left while very young and hadn't returned, it was more of a "wow" moment.  They could visualize their home, and not just from stories others told them.

For others, who left later in their lives, and had more memories of the area, they said that it was different, in some ways more run down, and they could see the effects of communism or of lack of pride in the villages. Others, found that the house or the mill or whichever was there had been torn down, or expanded.  To them, it was bittersweet "cool."

Transylvania does hold some unique memories and for many, these are more vivid and happier than what they find now.  The same holds true with most people and how they recall events.  More often than not, the person remembers it as either better or worse than what it really was.  It seems this holds true when it comes to the people and the land that they lived.  This is another way we can keep the ties that bind us to our past.

Sometimes, for something to be cool, one most have no preconceived notions about the area, and yet, as this post pointed out, most people have an idea of the world around them and have general ideas of what a place, a culture and a people should be.  To be a part of Transylvania and its culture means that sharing the facts is only one part, it is also a willingness to make the place a bit more unique, cool if you will, to others who might want to know more about the land.

March 22, 2017

Losing the Ties that Bind Us

It seems that these days there is a surge of the "blame game." Someone, somewhere, somehow, some when, did something to you- as a child... as a teenager... as an adult.  There's always someone to blame, and the best of the blames generally comes from the past.  (I am not talking about severe trauma, or abuse; rather the ones that everyone has to deal with at some point in their lives.) That's the problem, by blaming we lose a part of our lives.

I was struck that most people don't like to deal with how their parents, or their grandparents lived.  My family were farmers.  Nothing wrong with that, nothing at all.  They lived in Transylvania, and had lived in a small village, and work, church and extended family were the foundation, if not the end all and be all of life.

That was how they lived, and there was no margin for error, they worked for their food and they believed and held on to a religion.  People were born as farmers, and worked as that, and should they want to be anything else, this was unacceptable.  You were not an individual, but rather a part of a group trying to create food, and shelter and a living.

That's what bound them together, it was a harder life, especially in a place such as Transylvania.  There were characters in the villages and most people knew each other's business, and individuality wasn't encouraged.  In fact, in many dresses or suits, almost all the siblings would wear the same outfit.  Possibly not due to style, but due to the cost of materials for all of them.  The women tended to marry young, and have numerous children, and the men would be the providers.

Yet, now in the present, we are expected to be individuals, these strong people, full of empathy and compassions, with a higher sense of worth houses filled to the brim with stuff. We are not supposed to be as "down to earth" because we should have a sense of a style of our own, and go where the adventure lies, so that we live for the moment.

Now, not everyone feels this way, but it does make one wonder what it takes to get back to ones roots.  A good example is the art of crafts.  With many people in Transylvania, there was a strong element of traditional dresses.  Credit goes to the women who spend days and months creating these works of art.  In a sense, the art and woodworking and craftwork bound the people closer together.

The Saxons had their own style of dresses, which were worn on important or special occasions, as did the Romanians, and the Hungarians and the Jewish communities.  They all shared the common core value of community and hard work.  They all felt their community had the most positive aspects, and that they were a part of the workings of the nation they lived in.

After the Second World War, this all changed.  As many of these communities fled Transylvania, they attempted to keep the ties to the land they lived in, and in many cases loved.  However, as the population who once lived in Transylvania passes, the ties that bind us to there, or those who do not live in Transylvania become loser.  The ties are tested against a more Western culture, which values independence more than community.

The farmers lost their land, and the descendants did not have the means to learn, especially when many would immigrate to the large cities in North America or other smaller European countries.  As time has passed, we might blame them for not pushing towards a stronger community.  We might blame them for holding us back or pushing too hard.

However, in the process we create more loss instead of learning from the past and what the people of Transylvania accomplished with what they had at the time.