January 31, 2012

The History of Dracula: Vlad Tepes, Also Known As Vlad the Impaler

The history of Dracula all began with the writings of many people.  These writers were spread out from Russia to Wallachia (a part of what is now Romania) and some were German people, known as the Saxons, living in Transylvania.  The Germans wrote back to the German princedoms about one man:  His name was Vlad Tepes III (Dracul).  His father was a Prince of Wallachia, a neighbouring principality of Transylvania and Vlad was a younger son, who was born in Transylvania.  As a younger son, he was not expected to become a ruling Prince of Wallachia.

His father was also known as Vlad Tepes II Dracul. Considering later events, his father was a part of the Order of the Dragon, which was a chivalric order founded to protect Christianity in Europe against Islam. Yet Vlad II later sent his sons to the Turks as vassals and he also paid a tax for non-Muslims to the Ottoman sultan.  He did these things to regain his throne of Wallachia back from those who had once again deposed him.

There under the rule of the sultan, Vlad Tepes III learned much about torture methods and he would later go on, according to the German writings of the time, impale on stakes anyone who opposed him.  He seemed to have a particular dislike to the Germans living in Brasov, however most scholars now agree that the numbers that the Germans reported were exaggerated.  He did not, however, bathe in blood or "bite" people -- that was done by Elizabeth Bathory in Transylvania.

Neither of these two historical figures lived in the most famous of the castles we associate with Dracula, Bran castle.  In fact it is highly unlikely that either of them would have had a chance to see it in its full glory.

This is the basic foundation for the novel Dracula.  An immortal tyrant, and Transylvania.

Bram Stoker, Writer of the Novel Dracula
And Vlad Tepes III was the historical inspiration for the character Count Dracula who lived in the imposing  Bran Castle.  Bram Stoker did not use images from Transylvania for his inspiration.  Instead, he drew it from  the catacombs and back alleys of London for the fictional homeland of Dracula..

He consulted maps for his novel, but he was certainly more worried about the story and not where Transylvania was either historically or geographically.  The novel Dracula, however, has brought tourism money to the country of Romania, so knowing the story of Dracula, and the person he is based on is vital.

January 28, 2012

Which Bathory Branch Was Elizabeth Bathory, Countess of the Blood From?

In Transylvania there was a woman who became far more deadly than Vlad Tepes. She was married to a minor prince and as such kept her maiden name-- Bathory. However she was part of a greater clan, the Bathory clan which ruled within Transylvania. This was a powerful clan for many years. Yet, it was divided into two groups: Báthory of Somlyó and Báthory of Ecsed. These were the sons of Briccius.

Which clan was Elizabeth found in?

Her father was George VI, and he was a descendant of Luke, who was the founder of the Bathory of Ecsed clan.  She was also a Protestant. This information helps us understand the clan's history with the Hapsburgs as well.  The the King of Hungary wanted to put her on trial, but his advisers did not want to do that for fear of angering the Hungarian nobility.
This is a photo of one of her many castles. It is in Transylvania and is in a protected park because much of the vegetation is threatened. As with anything to do with Transylvania, many books have been written about this woman.

January 26, 2012

Why a Blog Needs Traffic To Survive: It is Like Tourism and Transylvania

Transylvania needs tourism to help its culture survive and thrive as a part of Romania.  This is somewhat like a blog on Transylvania, it needs traffic -- attention from readers -- to survive and to thrive.  This means writing on a regular basis. Blogging is one part commentary and two parts Internet savvy.

You need to build up and maintain your readership, and particularly if you write about a niche subject like Transylvania, you need to work far harder than you thought possible
. I am amazed by the number of books and other reading material out there on Transylvania and Romania and Hungary.  There is a need and desire for people to know about this part of the world.

The same hold true for blogs: they need traffic to survive in this environment, and many thanks go out to the newest writer on Things about Transylvania.  Jane is an excellent writer, and often works her magic on this blog.  This blog, thanks to her and the readers here, has increased traffic.  I hope this is because the posts have more information, or more people would like to learn about Romania.

It also helps that many people have an interest in Transylvania and of course, Dracula -- an intriguing character and an interesting fictional bridge to a true-life tyrant - and telling great stories and giving them historical context is good way to improve readership.  Readers need to read what they love, and that is Transylvania and its history, and Dracula.

So how do tourism in Transylvania and blogging in general relate? 

Both are providing information and entertainment that people need and both have to build up a following and work hard at what they do.  The heart of Transylvania is tourism and the heart of a blog is traffic and for each of them to grow, you need to provide your audience with the best information possible.

January 25, 2012

Books on Vlad Tepes: Dracula

I recently did a quick search on the book website Amazon.com and what I found was very interesting to me.  I wouldn't like to keep you in suspense about my search terms, so I will give this to you:  Transylvania and Dracula.

I narrowed the search down to history books and found 33 results.  What interested me was that the top book was about Dracula and his life and times.  It seems to be a good book, and I will probably read it on Kindle.  The reviews and generally positive so that seems to be a point in its favour.

There are a lot of printed books and e-books on the subject of Transylvania and Vlad Tepes, and as for man and myth, I think there will be a few books which are going to be a very informative read.  It is all about Transylvania and Romania

Except that writing about this land and about Vlad Tepes means dealing with Dracula.

January 23, 2012

Where is Transylvania, Romania?

This is a question that I find partly fun and partly interesting:  many people ask me, where is Transylvania, Romania.  I sometimes wish I could show maps and pictures to the person I'm talking to, but the short answer is that it is in Eastern Europe.  It a part of the continent of Europe, and Romania borders on the Black Sea.

Just like Transylvania has many smaller counties and cultures that together make it up, Romania is roughly made up of three main historical principalities, Wallachia, Moldavia, and Transylvania.

Transylvania proper is located in the Western part of Romania, and this dates back to the 1600s, as shown in the picture above.  During this period Michael the Brave ruled all three major principalities of what would become eventually become the country of Romania.

Geographically speaking, Transylvania is the area closest to Hungary. On the map below, it's harder to tell where Transylvania or smaller areas like the Banat are unless you know and understand the area

Romania and Transylvania have both experienced changes to their territory, but the area is still charmingly unique, and it is where east meets west.  In the past, the Ottoman Empire ruled over much of Eastern Europe and Western Europe wanted the territory.  Transylvania, Romania is a part of Europe.

January 22, 2012

Banat and Transylvania

What most people think of as Transylvania -- the larger province or principality -- is actually made up of several parts. Most people forget that there are other areas nearby which are not a part of Transylvania. The Banat is one of them.

This distinction is important to people who live in the area because they maintain a different cultural identity than the rest of Romania.

The map above shows Transylvania while it was part of the Kingdom of Hungary.  Romania is a darker pink, but there is hardly a mention of the Banat region.  In the image below, the darker yellow area indicates where the Banat and other smaller regions are, and in many people's minds, this is a part of Transylvania.
One of the cities of "Transylvania" is Timișoara, which was where the main protest in 1989 Romanian Revolution happened. And although it is very important to Transylvanian history, it is geographically located in the Banat.  There is more than just a name now.

January 19, 2012

German Names of Transylvania?: Seven Castles

The Saxons of Transylvania have an entirely different name for Transylvania: it is called Siebenbürgen. This means, roughly translated, 'seven castles'.  The main city of the Saxons Hermannstadt, is best known by its Romanian name: Sibiu.

Up until 1941, primarily German speakers lived there, and after the war many of Germans lived there, but they were not in the majority any more. 

The other cities which make up the seven 'castle' cities of the Saxons are: Bistritz (Bistriţa), Sächsisch Regen (Reghin), Kronstadt (Braşov) Mediasch (Mediaş), Mühlbach (Sebeş), Schässburg (Sighişoara) and all had strong populations of Saxons.  Unlike the other city, they were not in the majority.  Most of them had higher numbers of  Romanian or Hungarian people in them as compared to the Saxons.

However the main place of decision-making, a capital of sorts, was in Hermannstadt (Sibiu). This is of course only part of the name and one of many names of Transylvania.

January 17, 2012

What are the Hungarian and Romanian Names of Transylvania

In the last post, I wrote about the names Transylvania, and many people in North America know the area by Transylvania.  Sometimes, however, it is be spelled differently: Transilvania.  However, if you go to Transylvania, Romania, you will hear some very different names for the same place.

Before the First World War, people who lived in Transylvania were citizens of Hungary, and after the end of the war they were citizens of Romania.  If you are of a Romanian background, you would say that Transylvania is called: Ardeal, and if you are Hungarian it is Erdely.

To most people, these written names look similar to one another and both are found in their written form in the space of 200 years. The Gesta Hungarorum (there is an argument about its reliability but for this point I will use it) mentions Erdely it its pages - though in that work, the spelling was Erdeuelu.

The Romanian version of the name of Transylvania began as Ardeliu, but this changed over centuries.  Now the spelling is Ardeal.

There are more theories about how each of the names developed, but it is interesting to people who do not speak either language to see the similarities there.  Both cultures view their names as being separate or that one came before the other.

The name of Transylvania in either Hungarian or Romanian an intensely political topic for many people, and countless pages have been written about the origins of each of the words.  Still, these are just two of the many names that Transylvania has been given.  Interestingly, they are similar in spelling, but are rooted in two very different cultures:  Hungarian and Romanian.

January 16, 2012

How Do You Spell Transylvania? The Many Different Ways to Spell It and Some Other Versions

There are many ways to spell the word Transylvania.  After all, its roots are in the Latin language, but it still has a different meaning that what most think.

No, it has nothing to do with castles or Dracula, but rather with nature.  Roughly, Transylvania means "land beyond the forests".  The spelling is something interesting, too.

This land was rich with other natural resources, and many people either wanted this land and the people who already owned it wanted to keep it.  The Romans and Dacians were the first to fight over it (at least they were the first to record their fights for it.)  There is a place known as Transylvania and it is still found in Romania. 

There the Romanian people have another name for Transylvania which is not based upon the more common Latin name, Transylvania.  For most people outside of Eastern Europe, Transylvania is the more common title or name which people associate with this land. The Romanians call it Ardeal, and the Hungarians called it Ederly, the Germans call it Siebenbuergen.

Still there is another way to spell Transylvania- Transilvania.  I think the same holds true with the meaning- in Latin at least.  The land beyond the forest.

Personally, I think it should be called the land of the castles.

January 12, 2012

Which is Better?: Bran Castle or Other Castles in Transylvania?

Below I have photos of several of the castles of Transylvania. I've also included a map showing where Brasov and Bran Castle are located in Transylvania. These places, and places like them, are part of the reason why the tourism industry is doing well in the city of Brasov and other areas. It is partly the influence of Western writers including Bram and Dacre Stoker that there is a new interest in Transylvania in general.

The reason most people enjoy seeing these sites is that it gives them a sense of history and helps give them an understanding of the people and places that had an effect on thousands of lives.

So which do you like most:  Bran Castle or other castles in Transylvania?

Bran Castle

Castle of Alba Iulia with Michael the Brave and his entrance into the city.

Bathory Castle

Fortress Castle of Beitran

Vlad Tepes (Dracula) and the Ottomans

A prince of Wallachia needs a throne. The problem with this particular prince was that his father was in exile. The next problem, that this prince faced was that the principality of Wallachia was under the control of a larger Empire. This Empire was ruled by a man who lived far away from Wallachia ( part of what would become Romania) and he wanted his throne. As for his name, his father was known as Vlad Tepes II Dracul.

This Empire was known as the Ottoman Empire and for much of the Middle Ages controlled parts of Eastern Europe. This would include places which would become the countries of: Greece, Romania, Serbia and others. According to many they wanted freedom from the Ottomans.   In many maps it seems as if Ottoman Empire was as large as the Roman Empire.  It might have been.

Again, this is a very big land, and Vlad Tepes wanted power as well. He was exiled to Transylvania, and later to Hungary only to die at the hands of the Empire he both helped and hindered.

January 9, 2012

The Saxons of Transylvania and Dracula

This is the Saxon's shield that they had while they lived in Transylvania. This of course has meaning to them and it is still seen and used by the descendants of these Saxons.  One of the cities that is represented by the seven castles is Sighisoara.

It is one of the seven castle cities which has a link to Dracula -- the real Dracula, as in Vlad Tepes, upon whom the writer Bram Stoker based the main character when he wrote his famous novel.   Dracula was published in England is still popular more than 100 years later.

This is an image not of Count Dracula, but rather of Vlad Tepes III who was born in Transylvania. He was a younger son of the exile prince of Wallachia, and wasn't expected to become prince of Wallachia. After the murders of his elder brother and father, though, he did.

It is important to note that he was not a prince of Romania but rather a prince of Wallachia.  He was not a prince of Transylvania at any time either.

The point is that the idea of Dracula makes for good writing. To be honest the idea makes good money since the fictional character count Dracula is still in the movies of Hollywood. Of course, the Russians and the Germans and the Romanians have also written a lot about Vlad Tepes.  Depending on whom you read, you will find some very different points of view about Vlad Tepes.  Jump into any good history book to find out more about Transylvania.

January 8, 2012

Another Published Book Soon?: Transylvania and Beyond

I am almost tempted, after I finish writing and publishing my book about Transylvania and the Saxons, to expand my writing to Transylvania and Romania.  There is a lot of information I can get for that.  I am not sure, however, when another book about Transylvania will be published soon.  This take time and effort.

Transylvania has a lot of history:  a good writer could write many books on the history of Transylvania and still find more information. There is history on the Romans and Transylvania, and the Dacians and Transylvania, and also Michael the Brave.

Let's not forget to mention all the castles around the area.  Or Count Dracula and his effects on the tourism industry in Transylvania.  One could publish a lot of books about the area.  I am planning to have another book about Transylvania published by the end of this year. 

This means a lot of research and writing.  I am excited about this, since this will again go beyond Dracula and go into the history of the people of Transylvania.  Where is Transylvania?  I hope that long term people will read books about Transylvania and learn more about both Romania and Hungary in the process.  That is key to making Transylvania an important place to visit and to read about.

January 5, 2012

Which City Was The European Capital of Culture in 2007?

This place certainly has a lot going for it. It has a documented existence since 1191, and for hundreds of years, it was the heart of the Transylvanian Saxons cultural life. It was also the place where many of the Saxons were educated. Up until 1941, there were more Germans who lived there than either Hungarians or Romanians. However if one combines the Romanian and Hungarian populations against the German population, this date changes to 1930.

And it is still a beautiful city to visit.

Sibiu is the city's name in Romanian, and the city which was named the European capital of culture for 2007.

There has been - like many other of Transylvania's cities - much restoration work done.  Because of these restorations and the location of Sibiu, it is a modern city as well, unlike Beirtan which has been restored but is not as much of a hub as is Sibiu.

Below is the city coat of arms.
Sibiu is a fancinatiing city which has many things for tourists in Transylvania to see.

January 1, 2012

King Michael of Romania and Stalin

These two men influenced the people of Romania, and also the people of Transylvania. In many ways, they came out of the Second World War with two very different reputations.

Joesph Stalin ruled the USSR with an Iron fist, and he killed millions of people either directly or indirectly. He did not fight in the Second World War until the invasion of Russia itself. Michael on the other had a different life.
He was crowned king at the age of five, his father usurped his rule, and Michael then lived with his father and grandmother Queen Marie. Some of the places he lived were very famous in their own right. Bran Castle, was one place where he lived, and where he learned the fine art of diplomacy with his circumstances.

Stalin, however, grew more paranoid and eventually forced King Michael's abdication in 1947.