April 30, 2012

Dracula, Transylvania and The Hungarian Kingdom.

Depending on which historical records a person reads, they might find a lot about Dracula.  Unfortunately there is no historical account of a Count Dracula; he was a character in a novel.  Transylvania is a real place, but the Transylvania that most people call to mind is the one with a vampire.

The history of the Bathory clan does come up with one person who might fit the "vampire" ideal:  Elizabeth Bathory.  Although not directly related to Vlad Tepes Dracula, she was known to have killed hundreds of young women, all in an attempt to keep her youth.

At the time when Vlad Tepes lived, Transylvania was a part of the Kingdom of Hungary.  When Bram Stoker wrote his famous book, Transylvania was a part of the Empire of Austria.  Vlad Tepes was dead, and Bran Castle and many other castles were falling into disrepair.

The Kingdom of Hungary shaped the person Vlad Tepes would become, but he was a Prince of Wallachia.  His name was recorded in the history books, and it was in these records that one Mr. Stoker found that name, and made Transylvania and vampires immortal.

The most interesting part of the Dracula and Transylvania connection is that there are still people who are direct descendants of Vlad Tepes.  Some, are even Royalty.  The Kingdom of Hungary and its rulers and nobility were never too happy with Vlad Tepes, and they would have been pleased to see him as a vampire.

There is more to this story. The Saxons of Transylvania wrote quite negatively about Tepes, and this lead to many myths about Dracula and Transylvania.  But sometimes facts are not as good as fiction.

April 28, 2012

The Images of Bran Castle, Romania

Bran Castle is found on the border of Transylvania and Wallachia.

This is possibly one of the most photographed castles in Europe.  Only when they arrive do most tourists learn that this castle has been extensively restored over the last century.  Some of the walls, according to the locals looked like this, but the Castle itself, remained for the most part in good repair.

Before this time, much of what was largely Bran Castle in Transylvania was nearly gone, this picture shows some parts of the outer walls which where slowly being overrun by nature.  The castle itself, that it was in need of repairs it however, it was still intact, and in use.

Over the years, it has been restored to its former state, and tourists began to come to Transylvania.  The restorations of the 20th Century helped the local economy, but it was a royal residence first.

This is one of the many castles tourists visit Romania to see now.  The restoration was first done at the command of Queen Marie of Romania.  It became a part of Romania after the First World War.  Long before this time it guarded the gates of the west, as it was along a route between Wallachia and Transylvania.

After the fall of the Hapsburgs, and the rise of the Balkan kingdoms, Transylvania was a part of Romania.  Bran Castle would be one of her many residences, and one which would gain fame in and of itself because of the novel Dracula.

The novel Dracula, was based on another castle, which in found in England.  Most people identify   Bran Castle as Dracula's castle, somewhat incorrectly.  The castle which Bran used as inspiration was in England and not this castle.

Count Dracula was the main character of Dracula, and only legend has it that Vlad Tepes lived in Bran Castle for a time.

Older engravings show what Bran castle looked like before the many restorations of the castle.  There was not much damage to the castle itself, as the local population used it, but there was damage.

Bran Castle, Romania is important because it is a large tourist attraction, and because it holds much history. However, this being said, there is always a chance it can fall into disrepair, as it did during the height of the Soviet influence in Romania.

April 25, 2012

Maps of Hungary and Transylvania

There are many maps showing Transylvania in Hungary.  There aren't as many maps showing Transylvania in Romania.  This is possibly because Romania, as a country, did not exist until the late 19th Century.

This map from 1606, even mentions that the area was called the Ottoman Empire.  At this time, Transylvania was an independent principality of Hungary.

Romania and Hungary have a long history relating to Transylvania, but it is the height of the Ottoman Empire which shows many maps of Hungary and Transylvania.

The Hungarian Royal family and the nobility played a big part in keeping Vienna, the Holy Roman Empire, and then the Austrian Empire protected; however, the Romanian Royal family stood on its own later on. This took place after the end of the First World War, when the Romanian Army took control of much of Transylvania.

Yes, there will always bee many maps of Hungary and Transylvania in this world.

April 22, 2012

The Crown of Queen Marie of Romania

Queen Marie of Romania had several crowns made for her; most notable was a crown made with Transylvanian Gold for her 1922 coronation in Alba Iulia at the end of World War I. In fact, she became Queen in October of 1914, but due to the outbreak of the First World War, she and her husband were not crowned as King and Queen of Romania then.

Her other crowns and jewels came form her mother, the Grand Duchess Marie of Russia (later Duchess of Edinburgh and Duchess of Saxe-Coburg-Gotha) when she died in 1920. After the death of King Ferdinand she was also seen wearing the mourning veil. Unlike a more recent member, Queen Mary of Great Britain, who married into the British Royal Family, she was not related to Vlad Tepes.  Her view was more towards England and Russia.

She was the granddaughter of Alexander II of Russia who was known for being a more moderate Tsar of Russia.  Her point of view was also affected by her grandmother, the formindable Queen Victoria of Great Britain.

April 20, 2012

Images of Vlad The Impaler Tepes

So many people write about Vlad Tepes, and many more will, he's a money maker for Transylvania and for Romania in terms of tourist dollars and attractions in the area.  Vlad Tepes, however is not Dracula, He was nobility, and a warlord and would have been lost in history save for one man, Bram Stoker.

This writer, who would not gain fame during his lifetime, and has no living direct descendents, has many followers now.  Stoker wasn't even Eastern European but rather, Irish.  He never knew much about the person who became Dracula.  Vlad Tepes did have some influence on the character, but not much.

He is a large part of the myth and legend of Transylvania.  He was born there, and he spend much of his life in this area.

One of the most famous images of Vlad Tepes is this one:

But there are others, there are possibly as many people who want to see what Vlad The Impaler Tepes (the Impaler was the name which was given to him because of his preferred method of torturing and killing his enemies) looked like.

Over time, however, Vlad Tepes the man was lost, and it was not until the novel Dracula was published and became popular that more images of Vlad Tepes were seen again.

However, even then the popular vampire image was created, and Vlad was lost to the pages of history once more.  Romania, it seemed lost a chance to grow a larger part of real history with one man.  However, this was a time when Romania was a new country and was rebuilding its way of life.  Transylvania, when Dracula was published was still a part of the Kingdom of Hungary.

Bram Stoker inadvertently worked wonders for Transylvania, and Romania, and he created a character who would be based on a person whose most famous acts were close to being traitorous.  

Tepes was no hero and not even an anti-hero he was a Prince of Wallachia and was determined to keep or regain his throne depending on the situation.  He was born in Transylvania, and was not the eldest son.  He would inherit a throne because of the death of his older brother and father.

He sided with the Kingdom Of Hungary and also with the Ottoman Empire.  This lead to his imprisonment and exile.

Many, though, relate Vlad to Romania and Transylvania, and some of the images of Transylvania are related directly to Vlad.  One image is Bran Castle, which is easily found on many maps of Transylvania.

Images of Vlad Tepes are everywhere in Transylvania.  As are some plaques and other historical notes on him.  Much is shrouded in bias history- based on who was writing the historical facts.

The Romanians valued him, whereas the Germans did not.  However, this is because it was many of the German population who suffered at his hands, and not the Romanian population.  Because of the area where there was much fighting, between the Ottomans and the Hungarians, Brasov much of the infamous deeds happened.

Brasov, Romania is also close to Bran Castle, which makes a difference in tourism within a larger area of both Transylvania and Romania. is where This is one of the many ways that Vlad Tepes still makes money for Romania.

April 17, 2012

Maps With Transylvania and Romania

I have a nice collection of maps, some are older and some are newer, but they all give me a sense of where Transylvania is in terms of history and geography over time.

Although most people are easily able to locate where Transylvania lies in modern Romania, they often find it harder to spot when I show them an older map.  It's not as easy to figure out if you are unsure of older modern history.

Not everyone knows that Wallachia and Moldavia united to become Romania, and at that point all of the area was a part of the Ottoman Empire.

Transylvania, it should be noted, was not a part of that union as it was a part of the Kingdom of Hungary- which was by that time a part of the Empire of Austria- it was the junior partner of this Empire until 1867.

People who have lived there know where Transylvania is, but even then when they look an older map, they might not know exactly where it is.  They can find in the information in books.   Most of the reason is because of the changing dynamics of Eastern and Central Europe during the 1800s and the 1900s.  Most of the changes were after the end of the First World War.

The two maps above show Transylvania, but the top shows it as a part of the Kingdom of Hungary.  The lower map shows where Bran Castle is in relation to the rest of Romania.  The castle is a huge tourist attraction, and most people know that it is in Romania, but they don't realize it isn't in Transylvania but close to its historic borders.

Since that time, Romania and Europe have not changed their political borders very much, and Romania, in particular Transylvania is a wonderful place to go and visit.  It is full of history and castles (Bran, Alba Iulia, and many others), but the maps show that Transylvania is a part of Europe, and it will always play a role there.

Castles are the very things which make Romania a economic powerhouse in comparision with its neighbours.  It also has a lot of natural resources which were wanted by other powers.  Most notably during the Second World War, and after- the USSR would have a part of Romania, as would Bulgaria.  Hungary would not have Northern Transylvania.

The maps below show Transylvania as a part of Romania, but also during the war and with the Northern part of Transylvania in Hungarian territory.

These parts were part of Hungary, but some of them are not considered Transylvania proper, such as the Banat region which remained within the borders of Romania during the Second World War.

April 13, 2012

When You Visit Romania Go and See Transylvania

There are many places to experience when you visit Romania.  In fact there are enough castles there to keep a tourist happy for a month or more.  Some are famous, and some among what were once a number of Royal residences.  One of those residences is Peles castle which is located in what was once Wallachia, and it was built by Carol I of Romania. This was before Transylvania was a part of Romania, and this was one of the many royal palaces.

Queen Marie of Romania

Peles Castle in Romania.

Some of the castles are restored and some are not.  The same holds true for the many cities and town in Romania.  This is also the case in Transylvania.  There is much to see in Transylvania, from the ancient cities to the towns, and there is also culture to experience.  Experiencing Romania's diverse culture is important for any person who wants to learn about the people and places in Romania, and also the history of Transylvania.

There is much more to see in Romania than "Dracula's castle", although that is a very important tourist destination.  It is one of the most popular destinations in Transylvania, and it has been restored over the years.  This is one of the reasons people write about Transylvania, there is quite the myth of people and places one can talk about.

When visiting Europe, tourists should make a point of going to Romania and  into Transylvania.  There are many places where one can learn what effect the Romanian revolution had on the country and its people, and one can also see the many different cultures that Romania, and more specifically Transylvania, has to offer.

April 11, 2012

Romania and Transylvania

Romania, as a country, is rather young. It has a long history, as a culture with its people.

The territory that now makes up Romania was formed when two principalities united: Wallachia and Moldavia- and this was only in the 1800s.  Transylvania was not a part of this union, but long before this time, there was a union of sorts.

The first ruler was not a German prince, the next few rulers were.  At the time it was a Princedom, not even a Kingdom, Romania was but a small new country in Central Europe, Hungary as a country was far older.  It is about the same age as Greece, and Bulgaria.  Even then, it was ruled by a man with the title of Domitor.  This man would not last, and later there would be a new set of rulers.

There were also many ethnic Romanians living in another country, in the principality of Transylvania, which was then a part of the Kingdom of Hungary, itself a part of the Austrian Empire.  For a time it was nominally independent, but over time, Transylvania was incorporated into the Kingdom of Hungary and the rulers of Austria became known as the Grand Princes of Transylvania.

Later Romania became a Kingdom, under King Carol I, not even Romanian born, but of Germany, but the country always harboured the idea that Romania and Transylvania should unite and become Greater Romania, along with other territory.  After the end of the First World War, this happened.

It looked similar to what Michael the Brave accomplished in 1599-1600.   Note that in this picture during the time of Michael the Brave (Not King Michael of Romania) Poland and the Austrian Empire bordered what would become Romania.

This area would be known as Great Romania, which was the goal of many of these nations before they became nations- these included Greece (which never came close to the former glories of its past) and Bulgaria and many other countries which were born in part because of the fall of the Ottoman Empire.

However, during the time between the wars, there were still many other cultures, one of those being the Saxons, who lived in the South around the city of Sibiu, and then in the North around the city of Bistriţa.  There was also the strong Jewish community, as well as Roma and other cultures in the area.

There was tension because there were also a great number of Hungarians living in Transylvania (and still do) who wanted to unite back with Hungary.  This eventually happened in 1940, when Northern Transylvania was returned to Hungary by virtue of the Vienna Awards.  At the end of World War II, Romania and all of Transylvania were once again united.

Romania and Transylvania have a unique history and it is one which is politically sensitive as well.  From Vlad Tepes Dracula to the Saxons who lived in Transylvania, there is much to see and experience in Transylvania.  The Romanians who lived in Transylvania view it as a part of Romania, as it was a part of the Dacian Empire before the Romans conquered it for its natural resources.

Some of the cities in Tranyslvania were founded during the Roman occupation, and these are still in use by the population today.

April 10, 2012

Vlad The Impaler: Vlad Tepes III, Prince of Wallachia,

Vlad Tepes III was a prince of Wallachia, a principality that neighboured Transylvania- both of which are now a part of the country of Romania.  He was born in a small Transylvanian city Sighişoara.  A monument there tells tourists about his place of birth, as well as this plaque.

Note that it does not say the name: Vlad the Impaler- his name on the plaque is Vlad Dracul.  This was a name given to him by his opponents.  The Saxons of the city of Braşov count among them.  (Incidentally, the city of Braşov is close to Bran Castle.)  The Saxons suffered many punishments because of him, although accounts vary regarding the number of people killed on Vlad's orders.  The most common means of execution was by being impaled with a stake.

This was not where he learned the art he became famous for.  He was given to the Ottoman sultan where he was treated cruelly, and then he fought against the Turks for many years.  He eventually had children, and several nieces and nephews, and one of his descendants, a Hungarian, Countess Claudine, gave birth to Francis of Teck.

Fracis of Teck married a British Princess and their daughter, Princess Mary, eventually became Queen of Great Britain.  Vlad the Impaler is one of her ancestors. 

This has not led to a great "reinterpretation" of Vlad's reputation by many people in the Western part of Europe or in North America.  They still perceive him as Vlad the Impaler, or even as Count Dracula.  Romanian sources describe Vlad Tepes more positively.  Perhaps this is because Wallachia was one of the two areas that united to become the Princedom of Romania.

You can read more about Transylvania in my book In Search of the Lost Ones.

April 8, 2012

Pictures of Places You Can Travel To In Romania

There are so many places you can travel to -- one of them is Transylvania.  There are hundreds of pictures of places where you can go to take a tour or simply to visit the sites on your own.  You will probably need maps, but you probably want something a bit more recent than the ones Things about Transylvania can provide for you.

This map is very old, but the pictures show well-preserved cities that never appear to change. It is interesting to look at the photographs, but it would be far more interesting to travel to these places in Romania, and more specifically in Transylvania.
Would you go to see Bran Castle?
Many tourists do because there is a large following of people who feel the need to see "Dracula's castle" and so they travel there because it is in Transylvania and because Stoker wrote about it in his book.
Sibiu is also high on many people's wish lists of travel destinations.  It is one of the many UNESCO heritage sites in Transylvania, and many tourists travel there to see the restoration of the city.

Where you tour or travel to doesn't matter, it helps the economy of Transylvania and Europe. Enjoy that time learning the history and mingling with the people there. The places are full of history.  It is important to see them and it is important to know about the places that people lived in-- and in many cases in Transylvania-- still live in.  This is one of the many reasons people travel there and write about Transylvania.