November 29, 2015

Who Cares About Transylvania?

I'm glad to see how many of you come to this website and read it, I truly am.  I am the first to admit the love and passion I have for Transylvania and Romania has not dimmed.  Granted I was putting more things first than this website, but I do apologize.

Which brings me to the topic of the day: Who cares about Transylvania?

It seems, my dear readers, that you do too.  You come and you read, you enjoy, you discuss and you debate.  I can see you care for the land and its people.  Over the last few weeks, I've learned that when people are passionate about a subject they take the time they have to learn about it.

For example, my family is from Transylvania, and there they were farmers.  Almost every person worked the land, and a few of them would take on other positions.  The value there was hard work, and a more minimalist lifestyle.  They shared the value of caring for the land, and caring for others and themselves.

People cared for one another, and they knew if the other in the area needed help.  That being said it was not "love each other" as there was always tensions between the cultures.  What they all had in common was that they had stories and culture to share with their children and grandchildren.  For the majority of the people of Transylvania, material things were not prized, and what they did have was treasured and cared for.

How does this relate to Transylvania and how others care for it?

People are passionate about things, such as their family or their things, that they are emotionally connected to.  In this case, the connection here is not this website but rather the place which I write about.  People can be attached to something, so first I must thank you all for staying around the last few weeks.  This is too important of a subject for me to leave.

I took a sabbatical for may reasons, and one of them was to think about how to make this website better.  Also, during this time it was to learn about how far I have travelled away from how the people who mattered to me.  It gave me the permission to look at what was important, such as this blog.

What did this sabbatical mean to me?

One, I learned the value of clearing out a lot of things I "needed" in my life, which, comes from the values of the people who lived in Transylvania.  As much as we'd love to say that we don't carry the ghosts of the past, we do.  In my case, it was clearing out the things I didn't need and learning what should be kept.  It's time to rethink how one feels about what sort of life they want.  I cleared my life of stuff, except when it came to one thing.

Every book on Transylvania and Romania and Hungary were kept.  The crafts and the arts were kept too.  Everything else went if it wasn't needed.  It seems that deep down I care about the history and my family more than a minimalist lifestyle.  Either way, it means that there is one more person who cares about Transylvania.  

I have the passion for writing, and I feel there is less of a need for things in my life, and in a way, it's linking my life back to the family in the land I love. When I wrote In Search of The Lost Ones   I learned more about the people, and it increased my love for the land.

Who cares about Transylvania? I know I do.

September 29, 2015

Time to Rethink Transylvania, Romania

King of Romania
King Michael of Romania
Don't worry I haven't forgotten about the wonderful Transylvania, Romania blog.  I enjoy writing about Romania and in specific, Transylvania.  I love the people and the cultures that this land has to offer, and I am finding more reasons to simply take it all in and write about it.

The biggest challenge right now is simply going back and enjoying every aspect of learning about, in terms of royalty and history.  Not only that buy rethinking it in terms of what I read.

It all makes a difference, writing a blog about Transylvania, Romania.  For example, it's King Michael of Romania who interests me, at nearly 94 years of age, he like Queen Elizabeth has hit many milestones, one of which is that he is the last surviving monarch alive who reigned in the interwar period, and Romania has the distinction of having a child monarch who was deposed by his father, only to regain the throne.  He is also one of three heads of state from World War II who are still alive.  He is in the top twenty list for monarchs in the list of youngest state leaders since 1900. He was 18, but it notes, that he was King under a regency from 1927 to 1930.  That's a fact for people who look to ages for records.

It's time to rethink a number of things.

It's time to rethink about people such as Vlad Tepes whose influence was that of a warlord and now, due to a writer, Hollywood and all the movies influences the country as never before.

It's time to rethink this blog, there is a lot to share, but there is a lot which can and should challenge the readers here.  It is a blog which is growing older, but needs a bit of a change.  It's time to go back and rethink what it means to people who read it, who are from Romania, from North America and beyond.

map of Transylvania
Transylvania and Romania

It means something new, and it means on the one hand stepping back but on the other, finding a passion about each part of Romania that makes a person love the land, the people, the culture and the history.  Places and people make history, but so does a strong sense of passion.

The most important part is to rethink what sorts of views you have about the land, and then spend time re-learning from the mistakes.  Not because you need to, but because you want to.  Romania is a great land and this blog will keep going and will be passionate about the more interesting parts of Romania and Transylvania. Dracula included.

September 3, 2015

Van Helsing and Hugh Jackman

Hugh Jackman is a sought after actor, and one of his roles was that of Van Helsing in the movie Van Helsing.

Although many of us are familiar with the iconic character wolverine, which he portrays, what many others don't realize he was also the title character in the movie Van Helsing, which was about the man who would know much about Dracula, and was one of the major characters in the Stoker novel of the same name.  Van Helsing was it should be noted, a red headed man.

What interests me about this movie was the fact that it was more for an audience who wanted a CGI based view but also the darker aspects of Transylvania.  There was the usual fare of dark, grey colours, and the monsters: Dracula, and werewolves and Frankenstein, and also the damsel with some fighting abilities.

What was interesting was not the movie in and of itself but rather how well Hugh Jackman seemed to fit into the role.  The reason this is of interest to me, is that there is once again talks of a reboot to Van Helsing.  Similar to Dracula, one has to wonder about the idea of rebooting this film.  While it did okay at the box office, I can't see it doing well again.

Van Helsing in my mind is Hugh Jackman.

That being said, what bothered me as well was the typical North American portrayal of the area, of Romania and Hungary.  I sat down to re-watch it to see if there was anything I might have missed, and I am still of the mindset that a mainstream movie is not helping the image of Transylvania.  However, to make it clear they set the time as 1887/1888 and this was when Transylvania was a part of Hungary.

This allowed some leeway in regards to the weapons used and the technology, but that also made for a sort of steampunk motive where there were weapon in the movies which wouldn't have been there at the time.   There was railways and trains and other modern technologies, and in the villages, although there would be cold and snow, the peoples were not by and large a group which would have believed in vampires or would have accepted the fact this man would kill people. This being said, the part of the movie which worked was the actors.  In a sense it's similar to the many royal families of Europe, everyone is related to each other in a round about way.

All of them have non-American accents and these were toned to something with more of an American feel.  A viewer can actually see the actors in their roles.  This was used wisely, and it is really a who is who of 2004 and beyond.

August 18, 2015

Romanian Royalty On YouTube

Because so many people requested another video about Transylvania, or on Romania here it is on Romanian Royalty.

I did a brief outline on the family, which is not very long, considering there are only three King of Romania. However, there is more to the story and there will be more to this series, thank you for all the support Things about Transylvania, Romania followers.

Don't worry, there will be more videos and blog posts to come, and these will be a part of the blog, and on YouTube, you can find more on Living a Life channel, but for this blog post video, you can find it on YouTube, right here.

Things about Transylvania will always be a website at heart and this won't change, but it was because of readers and their love for visual which made us branch out.

Romanian royalty is such an interesting subject and one which will hold a special part of my interest since it was Queen Marie of Romania which made me more interested in Transylvania, and brought about this blog.

July 25, 2015

Royalty: Romania and Russia and Portugal.

There is a small link between the Russian Imperial Family and the Romanian Royal Family.  They are related, as with many of the royal houses, to each other.

There is more to the history of Romania than many people would imagine, and one of them is the links between the Royal Families.  Most people know of Queen Marie of Romania's links to the British Royal Family, but many might not know of the other two countries with royal links.  Here is a rough guide to the links of Russia, Romania and Portugal.

Queen Marie of Romania is the major link,  with her grandfather being Tsar Alexander II of Russia, and her mother a Grand Duchess in her own right.  Looking back for more links, there is another.

King Carol I of Romania, who was the first King of Romania, was related to the royal houses of Sweden, Baden, Bavaria and Russia through his maternal grandfather.  Empress Louise of Russia, whose husband was Tsar Alexander I, would have no surviving children. Carol I's mother was  Princess Josephine of Baden, and through her eldest son, there is a link to the remaining members of the Romania Royal family but not through Carol I.

This King would have no surviving children, as his only child, Marie would die at the age of three.

Because of this, the direct links to the Romanian Royal Family, as it is today, comes from Queen Marie of Romania.  Her husband, King Ferdinand also had links to Russia, and these are much loser than the other two.

However, this is where the more direct links to the Portuguese Royal Family comes in.  

His mother was Infanta Antonia of Portugal.  Her parents were King Ferdinand II of Portugal, born a prince of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha (who is related in kinship to many of the other royal families of Europe) and Queen Marie II of Portugal.  

King Ferdinand's paternal grandmother Josephine of Baden's daughter would also marry in the Portuguese royal family, becoming Queen Stephanie of Portugal, but she died without children.

Antonia would have four children. Carol I was the second eldest, and his older brother Leopold second son would become Ferdinand I of Romania.  Because King Ferdinand of Romania was of the Roman Catholic faith, Queen Marie of Romania lost her place in the British line of succession.  It is very interesting to note that the Romania Kings before Carol II of Romania were both Roman Catholics.

The links between Romania, Russia and Portugal are fasinating.

July 14, 2015

Rough Guide to Romania And Its History

Romania faces a large problem, no matter which way you try to figure out its land, there is something repetitive about its history.

The idea that there is a land which doesn't have the problems its neighbour to the south, Greece, or that it is about the same age as its neighbour.  It also has a repeat of similar problems which are faced with disposed royalty of the different lands.

palace of the parliament
Palace of the Parliament
Even now, when it comes to talking about Transylvania, and Romania, many of the Western European nations still fall back on the same themes.  The Independent, in a 2009 article would write about Transylvania as if many people hadn't a rough idea of either Romania, or Transylvania.  In a sense they are correct.

Here are a few rough guide to Romania facts:

1) Romania is similar in government style to France, which is a semi-presidential republic.  Its President is Klaus Iohannis, a German-Romanian from Sibiu won the office in the elections of 2014.  The Prime Minister is Victor Ponta, who has held this position since 2012.

2) There are several points of interest in Romania: Bran Castle, Peles Castle, the palace of parliament,  and Corvin Castle to name a few.  Of note, Bran Castle and Corvin Castle are both tourist attractions in Transylvania.  The palace of parliament, is noted as the world's largest civilian building, and was one of the many projects of the Ceausescu regime, before the fall of the communist government in 1989.  

3) There are many cultures or ethnic groups, represented in Romania:  The largest is Romanian at nearly 90% of the total population, the next is Hungarians, then Roma, then Ukrainians, followed by Germans.  These numbers have changed over the course of the last century.  Before the Second World War, there were more minorities in the area, which made up nearly 30% of the population.  By 1948, this number was down to 15%.

Territory of Romania
Romania, Territory in the 20th Century
4) Tourism in Romania makes up for 5% of the total GNP.  In some of the areas, this percentage is higher.  Cultural centres such as Sibiu and Alba Iulia, and Bucharest are the top main attractions to go to in Romania.

5) Romania, as many people know it now, was not how it was.  Before 1918, it was a formation of the union of two principalities, that of Wallachia and Moldavia. After 1918, Transylvania, Bukovina and Bessarabia.  Romania would lose some of its territory with the independence of Moldova (the eastern part of Moldavia) and the territory ceded to the Soviet Union, meant the loss of much of it territory.

6) The best known castle in Romania is Bran Castle.  This is a privately owned castle of the desendents of Queen Marie of Romania and her third daughter.  Made famous because of Bram Stoker, it was a Royal residence after 1919.  Queen Marie's heart is buried in this castle, her body lies alongside of her husband, King Ferdinand.

7) There were two official Queen Consorts of Romania, and four Kings with five separate reigns.  Queen Elizabeth of Romania, and her husband Carol I of the Romanians.  Next were King Ferdinand of the Romanians (nephew of Carol I) and Queen Marie of Romania, were both Kings and Queen consorts. (note that the Kings were Kings of the Romanians, the Queens of Romania.) Both women were married to their husbands during their reigns.  Next was Carol I and his wife, Queen Mother Helen.  Helen was never titled Queen of Romania by her husband.  King Michael would reign twice, once after the death of his grandfather, and then after the abdication of his father.  His wife, Queen Anne of Romania, is considered Queen Consort in pretence, as she was not married to the King before the forced abdication of Michael.  The Romanian royal family is not as respected, but King Michael is.

8) The three main principalities which make up Romania are: Transylvania, Wallachia, and Moldavia.   Of these, Moldavia split and the eastern part became the country of Moldova.

July 10, 2015

Casino Constanta, Romania

Overlooking the Black Sea, Casino Constanta sits empty awaiting the promise to return it to its former grandeur. Even its current state, a dilapidated sea side relic, tourists flock to the once grand casino.

Located on the Port of Constanta in Constanta, Romania, the Casino Constanta overlooks the busy shipping port that sees 55 million units of materials in total traffic per year. The Casino keeps watch over the incoming vessels with its dark, empty windows.

The project was commissioned by King Carol I who declared Romania a sovereign nation after the Ottoman Empire was defeated in 1866. During the time of King Carol I rule, the country was heavily influenced by the French, although he was German born royalty. King Carol I, himself, was related to the Bonaparte family. One of his grandmothers was the niece-in-law of Josephine Beauharnais, the wife of Napoleon Bonaparte. The French culture was influenced by Napoleon III of France, who enjoyed close political relations with King Carol I.

The Casino was built in the early 1900’s by Romanian architect Petre Antonescu.

Petre Antonescu, born in Romania in 1873, was a leading architect and personality in the country. Petre Antonescu was known for building the former administrative building to the Palace of Craiova, the City Hall Bucharest and an Investment Bank in Bucharest. Studying architecture in Paris, the Art Nouveau influence can been seen in every aspect of Casino Constanta’s interior and exterior.

Once complete in 1910, the Casino was a symbol for the city. But the golden age of the Casino was short lived. The building itself survived two world wars, however economically the Casino didn’t survive the hardships that the wars brought. The wealthy socialists that came to gamble and enjoy the music and dinning no longer frequent. By World War II the casino had closed.

Even in its skeletal, crumbling and faded condition the intricate columns, detailed frescos and the sea shell shaped windows still are impressive. The Casino was so extravagant that it attracted European royalty and celebrities and dubbed “The Monte Carlo” of Romania. The success and the praise for the building spurred a building in Monte Carlo, Monaco to be built in its image. 

To look at the monochromatic building from the outside you can see the lingering beauty. A faded sign on near the roof line the only remnants that it was once a gathering place to gamble. The building was also used as a temporary hospital during World War II, using its many ballrooms to house patients. Then when communism regime was in power the Casino Constanta was used as a restaurant. The doors were closed for use in 1990.

Many investors over the years have purchased the building to renovate and open, however the costs of the renovations kept mounting, forcing the owner to sell. The size and scope of the renovations for this building are large. With little done to repair the building over the years, coupled with the brutal weather from the sea, it will be a challenge to restore the Casino Constanta to its original lavishness.

The doors are currently closed to the public, this however is not enforced by the municipality. Hundreds of pictures of the delicate chandeliers, the falling plaster ceiling and the peeling paint are found all over the internet. The pictures show the detail of the trim on the walls that frame the hand painted details. There is a rotting wooden stage covered in fallen plaster, located in a ballroom that the walls have faded to a rusty red. The metal scroll work on the grand stair case that welcomes you when you enter and the dirty stain glass windows that are found throughout the building are still in amazing condition, considering their age.

As the fall of 2015 draws near, €10 million has been granted to the Constanta Municipality, the current owner of the property, to start restoring the landmark. The restoration will take years to complete. At this time there is no word on yet what the building will become once the renovations are complete. But speculation online that supporters of the site would like to see it turn into a museum.

The days for Casino Constanta to spin the roulette wheel have past, however turning this architectural treasure into a space that invites the public into this beautiful building and shares its history with its visitors is long overdue.

June 25, 2015

Paprika: A History

When it comes to Romanian cuisine, paprika is a staple spice.

However, paprika and the plant that it is derived from, is not indigenous to the region, or the continent of Europe.

So how does a spice from another country become a cultural staple? The plant family that the chillies that Paprika derive from (Capsicum annuum) are native to North and South America.

The chili pepper, in its various colors, sizes and heat have been used in the Americas (North, Central and South) cuisine since 7500 BC.

The introduction of the spice to Europe happened in the early 1500's by Spain and Portugal.

Over the course of this post I will look at the connection that would bring a plant that originated in North and South America come to grow in Spain and Hungary, in turn be introduced into Romanian cuisine.

The original expedition that Christopher Columbus took in 1492 he was looking for a way to Asia for the spice trade. The Silk Road had become too dangerous after the Ottoman Turks invaded Constantinople. They looked to the sea to sail around all the danger on land.

In 1493 Christopher Columbus encountered chilies when he landed in the Caribbean. Columbus was also the first to use the term "peppers" as they were similarly used like black and white pepper from Europe.

However it was Columbus' physician Diego Álvarez Chanca, that brought the plant to the Old World and studied their medicinal purposes. Columbus returned to Spain in 1504.

Chilies plants were brought to various monasteries and were grown in monastery gardens throughout Spain and Portugal as curiosities. It was the monks that experimented with the chilis and found that they could be a substitute for black peppercorns that were exceedingly costly.

map dated 1519
map c. 1500s
When the chilies spread from Spain and Portugal, they made their way through to India where there was a large population of Portuguese in the region of Goan. It was from Goan that the chilies made there way through Asia, Turkey and into Hungary.

Once Hungary started growing their own plants, paprika was added to their culinary soups, stews and meat dishes.

With Hungary and Romania having had poor relations since the middle ages, the food and the spice spread with the invading parties.

With the Ottoman wars in the 1500's battling over land, Hungary and Transylvania, borders have been drawn and redrawn for 150 years. With the land dispute and the insurgence of Hungary into Transylvania and Romania, this brings paprika into the Transylvanian and Romanian dishes that are a part of their culture.

The cultural food of Romania is influenced by Hungarian, German, Serbian and Bulgarian, not only brought in from conflict but from their common borders that they share.

With time, paprika evolved. Modern day paprika is sweet, but it wasn't always so. The chillies had a spicy taste and heat, that is associated with chilies, to them until 1920.

A farmer in Szeged, Hungary found that one of his plants produced sweet chillies. This lead to the sweeter, and more recognized, and wider used paprika today.

Paprika does still come in various heat levels. But when looking at traditional Romanian dishes (Papricaş, a goulash dish served with rice and Piftie, usually an appetizer, a gelatinous like form that is made with meat and seasonings as examples) will let you know how spicy or sweet that the paprika needs to be for the dish to stay authentic.

Today, with the surge of home cooking back in style, websites and cookbooks are now looking back to cultural and heritage dishes being made once again.

For example, 70 Classic Recipes From Bulgaria, Romania, Croatia & Slovenia by Lesley Chamberlain and Trish Davies range in price from $11.99 on to $13.99 on was just released in 2014.

There is even apps for recipes, Recipes of Romania Pro for Android is free and RomCook on the App Store is a full color, interactive app that not only had recipes but traditional folk music to listen to. There is a cost to RomCook, it's $1.19, but if you are trying your hand at a family favorite for the first time, getting an app would be fast, easy to use and little monetary investment.

Gătit fericit! (Happy cooking)

June 15, 2015

The Future of the Romanian Royal Family

Since 1947, there has been no monarchy in Romania.

Romanian Royal Family
Royal Family of Romania
King Michael of Romania, was king twice in the history of Romania.  He had fond memories of being with his grandmother, Queen Marie of Romania in Bran Castle, where she had a royal residence. King Michael is also one of the last monarchs, politicians or military commanders who were leaders during the Second World War.

He is personally seen favourably by many Romanians, but the future of the Romanian Royal Family is uncertain- and their role in Romania.  He has changed the House laws so that four of his five daughters can claim the headship of the Romanian Royal House. His eldest daughter, known as the Crown Princess of Romania, is not as respected as her father.

King Michael of Romania
Michael of Romania
The Crown Princess is active in Romania, but when the population is asked about her as a future monarch, people say they do not respect her as much as they do her father.

This is, in many respects similar to many long reigning monarchs the heir is not as respected as the current monarch.  It is similar to the role of Queen Elizabeth II of Great Britain and her son, the Prince of Wales.  Come September of 2015, she will become the longest reigning monarch in British history.  Her son, the heir, is the longest to wait for the crown.

Also, the future lies with the Crown Princess's sister and nephew.  Prince Nicolas of Romania, lives in Romania and he is third in line to the defunct throne of Romania.  King Michael is the glue, and there is another family issue at stake here.

Without King Michael, there will be less unity within the family.  As with many Royal families, both on the throne and off, there are more than simply one pretender to the throne.  In this case, this is due to the first marriage of his father, King Carol II who married a Romanian commoner, and had a child with her.  This was against the constitution of Romania, and the child, a son, was not allowed to be a part of the Royal Family.  Michael is the only child and son of Carol's second marriage to Queen Mother Helen. Carol's first child was a son, Mircea, who was not allowed to be King or have any royal titles.

Later he would be called Prince Mircea of Romania, but born as Carol Lambrino, was the eldest son, and did not contest the throne of Romania, but his eldest son has.  This is where the potential problems lie in the future of the Romanian Royal family. King Michael is still popular but is not as needed as the Romanian Royal House cares to think.

It is not as needed as natural resources in Romania, the royal family has been without a throne in Romania since the forced abdication of King Michael.  The future of the Royal House depends on the people after a well respected former monarch.

June 10, 2015

Natural Resource: Romanian Salt

Is Salt a Natural Resource in Romania?

Natural Resource Transylvania
Salt Mine of Saline Turda
Salt is probably the last things that you would think is a historically significant resource since the post about Gold in the Carpathian Mountains. However, the salt mine, Salina Turda, located in Durgău-Valea Sărată area of Turda has been a tourist destination since 1992.

But before being reopened as a place for tourists to see how salt was mined and to relax in the theme park like environment, this mine was providing salt as far back as the antiquity (not able to pinpoint and exact date, however we are talking in the BC years).

In the middle ages it provided table salt, 1075 was the earliest written mention of the mine, up until 1932 when the mine was closed. The salt deposits themselves, date back to approximately 13.5 million years ago. The mines where all carved by hand and machinery, never once using explosives.

When the mine was first written about it was under Roman occupation.

The exploitation of the Romans in the Salt quarries were rectangular and with upturned steps. Once they hit a depth of 12-15m and it was too deep to get the salt up the inclined planes at one of the quarries end the site was abandoned and another one started.  

After the Romans withdrew from the area and then up until the 11th century there were no longer evidence that the salt was being exploited by an outside influence. Its then believed that the salt was then used for the countries internal needs and then exporting it to the neighboring countries as needed.

The salt mine in Turda made mention in another document dated May 1st, 1271. It was offered to the Head of the Catholic Church of Transylvania.

It did not say of what purpose of the offering or if the Head of the Church accepted. The salt mines dropped out of the historical spotlight but resurfaced in 1552.

After a decrease in the mining rhythm, royal inspectors were sent to report back on the quality of the salt, the method that is used to remove the salt and the quality of the workers. In the 17th century the salt was in growing demand which increased the importance in the mining of the resource. So important that the salt mines were controlled directly by the Imperial Court.

In 1690 mining began around the perimeter of the actual salt mine. Wells named Theresa (Terezia) and St. Anthony (Anton) were opened.

Not until 1867, when Johann Fridwaldsky a mineralogist, published a book "Minerlogia Magni Principatus Transilvaniae did the world really see the scope of the salt mine. Johann Fridwaldsky presented the mines in great detail, the way they were built, salt conveyance, how the workers avoided getting water and the condition of the miners themselves.

Within the workers he also detailed which one were trades people and which ones were "unqualified workers" and to which mine that they worked on.

All extraction of salt was stopped in 1932 (however, after searching multiple sources I can't find the reason why they stopped).

After being closed down the mine had other functions before turning into a tourist attraction that it is today. During World War II the mines were used as bomb shelters and the humidity was just right for storing cheese. Theresa mine is still in use today as part of the attraction. At 370 feet deep, visitors can rent boats to take a tour of the mine, along with many other fantastic places.

Pictures of Salina Turda are breathtaking, a complete marvel of engineering for the time.

But until I get over my claustrophobia, pictures of the cramped hallways are the closest I'm getting to the mine.

June 2, 2015

Transylvania Legend: Haunting of Cârţa Monastery

Before we dive into the haunting of Cârţa Monastery we must first know of the building and it's inhabitants.

The Cârţa Monastery
The Cârţa Monastery
The Cârţa Monastery was built circa 1206, exact dates are a little hard to pinpoint. Several documents point to dates for the completion of the monastery. Some dates set completion of the first building as early as 1204, but for the most part, 1206 is the date that comes up most when I research. Built in the Ţara Făgăraşului region, located in Southern Transylvania. It now houses a Lutheran Evangelical church however when it was built it housed the Cistercian Order, a mix of Catholic and Anglican monks and nuns, also known as the Benedictine order. The monastery was built first by the Cistercian Order, using materials that would return to the earth, like wood. This would be the first building that would have been erected. A few years later a stone chapel was built close to the to the original chapel.

They were referred to as the "white" monk's because of the white choir robe that they wore over their habits. The monastery, at times was overcrowded with the Monks, sleeping many more in the rooms than designed for.

Poor living conditions the monks seldom lived past the age of 40. They were then buried in the yard of the monastery. Also, in modern times they buried soldiers from the First World War.

Upon excavation of an area of this site there were remains of two men found.

The oddity of it was that both men were over 6 and a half feet tall. Now the average height of men hasn't changed too much, even since the middle ages, only a few inches. But since the time period was not kind to people who were visually different, they were sent to live in monasteries.

It was in the cellar that these two bodies were uncovered. The same place that strange things have been observed by the priests that serve there. Chairs move on their own and the walls seem to vibrate.

Upon numerous searches I couldn't find much about the hauntings there, however because of their ghosts people flock to it every year. Not only to take in the paranormal but the architecture as well.

The monastery is located 43 Kilometers from Sibiu. It attracts thousands of people every year for the legend that it is haunted by the monks that resided there in medieval times. But what is truly interesting is that this monastery has some unusual ties.

Sigismund, The Holy Roman Emperor, issued a document about the monastery in 1418. Sigismund founded The Order of the Dragon, described in an earlier post to protect Christianity in Europe.

Also, Matthias Corvinus, king of Hungary, disbanded the monastery in 1474. Matthias Corvinus was the King that impression Vlad the Impaler in 1462.

Vlad the Impaler was also a part of The Order of The Dragon and the inspiration for the monster Dracula.

An interesting place to visit not only for the chance ghost sighting but the place it hold in Romanian and Transylvanian history.

May 27, 2015

Romanian Fashion: Carla Szabo and Claudia Castrase

Carla Szabo and Claudia Castrase are two names from the fashion world of Romania.

Elizabeth of Romania
Queen Elizabeth of Romania
Part of what makes this so great is they are native to Romania, and they are inspiring designers of jewelry and fashion.  They both have a lot to offer, and are working together to give people choice with some very contemporary Romanian fashion.

Castrase is famous in Romania for her wonderful designs which I love. They are simple and look good on most figures.  She is certainly not what some people think of as "Traditional Fashion."  A quick search of Google made me think Romanian fashion hasn't been developed in a while.  I was wrong.

The picture to your left is Queen Elizabeth of Romania in traditional Romanian costume, the first Queen of Romania was far more beloved than her husband, and was a supporter in her own right of the arts.  Her successor, Queen Marie would take much the same pictures, and would become a famous writer in her own right.

For many, outside of Romania, this is the lasting image of Romania and how people will dress.  This is a good tourist idea, but doesn't show the real Romania and its arts and fashion to the world.

This isn't the case.

As with many misconceptions of people and places, there is a view of the land which time forget.  People also think Gothic Dracula, but Castrase has proven them wrong.  She has a range of styles from a more spring time look to a near classic dark pieces which show Romania will become a fashion hub in due time.

Her collections can be found on most social networking sites.  Although she doesn't have a wikipedia page, this too will come.  She is a trend setter in the area, and many of her designs can be found in Europe.

The same hold true with the jeweller Carla Szabo, who has her shop in Bucharest, Romania.  Her Facebook page, (just type in her name and you'll find it) proves that there is a movement towards modern, powerful and fun style of jewelry.

Many of these help the view of the changing ways of Romania and its culture and people.  These two ladies are slowly giving Romania, and Romanian fashion a chance to make their mark in the fashion industry.  They will, in my guess, change the view of fashion to people outside of this area.

I am not a fashion buff, I prefer history over fashion magazines, but these two ladies have just proven to me that beauty is now, and it is something I am paying attention to.

May 22, 2015

A look At Older Maps and Flags of Romania

Romania is a land of beauty and of history.  It is filled with hundreds of castles and people.  Its flags and maps tell us a story.

Europe pre 1914
Europe before the First World War
The best way to see Romania if you can't travel there is by looking at maps.  Each one tells a different story.  Some will tell you what Romania looks like now, and others will show you what it looked like over the course of the life of this country.  The country was founded in 1859, with the uniting of Wallachia and Moldavia under the rule of Alexandru Cuza (1820-1873.)

Under his rule, the map of Europe changed, as did the flag of Romania, as it was a new country.  Both the maps and the flag would see changes over the next years, and notably, would not have Transylvania as a part of the country until the end of the First World War.

flag of Romania 1859
1859-1862 flag of Romania

The Romanian flag has meaning- the one, with the horizontal bars, and the blue on the top and the yellow in the centre and the red at the bottom, was used from 1859-1862 by the Cuza government and was used by the united principalities of Wallachia and Moldavia. (As they were originally called before Romania.)

This was the flag used by the first Prince of Romania, known as the Domnitor of Romania, Alexandru Ioan Cuza, who reigned from 1859-1862.  After he was deposed, by the next Prince, Carol of Romania (who would later become the First King of Romania. The flag would change after 1862- and the reign of Prince Carol I.

Flag of Romania 1862
flag of Romania 1862-1866
Cuza, known as the Domnitor of Romania from 1859 until he was deposed  was also a Prince of Wallachia and Moldavia before the unification between these two principalities.  Ironically, he would be the one who would have two sons, and his successor, Carol would have a daughter (who died young) who could not inherit the throne of Romania.  His nephew would inherit the throne of Romania.  The flag of Romania changed.

map of Romania
How Romania looks now.
From 1862 until 1866 the Romanian flag reversed the red and the blue. This was the major change during this time, but territorially, there was no major changes until the First World War.  Fortunately for Romania, they would fight on the side of the allies and would gain the territory they wanted.

Moldova, would become an independent country as well, and some of the territory which Romania would gain during the First World War would change Romania is still a part of Europe, and one which has a strong outlook in all aspects of life and culture.  Maps and flags continue to change and so does Romania, and we shall see more about this soon.

May 20, 2015

Dracula Tours: A Second Look

Dracula tourism in Transylvania is extremely popular. 

How popular? When I googled it, to an updated post about Dracula tours, I was kind of shocked silent. That's a feat to get me to "be quiet". My husband will tell you it only happens a few times a year. This is one of those times. 

As I said, before my ramble, that I googled and 493,00 results showed up. 

I had no idea that they were this popular, or that there were as many packages as there were. There were ones that hosted masquerade balls, encouraged you to dress like vampires, had graphics of people stabbing vampires in the heart and sites where it was so over the top it was almost comical. 

romania map
map of Romania Transylvania highlighted

I needed to refine my search on Google. I needed a way to look past the 492,999 and find the one that would fit for this post. 
Before I started looking for a hypothetical trip that would be fun and exciting for me I wrote down the 5 things I wanted to see or want out of the tour:
  1. Bran Castle, Dracula's Castle 
  1. Poienari Fortress, Dracula's real fortress 
  1. Snagov Monastery, Resting place of Dracula 
  1. Brasov, a German Saxon, city that established in the time of Dracula 
  1. I didn't want it to be "gimmicky", more about the history 
Note: When I say Dracula, I'm referring to Vlad Tepes or better known by his nickname Vlad the Impaler. 

Since price was not a concern, as this is a hypothetical trip. That being said, the average trip was €1000 or $1139 USD when you booked for two travelers.  Most packages include airfare, meals and hotels. There is also a tour guide that will be leading you through the historic sights. 

The extras, masquerade balls, dinner with locals and other historic stops where unique to each deal and each package. They also varied in length. You could stay as little as 3 day, but most were a 6 day journey. 

I immediately ruled out the gimmicky ones. Ones that encouraged dress up, role play etc. I would go more for the historical aspect. I may prefer to work at night (it's the only time the kids are quiet enough in the house to think) and I shy away from the sun (my great-grandmother had melanoma, so not taking any risks) but in no way do I live a vampire "lifestyle". 

Romania city of Brasov
Brasov and Bran Castle Romania

I was a vampire once as a kid for Halloween, but I think I was still in grade school and my grandmother made a cape for me. After ruling the ones that didn't fit what I was looking for, I was left with still thousands to chose from.
With the Dracula tours being so popular I looked into tourism in general for Romania. Tourism for Romania nets the country €880 million ($1,000,000,000 USD) and employs almost a million people. 

Just like Scotland has Nessie, Romania has Dracula. 

After skimming through about a dozen I landed on a tour package that meet my needs and then some. 

Count Dracula
Garry Oldman as Dracula

Not only was I going to do all of the above (and leave the plastic teeth at home), I would to experience other historical including the UNESCO World Heritage Site and join a family of Transylvania Gypsies, also known as the Roma, for dinner. 

I enjoy immersion into culture, I think it is the best way to learn about other people. 

I also liked the site, it was well thought out, all historic pictures, with no flapping bats. 

The complete tour and itinerary can be found by clicking the link below. It's funny that I ended up picking this one as my recommend because Sabrina, when she did the original post about Dracula tours, picked one that was very similar to this. 

I liked this one the most as it told me each night what hotel we would be staying at. It gave me the piece of mind that I could see each hotel (by looking them up online) and have a visual of the rooms. Traveling is a visual thing. Even my last trip to Montreal I based my choice of hotel on how the room looked first over location. (Others can attest to my  pickiness when it comes to hotel rooms) 

I will bookmark this site when I am ready to travel. Based on the castles, historic sites and the fact that it checks off all five points I would take this tour. Now just to find a traveling partner, Amanda and my husband may not be that into Dracula.