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.

May 19, 2015

What was the Order of the Dragon?

Counted among the members of the Order of the Dragon were Vlad II Dracul and Vlad Dracul III (known later as Vlad the Impaler, and the start of all the Dracula myths). 

But what did being a part of the Order of the Dragon mean? And who else was part of the Order? 

Founded in 1408 by  Sigismund, King of Hungary, the Order of the Dragon was a monarchical chivalric order (meaning they had to be a reigning monarch or former reigning monarch to join). The original 21 members were: 

Stephanus despoth, dominus Rasciae, item — Stefan Lazarević, known as "the Tall" (1374–19 July 1427); Serbian Prince (1389–1402) and Despot (1402–1427) 
  1. Hermannus comes Cily et Zagoriae, 
  1. comes Fredericus, filius eiusdem, 
  1. Nicolaus de gara, regni Hungariae palatinus, 
  1. Stiborius de Stiboricz alias vaiuoda Transyluanus, 
  1. Joannes filius Henrici de Thamassy et 
  1. Jacobus Laczk de Zantho, vaiuodae Transyluani, 
  1. Joannes de Maroth Machouiensis, 
  1. Pipo de Ozora Zewreniensis, bani; 
  1. Nicolaus de Zeech magister tauernicorum regalium, 
  1. comes Karolus de Corbauia, supremus thesaurarius regius, 
  1. Symon filius condam Konye bani de Zecheen, janitorum, 
  1. comes Joannes de Corbauia, dapiferorum, 
  1. Joannes filius Georgii de Alsaan pincernarum, 
  1. Petrus Cheh de Lewa aganzonum regalium magistri, 
  1. Nicolaus de Chak, alias vaiuoda Transyluanus, 
  1. Paulus Byssenus, alter Paulus de Peth, pridem Dalmatiae, Croatiae et totius Sclauoniae regnorum bani, 
  1. Michael, filius Salamonis de Nadasd comes siculorum regalium, 
  1. Petrus de Peren, alias siculorum nunc vero maramorossensis comes, 
  1. Emericus de eadem Pern secretarius cancellarius regius 
  1. et Joannes filius condam domini Nicolai de Gara palatini. 
(List is from The Order of The Dragon Wikipedia page) 

Although the original Order was to have 21 men, it was expanded in 1418 to include an extra 3, making the total 24. When this number was not enough to keep up with the demand to join, more inductees were let in between 1431 and 1437. 

With the introduction of these new recruits, a two tiered system was put in place.  

The new inductees, which included all new members who were not in the original 24, wore the emblem of the dragon and were referred to as Second Degree. 

The original 24 wore the cross and the dragon and were referred to as the Superior Class. 
With Vlad II Dracul and Vlad Dracul III not joining until sometime in the 1430s, this would make both the father and son Second Degree Dragons.  

There were many of these kinds of Orders. They were built upon romanticized stories of the Christian military orders at the time of the Crusades. 

Sigismund started the Order of The Dragon to defend Christianity from any enemy of the religion.
At the time, the largest enemy to Christianity was the Ottoman Turks. The Order of the Dragon was hugely popular in what would become Germany and Italy, but with the death of its founding member in 1437, the Order fell out of fashion in Western Europe. 

However, in 1453 after the fall of Constantinople, the Order of the Dragon would play a role in the
Ottoman wars in Romania. Vlad Dracul III at a young age, was a political prisoner of the Turks. With the constant punishment received, it was thought that it was this part of his life that turned him into the sadistic killer he was later known for. 

In 1457, Vlad helped his cousin to ascend to the throne of the Principality of Moldavia, driving out the Ottomans.  Vlad Dracul III would later on battle with the Ottomans to regain his throne of Wallachia twice.  

Does the Order of The Dragon still exist today? 

It could very well, and we are not aware if they have adopted a new name. Any search on the internet only shows the history of the Order but nothing that would link to it being a functioning group today. 

My best guess, and this is a guess, is that it is not around anymore. With wars with the Ottomans continuing well into the 1500s, allegiances change. The likelihood that the descendants of the founding families took up membership when they had their own battles to wage, would be a slim chance. It's all about the context of the times.

Any of the driving voices of the Order would be dead and gone by the time the 1500s started. 

Although the Order may be gone, the symbols of the Order of the Dragon live on. The cross and the dragon were adopted by many Hungarian noble families to use in their house crests.