May 21, 2017

Transylvania and "Cool"

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


March 22, 2017

Losing the Ties that Bind Us

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

March 3, 2017

Credit to the Heart of the Matter

Some years are better than others when it comes to being passionate about what you love to do- even if there is a lot of "bad faith" about what you are doing.  It's great to be passionate about a subject matter, for example Transylvania, but it's also just as hard when the heart of the matter is the people whom you expect should be supportive of you are passive-agressive naysayers.

So, the passion you have isn't enough.

Wait... let's take a step back here and think logically- if this is a passion, a bit of enjoyment and a hobby do you have to prove that it's a money making business to anyone? No, you don't.

Now, if this is supposed to be a money making business, to whom do you have to prove this fact to?  Well: yourself, and your budget.  Maybe your banker but certainly not anyone else. (I can hear the "buts" already, but if your parents/grandparents/family/best buddies/whomever isn't paying the money you don't need to answer to them.)

Let's credit this to the heart of the matter.  Let's talk Transylvania, let's talk about Dracula.  Feeling like you can sit down and learn about these things?  Romanian Royalty? Hungarian nobility? Let's get back there, let's talk politics, let's talk anything about Transylvania that we should talk about.

Let's credit our passions for a place, and people to whom both readers and bloggers want to write, and  what we have to offer.  This blog is a fun place to write, and learning about Romania, and its people and history are all a part of the passion we can all have when talking about peoples and places.  It's the art of sharing the newest political information and hoping that people learn from this.

The heart of the matter?

It's all about sharing the knowledge and learning about growth as a blogger and as a person who shares information.  It's about the vocal groaning when one comes across an older, not so well written post.  It's also about this blogger wanting to give credit to people who stood by this blog for years, and still do.  It's about learning about taking some credit for both success and failure.

Finding a means to take a bit of credit?

That is looking at a bit of success, last year, 2016, was a hard year, and Things about Transylvania wasn't really written on- let's be honest, six blog posts in one year is not writing on something. Not that there wasn't passion for the blog, but rather there wasn't a drive, a feeling of success, and a feeling of knowing exactly what works, and what doesn't.  It was a year of contemplation and thought.

The blog- this blog Things About Transylvania, Romania- didn't suffer, but that was because (and a credit to) of the readers here and not because of the writers.  The fact that Transylvania is still vital and important to them means that something was good.  Let's talk a moment about the success.  It meant that at least one writer returned, and one person still found a reason to be passionate about Transylvania once more.

It means that there are more blog posts than this time last year- if only because it's the start of the year, but it's a small step.  It means that Transylvania is back to where it belongs in terms of feeling that it has a place and time for this writer to enjoy it again.

It's about doing what is once again a passion, and knowing that really it's all going to be just fine.


February 6, 2017

Romania, and the Power of People

People have a way of uniting for what they want.  They have a way to make change happen when they feel that there is something wrong.  In 1989, the Romanian people protested and were able to overthrow the political party at the time.  They had a favourable era on their side, with much of the Eastern European world under great stress and change, and because of this they were able to change how Romania is run.

In December Klaus Iohannis named a new prime minister, and, there is political unrest and general dissatisfaction with a change in corruption policies.  According to some reports nearly half a million people have gone out to protest the proposed change in the law against corruption.

That speaks volumes.  The Romanian people are united.  Some of the politicians have declared that they "won't quit" despite the protests.  There is however, a strong possibility that they will be forced to resign if the protests continue, and the news media keeps up the coverage of this. In some cases, the world media pointed out these protests were caused by a proposed law, and even with its repeal the protests haven't stopped.

One person with whom the corruption law would have benefited from, Liviu Dragnet, argued that it was a political motivated protest, from "shadowy elements."  He denies wrongdoing- but according to the laws which govern Romania, he did.  He might argue it is unfair to him, and might argue it is politically motivated, but he is allowed his view.  As do the people of Romana.  They do not want the corruption laws to change.  That is a known fact. What is also a  known fact is that the people in Romania know that they have the power to change their history.

As in 1989, Bucharest and many other cities have had large scale protests, and the new government- which has been in power since the end of December is trying to deal with.  The power of the people is strong- and most of the world media have noted that it is largely peaceful protests in the major cities around the country.

Romania has a powerful history and its people should have cause to celebrate, they know, they believe and understand that they have a voice.  That is the reality which the politicians in Romania, and possibly around the world must understand.


January 16, 2017

On Death And The Merry Cemetery in Transylvania

In Sapanta, Transylvania, Romania, there is a wonderful and unique cemetery known as Cimitrul Vesel (The Merry Cemetery).  This small community is gaining fame.  This is due to the colours on the tombstones, and the element of truth in the epitaphs, this cemetery shows a powerful and unique way of dealing with death.

This gem of a place is mentioned in Atlas Obscura, which has some of the most interesting and, obscure places one can visit.  To say that a cemetery is "merry", is at best ironic, but it is the colourful blue tombstones themselves which add to the bizarre, and, more human element to this area.

It is a small village, and as with many villages the world over, everyone knows something about everyone else.  In this case, there is no need to "hide" from the fact that you died, or even the manner of your death, nor to hide from the fact that you were not perfect in life.

This carving the tombstones for the dead is the labour of love for Stan Ioan Patras, who began his woodworking for the cemetery and even craved his own tombstone.  His apprentice, Dumitru Pop, has carried on his work after Patras' death in 1977.

Death, or how many of the European communities view it, is a passage where it is a sad event.  One does not see this person again.  Either for good or bad.  The Merry Cemetery takes a different point of view for many years.  The older tombstones are less ornate and contain little of what might interest people.

They do contain dates of birth and death and the like, and possibly a kind epitaphs, but the tombstones after the 1930s are different, and unique and give the dead a means of being more alive than simply a memory.  Patras himself made poems or verses on the tombstones, and each had a piece of the person's life- or moments of death- on the head.  It is not a happy place, but it give life to the dead.

Even more important it harkens back to the Dacians who held a view that death was a step to a better life, one which was to be filled with joy and anticipation.  In this, the village has done an amazing job at portraying to people who come and visit.

As a note to tourists, this is a small community, one which is hard to find on a map bigger than Transylvania, so knowing a bit of Romanian will help.  Many recommend that a person has a guide, as to better understand the poems and the people who created them.

January 11, 2017

Maps of Transylvania

Every picture tells a story, and every picture will have a different meaning for each person. When it comes to Transylvania, the pictures are important, and maps tell more of a story. It shows the history of a land and its people. Transylvania is not a country of its own, but as with most areas which have different cultures and history there, it has a story.  Some of those are simple.

A map can show a person "where is Transylvania?" and can give them a sense of where something important is.  It can show details- such as mountains ranges.



It takes time and effort to learn about history with maps, because all too often we don't want to expand on our knowledge or sometimes, we don't want to learn that our former believes were wrong.  It is a challenge to look at an older map and learn, for example, that Bran Castle is closer to south than one might have felt.

Or that there are countless different names for the same city, based upon language. Transylvania  isn't as large of an area as one might think- simply because of other provinces which surround it, but a map can show differences that wouldn't be there before.  It's all about perception and what people take away from each picture- or map.




Even looking at cities can be a challenge- in this older map it shows the Saxon cities of Transylvania, which you'd not find anymore.  They are still there, but all these cities have a Romanian name to them, and not the German they had in this map.  This being said, they always had a Romanian name, but often, the more common was based on the people and culture which had the majority of the population.

Maps are instruments of learning and a means to tell a story.  The more stories, the more people learn.  It is up to the person to gather and decide what is important to them to know about history, culture and peoples of each area.

Each part of Transylvania has had a unique history and this allows it to have a place in the world.  In some cases, this place is a tourist attraction- such as Bran Castle, formerly the home of Queen Marie of Romania, and one which is still privately owned by the Queen's family.  It is a learning experience to see on a map that Bran Castle is close to Brasov and unlike in Dracula, it is not near the city of which Stoker wrote about.








Culture and history do play a role in changes to how people think of a land, or a country (in this case with Transylvania, part of a country.) It also plays an economic role, as the more people learn of an area the more inclined to visit the places the maps show.