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 Romania

Romānia

 

 

We planned to transit Romania in less than a week in order to get to other interests that lay further north.

Romania deserves a month or two of exploration all by itself.

 

Romania has a rich history filled with a cast of players as diverse as any in Europe.  Thracian and Dacian tribes, Greek trading colonies, the Roman province of Dacia, Visigoths, Ostrogoths, Magyars and Huns, Avars, Slavs, Byzantines, Germans, Tartars and Mongols, Ottomans, Hapsburgs, Austro-Hungarians, Nazis and Communists.

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Plus a countryside as picturesque as any on the planet.

 

 

However Romanian roads can be a bit tricky and require constant attention.

 

To the right, Tom looks out the side window to see where he is going.

 

Below is an example of the road traffic one can expect to encounter.

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We entered in the south and passed quickly north over the flat Danubian plain of Wallachia, thru the capital of Bucharest (modern and traffic clogged), and past the oil refineries that ring the city of Ploiesti and into the green of the southern Carpathian mountains.

 

 

 

 

Brasov

 

 

After nearly 3 months in southeastern Europe and southwestern Asia, Brasov was our return to the European architecture that we are familiar with.  It was like returning home.  

 

Heavily influenced by the large German population within, the city had a very west-central Europe look about it.

 

But still just enough flavor of the east to make it interesting.

Old Town Square

The Walking Street

 

 

Organ concert

Three times a week during the summer tourist season a 30 minute organ concert is presented in the "Black Church"

Neither of us is a big fan of organ music but when you have the opportunity to hear a big organ in a superb venue - well you should take advantage of it.

The fun was somewhat dulled by the zeal in which the little weasel of a guard sought out and sanctioned anyone who even thought of taking a photo inside the church.  No No, strictly verboten.  (Of course you know that I snuck one don't you)?

And you know that ole J.S. can write some heavy and ponderous pieces that can test one's patience.  We enjoyed the concert but we were happy that it lasted only 30 minutes.

Built in the 1830's, this organ was over 30 feet tall.

 

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Vlad Tepes

(Vlad the Impaler)

Vlad, son of Dracul, the Impaler was born in 1431 in Sighisoara.  He became a Prince of Wallachia and was a famed and feared fighter against the incursions of the Ottoman Turks in their quest to expand their domains.  He earned his infamous nickname of the Impaler because he would punish his enemies by impaling them through the backbone without damaging any vital organs, thus they would suffer for a day or two before dying.

 

Dracula

In 1897, English author Abraham "Bram" Stoker wrote a sterling novel of a vengeful Transylvanian Count seeking to reunite with his slain wife.  He based the main character loosely on Prince Vlad the Impaler and had him living in Bran Castle near Brasov.

Bran Castle

 

 

Thirty some kilometers southwest of Brasov at the base of a mountain pass, Bran Castle was begun in the 1300's as a defensive post to protect the plains of Transylvania from Tartar incursions.

Early in the 20th Century it became the summer home of the Romanian royal family.

Today it is open to the public and it is a charming small palace with many nooks and crannies.  Also on display are many personal objects of the royals along side photographs of the objects in everyday use.  It was a most captivating display.

 

It is extremely doubtful that Prince Vlad ever set foot in or near the place, and in fact may have never heard of it.

 

 

But that does not stop the tourists, nor the merchants from gathering here to visit

 Dracula's Castle

 

 

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Sasi

In the 1200's King Bela IV of Hungary, the ruler of Transylvania, started to bring in large numbers of Saxons (Sasi) from northwestern Germany to populate the land.  His hope was to increase the defensive capabilities of the region against the  Tartar raids, and to develop the region faster than what the native Slav population could do.  His plans worked very well and soon many communities had a strictly Germanic flavor.  Those communities today still have a look and feel about them that make them some of the most popular tourist towns in the region.

 

 

Fortified Churches

Around 1400 the Turks began a relentless push to expand their Balkan conquests further north out of Bulgaria toward Budapest and Vienna.  For the next 3 centuries there was continuous tension.  In an effort to protect themselves the residents of southern and central Transylvania (especially the Saxons) began to fortify their churches and the precincts around them.  

 

The Church of the Holy Cross in Prejmer is the largest fortified church in the country and is on the UNESCO World Heritage list.

Each of the 300 numbered cells corresponds to a house outside the walls, thus each family had a sanctuary during raid times.

 

Of the 3 dozen or more Saxon churches in the area, most are in the process of renovation.

 

St. Nicholas in Harmon

Steep stairs

 

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Serendipity

 

There was to be a concert at the church of the Holy Cross on August 5th at 5 in the evening.  We would be 100 miles further along.

But the two ladies chose to rehearse during the time of our visit to the church.  We sat down in the front row and listened for 30 minutes to a flawless recital.

Always take time to listen to the music.

Claire Genewein, Traversflote

Nicoleta Paraschivescu, Organ

 

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Sighisoara

The next miniature Prague.  In June 1970 I stood on the 600 year old Charles Bridge in Prague with no more than 6 other people on the entire span.  Prague was not yet "discovered".  Today on a June afternoon walking the Charles Bridge would be akin to a mall hallway on a December Saturday.  Sighisoara will become the same thing once it is discovered.  And that day is not far off with Romania's recent joining of the European Union.

A delightful old town nestled within the Citadel walls with captivating architecture, colorful facades and shaded cafes.

 

The main tower in the fortification wall is today known as the Clock Tower with its small Glockenspiel.

 

The Orthodox Community of Sightisoara, as well as the rest of Romania, has also been active in refurbishing their houses of worship along with the Saxons.  Below is Saint Trieme Church.

The interior of the dome.

 

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Maramures

In the far northwest of Romania lies the mountainous region of Maramures, noted for its wooden churches and elaborate gates with their superb wood carvings.  A pleasant place that we enjoyed but a bit over hyped in the guidebooks.

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Ukraine

The Tisa River separates Maramures and Romania from the country of Ukraine.

Beyond the tree line is the river with the hills of Ukraine behind.

We opted to proceed further north via Hungary and Slovakia and did not enter the Ukraine.

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But the Best came Last

Tony, the "Go To Guy" at Vampire Camping, suggested that we visit the next venue.  We are glad that he did, it became one of the highlights of the entire trip.

Good man, Tony.  Genial host, advisor and friend.  Thank you.

 

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The Churchyard at

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*  *  *   The Merry Cemetery   *  *  *

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The plaque says it much better than I can.

 

It is a long read but worth it.

 

We were unable to locate a book which translates the markers into English.  Use Google search and you can find some.

 

 

The place had so many poignant moments that you had to "swat them away like flies".

 

Some English Translations here

 

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And always take time to smell the flowers

 

Next - Hungary

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