01 December 2009
Lets Do The Time Warp...In Transylvania!
You may be thinking, “hey, Transylvania is where Dracula is from. That’s a fairy tale. It doesn’t really exist, does it?” Yes. Yes it does, and it’s in Romania. In fact, Transylvania comprises the entire western half of this charming little country. A collection of small cities and villages nestled deep in the Transylvanian mountains, this region is as mysterious as its name and everything you’d expect.
Not only does Transylvania really exist, so did Count Dracula! He lived in a massive mountain-top castle called Bran located at the narrowest point of the valley between what was once Hungary and present day Romania. Bran Castle was a fortress aimed at fending off attacks from those pesky Austral-Hungarians in the time of their empire. You’re probably wondering what kind of guy the Count Dracula was. Well, he loved organ music and enjoyed impaling prisoners on his front lawn. So while he committed murder we put him on cereal boxes and dress up in his liking on Halloween (which I somehow managed to spend in Transylvania with a Romanian girl dressed up as Tina Turner).
The other two coincidences of this trip include traveling north to south with the changing leaves (it has been brilliantly orange, red and yellow everywhere we’ve been) and trekking right below every migrating bird in Eastern Europe. From Helsinki through Transylvania, we’ve seen literally TENS OF THOUSANDS of birds flying in their ganders and flocks to warmer climates for the winter months. It seems we are, in fact, migrating to warmer climates with them and it is breathtaking on a nearly daily basis.
Beyond Dracula’s castle, Transylvania (isn’t it so cool to read it, say it and even see it written?) offers mind-boggling mountains, fortress after fortress carved into hills and lovely, kind and generous people. I can’t rave about this part of the world enough. It is absolutely like stepping into a storybook over and over again. Highlights include Bran, Rasnov, Brasnov, Sinaia, Sighisoara, Cluj-Napoca and Sibiu, though we’d have loved to have gotten to Timisoara as well.
A final shout-out to the lovely Lutheran woman (the entire region is Lutheran despite Romania’s dominant Russian Orthodox faith because the Saxons (Germans) invaded, conquered and controlled the region for hundreds of years) who reminded me just how young America is. As we stood in a church built in 976 and she pointed out the carved wooden alter that is nearly 1,000 years old I thought to myself, “man, America is a baby! Romania has been around FIVE TIMES LONGER than the United States. Quite some food for thought while you eat your Count Dracula cereal swimming in chilled milk.