Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Lake Snagov area and Roma. Literature, Politics

Awareness of minority issues.
Obvious poverty among Roma. 
Amelioration route:  less clear.

1.  Lake Snagov area and Roma.

 There are Roma villages up the dirt roads. Taking out a camera seemed rude, turning people into objects, so we took none in the actual villages. The Roma villages we drove through were stark in their poverty.  Villages sometimes were of light-skinned people, peasants; others were the darker-skinned Rom or Gypsy, but in some cases we could not differentiate. The most isolated villages appeared Rom.  Along the road: old women bent double under firewood, gaunt faces in doorways. We could not be sure at that early time in our visit.  Everyone was helpful, pointed the way.  See FN 1

  • There were no other cars out there in the country where we were, dirt and dust, dirt houses, dirt everywhere, no amenities, even so close to Bucharest. There were deep ruts from the wagon wheels, and horses. Horse carts. That has probably changed by now, with the funding coming in from the EU membership. Has it?

2.  Literature and Roma

Colum McCann wrote a novel, Zoli, in 2007 and based roughly on the life of a Slovakian Roma poet, Branislawa Wajs, see Gypsies, Roma, Romani, and Zoli  He followed it with a current events opinion Gypsies Put Europe To The Test: The Roma of Romania and Bulgaria, at the International Herald Tribune.  A trip to Romania means daily contact with the larger Gypsy or Roma issue, and unanswered questions about what can help the poverty without destroying the culture, and can or will the European Union and other Roma places (the US) tolerate difference  - http://www.iht.com/articles/2007/01/10/opinion/edmcCann.php.

The issue is how Romania, Bulgaria, and other countries regarding the European Union, will deal with their minority populations.

3.  Awareness.  Photo gallery of Roma, done by Leafpile - http://www.leafpile.com/TravelLog/Romania/Roma/Roma.htm.  A problem with photography is it must be paid for. Learn that and be prepared. Children will pose, and adults, but then the hands come out, more arrive. It is a culture issue.  Come up with the coins, even a bill, and more arrive.

  • Look past the crowd at the doorways.  There usually is an adult there. Signal no more, the universal palms flat down, and slicing laterally, and glare, even ceremonially add more coins, and then point to the car, act out driving, and usually the adult will call the others back.  We were not comfortable taking pictures of Roma, looks like our over-concern for people's sense of privacy was off base. Do look at these.
  • Further update, on the poor vs. progress. This is 3/3/08: Read the 2001 On the Margins: Roma and Public Services in Romania, Bulgaria, and Macedonia, With a Supplement on Housing in the Czech Republic, by Ina Zoon, Open Society Institute press 2001. See http://www.romadecade.org/egy-cikk.php?hir_id=9686   The report covers denials of health care, lack of adequate housing, and recommendations.

Sunday, June 24, 2012

Lake Snagov, Snagov Monastery - Vlad Tepes island burial? Complex Astoria

Lake Snagov, 
Snagov Monastery, 
Burial, Possible once,  Vlad III Tepes
Complex Astoria

Approach Romania with a view to history that can be corroborated, and history-stories that cannot, but carry weight.  Then find that the parts that cannot be corroborated, take on an independent fictional existence. Enjoy them all, but vet.  With so many images of Vlad III Tepes, Vlad the Impaler, it takes conscious effort to approach his biography with detachment, see Vlad III Tepes, see See http://www.pitt.edu/~slavic/courses/vampires/images/vlad/vlad.html

1.  Lake Snagov.  Is, or was, all or part of Vlad III Tepes buried here.  Row out, from the summer hub, Complex Astoria, to find out.  That is the only access.  Early morning is lovely.

Lake Snagov, Romania. Row to monastery from Complex Astoria

Complex Astoria is a traditional resort area now, and about 18 miles from Bucharest, and built during the communist era for the elite. It looked like a perfect first destination from the guidebook, but it did not mention that closes well before we were to arrive in the area, in October  There were caretakers about, and others, so we were given a nice room.  See FN 1 

2.  Snagov Monastery:

The only way to get to the island monastery, and the alleged burial place of Vlad;s body (the claim) is by rowboat. Strong young men at Astoria will do the rowing. Leave plenty of time. Transport to the island is by rowboat. Go fast, before all this changes to motor launches and noise. See it at http://www.bootsnall.com/travelstories/europe/nov03vlad.

It was built in the 1300's, see http://felixromania.com/sights/wallachia/snagov/ Bones were found at a doorway and elsewhere here, some human and some elegant fabric, but there can be established no connection to Vlad, and some apparently there also were animal (chicken) bones.  Apparently he is not there any more.  The story tells that he was moved (his body - the head was decapitated during battle) to the outside, by the door, to protect it. Then, when places were dug up to find him, there was no sign -- only chicken or other animal bones.  Was the head taken elsewhere.
There are records that he had once been buried in the church.

There was a printing press here in the 1700's, but then the place became disused, then used as a prison, and eventually, renovations began sporadically, up to 1995 or so. 

At the small church on the island, it is pay to play.  A priest takes entry tickets to the interior spot in front of the altar where Vlad is said to be buried. See http://www.draculas.info/gallery/picture_of_monastery_of_snagov_vlad_the_impaler_grave-12/  This site looks like a Romanian offering an overview, to be preferred over the tourism sites, see http://dracula-transylvania.blogspot.com/2008/04/snagov-monastery.html/  

The interior is lovely, even if set for tourists. One novel, "The Historian," by Elizabeth Kostova, see http://www.bookbrowse.com/reviews/index.cfm?book_number=1589 focuses at one point on where the head might have gone, then the body, and by whom, and what happened to the parts next. Are all reunitings good things? See and speculate about the stories at http://www.castleofspirits.com/vlad. - Vlad tales.
One novel, "The Historian," by Elizabeth Kostova, see http://www.bookbrowse.com/reviews/index.cfm?book_number=1589 focuses at one point on where the head might have gone, then the body, and by whom, and what happened to the parts next. Are all reunitings good things? See and speculate about the stories at http://www.castleofspirits.com/vlad. - Vlad tales.


FN  1   Complex Astoria
Overnight.  This had been a communist resort, still is a resort, see http://mapcarta.com/28166480.  Use your translator at http://www.tourismguide.ro/tgr/complex_astoria_snagov_1778.php.  Beware that it is seasonal. This was October, and just past the tourist season. More at http://www.world66.com/europe/romania/snagovlake. It was already in process of closing until spring completely, and we were the only guests there.  Nervous?  Why.  It's too late to go elsewhere, we don't travel fancy, our backpacks are all we have, and without faith in human nature no travel is worth it anyway.  When the door would not lock, we stuck a chair under the knob as seen on TV.  Done.
There are many campsites and chalets at the resort. The main building is a large hotel with atrium, long halls with rooms. Just fine. Back to locks. Check that you know how to work the locks before accepting the room and unpacking. They are not the same as ours. May take several turns. As it turned out, ours would have locked if we just kept turning, and turning.
Timing an arrival somewhere:
If you find yourself in a place without restaurants or hotels, as here (we finally found the Complex) just stop at the nearest Magazin Mixt - at the nearest crossroads - convenience store - and make a picnic. Sit outside and eat, and just be friendly. Lots of horsecarts, people, children.

FN 2 

Roma in Romania: 
For any candidate in any country for any substantial elected office: what have you done to promote the well-being of the Roma population in your borders? Education? Structures? Jobs? Health?

2.  Snagov Monastery:  The only way to get to the island monastery, and the alleged burial place of Vlad;s body (the claim) is by rowboat. Strong young men at Astoria will do the rowing. Leave plenty of time. Transport to the island is by rowboat. Go fast, before all this changes to motor launches and noise. See it at http://www.bootsnall.com/travelstories/europe/nov03vlad.
The Monastery:

There is a small church on the island, with a priest taking the entry tickets to the interior spot in front of the altar where Vlad is said to be buried. See http://www.draculas.info/gallery/picture_of_monastery_of_snagov_vlad_the_impaler_grave-12/  This looks like a Romanian offering an overview, to be preferred over the tourism sites, see http://dracula-transylvania.blogspot.com/2008/04/snagov-monastery.html
Apparently he is not there any more.  The story tells that he was moved (his body - the head was decapitated during battle) to the outside, by the door, to protect it. Then, when places were dug up to find him, there was no sign -- only chicken or other animal bones.
Still, there are records that he had once been buried in the church.

Saturday, June 23, 2012

Travel tips. Cash for the Road. Complex Astoria. Dog Precautions; Eating


1.  Take some cash.

Do not assume that there will be ATM's immediately outside the main city where you land.  Use the airport rather than wait.  For more speed, take some cash in the local currency with you, despite the cost of doing that in the US, just in case.  Heading north toward Snagov, we were suddenly beyond urbanity, and there was no immediately visible place and no banks outside Bucharest for
ATM's that we could see.

Cash was vital.  The next largest town, Brasov, of course had ATM's, but we needed our ready cash for eating and spending the first night.

We got to the Snagov area in late afternoon, got ourselves well lost among little, poverty-overwhelmed villages and dirt-rutted roads. When we found the Complex Astoria to spend the night, we found out why the signs were down. It was closed for the season.  They opened a room for us, and luckily we had cash to pay. No credit card option there.\

2.  Pocket your hands. Stray dogs.

Hand safety can be an issue for the careless, walking around.  Ask before being friendly with dogs, and if noone is around, pocket your hands.  There are homeless dogs everywhere, in packs, and by themselves.

Why? We understand that Ceaucescu would not let people take their pets when they were moved wholesale in Bucharest and elsewhere out of neighborhoods that were then razed for big government buildings and boulevards, into high rises.  This is a huge issue, not only for humane treatment of all living, but for public safety.  See http://www.koirienystavat.com/en/dogs-in-romania/.   Puppies, show dogs, all were set loose. Thousands upon thousands are out there now.

These are often identifiable specific breeds, cockers covered in burrs, little doggies, even still.  New parliament buildings were needed.  Was that necessary, to forbid the pets, given the public health and other nuisance now?  By way of update, see http://www.ibtimes.com/romanian-stray-dogs-slaughtered-streets-red-card-romania-spreads-facebook-1505630

We were told to keep our hands in our pockets, so we did. The dogs trot along with you, just don't pet. Others not so friendly. We were told not to experiment.

3.  Food when there are no restaurants

Dinner when there is no dinner.  Magazin Mixt.
Magazin Mixt means convenience store. At Lake Snagov, we had a fine meal from a general deli (dried sausage, rolls, cheese), a kind of bodega, at a village. People and especially children came around to stare, but we felt welcome and safe.

Sunday, June 10, 2012

Brasov, Bran Castle

Bran Castle is part of the Vlad Tepes collection of sites, in detail at http://romaniaroadwaysvladtepes.blogspot.com/2006/08/bran-castle-brasov-popular-tradition.html.

Bran Castle, a rainy look-back.

Our route:  Airport at Bucharest, head immediately north to Lake Snagov where Vlad Tepes may or may not be buried or have been buried all or in part, see Sinaia and Peles Castle, and then on to Brasov.

Find Bran Castle and the other Vlad Tepes sites in detail and with photos at  Romania Road Ways II, Vlad Tepes, site, at http://romaniaroadwaysvladtepes.blogspot.com/2006/08/bran-castle-brasov-popular-tradition.html

We integrate them here as a place holder.  How to see where we went, if we totally separate out Vlad Tepes?

Bran Castle:  obvious from the roadway, go there.

Thursday, June 07, 2012

Brasov: Bran Castle - Popular tradition for Vlad. Not really Vlad.

 Brasov, Bran Castle
This looks "Dracula" but was he ever here? Probably not.

1.  Bran Castle, in Brasov, is about 70 miles north of Snagov Lake, where the island monastery claims to hold Vlad remains, or did. Bran is about 87 miles north of Bucharest.  Brasov gets tourists because Bran Castle looks good, is indeed a real and very historic castle, see http://www.draculas.info/travel_transylvania/bran_castle_history_i/, and is not far Bucharest's airport.  It is located in a confluence of trade and military routes, defending against the Ottomans, and became wealthy with customs and other fees and duties.
2.  Vlad's armies also attacked Brasov, but that did not relate particularly to Bran Castle. See the Draculas Info site.  The Bran Fortress is pivotal to Romanian history in its own right:  the incursion of Vlad tourists thinking this is pivotal Vlad does the castle a disservice, diminishing interest in real history.
The guides at the castle will tell you that Vlad was only there as a guest once in a while, if even that, or was imprisoned there. It is lovely, well restored, but tenuous in any significant connection or any connection at all to the historic Vlad Tepes.
Tours do hype the factoid that Vlad lived there. But it makes a buck - or lei, or the new leu.  For the claims, see, for example.
A recent TV show (this is an update 2/2/07) showed Bran Castle and the town of Brasov, as one of the walled towns that Vlad used in anchoring his rule, especially against the Ottoman invasion. There was no hint of that when we were there, but we see now that he had other connections to Brasov.  He was arrested near Brasov by Matthias Corvinus; and he later, for other reasons, led an assault on the town and impaled many on a nearby hill.  It was a successful commercial town, with many influential Saxon merchants.  Vlad led an assault on Brasov (no mention of Bran) to break the hold of the Saxons.  Credibility of all the accounts historically is questionable, but they clinched his reputation. See overview account at http://www.ucs.mun.ca/~emiller/vlad.html.

3.  Vlad the Impaler and "Impalement"

Impalement:  this was also a means of "crucifixion", see Crucifixion, history, uses, variations for etymology and more information than you want to know.  The point is that the method was common. Did Vlad do more than most? Probably, or not? Takes more research than merely looking at woodcuts with agendas, making a point.
4.  Return of property.
I read that the government is giving the castle back to the heirs, so it may or may not remain open as a tourist destination. Vlad or not, it is lovely.
5.  Comparing history with legend
Some sites do a fine job of comparing the legends with the historical reality, as far as that is known or debated now. We took time to read the exhibits.

Tuesday, June 05, 2012

Rasnov Citadel

Romania was on the routes to the Crusades in the Holy Land, and this castle fortress was built by German knights, the Teutonic Knights. The citadel dates from the 1200's. Find the Teutonic Knights and their incarnation in many places, especially in the Baltic area as Malbork, see  Poland Road Ways.  Rasnov is known in German as Rosenau. With so much fallen into ruin, it was being reconstructed when we were there.  There was no restriction on access, up and down staircases, parapets.  This is the area known as Burzenland, see http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Burzenland/  Tartar invasions stopped its development as a monastery.  Little houses within the walls served to protect refugees from the invasions below.

It was under construction, renovation, when we were there.  See it now (update 2014) at http://www.romanianmonasteries.org/romania/rasnov-citadel/. 

Teutonic Knights and Crusades.  After the crusades failed, the Teutonic Knights, then unemployed, regrouped as mercenaries in the Slavic countries, here, Poland, at their castle at Malbork.  Once militarily trained, and ideologically set, the context for activities is mutable.

There is a lovely video on Romania that includes the fortress, at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=d6eXrgs5tHo.  Visit and find signs not to a hotel, but to a pensione. Follow the rutted road, around and around, and within a wall is a fine, hospitable place to stay.  

The coloring in the video is closer to the real -- camera flaw on my part here. Some photos come out purple.

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Rasnov area. Cows of the household

Village at Rasnov Castle
Rasnov: Highly domesticated cows 

Rasnov area, Romania. Cows of the household

Evening is a good time to arrive in an area near Rasnov.  The cows coming down from pasture in the evening walk quietly in single file, or double, and on their own, coming through the village. Each weaves off at the home street, then lumbers and sways down the center or the side, and stops at the gate of its household, and waits for someone to open the gate.

Be watchful. As Dan took a picture of something else, near our pensione (rooms), a tan cow softly padded up from behind.  It was not on a lead, but soon was met by the owner and a soft lead.  Other cows stopped at their own front doors. Much surprise, no harm, no threat. 

Enjoy the idea of a partnership with one's cows, part of the family, a different angle on the circle of life. Nowhere nearby was a western-style downer-torturing feed lot.

Sunday, May 20, 2012

Sinaia - Peles Castle

Sinaia, Peles Castle, Romania

Arrive at Bucharest, drive north, see Lake Snagov where Vlad Tepes was said to be buried in part at the monastery there; and then Sinaia. Peles Castle.

Sinaia. It is a prime ski area, great resort, and there is a splendid castle.  A fine video of Peles is at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fq9O9ecRVlM&feature=related/.  For photos and surroundings at  http://www.montania.ro/en_vile.

Beware of claims to a Vlad Tepes connection.   The castle, Peles, has no connection to Vlad that I can find, but this site suggests by its name that it does - http://www.draculascastle.com/html/pelesint.

Peles was built, instead, by King Carol I during a period centuries after, in the 19th Century, 1873-1883. See http://www.infotravelromania.ro/en/castle. Still, it is magnificent, and the photos at the infotravel site include other castles - worth a look.  See also  http://visit.peles.ro/the-history-of-the-peles-castle/

Carol I, King Charles I.

The town has all the shops and cafes you would expect. We don't shop, we people-watch and this was excellent for that.

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Curtea de Arges, Monastery, Church

Curtea de Arges, Monastery, Romania

Curtea de Arges, Monastery 1517.

This Church was built by Voivode (designation for a warlord?)  Neagoe Basarab.  The name Basarab dates from far earlier, Basarab I ruling from 1325-1352, and it was this earlier Basarab who had unified much of the Romanian land from the Danube River to the Carpathian mountains, and conflicted with Hungarian ruler plans for those areas. See http://laivindur.wordpress.com/2012/03/27/basarab-i-intemeietorul/

Orthodox or Catholic?  See http://enciclopediaromaniei.ro/wiki/Basarab_I_√éntemeietorul/ The best sites require clicking on the translate.

Th Curtea de Arges structure has origins in legend and fact.. One story claims that the Master craftsmen were killed, stranded on the roof until they died, so they could not create such beauty again. See http://www.rotravel.com/romania/monasteries/arges.

The Legend of Manolo.  Another names a Master, one Manole, who dreamed the building would be flawless if he walled his wife in the walls. So he did.  The building was beautiful, indeed. And it was then that the ruler herded the Masters to the roof, and Manolo tried to escape like Icarus by flying with wings. He leaped and did not survive. See http://www.romanianmonasteries.org/other-monasteries/curtea-de-arges

Another story adds details to the walled-in wife.  The ruler declared something like this: the first of the workers' wives to arrive with food for that day would be killed. The workers all told their wives to stay away, except for one.  His wife duly arrived, and was killed.  See http:/en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Curtea_de_Arge%C5%9F_Cathedral.

The blogsite by Laivindur does not mention those.  Are they, then, unreliable?

Travel tip:  At Curtea, there will be a sign as you begin the road north to the Carpathians and to the Transfagarasan Pass, where Vlad III Tepes (the Impaler) had his castle, now a ruin at Poinari Citadel. The sign says whether the pass is open or not. We went without seeing the sign, but fortunately all was open, and there are places to stay if you are stuck. Just don't drive after sunset if you can help it - there are few markers to the next stopping point, and gas can run out.

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Transfagarasan Pass, Carpathian Alps, Poienari Citadel

Transfagarasan Pass, Poinari Citadel

A main historian-tourist objective is seeing what corroborates events in the life of Vlad III Tepes.  Poinari Citadel is the mountaintop (a manageable walk with mild switchbacks up from the road) castle where, it is said, the Turks were threatening, and Vlad's wife so feared being taken that she hurled herself off the parapet to her death. 

Poienari Citadel. Vlad escaped from Poinari Citadel, and went to another castle at Targoviste. See http://www.davidstuff.com/historical/vlad.htm; and the more tourist-oriented version for the story at http://www.romaniatourism.com/dracula-legend.html/

This fortress was built in the 1300's and became the main defense point for the Basarab rulers. See http://www.exploringromania.com/poienari.html


Poinari Citadel, Path to ruin of castle of Vlad III Tepes (Transfagarasan Pass)

Poienari Citadel, Poienari Citadel.
Castle Ruin, Vlad Tepes

1.  The path to Poienari citadel.  Vlad's real fortress is 1480 steps up a steep walkway from the road and parking area below.  Just leave the car.  No guards.  So?

Spellings change: Poienari, Poinari, Poenari. See http://www.draculascastle.com/html/poenari.

Dan Widing climbs path to Poenari Citadel, Castle, Vlad Tepes, Romania

 The path is safe, with a pipe-type railing to keep you on track. A group of tourist teenagers behind us dubbed this the Great Wall of Romania. Laughs all about, including from Romanian tourist teens from a different bus above us.  With the switchbacks, conversations carried.  There was no steady stream of tourists this late in October, just us and the bracketing other groups.

View from Poenari Citadel, Castle ruin, Vlad Tepes, Romania

2.  Guides.
Guides are not really needed, because there are signs and pathways, but expect someone to join you and expect a payment. We did that, and I only regret not giving more.  Sometimes, however, with a larger tip, there is more intrusion as the guide wants to be sure you get your money's worth.

Our guide appeared when we were just about at the top, from a little house up there. Do carry some dollars for people who are especially helpful. They really want them, and deserve to be compensated. I tended to tip in Romanian currency, however. Dollars: There is a midground to caution. I do wish I had been more generous with other individuals, like older women sitting asking for money at the monastery gates.
3.  Arefu - the village that spirited Vlad away
Vlad escaped with the help of villagers at Arefu nearby. I understand that the villagers still identify with that event and can name the individuals and their descendants.

Vlad rewarded them with land, an unusual step for peasants. For an account of places and his life, see the Vlad sites at http://www.ucs.mun.ca/%7Eemiller/vlad_romania.  Someone slept out up there. See http://www.ventureup.com/travel/dracula.

Wednesday, May 09, 2012

Arefu: Reward from Vlad for the Ages

Arefu:  This village enabled the escape of Vlad III Tepes from the invading Ottomans in 1462.  Vlad's wife, fearing the worst if she were captured, had already thrown herself from the parapets of the fortress Poinari Citadel, now a ruin.

Drive through the village and find deeply rutted dirt roads, a poor place, but proud. Villagers even today trace their background to Vlad's time, and those loyal to Vlad Tepes. See http://www.romaniatourism.com/dracula-legend.html/  Did Vlad bequeath to them their lands in posterity, in thanks?  I am looking for that reference.

We did not stay here because we were headed further through the mountains. Luckily we found a cabana, a government hotel, before it became dark. Better, looking back, if we had simply stopped. Pensiones were fine, clean, safe. But Dan would say, let's go on a bit. And we would.  Vlad Tepes: a complex leader, a violent era, as ours, in our way, spend time looking for history. See http://www.theculturedtraveler.com/Archives/Aug2005/Dracula.htm

Tuesday, May 08, 2012

Transfagarasan Pass - Hike. Carpathian Alps - Route from Wallachia to Transylvania

Transfagarasan Pass
Carpathian Mountains

Carpathian Mountains, Transfagarasan Pass, Romania

1.  Blasting open the Pass

The Fagaras Mountains, are part of the Carpathian Range.  Wallachia is on one side. Vlad III Tepes was Wallachian.  Transylvania is on the other.

At the northern end of the pass are the cities of Sighisoara, the birthplace of Vlad III Tepes, and Sibiu; entry to the painted monastery areas, and much more.
There is a history of hardship and labor deaths here, from blasting a way across and through a tunnel, for vehicles. See http://www.expeditionplus.com/2006/07/the_fagaras_mountains_and_the_1.

The Pass was built as a way to move troops and ammunition to defend against a feared Soviet invasion in 1968. The Transfagarasan Pass, through and over the Transfagarasan Mountains, is more easily remembered by the name of the town at the north side, Fagaras. See http://www.transylvania-discovery-tours.ro/en/top/daily-tours-in-transylvania/land-of-fagaras-day-tour/

2. Accessibility

The Pass in these mountains is open as weather and season permit. This was the end of October - lovely for leaves, views, but beginning risky for weather.  With snow the tunnels and high switchbacks are closed.  Check at Curtea de Arges before launching out in this direction.  There will be a sign, not big, affirming whether the pass is open. On maps, the road will look as though it stops.  Instead, that open bracket symbol means tunnels.

Cabanas is the magic word. There are hotel-type places for sleeping, called Cabanas. Are they government-run? Not sure.  Just don't let it get dark on you. Stop in time. For an overview of the mountains in Romania, see "Romania's Road to Heaven," at http://www.escapeartist.com/efam/68/Living_In_Romania.

On the way, we knew there would be "cabanas" or small hotels, but did not expect the distances between. Don't wait too long in the day to stop. You need all the visibility you can get - not all vehicles have good headlights, and animals may wander in the road. We were just about to turn back, when one appeared. Do not expect signs to tell you when the next will emerge.

3.  Stop the car, park and trust, and hike.

Transfagarasan Pass, midday hike, Romania

Stop along the way and take a hike. If you are a worrier about leaving the car, you will miss out. We never had a problem. Look closely:  There is half of the Car-Dan Tour Company, snapped by the other half, as we crossed a boulder-strewn creek bed with no particular destination in mind.
The car was indeed there when we returned.

Other attractions: See http://www.expeditionplus.com/2006/07/the_fagaras_mountains_and_the_1.

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Sibiu: Naver or Tradesmen; Saxons of Transylvania

Saxons of Transylvania 

Naver, tradesmen, Sibiu, Romania

Sibiu, Romania. We had believed these men to be Roma, but now learn that the dress is that of traveling tradesmen, or "naver".  There are many Roma, of rank and ethnicity from the poorest, to well-to-do.  There is a casino in Sibiu that drew many with means, and in elegant dress.

1.  The Naver are of Saxon heritage.  This group is common mainly in the north central parts of Romania. They have a long tradition of education and skill. Traveling tradesmen, with knowledge seen by outsiders as secret, and with connections to Teutonic Knights.

This relationship, to Germany, relates back to at least.. The Old Holy Roman Empire where the boundary between Slavic and Germanic lands held for centuries, but with flexibility, blending and fighting.

In Romania, German peoples were invited in during the medieval era, to help with mining and agriculture in Slavic lands, and then stayed, see http://www.galiziengermandescendants.org/Data/History2.pdf.  A Germanic tradition here in Sibiu is just a part of the larger Germanic culture in Romania. There are the German - Saxon walled churches located in the region.

2.  Relationship of Naver to Teutonic Knights. Occupation, skillsets. The Teutonic Knights were a medieval monastic military order that fought in the crusades, see http://www.britannica.com/EBchecked/topic/586765/Templar

A search for Naver - a quick one - shows more information about the tradesmen and Templar influence.
The Templars were not only fighters and guardians of travelers and pilgrims, and highly successful bankers holding scrip and property until the bearer might or might not return to claim his property; but also keepers, the tales tell, of mysteries taken from the Holy Land. Now we learn that the Templars were also part of an information/skills network between the East and to the West; that the Templars brought building skills and implements to the West, giving rise to the Masonic tradition and its symbols. And the Naver arose from that tradition. And that those connections enabled the building of the ever-more elaborate Gothic cathedrals. More info see http://www.curezone.com/blogs/m.asp?f=665&i=2/.

Sunday, April 08, 2012

Sighisoara, Vlad Tepes Birthplace; World Heritage site

Sighisoara: Birthplace of Vlad Tepes
Vlad's family home is now a Restaurant

Sighisoara, birthplace of Vlad Tepes, Romania
Sighisoara was established by the Saxons of Transylvania.

1.  Birthplace: The big yellow house.

The home where Vlad Tepes was born in 1431 is now a restaurant. Expect and get generous portions of good basic food. Sauces and frills are few, so the atmosphere seems authentically Romanian.

The town is in excellent medieval condition, never bombed, or overrun. See the photo gallery at http://www.world66.com/europe/romania/sighisoara/lib/gallery.Although he ruled Wallachia for periods in a brief timespan, 1456-1462, his reputation suggests a far longer domination.

2.  Monuments and The Novel, Dracula.

There are references to Vlad Dracula in many places, and they often refer to the novel, Dracula, by Bram Stoker, even though it is far removed from the life.  Reread the Stoker novel at Dracula, http://www.literature.org/authors/stoker-bram/dracula/

As in other Romanian cities with ties to Vlad Tepes, there are excellent descriptive plaques in Sishisoara. They separate out the kitsch, and offer historical information particularly where Bram Stoker made other fictional claims. The result is to interest people who want to know what really is known, or reasonably so; as well as those who want to follow in Bram Stoker's characters' steps without critique.

Entire tours are devoted to Vlad, but the distances between real sites is great, and there is too much to see in between to focus only on Vlad.. The Romanian Tourist Bureau provides an overview of his life as told in legend. See http://www.draculascastle.com/html/poenari.

3.  World Heritage

Sighisoara is a World Heritage site. See http://www.romanianvoice.com/images/orase/sighisoara.php. The full list of places on the Romanian World Heritage honor roll is at http://www.thesalmons.org/lynn/wh-romania. Fine photos: at this Unesco site --  http://whc.unesco.org/en/list/902