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Legends of Transylvania through local eyes

Author: Marina Alexandru

Transylvania … beautiful Transylvania … Everyone has an idea about this land, even if sometimes it’s just about the famous Dracula. But it’s not just about that. It has much more to offer. Wanting to discover other information known perhaps only by the locals, I made a questionnaire to find out little secrets from Transylvania. People from different villages and cities have revealed me interesting legends and traditions that I don’t think you can learn from anyone other than a local. I thought I would share them with you in the following lines, so that you too can enjoy these Transylvanian stories.

Legends and stories of Transylvania

We’ve all heard of the legend of Dracula, but it’s not the only one. Diana, who lives in Crihalma, a village in Brașov County, told us that her favorite legend is about the Rupea Fortress. It is located in the city of Rupea, Brașov County, and it is one of the oldest fortifications in Romania. From what Diana knows from her grandparents, the fortress was brought to Rupea from Crihalma by nothing more, nothing less than a giant! The children from Crihalma village are really fascinated by this legend … just like Diana was in her childhood.

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 Rupea fortress, image by @cristian_carstea

Adina also has a favorite story, also about a fortress. This time it is about Colț Fortress, from Suseni village, Râu de Mori commune, Hunedoara county. In Deva, the city where Adina comes from, it is rumored that the Corner Fortress, as we know it, which dates back to the fourteenth century, is actually the Carpathian Castle referred to by Jules Verne in his writings. No wonder, given the beauty of Transylvania, that it is an ideal place of inspiration for stories.

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Colț Fortress, image by @lavi_neacsu

Eugenia, on the other hand, really likes the story of the Olt and Mureș rivers. She is from the city of Rupea, Brașov County and she told us with delight this legend. It is said that these waters were in fact boys who went in search of the father who disappeared in battle. The only condition they had to meet was not to break up on the road. They did not listen to their parents’ orders and were instantly transformed into two rivers, the ones we know today.

In addition to these enchanting legends, each person who answered the questionnaire has a favorite story told by parents or grandparents as a child. They had various characters such as Mărioara, Florica, Făt-Frumos, Ileana Cosânzeana, Ana and Ion, even … Țac-Pac and Gămălie. The funniest names of all were those of the protagonists in Octav’s stories. He is from the city of Brasov and his grandparents often told him stories at noon with the Statue of the Palm Beard Elbow or Crooked Wood. In all of them, the characters traveled a route to turn into heroes or the boys saved the girls from anguish.

Haunted places in Transylvania

Transylvania is famous for its haunted places. This land is the inspiration for many horror movies and books. It seems that there is something mythical in Transylvania. Children living in Transylvania are often scared of these places. Often, even older siblings scare the younger ones with haunted areas. This is also the situation of Georgiana from Sfântu Gheorghe, Covasna County, and Viviana from Baia Mare, northern Romania. They were scared by their brothers with the Hoia Baciu forest. It is located in Cluj-Napoca, north-west of Romania, and has a scary legend behind it. A shepherd named Hoia wanted to enter the forest with his sheep. He would have reached Poiana Rotundă and has not been seen since. It is rumored that there are also UFOs, there is even a book that describes the paranormal phenomena that took place in this place. Scary, isn’t it? Georgiana and Viviana still shudder when they remember the stories of aliens or strangely inclined trees.

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 Hoia Baciu woods, image by @curiousfiddler

Gabriela told me about another creepy place. She is from Peșteana village, Hunedoara county, and is scared of the Retezat Mountains. Although it is nicknamed the “land of black goats”, and the landscapes are fantastic, its peak has a legend … special. Retezat Peak, after which the mountain was named, has a strange shape. It can look like a topless pyramid. The locals say that once upon a time, there was an ogre here that destroyed people’s crops. Many young people lost their lives trying to kill him, but in the end, a boy managed to kill him. He cut off his head, and the giant instantly turned into a mountain, with its tip cut off. Some people, more superstitious, still believe that the giant can come back to life.

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Retezat mountains, image by @dr.victorbaldea

Bran Castle is another controversial place. If we are talking about haunted places, it is impossible to miss it. Dracula is just a character invented by Bram Stoker, the author of the book “Dracula”, and is always confused with Vlad Tepes, a ruler in medieval Romanian theritories. The Bloodthirsty Vampire is obviously the product of the writer’s imagination. Unfortunately … or fortunately, when you visit Bran Castle, no vampires will get in your way, but the legend is an interesting one.

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Castelul Bran, image by @george.andronachi

Traditions in Transylvania passed from generation to generation

As in many places throughout Romania, in Transylvania there are unmissable traditions. You won’t find some of them in other areas of the country. At Christmas we have children, but also adults who visit their neighbours singing carols. All locals preapre traditional foods, pork chops, lebars, a type of sausage, rolls, cakes and the famous sarmale (minced pork meat rolled in sauerkraut).

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Sarmale, image by  @therecipestailor

On Easter day, Transylvanians paint eggs, and get the holly light from church. Perfuming girls is an area-specific habit. Iulia, who is from Sibiu, explained to me what this represents. The boys go through the village and ask the girls’ parents if they allow  their girls to get perfumed. They throw perfume to keep the “flowers” (girls) from withering. In exchange, they receive a red painted egg and sometimes sweets. 

Both holidays are an occasion for family reunification. There are other customs, such as Sânziene, a summer celebration. Young girls put a wreath under their pillow to dream of their future love. The same superstition appears for Epiphany, when the basil used forBaptism is placed under the pillow. 

When passing through Transylvania do not hesitate to talk to the locals. It is a very special experience for someone from the area to tell you about legends and traditions. And … who knows? Maybe you find out something new. (2)

Marina - Andreea Alexandru

I really like to read and I do it mostly in the summer evenings when the wind blows lightly, the crickets sing, and my room is covered by the starlight. I love to wander the streets of my city and photograph what I see in particular. Photography combines perfectly with another passion, traveling. I like to talk to the people of the places I visit, to listen to their stories, to see really special landscapes.

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