On the weekend my niece and her partner took me for a visit to Transylvania, a mountainous holiday area about two and a half hours north of Bucharest. In winter, the area is a ski resort. In the summer, it is a cool clime which provides relief from the heat on the plains.
In the afternoon I did a tour of the royal palace, once home to the King of Romania. It was lavish, not on the scale of the People’s Palace, but in accord with royalty of that time.
For more info on Sinaia see http://www.montania.ro/en_Sinaia_info.htm
We continued on to Braslov where we stayed overnight. After settling in to a hotel, we wandered around the old city. Interesting, old, cobbled streets, buildings a bit run-down due to the poverty of the nation, but very pleasing all the same. People wandering the streets like ourselves. It would be a bustle during the summer, with tables laid out in the streets. At this time, however, it was quite cold. There was some snow on the peaks. We enjoyed a meal out.
We searched the internet but could not find Mass times. However, we found a couple of addresses. In the morning we set out, found one church empty (possibly Mass an hour later in Hungarian!), found Mass going on in a Greek Catholic Church (but it was all Greek to me and I had no idea whether it was beginning or ending!), and finally found a Mass just starting in Romanian, so joined the congregation. Packed church. Standing room only. Mostly adult congregation, though some youth among them, hardly any children at all. I could follow the “parts” of the Mass, that is, I knew where we were up to, but had no idea of the words. This was followed by a late breakfast.
Then we climbed the mountain overlooking Braslov.
Slight exaggeration there. I didn’t actually climb it. My niece and I went up the mountain in a cable car. Her partner climbed it on foot. I declined to climb up it. But he and I did climb down it. My niece came down in the cable car. It would have been a big effort for me to have climbed such an altitude, even though the path zigzagged and was not so steep as such. Still, it was a long way up!. I don’t feel ready for that height just yet, but will soon have to do it once I start the camino. But the walk down was quite strenous enough, with gravity and momentum pushing you down, and the ground wet and sometimes slippery with mud and leaves, it was a bit treacherous. We each slipped slightly a couple of times, but recovered with balletic sprightliness, so no falls, and we eventually arrived down on the city square safe and sound.
In the afternoon we visited Bran, where we did a tour of Bran’s castle, associated with the history and subsequent legend of Dracula and Vlad the Impaler! I noticed that in this and the previous castle there were suits of armor. There was also weaponry, including swords of damasc steel (forged in Damascus), one one of which I could see Arabic script. There was also damask table settings (a style of weaving developed in Damascus which created decorative shapes, symbols on the cloth). In my days in Romania, I also heard and saw references to keeping the Ottomans at bay. So there was an interesting mix of defensive war and cultural exchange!! I liked the castle. It had been a defence oupost against the Ottoman advances. It had been a home to Romanian royalty at some time after their deposition. It had also housed civic administration. The wooden floors, the wooden railings, the alcoves, the stone-ware wood-fired heaters, all made it a more “homely” place than some of the “palaces” I had seen elsewhere.
The setting of Transylvania provides the context for the Dracula novels of Bram Stoker. The “dracula” name comes from the family of Vlad the Impaler, whose exploits gave rise to many bloody stories!!
We returned to Bucharest in the early evening in time for a farewell meal.
This morning I talked to one of the classes in the primary school where my niece and her partner both teach. They don’t have many visitors at the school, so I was happy to oblige.
I then caught a taxi to the airport and had an uneventful flight to Rome.