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Translyvania - Land Beyond The Forest

Transylvania, land of alpine meadows, dense forests, snow-capped mountains and lowland valleys, of wandering shepherds and ancient hamlets, of bears, mountain goats, wild boars and diverse wildlife.

Or is this the land of Dracula, vampires & werewolves ?

Wandering shepards in Transylvania ; The beautiful Carpathians

This has always been a land of great controversy. To the Romanians, this was the heartland of ancient Dacia, whose fierce tribesmen first fought the Romans, and then intermarried with them after the Roman conquest to form what is today the Romanian race. To the Hungarians, this is Erdely, part of the promised land Khan Arpad conquered for the Magyars, the Principality that produced so many great Hungarians in history - Janos Hunyadi, Matthias Corvinus, Ferenc Rakoczi II, and that Transylvanian Romanians were originally wandering shepherds who had settled or slipped into this part of Hungary illegally over the ages. Since the award of this land to Romania in 1920 under the terms of the Trianon Treaty, the treatment of minority Hungarians here has always been the constant source of tension between Hungary and Romania. With the downfall of communism, this tension has become more apparent, with nationalistic leaders on both sides demanding for extreme solutions to the problem. For a traveller from afar like me, the problems are apparent on the train to Romania - even before crossing the border.

The Carona Express - A look at the Transylvanian Problem

The train from Budapest to Brasov (known as Brasso to Hungarians ; In these parts, every Transylvania city, town and village has a Hungarian and Romanian name, & in some places, a German-Saxon name as well. One should try to use the right name with the right person. Racial sensitivities are critical here.) was full of Romanians of Hungarian ethnical origins returning from a Budapest shopping trip. Most of them came back with huge bags of clothing and consumer products for resale in their impoverished homeland. In Hungarian territory, these Magyars spoke Hungarian, which, if they were to speak in Romania in the open, might subject them to discrimination, or at least that was what some of them believed.

Just before nightfall, there was a sudden commotion among the passengers - a Romanian, i,e., a Romanian ethnic, had died on the train. The train stopped at a station near the border, where the body and the carriage where he died had to be removed for further investigation. It took more than 3 hours before the train continued its journey again, and the passengers were all crowding the corridors discussing the event. Its wasn't long before I realised that the passengers had begun speaking Romanian, as characterised by its Latin-and-Slavic tones, in contrast with Hungarian, a unpronunicable Finno-Uralic language only related to Finnish and Estonian. As two visibly irritated (but still retaining their Latin charms) Romanian girls in the same cabin explained to me, it seems that the death of a Romanian on the train had suddenly reminded them about their Romanian nationality and their soon arrival in Romanian territory. Before the incident, none of the Transylvanian Magyars had bothered to speak to these two girls.

At Bran Castle : Behind is the Bran Pass, the Carpathians & the ancient border between Translyvania & Wallachia
A humorous young Magyar, G., soon joined us in the cabin. It was interesting to note that despite all the earlier unhappiness with the Magyars, the girls were soon joking with G. It seems that all these political tension were mainly the work of politicians, as G. told me later, ordinary people have no real problems with one another. After all, they are all Transylvanians, and they share the same cheerfulness not found in other parts of Romania, namely, Moldova and Wallachia (Tara Romaneasca). In fact, soon after crossing the border, with more Romanians boarding the train, it was impossible to sleep on the train, as the passengers were talking and joking non-stop, even well after midnight. It reminded me of similar experiences in Spain and Italy, also countries of Latin temperament. G. and Vitoria (one of the two girls), begged me to forgive them for all these ( - not that I mind anyway), for they were all Latins, and hence were more expressive and fun-loving.

G. was an engineering graduate but life in Romania was so bad that he, like many educated Romanians (nationality), had to start small business in order to survive. As for Transylvania, he said that this was his homeland and he never wanted to leave here. Had he ever dreamt about reunification with Hungary ? No, it was no longer possible, as there are only 2 million Magyars here today, and there are probably twice as many Romanian ethnics in Translyvania. But life is made difficult with nationalistic antagonism by politicians of both races. The high hopes he once cherished during the 1989 Revolution were all gone. Like many Romanians, he doesn't care about politics anymore. All politicians are corrupt, he said. All he cared for now was how to have a better life...

Into Transylvania : Brasov & Sighisoara

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