Csíkszereda Musings

My life in and around Csíkszereda, also known as Miercurea Ciuc.

Archive for the ‘context’ Category

Ardeal Meals

Posted by Andy Hockley on 14 November, 2006

I am seized by a hunger to post about food and drink here, and so to kick off I thought I’d do a little bit about meals and what they involve. As ever, I am not 100% sure if my cultural commentary is on Hungarian, Romanian, or just Transylvanian norms, so it may be up to my commenters to fill in some of the details.

Before actually getting to the food itself, then, the first thing the foreigner notices (or the first thing this foreigner noticed, to be honest), is the meal times themselves. The day begins early (at least on work days) and many people start work at 7 or at the latest 8. So breakfast is an early affair, and seemingly not very important. Many people seem not to eat it at all, and instead have a coffee and a pastry at work at sometime during the morning. The meal (really the only substantial meal of the day) is lunch.

Lunch involves soup and a main course. Always. OK, maybe not for everyone, but for most people, and for many people if it doesn’t involve soup and a main course they haven’t actually had lunch. My father-in-law definitely needs to have both of those two elements in order to feel like he’s eaten, and not to react like Shirley Valentine’s husband does in the first half of that film. It also involves palinka as a kind of appetite inducer, or something (I suspect it’s just an excuse to drink palinka since there’s no actual need to induce an appetite by the time lunch comes around). The other thing the outsider needs to know about lunch is that it doesn’t really get eaten until 3pm. Occasionally you’ll see lightweights having it at 2, but anytime before 3 is really a little bit fainthearted. This makes it apparent why the workday starts so early – you see most people actually work something like 7-3 and then go home for lunch and be done for the day. It takes a bit of getting used to, but I actually like it a lot now. In fact, I’ve started wondering why nobody else has come up with this excellent work-day-system.

So, there is this late lunch, and then the rest of the day is free (or you know, you fill it with the other chores of everyday life, so it’s not free in the sense of you get to do whatever the hell you want, but it’s not sold to the man). Dinner, such as it is, tends to be a light snack at around 8pm, just to keep the wolf from the door. This snack is usually zsiros kenyer and red onions. Zsiros kenyer is what used to be called “bread and dripping” when I was growing up, and is now almost certainly consigned to the memories of the elderly (like me) as a cholesterol cluster bomb. In short it is bread (sometimes toasted) spread with animal fat, and then sprinkled with paprika (the red powder not the peppers themselves). The red onion is peeled and chopped and the diners take bits of it, dip it in salt and eat it. It’s very good, but you have to check with your partner as to whether any kissing might be on the menu for the later evening before you tuck in, as either you both eat the onion, or neither of you, or the kissing opportunity is lost.

And there you have it – basically one big meal a day and two lightish snacks. It makes me wonder how I’ve ended up putting on weight here.

Some of the actual foods served for lunch will follow in a later post, when I can be arsed writing it. (Tad busy at the mo’ so blogging is liable to be light for the next couple fo weeks)

Advertisements

Posted in context, food | Leave a Comment »

Ardeal Meals

Posted by Andy Hockley on 14 November, 2006

I am seized by a hunger to post about food and drink here, and so to kick off I thought I’d do a little bit about meals and what they involve. As ever, I am not 100% sure if my cultural commentary is on Hungarian, Romanian, or just Transylvanian norms, so it may be up to my commenters to fill in some of the details.

Before actually getting to the food itself, then, the first thing the foreigner notices (or the first thing this foreigner noticed, to be honest), is the meal times themselves. The day begins early (at least on work days) and many people start work at 7 or at the latest 8. So breakfast is an early affair, and seemingly not very important. Many people seem not to eat it at all, and instead have a coffee and a pastry at work at sometime during the morning. The meal (really the only substantial meal of the day) is lunch.

Lunch involves soup and a main course. Always. OK, maybe not for everyone, but for most people, and for many people if it doesn’t involve soup and a main course they haven’t actually had lunch. My father-in-law definitely needs to have both of those two elements in order to feel like he’s eaten, and not to react like Shirley Valentine’s husband does in the first half of that film. It also involves palinka as a kind of appetite inducer, or something (I suspect it’s just an excuse to drink palinka since there’s no actual need to induce an appetite by the time lunch comes around). The other thing the outsider needs to know about lunch is that it doesn’t really get eaten until 3pm. Occasionally you’ll see lightweights having it at 2, but anytime before 3 is really a little bit fainthearted. This makes it apparent why the workday starts so early – you see most people actually work something like 7-3 and then go home for lunch and be done for the day. It takes a bit of getting used to, but I actually like it a lot now. In fact, I’ve started wondering why nobody else has come up with this excellent work-day-system.

So, there is this late lunch, and then the rest of the day is free (or you know, you fill it with the other chores of everyday life, so it’s not free in the sense of you get to do whatever the hell you want, but it’s not sold to the man). Dinner, such as it is, tends to be a light snack at around 8pm, just to keep the wolf from the door. This snack is usually zsiros kenyer and red onions. Zsiros kenyer is what used to be called “bread and dripping” when I was growing up, and is now almost certainly consigned to the memories of the elderly (like me) as a cholesterol cluster bomb. In short it is bread (sometimes toasted) spread with animal fat, and then sprinkled with paprika (the red powder not the peppers themselves). The red onion is peeled and chopped and the diners take bits of it, dip it in salt and eat it. It’s very good, but you have to check with your partner as to whether any kissing might be on the menu for the later evening before you tuck in, as either you both eat the onion, or neither of you, or the kissing opportunity is lost.

And there you have it – basically one big meal a day and two lightish snacks. It makes me wonder how I’ve ended up putting on weight here.

Some of the actual foods served for lunch will follow in a later post, when I can be arsed writing it. (Tad busy at the mo’ so blogging is liable to be light for the next couple fo weeks)

Posted in context, food | Leave a Comment »

Contexts Pt 3

Posted by Andy Hockley on 15 November, 2004

So, enough of my righteous indignation at that scum Bush and his mates from the Southern Fascist Convention inflicting four more years of their bigotry and hate on the world. If you want to read something good (and don’t mind a bit of swearing), I recommend the rant at www.fuckthesouth.com

It snowed here last night, which reminds me of my need to continue with my Contexts series. So here it is ..part III

Contexts Pt III: Csikszereda

Csikszereda lies in the “Ciuc Depression”, which is a geographical feature in the Carpathians, rather than a psychological condition medicated with Prozac. Essentially it means we are quite high up, 600-800 metres to be vague, and yet surrounded by hills. It’s quite a climb to get out of this area in any direction, and from there onwards usually a descent. One consequence of this is that Csikszereda is widely considered to be the coldest town in Romania (although I have also heard the same claim about Gheorgheni, another town about 60km north of us). Today it is a relatively mild 3 degrees C, but I’m assuming last night’s snowfall has heralded the onset of winter, and five months of freezing my butt off. Still, I spent the last six winters in Vermont and it doesn’t sound like it will be that different. One advantage of the depression is that there isn’t much wind, so even though I’ve been warned to expect occasional temperature dips to -35, there at least be any of that vicious wind that really rubs it in. (I should point out that -35 is a very unusual event, and what I really have to look forward to are a couple of weeks of -15. This is no worse than Vermont, and possibly better).

What else is interesting about the area? Well it’s full of springs. Every town it seems has a tap in the middle of it from which you can draw mineral water for free. None of your fancy evian or perrier here, you just fill your bottles and go on with your life. This ready access to good water probably explains why one of Romania’s most famous beers “Ciuc” comes from here too. (Ciuc, like most Romanian companies has been recently bought. In this case by Heineken).

It’s also notable for being the centre of the remaining Hungarian community. Csikszereda is the county town of Harghita County, which along with Covasna county are the majority Hungarian communities left in Romania. As a result of which the Romanian media presents them as being the root of all evil in the country. The population of Csikszereda is 90% Hungarian, and the next closest town, Szekelyudvarhely (Odorhui Secuiesc in Romanian) is 98% Hungarian. Other towns round here are similar in ethnic makeup. The rest of Transylvania is now predominantly Romanian.

So, it’s cold, has good beer, is mostly Hungarian, and errm, well that’s it mostly. There really isn’t much else to say about it. It’s nice though. Beautiful scenery, mountains, forests, lakes, the whole works.

Posted in context, csikszereda | 10 Comments »

Contexts Pt 3

Posted by Andy Hockley on 15 November, 2004

So, enough of my righteous indignation at that scum Bush and his mates from the Southern Fascist Convention inflicting four more years of their bigotry and hate on the world. If you want to read something good (and don’t mind a bit of swearing), I recommend the rant at www.fuckthesouth.com

It snowed here last night, which reminds me of my need to continue with my Contexts series. So here it is ..part III

Contexts Pt III: Csikszereda

Csikszereda lies in the “Ciuc Depression”, which is a geographical feature in the Carpathians, rather than a psychological condition medicated with Prozac. Essentially it means we are quite high up, 600-800 metres to be vague, and yet surrounded by hills. It’s quite a climb to get out of this area in any direction, and from there onwards usually a descent. One consequence of this is that Csikszereda is widely considered to be the coldest town in Romania (although I have also heard the same claim about Gheorgheni, another town about 60km north of us). Today it is a relatively mild 3 degrees C, but I’m assuming last night’s snowfall has heralded the onset of winter, and five months of freezing my butt off. Still, I spent the last six winters in Vermont and it doesn’t sound like it will be that different. One advantage of the depression is that there isn’t much wind, so even though I’ve been warned to expect occasional temperature dips to -35, there at least be any of that vicious wind that really rubs it in. (I should point out that -35 is a very unusual event, and what I really have to look forward to are a couple of weeks of -15. This is no worse than Vermont, and possibly better).

What else is interesting about the area? Well it’s full of springs. Every town it seems has a tap in the middle of it from which you can draw mineral water for free. None of your fancy evian or perrier here, you just fill your bottles and go on with your life. This ready access to good water probably explains why one of Romania’s most famous beers “Ciuc” comes from here too. (Ciuc, like most Romanian companies has been recently bought. In this case by Heineken).

It’s also notable for being the centre of the remaining Hungarian community. Csikszereda is the county town of Harghita County, which along with Covasna county are the majority Hungarian communities left in Romania. As a result of which the Romanian media presents them as being the root of all evil in the country. The population of Csikszereda is 90% Hungarian, and the next closest town, Szekelyudvarhely (Odorhui Secuiesc in Romanian) is 98% Hungarian. Other towns round here are similar in ethnic makeup. The rest of Transylvania is now predominantly Romanian.

So, it’s cold, has good beer, is mostly Hungarian, and errm, well that’s it mostly. There really isn’t much else to say about it. It’s nice though. Beautiful scenery, mountains, forests, lakes, the whole works.

Posted in context, csikszereda | 10 Comments »

Contexts Part II: Transylvania

Posted by Andy Hockley on 5 October, 2004

Transylvania is known the world over as the home of vampires. In the time I have been here, I have to confess I haven’t seen a single one. If my attractiveness to mosquitoes is anything to go by this is not because I have badly tasting blood. But I admit that it’s possible that mosquitoes and vampires are likely to have different tastes in blood.

So, aside from the vampire angle, what else can I tell you about Transylvania? Those of you with the dubious benefit of a classical education will know that Transylvania means “beyond the woods”. Over the mountains might be a better description as the area is practically surrounded by mountains on all sides. It’s a very fertile region, Transylvania, and was once referred to (by Stalin, I believe, or at least someone in his government) as the breadbasket of Europe. Indeed he (Stalin) saw that as the role for Romania in the Warsaw Pact, but this pissed Ceasescu off, who thought the subtext was that Romanians were being described as peasants, and as a good communist he wanted a country full of proletariats. So rather than building up agriculture he instead filled the country with large ugly polluting factories. Thus, now, Romania’s agriculture is working at a 19th century semi-feudal level. And more surprisingly, in view of the fact that every town appears to have a tractor factory in it, there appear to be very few actual tractors in the country. I’ve mentioned before about how many horse carts and cows you see on the roads, and this is no exaggeration. I don’t think I’ve ever been stuck behind a tractor on the rods here, but horse carts? Every couple of miles. In fact one just went past the window of this apartment, despite the fact that we live more or less in the centre of a city. Well, large town. Ok, town.

Transylvanians regard their part of Romania as the “rich” part of Romania, with hard working people producing the food and other goods that keep the rest of the country in the lazy style to which they have become accustomed. Every country I have ever been to has these kinds of regional stereotypes. There are workers and those who live off the work, and this can be divided into class or they can be divided into regions. People from Lisbon for example barely ever bother to get out of bed if you listen to the people from Porto. Likewise the Sicilians are just a bunch of layabouts to the Milanese. For Transylvanians it’s the Wallachians. The Moldavians appear to have gained a kind of honorary Transylvanian status in all this. They’re not Transylvanians you understand, but at least they understand the role of the wallachian parasites. I should put all that in quotes, so you know it’s not me talking, but perhaps this sentence will do instead.

As I mentioned in the Romania post, Transylvania has something of a long and checkered history. You can read all about it on the Internet somewhere. I’ll start at about the 10th century because before that point nothing 9aside form during the Roman occupation) is very well documented, and so it’s difficult to know what really was going on. This also avoids getting into the tricky question of who the “real” Transylvanians are. So, after loads of invasions from various tribes, Transylvania started to be colonised by Magyars in about the 10th century, and by the 13th century it had become part of Hungary. (Do you se how I cunningly skipped 300 years there?) The Hungarian king, in an effort to stop various invading forces coming in and pillaging bits of it, invited two groups of people to move in and provide a buffer protection area. In the South/Southeast of Transylvania it was the Saxons, and in the East it was the Szekely. I’m not 100% sure who the Szekelys are, “a Hungarian ethnic group” seems to be the common consensus. They were renowned warriors hence their selection for this role. So there are areas of Transylvania where until recently there was a sizeable ethnic German population, and areas which are still Szekely (and there are still a lot of Hungarians in Transylvania). The Hungarian word for Transylvania is Erdely (pronounced Airday), and the German is Siebenburgen (7 towns, although one website I looked at suggested that this didn’t in fact refer to the 7 major towns of medieval Transylvania but was a Germanification of Sibiu, one of those towns, which is the most pronouncedly German still.)

So the next few hundred years is characterised by that history that goes something like “In 1479 King Wankdorf formed an alliance with Prince Mouflon of Cantaloupe, which led to the combined forces defeating the Wingnuts at the battle of Trouserpress. When Mouflon suddenly died of scrofula, his son, Prince Mouflon II joined forces with the Niblicks and turned against Wankdorf. Wankdorf immediately made peace with the Wingnuts and married Princess Lentil of Yucca. The three way alliance thus formed was too much for the Cantaloupe and Niblick forces who were pushed all the way back to the River Handcream.” Etc etc and so forth ad nauseum. You know the kind of thing.

In the grander scheme of things Transylvania was handed from empire to empire (Ottoman, Habsburg, Austro-Hungarian) Until about 1848 when the revolutions sweeping Europe engulfed Hungary and Transylvania, and ended up with a ruthless quashing of the uprising, and a subsequent policy of Magyarisation of the population of Transylvania. Under this regime, the Romanians in Transylvania, who previously had merely been disenfranchised, were now oppressed quite overtly and denied basic rights. All designed to undermine the Romanianness of the region. Language, culture, religion, you know, the whole works. It’d be nice to think that the end of this period would be the end of such oppressions anywhere in the world ever. But unfortunately not. In fact that Magyarisation has sprouted many bastard offspring all over the world in the 20th century and it’s still going on in various places.

In the First World War Hungary sided with the Germans, while Romania sided with the British/French/Russian alliance. At the end of the war, then, Transylvanian was effectively handed over to Romania, a fact on the ground which was confirmed by the Treaty of Trianon in 1920. Then of course the entire process of Magyarisation was reversed and replaced with Romanisation. Hungarians were stripped of their land, property etc, and Romanians from other parts of the country were brought in to ensure the Romanian majority. In the 2nd World War, Hungary made the same mistake again and sided with Germany – mostly it seems to get back Transylvania. It did for a while, until Hitler and Stalin fell out and then Romania sided with Russia, eventually leading to being again on the “winning side”. Transylvania reverted to Romania after it’s brief bit of Hungarianness (in reality it was more like part of a greater Nazi empire, but since that empire only really existed under war conditions it’s a bit of a weird one (describing the nazis as weird is I suspect setting myself up for abuse, so I’ll just add in here that the empire and its status as a constantly fluctuating entity is the bit that’s weird. What happened within its expanding and contracting borders goes beyond weird and into the realms of fucking awful. Just to clear that up).

Post war and under Ceasescu, the Romanisation continued. Romanians were moved in from other parts of the country, Hungarians were often moved out and moved to barren bits of land or to work on one of Ceasescu’s grand projects (like the Danube Black Sea canal). People couldn’t have Hungarian names (Erika’s dad for example, born Laszlo, is officially Ladislau the closest Romanian equivalent to his real Hungarian name), large Romanian Orthodox Churches were built al over. The most prominent building in Csikszereda for example is the Romanian Orthodox church – even though the town has very few Romanians in it. I imagine the congregation is dwarfed by the interior of the church. Also under Ceasescu much of the German population of Transylvania left for West Germany. Germany has apparently always had a policy of offering all Germans anywhere in the world citizenship, and paid to “repatriate” their countrymen from Ceasescu’s Romania. Ceasescu wanted the money so was happy to let them go. Thus now, there are almost no Germans left in Transylvania.

After Ceasescu’s fall, and the general collapse of Eastern Europe many Hungarians fled to Hungary (these days you see thousands of Hungarian registered cars touring the countryside in summer, as people come back to visit their families). There are now about 1.5 million Hungarians in Transylvania. The population of Romania as a whole is 22million, but I don’t know what proportion of that is in Transylvania. So what’s left is a land of probably about 75% Romanian, 20% Hungarian and 5% Roma and a few surviving Germans. I’m making these figures up, but they’re a relatively informed guess.

God, I’ve gone on a bit there haven’t I? What I really ought to add is that Transylvania is gorgeous. Hills, mountains, forests, attractive and traditional villages, attractive gothic cities, rivers, lakes, gorges, and valleys. I perhaps ruined the effect of that final statement by wittering on about the divided history of the region. But really you should come. And visit.

Posted in context, history, transylvania | 4 Comments »

Contexts Part II: Transylvania

Posted by Andy Hockley on 5 October, 2004

Transylvania is known the world over as the home of vampires. In the time I have been here, I have to confess I haven’t seen a single one. If my attractiveness to mosquitoes is anything to go by this is not because I have badly tasting blood. But I admit that it’s possible that mosquitoes and vampires are likely to have different tastes in blood.

So, aside from the vampire angle, what else can I tell you about Transylvania? Those of you with the dubious benefit of a classical education will know that Transylvania means “beyond the woods”. Over the mountains might be a better description as the area is practically surrounded by mountains on all sides. It’s a very fertile region, Transylvania, and was once referred to (by Stalin, I believe, or at least someone in his government) as the breadbasket of Europe. Indeed he (Stalin) saw that as the role for Romania in the Warsaw Pact, but this pissed Ceasescu off, who thought the subtext was that Romanians were being described as peasants, and as a good communist he wanted a country full of proletariats. So rather than building up agriculture he instead filled the country with large ugly polluting factories. Thus, now, Romania’s agriculture is working at a 19th century semi-feudal level. And more surprisingly, in view of the fact that every town appears to have a tractor factory in it, there appear to be very few actual tractors in the country. I’ve mentioned before about how many horse carts and cows you see on the roads, and this is no exaggeration. I don’t think I’ve ever been stuck behind a tractor on the rods here, but horse carts? Every couple of miles. In fact one just went past the window of this apartment, despite the fact that we live more or less in the centre of a city. Well, large town. Ok, town.

Transylvanians regard their part of Romania as the “rich” part of Romania, with hard working people producing the food and other goods that keep the rest of the country in the lazy style to which they have become accustomed. Every country I have ever been to has these kinds of regional stereotypes. There are workers and those who live off the work, and this can be divided into class or they can be divided into regions. People from Lisbon for example barely ever bother to get out of bed if you listen to the people from Porto. Likewise the Sicilians are just a bunch of layabouts to the Milanese. For Transylvanians it’s the Wallachians. The Moldavians appear to have gained a kind of honorary Transylvanian status in all this. They’re not Transylvanians you understand, but at least they understand the role of the wallachian parasites. I should put all that in quotes, so you know it’s not me talking, but perhaps this sentence will do instead.

As I mentioned in the Romania post, Transylvania has something of a long and checkered history. You can read all about it on the Internet somewhere. I’ll start at about the 10th century because before that point nothing 9aside form during the Roman occupation) is very well documented, and so it’s difficult to know what really was going on. This also avoids getting into the tricky question of who the “real” Transylvanians are. So, after loads of invasions from various tribes, Transylvania started to be colonised by Magyars in about the 10th century, and by the 13th century it had become part of Hungary. (Do you se how I cunningly skipped 300 years there?) The Hungarian king, in an effort to stop various invading forces coming in and pillaging bits of it, invited two groups of people to move in and provide a buffer protection area. In the South/Southeast of Transylvania it was the Saxons, and in the East it was the Szekely. I’m not 100% sure who the Szekelys are, “a Hungarian ethnic group” seems to be the common consensus. They were renowned warriors hence their selection for this role. So there are areas of Transylvania where until recently there was a sizeable ethnic German population, and areas which are still Szekely (and there are still a lot of Hungarians in Transylvania). The Hungarian word for Transylvania is Erdely (pronounced Airday), and the German is Siebenburgen (7 towns, although one website I looked at suggested that this didn’t in fact refer to the 7 major towns of medieval Transylvania but was a Germanification of Sibiu, one of those towns, which is the most pronouncedly German still.)

So the next few hundred years is characterised by that history that goes something like “In 1479 King Wankdorf formed an alliance with Prince Mouflon of Cantaloupe, which led to the combined forces defeating the Wingnuts at the battle of Trouserpress. When Mouflon suddenly died of scrofula, his son, Prince Mouflon II joined forces with the Niblicks and turned against Wankdorf. Wankdorf immediately made peace with the Wingnuts and married Princess Lentil of Yucca. The three way alliance thus formed was too much for the Cantaloupe and Niblick forces who were pushed all the way back to the River Handcream.” Etc etc and so forth ad nauseum. You know the kind of thing.

In the grander scheme of things Transylvania was handed from empire to empire (Ottoman, Habsburg, Austro-Hungarian) Until about 1848 when the revolutions sweeping Europe engulfed Hungary and Transylvania, and ended up with a ruthless quashing of the uprising, and a subsequent policy of Magyarisation of the population of Transylvania. Under this regime, the Romanians in Transylvania, who previously had merely been disenfranchised, were now oppressed quite overtly and denied basic rights. All designed to undermine the Romanianness of the region. Language, culture, religion, you know, the whole works. It’d be nice to think that the end of this period would be the end of such oppressions anywhere in the world ever. But unfortunately not. In fact that Magyarisation has sprouted many bastard offspring all over the world in the 20th century and it’s still going on in various places.

In the First World War Hungary sided with the Germans, while Romania sided with the British/French/Russian alliance. At the end of the war, then, Transylvanian was effectively handed over to Romania, a fact on the ground which was confirmed by the Treaty of Trianon in 1920. Then of course the entire process of Magyarisation was reversed and replaced with Romanisation. Hungarians were stripped of their land, property etc, and Romanians from other parts of the country were brought in to ensure the Romanian majority. In the 2nd World War, Hungary made the same mistake again and sided with Germany – mostly it seems to get back Transylvania. It did for a while, until Hitler and Stalin fell out and then Romania sided with Russia, eventually leading to being again on the “winning side”. Transylvania reverted to Romania after it’s brief bit of Hungarianness (in reality it was more like part of a greater Nazi empire, but since that empire only really existed under war conditions it’s a bit of a weird one (describing the nazis as weird is I suspect setting myself up for abuse, so I’ll just add in here that the empire and its status as a constantly fluctuating entity is the bit that’s weird. What happened within its expanding and contracting borders goes beyond weird and into the realms of fucking awful. Just to clear that up).

Post war and under Ceasescu, the Romanisation continued. Romanians were moved in from other parts of the country, Hungarians were often moved out and moved to barren bits of land or to work on one of Ceasescu’s grand projects (like the Danube Black Sea canal). People couldn’t have Hungarian names (Erika’s dad for example, born Laszlo, is officially Ladislau the closest Romanian equivalent to his real Hungarian name), large Romanian Orthodox Churches were built al over. The most prominent building in Csikszereda for example is the Romanian Orthodox church – even though the town has very few Romanians in it. I imagine the congregation is dwarfed by the interior of the church. Also under Ceasescu much of the German population of Transylvania left for West Germany. Germany has apparently always had a policy of offering all Germans anywhere in the world citizenship, and paid to “repatriate” their countrymen from Ceasescu’s Romania. Ceasescu wanted the money so was happy to let them go. Thus now, there are almost no Germans left in Transylvania.

After Ceasescu’s fall, and the general collapse of Eastern Europe many Hungarians fled to Hungary (these days you see thousands of Hungarian registered cars touring the countryside in summer, as people come back to visit their families). There are now about 1.5 million Hungarians in Transylvania. The population of Romania as a whole is 22million, but I don’t know what proportion of that is in Transylvania. So what’s left is a land of probably about 75% Romanian, 20% Hungarian and 5% Roma and a few surviving Germans. I’m making these figures up, but they’re a relatively informed guess.

God, I’ve gone on a bit there haven’t I? What I really ought to add is that Transylvania is gorgeous. Hills, mountains, forests, attractive and traditional villages, attractive gothic cities, rivers, lakes, gorges, and valleys. I perhaps ruined the effect of that final statement by wittering on about the divided history of the region. But really you should come. And visit.

Posted in context, history, transylvania | 4 Comments »

Context pt 1: Romania

Posted by Andy Hockley on 8 September, 2004

I thought I ought to provide some context, as you probably don’t know much about Romania. I am basing this assumption on my own ignorance before I came here, and as some of my readers are actually Romanian, my contextual writings here will probably be pulled apart as naïve uninformed bollocks. And rightly so. But uninformed bollocks are what make up his blog (and the vast majority of the entire Internet to be honest). The only question I have is whether to start big and go small (i.e. Romania -> Transylvania -> Szekelyfold -> Csikszereda) or to go the other way around. As you will no doubt be painfully aware by now, my writing style tends to leap clumsily from topic to topic like a drunken mountain goat, so this concern about how to organise my writing is a complete waste of my (and your) time. Apologies. I ‘ll try to have more respect for your precious minutes in the future.

So, we’ll go big to small, and hang the consequences.

Romania

As all of you are probably aware (unless the Foxnews morons have already got here), Romania is a fairly large country in Eastern Europe, the capital of which is Bucharest. It’s kind of hexagonal (bear with me here), and on the six borders (i.e. the six borders which I have just created with this arbitrary and frankly ludicrous attempt to geometrize the nation) you will find in order (running in clockwise order from the top one first): Ukraine, Moldova, the Black Sea, Bulgaria, Serbia & Montenegro, and Hungary. I’d draw you a picture of that to make it clearer, but I don’t think I can in this blog. Instead, here (is a link ) to the Lonely Planet’s map.

On the hexagon you have drawn (you did draw it, right?) draw a vertical line down from the right hand side of the top to the middle of your diagram and then horizontally left across to the middle of the left hand side. This represents the Carpathian Mountains. Everything in that top left corner is Transylvania. The bottom half of the diagram is Walachia. And the bit you have left (next to Moldova) is Moldavia. Try not to get Moldavia and Moldova mixed up as there’ll be a test later. This more or less represents the division of the country into its constituent three regions. One expression I have learnt while here is “South of Braşov”. This refers to things which are, how can I put this, less than perfect. If you put Braşov on your hexagon diagram at that Carpathian elbow, you will see that what “South of Braşov” actually means is “Walachian”. I’m sure people from Walachia don’t refer sneeringly to things “South of Braşov” for obvious reasons. Possibly for them, it’s “North of Braşov” which is a mark of contempt.

Historically, I’m on much more shaky ground. Ask me to describe countries in terms of geometrical shapes and I’m your man, but ask me to sum up thousands of years of history in a few pithy sentences without offending anyone, and I am definitely not your (or anyone else’s man). Basically, the first civilization that was here was the Dacians. Most of the country was occupied by Rome (hence, “Romania” and the language being Latin based). Where it gets complicated and the capacity to upset comes into play is in the history of Transylvania (which I’ll try and cover in my next contextual update). Basically it has been contested by Hungarians and Romanians for centuries, and still is. Historians on both sides produce vast works of research proving that either the Magyars colonized a largely empty region and were welcomed by the people that did live there* or that the Romano-Dacian population of Transylvania were the original and populous inhabitants of the region and that they were occupied and oppressed by the Hungarians. What is clear is that over the course of centuries Transylvania has been ruled by various empires. At the end of the First World War the three provinces of Romania were “unified” (Hungary was on the wrong side in that conflict), and since then (aside from a period in WWII when it was occupied by the Nazis) has remained largely the same country – although some bits ended up in the USSR after WWII. The Communist regime was overthrown in 89 in Eastern Europe’s only bloody revolution (only about 1000 people died, but that’s way more than in all of the other countries’ rush to the West). Ironically given that fact, it was the country that changed least following the revolution, as the members of the communists who had been plotting to overthrow Ceauşescu and take the party reins in order to preserve their power, used the opportunity presented by the popular uprising to take that power instead. Now I’m getting onto shaky grounds, and probably setting myself up for trouble with the authorities so I’ll stop.

Here’s a fairly brief and unbiased account from the Lonely Planet – history

Here’s a longer and more comprehensive but much more Romania-centric history http://www.rotravel.com/romania/history/index.php

And one more, from encyclopedia.com:
encyclopedia

(* I have to say that I’m broadly sceptical of this account as it sounds suspiciously like the Zionist contention that Palestine was basically empty until the Jews arrived. A position which I know to be utter bollocks)

Posted in context, history, romania | Leave a Comment »

Context pt 1: Romania

Posted by Andy Hockley on 8 September, 2004

I thought I ought to provide some context, as you probably don’t know much about Romania. I am basing this assumption on my own ignorance before I came here, and as some of my readers are actually Romanian, my contextual writings here will probably be pulled apart as naïve uninformed bollocks. And rightly so. But uninformed bollocks are what make up his blog (and the vast majority of the entire Internet to be honest). The only question I have is whether to start big and go small (i.e. Romania -> Transylvania -> Szekelyfold -> Csikszereda) or to go the other way around. As you will no doubt be painfully aware by now, my writing style tends to leap clumsily from topic to topic like a drunken mountain goat, so this concern about how to organise my writing is a complete waste of my (and your) time. Apologies. I ‘ll try to have more respect for your precious minutes in the future.

So, we’ll go big to small, and hang the consequences.

Romania

As all of you are probably aware (unless the Foxnews morons have already got here), Romania is a fairly large country in Eastern Europe, the capital of which is Bucharest. It’s kind of hexagonal (bear with me here), and on the six borders (i.e. the six borders which I have just created with this arbitrary and frankly ludicrous attempt to geometrize the nation) you will find in order (running in clockwise order from the top one first): Ukraine, Moldova, the Black Sea, Bulgaria, Serbia & Montenegro, and Hungary. I’d draw you a picture of that to make it clearer, but I don’t think I can in this blog. Instead, here (is a link ) to the Lonely Planet’s map.

On the hexagon you have drawn (you did draw it, right?) draw a vertical line down from the right hand side of the top to the middle of your diagram and then horizontally left across to the middle of the left hand side. This represents the Carpathian Mountains. Everything in that top left corner is Transylvania. The bottom half of the diagram is Walachia. And the bit you have left (next to Moldova) is Moldavia. Try not to get Moldavia and Moldova mixed up as there’ll be a test later. This more or less represents the division of the country into its constituent three regions. One expression I have learnt while here is “South of Braşov”. This refers to things which are, how can I put this, less than perfect. If you put Braşov on your hexagon diagram at that Carpathian elbow, you will see that what “South of Braşov” actually means is “Walachian”. I’m sure people from Walachia don’t refer sneeringly to things “South of Braşov” for obvious reasons. Possibly for them, it’s “North of Braşov” which is a mark of contempt.

Historically, I’m on much more shaky ground. Ask me to describe countries in terms of geometrical shapes and I’m your man, but ask me to sum up thousands of years of history in a few pithy sentences without offending anyone, and I am definitely not your (or anyone else’s man). Basically, the first civilization that was here was the Dacians. Most of the country was occupied by Rome (hence, “Romania” and the language being Latin based). Where it gets complicated and the capacity to upset comes into play is in the history of Transylvania (which I’ll try and cover in my next contextual update). Basically it has been contested by Hungarians and Romanians for centuries, and still is. Historians on both sides produce vast works of research proving that either the Magyars colonized a largely empty region and were welcomed by the people that did live there* or that the Romano-Dacian population of Transylvania were the original and populous inhabitants of the region and that they were occupied and oppressed by the Hungarians. What is clear is that over the course of centuries Transylvania has been ruled by various empires. At the end of the First World War the three provinces of Romania were “unified” (Hungary was on the wrong side in that conflict), and since then (aside from a period in WWII when it was occupied by the Nazis) has remained largely the same country – although some bits ended up in the USSR after WWII. The Communist regime was overthrown in 89 in Eastern Europe’s only bloody revolution (only about 1000 people died, but that’s way more than in all of the other countries’ rush to the West). Ironically given that fact, it was the country that changed least following the revolution, as the members of the communists who had been plotting to overthrow Ceauşescu and take the party reins in order to preserve their power, used the opportunity presented by the popular uprising to take that power instead. Now I’m getting onto shaky grounds, and probably setting myself up for trouble with the authorities so I’ll stop.

Here’s a fairly brief and unbiased account from the Lonely Planet – history

Here’s a longer and more comprehensive but much more Romania-centric history http://www.rotravel.com/romania/history/index.php

And one more, from encyclopedia.com:
encyclopedia

(* I have to say that I’m broadly sceptical of this account as it sounds suspiciously like the Zionist contention that Palestine was basically empty until the Jews arrived. A position which I know to be utter bollocks)

Posted in context, history, romania | Leave a Comment »