Category Archives: Romania

Where be the nestling dragon?

Castle Corvin, located in the center of the drab Romanian provincial city of Hunedoara (and sometimes called Hunedoara Castle), is one of the finest castles I have ever seen. Do you like castle porn? This one combines scale, creepiness, turrets, and that wonderful bridge across the moat.

Hunedoara Castle © Harold Davis

This is a hard castle to beat, and I was lucky to be in position for this photo with my fisheye lens near sunset as a storm cleared. The only thing missing is the nestling dragon, snoring away on the top tower!

Hunedoara Castle in black and white © Harold Davis

The photo doesn’t quite show the oddness of the castle’s location. There’s a bit of serious touristic development going on around the castle (a restaurant or two in renovated spaces), but mostly this is still a decaying industrial area, wrapped in a midsize city of communist-era block architecture. 

I really do think that a dragon or two (and maybe the “Mother of Dragons”) would totally add to the coolness factor!

Related story and images: Romania; Bran Castle; Two Views of Corvin Castle.

Umbrellas over Bucharest

The Old Town of Bucharest, Romania seems like a really happening place. When the lights go down, the action comes out, and most likely, as Arlo Guthrie put it in the context of Alice’s restaurant, you can get anything you want (‘xceptin’ Alice). None of which explains why, turning down an unnamed alley and looking upwards towards the sky, I found these umbrellas. Mary Poppins en masse? An invasion of the umbrella body-snatchers? Neville Chamberlain rides again? If anyone knows, please enlighten me!

Umbrellas over Bucharest © Harold Davis

Bran Castle

Bran Castle was originally a kind of customs checkpoint guarding a mountain pass. Perhaps because of its rugged appearance it has become associated with the Bram Stoker Dracula story, although the place has nothing to do historically with either Stoker or Vlad Dracula. It’s more associated with the royal family of Romania, who were ousted following the communist takeover at the end of the second world war. The children and grandchildren of the last prince got the title to the place restored after a long legal fight, and now operate it as a major tourist attraction.

Bran Castle © Harold Davis

Related story: Castle Corvin.

Big Facial Hair

When a man reaches a certain age, and perhaps has become a bit of a family patriarch, he should be allowed to let his hair grow any way he wants. At least, that’s how the Roma feel about male facial hair. Hence you see long gray beards, massive mutton chops, and mustaches like the one sported by this cheerful fellow in the red shirt, all under the black felt hats of the Roma.

Roma Man in a Red Shirt © Harold Davis

Modeling a Wedding Skirt

This Roma girl is posing with her big sister’s wedding skirt, as if trying it on for size. Soon the younger sister will leave school. She will have had a year or two of schooling in total. Her family does not see the benefits of education, and they are fearful that she will get abducted and raped into a forced marriage if they don’t keep her close to home. Pretty soon it will be her turn to wear the white skirt in a marriage arranged by her family the traditional way.

Modeling a Wedding Skirt © Harold Davis

Dracul’s Birthplace

Above a bar in the Citadel of Sighisoara in remote Transylvania is a room where Count Dracula was born. Or, so it is claimed. For five Romanian lei (a little more than a dollar at current exchange rates) you can enter said chamber and inspect the dimly lit paintings that appear on red velvet walls surrounding an ersatz coffin. Not a mirror is in sight.

Did I hear you ask, “You mean he lived and died in the same room?” Yes, this thought flitted through my mind as well.

The image shown below is an iPhone composite of a ghoulish painting showing Vlad Dracula having dinner while doing his impalement thing, and a portrait of Dracula.

By the way, Vlad is a very common Romanian first name, and Dracula himself seems to be generally fairly well regarded around here: he fought for his country, and was no more brutal than his times. And where did Bram Stoker get off on writing about a country he had never even visited?

Dracul’s Birthplace © Harold Davis

Also posted in iPhone, Photography

Gypsy Family

This gypsy family has four kids, just as mine does (I showed them photos of my kids). The three sisters are shown in the rear, with their brother (the youngest) and the mother seated in the front row. The ages are roughly comparable to the ages in my family as well, but there is a world of cultural, historic, and educational differences that separate us (alas) from our common humanity.

Gypsy Family © Harold Davis

Home-Made Nail

As I watched, this village blacksmith made me a nail the old-fashioned way—by hand—to take back as a souvenir to America.

Home-Made Nail © Harold Davis

Portrait of a Gypsy

There are about 500,000 Roma—“gypsies”—living in Romania. This is about 4.5% of the population. These are a proud people with a very distinctive and colorful culture, many with very limited opportunities in this modern world. If the Roma people should be brought into the 21st century, and it is not clear that this is the right thing to do, it is possible to do this while retaining their unique traditions and way of life?

Portrait of a Gypsy © Harold Davis

The Charcoal Maker

Alec is a charcoal maker. He spends about eight months a year living in a camp in rural Romania that is off a dirt road off a dirt road. No town wants the charcoal making camp nearby because of the pollution.

The Charcoal Maker © Harold Davis

The process of making charcoal in the camp involves burning a huge structure, almost like a pyramid, of wood. There’s a core that has been impregnated so it is flammable. The wood structure is covered in ashes and hay, then fired. It sits for a couple of weeks, tended so that the wood within carbonizes, but does not burn.

The Eyes Have It

Here in Sibiu, Transylvania they build the roofs high and steeply pitched. To let ventilation and light into the attic spaces these stylized “eyes” have traditionally been added to the roof.

The Eyes Have It © Harold Davis

Village Blacksmith

In this photo, the village blacksmith is showing the superiority of his handmade bespoke horseshoe (the one on his left) compared to a store-bought horseshoe (shown on his right). I was privileged to follow him into the courtyard, where he used the new horseshoes he’d made to shod a horse. The subsequent photos in my sequence document how he does it.

Village Blacksmith © Harold Davis

Also posted in Monochrome

Two Views of Corvin Castle

Corvin Castle, in the city of Hunedoara in Romania, is one of Europe’s largest castles. Originally from the 1400s, it has been partially destroyed and rebuilt a number of times, most recently in the 1800s. The first view is a multi-exposure composite with my Nikon D810, and the view at the bottom is captured and processed using my iPhone. 

Corvin Castle © Harold Davis

 

Corvin Castle (iPhone) © Harold Davis

Something Old and Something New

The ruined castle is Cetatea Trascaului, near Coltesti in Hungarian-speaking Transylvania (Romania).

Ruined Castle, Transylvania © Harold Davis

The image that looks like something out of science fiction (below) was captured at the bottom of a deep salt mine near Turda, Romania. The theory is that salt impregnated air is good for respiratory illnesses. First excavated hundreds of year ago, a tourist complex complete with a ferris wheel, ping pong tables, and a lake one can row around has been built within the deep reaches of the mine to take advantage of the health effects—and to provide respite on a hot summer’s day.

Turda Salt Mine © Harold Davis

Daniel the Guide

This is Daniel, my guide to all things Romanian. He is mugging it up at the Hotel Castel Dracula. Even though he hates the whole Dracula schtick as phony and not really anything to do with Romania. Should I be worried? 

Daniel the Guide © Harold Davis