In The Mountains Of Transylvania

excerpt The authentic, unaltered Romanian population is to be found especially in the mountains of Transylvania. These vigorous mountain people, so beautiful in their lively colored national costumes, are very interesting in the eyes of those who want to study the customs and inclinations of these proud children of the Latin race, who knew so well to preserve genuine enthusiasm and remain unchanged by the contact with the surrounding peoples.Their monumental stature, Herculean demeanor, the pride and courage that enliven them still evince many of the features of their Roman forefathers. In the high forehead, framed by black, long hair, in the gentle, expressive look, under the bushy eyebrows, there shines the sharpness of a sparkling, mobile, incisive intelligence. Hard-working, steadfast, passionate, devoted to their families, they represent, amidst widespread decadence, a physically and morally pure, clean race. The heroic pride, demonstrated on every occasion by the moti, inhabitants of the Western Carpathians in the west of Transylvania, has become a legend.Innumerable, long-lasting oppression has neither affected, nor weakened the morale of the Romanian peasant; on the contrary, it bolstered the inner force that, at the right moment, helped him recover from his own suffering. His bright, vibrant imagination, the power to forget everyday woes, the capacity to revisit beautiful days past make him sink into a sweet, melancholy reverie and travel to the realm of dreams and magic. The nature of the Romanian peasant is a precious blend of enthusiasm and irony. Lastly, due to the Oriental atmosphere he got in touch with, he kept a very natural seriousness, which is the heritage of primitive peoples.One of the characteristics of Romanians is hospitality. A peasant, no matter how poor, will share his cornmeal mush or corn bread with a poorer man. A traveler on the road at night knocks at the door of the first cabin convinced he will be put up warmly.The Romanian peasant is outgoing, open, talkative, a causeur, as is the nature of mountain people. When two of them or more meet in the street, they greet each other, shake hands, make jokes, laugh and have an extremely lively, spirited chat.In the evening, groups of peasants coming from work may be seen in the villages; they talk cheerfully, while their wives are waiting for them, spinning by the gate. They all greet one another with the customary seara buna  [good evening]. If you talk with them, you'll be astounded by their knowledge, their opinions about the major events of the day, their awareness of their rights and obligations, the vivacity and accuracy with which they convey their feelings. And if you talk to them about their land and nation, you'll see them grow inspired and give vent to the strongest feelings.Tradition and legends play an important role in Romanians' life. Each mountain, each rock, each castle has its own story, often not a very pleasant one.A hero very dear to the imagination of Romanians, haloed by glory and power, is [the Roman emperor] Trajan, [the Dacian king] Decebalus' conqueror, the founding father of the nation. He is invoked not only in the ruins of the monuments he erected in this country, but also in the legends that spot his presence in celestial or natural phenomena. Thus, the Milky Way is also known as Trajan's Way, and thunder is Trajan driving his cart and thundering or threatening. […] Almost everything speaks about the ancient masters of the world whose descendants are Romanians.Men often bear names such as Traian, Aurelian, Demetrius, Cezar, Constantin, and women are christened Floarea, Diana, Cornelia, Valeria, and other similar names. Even the costumes Romanians wear nowadays are those of the Dacians depicted on the low-reliefs of Trajan's Column. Likewise, the language is nothing but Latin slightly modified and enriched by a few Greek and Slavic words. In the mountains of Transylvania, customs dating from the Roman era may be found that other Latin peoples have lost. […]When summer looms, Romanian peasants plant in front of the house a tall pole with twigs and a bundle of hay at the top. This pole is named arminden, and the custom dates back to the Romans, when military colonists used to mark the start of the fighting period, erecting in front of the gates the so-called arma dei o MartisMemories from Romania, 1894

by Roberto Fava