Difference between revisions of "Transylvania"
Revision as of 19:01, 18 October 2009
Transylvania is the largest region of Romania and probably the best known one. When you visit Transylvania you dive into the mix of cultures, nature and history. Transylvania is a unitary region, but diverse at the same time: it is worth trying to observe the differences between the region, both culturally and naturally.This region is a place with abundant history and multicultural convergence. All over Transylvania the cohabitation of Romanians, Hungarians, Saxons and Rromas is the leading theme. Transylvania is rich in myth and misty medieval sites: there about 100 castles and fortresses and about 70 fortified churches. Romania's greatest and best preserved castles and fortresses are to be found here. But for the more curious traveler, there are many small villages with old houses and fortified churches. As Transylvania is circled by the Carpathian mountains there are a lot of mountain forests and hiking or climbing possibilities. All over the Carpathians there are great national parks. In the center of Transylvania there are green hills and rivers. Most big cities are very western Europe like, and the infrastructure is generally good, making it easy for travelers.
Even though some people may only associate the name with tales of bloodthirsty vampires (it played host to Bram Stoker's novel "Dracula"), Transylvania is actually known as one of the most beautiful natural regions in Europe dotted with picturesque, medieval fortress towns and monasteries and lively cities with stunning baroque architecture which offer modern tourism services at a price far below that of, say, Germany or France. You can find here some of the most developed cities from Romania, but also old villages where people are living as they did one hundred years ago. Transylvania is surrounded by the misty Carpathian mountains and home to almost extinct fauna (bears, wolves) and flora (orchids and other plants).
Transylvania has all the history and multi-ethnic culture you want. The history of Transylvania is much disputed: once it was an integral part of Kingdom of Hungary (950-1526) it was independent Transylvanian Principality (1526-1690) from 1868 it was integral part of the Austrian-Hungarian empire and under its rule. These explain many cultural differences between Transylvania and the rest of Romania. It was home to a majority of Romanians, who had few rights, and ruling minorities such as Hungarian and Saxons. Other minorities included Roma and Jews. After world war I Transylvania became part of the Greater Romania. The relations between the ethnic minorities and majority has known tense times, but there has never been a serious conflict. Even though attitudes of individuals can still be closed towards out groups, Transylvania can be regarded as an example of different ethnic groups living together in peace. However, as the case of whole Europe, the Roma ethnicity is still seriously discriminated from Romanians and their culture far from understood. Communism has been a harsh time for ethnic minorities, especially for those who where small business owners (Hungarians, Jews) before the totalitarian regime. After the revolution in 1989, most Saxons moved to Germany (they settled to Romania in large groups in the 13th century). Romania has not yet become conscious about this huge loss. Many Hungarians left as well.
Today Transylvania is the most developed region in Romania, in part because of tourism, and in part because of a stronger capitalist tradition before world war II. The presence of the German and Hungarian minorities has been a catalyst for western influences in Transylvania after 1989. It is interesting to try to observe the differences in this small region: The south and south east is marked more by the Saxon culture, while the east and north east is marked more by the Hungarian culture. The north is a bit more slavish, and the south west is once again a little different. Try to see a few old villages, as people are in general very friendly.
Nowadays, almost everyone in Transylvania speaks Romanian, though for many of the ethnic Hungarians -- about 20% of the population, but far more in certain areas -- Hungarian is actually their first language. Few native German-speakers remain, but in any sizable town you should be easily able to find people who speak at least moderately good English, French, or German.
Transylvania is relatively easy to access, due to its relative economic prosperity, tourism industry and proximity to Central Europe.
There are three main airports in the region.
There are several daily international trains:
Very frequent trains link cities in Transylvania with Bucharest and major cities in all other regions of Romania. Check timetables on infofer.ro .
Transylvania is a must see destination for people travelling in this part of Europe. Trains are usually the best way to travel between major Transylvanian cities and touristic destinations. However, many of the region's landmarks lie hidden from major transportation routes, so it is recommended you either rent a car or take buses to these places. Here you can find information about trains:  and 
You can find great and detailed road maps in any gas station throughout the country, in train stations and in most newsstands. These detailed road maps can lead you anywhere, without much guidance needed. Be careful though for secondary and tertiary roads are not clearly marked, so sometimes you have to ask for directions. People are usually very friendly and will help you get to the destination of your choice.
Buses are becoming a popular means of transportation in Transylvania. Usually, they leave from train stations in major cities, and stop in the central area of smaller ones.
As in all eastern Europe, hitchhiking is common and even a preferred way of transport for some locals. It is polite to leave the one who drives you some money, about 1-2 lei / 30min. However, people won't get mad if you don't leave anything and they might turn your money down anyway. Choosing the right spot for hitching increases your chances drastically- try to ask people on the street where to stand.
There aren't many Saxon restaurants, but if you find one you can explore it and post some info here.
Transylvania is not a land of dangers lurking around each darkened corner. It houses a relatively large bundle of police headquarters, so that if anything goes amiss in your journey, help will be close by. You should beware of pickpocketing around busy tourist attractions.
Police corruption has been reduced significantly and you should be better off being nice and friendly to the police officers, rather than offering him money. If you feel like you are being betrayed/abused by a police officer, ask for his superior.