The legends of Transylvania
About Transylvania, foreigners think it is a land of vampires and ghosts, ruled by Dracula, and the people of Bucharest think it is a region where they drink palinca and speak softly. In reality, Transylvania is a fascinating land steeped in history and legend, an under-appreciated tourist treasure. Below we’ve gathered the most beautiful Transylvanian stories that, unfortunately, too few people have heard of.
The legend of the castle of the Huns
Also known as Corvin Castle, Hunedoara Castle or Huniazilor Castle, the medieval fortress of Hunedoara is one of the most important historical and Gothic architecture monuments in Romania. Besides looking like a castle out of fairy tales, the fortress attracts year after year tourists passionate about supernatural phenomena. Moreover, one team spent three nights in the castle, hoping to meet the ghost of Vlad Tepes, who is said to have spent 7 years imprisoned in the castle’s dungeons.
Another lesser-known legend is that of three Turkish prisoners, to whom Iancu de Hunedoara promised freedom if they would dig in the stone around the fortress until they found water. It took the Turks 28 years to reach the water and when they asked Iancu de Hunedoara to fulfil his promise, they found out that he had died. The ruler’s wife did not care about the promise made by her husband and demanded that the three prisoners be beheaded. Before they died, they wrote on the walls of the fortress “You have water, but you have no heart”, an inscription that can still be seen today.
Sanzienele, celebrated on 24 June, is a religious holiday with roots in pagan traditions. Sanzienele are graceful fairies who protect nature, represented by yellow flowers that bloom around the 24th of June. Several rituals are linked to this holiday. One rite involves young girls hiding Sanziene flowers under their pillow on Sanziene night, hoping to dream about their soul mate. Another custom is to throw a garland of Sanziene on the roof of the house; if the flowers don’t fall, the girl will get married that same year.
In the countryside, Sanzienele are represented by village girls; dressed in white dresses and wearing flower spikes, they dance in a circle, recreating the whimsical atmosphere surrounding the celebration.
The undead, Romanian vampires
Transylvania is often associated with the land of Dracula and bloodthirsty vampires who sleep during the day and come out at night to suck the blood of their victims. But in local folklore, vampires didn’t exist before Bram Stoker’s novel. Or, at least, they weren’t called vampires, but undead, unnamed souls who rose from the grave in the night and haunted the villages. The undead are usually equated with people who have died a violent death or in the case of a Christian ritual that was not fully celebrated during a funeral.
They are believed to be afraid of the smell of garlic and frankincense. In villages supposedly haunted by the undead, locals grease their doors and windows with garlic and eat what they can. Little ones wear a necklace made of garlic cloves when they sleep. This is a fascinating part of the legends of Transylvania, but it’s really only what it is: a simple legend.
A giant and a golden globe
A UNESCO marvel, the fortress of Sighisoara has the most impressive clock tower in Transylvania. But its most precious object is its golden globe, forged by a giant from a distant land. Legend has it that the ogre himself placed the orb above the tower, saying: “Whoever is bigger than me can take the orb.” Apparently, no other brave giant has been found.
Legends around the Bridge of Lies in Sibiu
The pedestrian bridge connecting the Small Square to the Huet Square is popularly called the “bridge of lies” or “liars’ bridge”. Because the bridge was not built on pylons, it was called Liegenbrücke in German, which means “the lying bridge”. This name is almost homophonous with Lügenbrücke, which is why some locals started calling it “the bridge of lies” and thus the legends justifying its name arose.
A few legends of Transylvania circulate about this name, such as:
One legend says that couples in love used to walk on this bridge. Young men swore eternal love there, and girls claimed to be virgins. But after the wedding night, some of the girls were found to be liars. They were dragged across the bridge and thrown over the railing.
In Sibiu there were many cadets studying at the Military Academy. They would meet local young ladies on the bridge, promise them a lot and then be left to wait in vain for the men who forgot about them and their vows of love.
According to another legend, several fairs were held in Sibiu’s Small Market, and after arriving home, some buyers realized they had been tricked. They returned to the market and grabbed the lying merchants by the chest and, to the roar of laughter from the crowd, threw them off the bridge. Thus, when they landed again in Sibiu, the merchants were afraid to cheat on the locals again. If you like the legends of Transylvania, there are more to discover. Contact us now to find out how you can spend an entire holiday unraveling the mysteries of this fascinating land.