Thambos Books



through a visitor’s eyes

Forget all you’ve imbibed about this region of Romania from Bram Stoker and his interpreters. The real Transylvania is not Gothic, eerie or fatal to attractive young people. Sure, you can find the souvenirs and marketing if you want. There are at least two Castle Draculas on the tourist map, and you can experience a sort of thrill by staying there! But Dracula is one writer’s imaginative play on a particularly nasty despot who for various reasons, including being raped as a child, refined the existing torture of impaling. Hence he is remembered as Vlad Dracul the Impaler.

Transylvania, together with Walachia and Moldova, is one of the chief regions which comprise modern Romania, a country which over many centuries has been invaded, fought over, used as a bargaining chip and cruelly used. The Romanian peoples have a proud history of maintaining their identities against severe odds, most recently during the oppression of Communism. Since 1989 and, more recently accession to the European Union, they are facing the challenges of modernity. Some Romanians regard this as a mixed blessing, even if they admit the impossibility of turning back the clock.

Since 2003 I have visited Romania ten times. Two of these visits have been with Jane, my wife, visiting friends made on her own visits or who have previously visited the UK. For me, as an Anglican priest, I gladly admit that these visits and my own reading and participation in Eastern Orthodoxy have opened my eyes to previously unknown riches, apart from dimly remembered Theology lectures from thirty five years ago!  Glimpses seen on TV of the Orthodox at worship, and a poor of Eastern categories of thought, are no substitute for being exposed, even if briefly, to Orthodox life and faith within a country and region such as Romania and Transylvania. Deep and joyous friendships and a love of the people are other fruits of these visits.

In September 2009 I made my longest visit to date (not all in Transylvania), three weeks spent in the areas of Radauti (Suceava County), Bistrita County, Tirgu Mures, and Alba Iulia. (See the Glossary for pronunciations and other details). I kept a travel diary during this time, which I ‘posted’ home via the Internet. This booklet is that diary written up and slightly expanded. I dedicated it to my beloved friends there, and offer it to you in the hope that it will provide some insight into a complex, beautiful country that is poor by western economic standards, and yet possesses riches beyond our ken. A special thank you to the friends in Romania who have checked spellings and some details for me. Any remaining errors are all mine.

David Grieve, Cockfield, Bishop Auckland, County Durham February 2010





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