Guard Your Sheep 

Monday, July 19, 2004

Myth: There is no place called Transylvania.

Truth: Yes, there is!

Myth: No, there isn't!

Truth: Yes, there is!

Myth: No! Liar!

Truth: Moron! Yes!

Myth: No!

Truth: Yes!

Myth: No!

Truth: Yes! Yes! I'm telling mom!

Yes, Virgina, there is a Transylvania. It's not a fictional place. Called Ardeal in Romanian, Transylvania is one of a few regions in Romania, as the Midwest, the South and the Coasts are to the U.S. The other regions are Wallachia, Moldova, the Banat, Oltenia, Besarabia, and the Litoral (or Dobrogea).* Romania is legally divided into counties. Transylvania contains many counties; mine is Alba County.

Transylvania consists of rolling green hills and creepy mists. Nothing is more wonderful than crossing over the border from Hungary (boring normal houses) to Romania (outlandish monstrosities). Even better, crossing from the flat flatlands of Wallachia, and its unduly arrogant city, Bucureşti, over the Carpathians, one comes down from the mountains and onto some bad vampire film set. Cold Mountain, starring Nicole Kidman and Jude Law, featured this lovely scenery.

The word Transylvania does show up, as Transilvania, on schlock alarm clocks and in the slivers of tourist zones.

Myth: There are no vampires.

Truth: In Romanian legend, one most commonly encounters the strigoi. A werewolf-like being, strigoi are more of a danger for sheep than humans.

Further Truth: My grandparents had a strigoi neighbour. His wife would lock him up during full moons. Once, when I was a wee bairn, a shepherd boy warned me that dusk was coming on and I should hurry to grandma's house before the strigoi came out. (I asked my mother if Transylvanians really put garlic around their windows to keep vampires out. She said, "So that's why we did that!")

Myth: Count Dracula is a fictional character.

Truth: The bloodsucking part is. Dracula was a voivode (or prince, in some translations) of Wallachia. He was born in Transylvania, in the beautiful town of Sighişoara, but he ruled the region to the south of Transylvania. Some of you may know Dracula as Vlad the Impaler. Give yourself fifty bonus points. If you know his name in Romanian, give yourself one hundred points. If you can pronounce his name in Romanian, give yourself two hundred points.

Despite his penchant for sticking sharp pointy things up people's asses to their mouths, Vlad the Impaler is a national hero. My sister uses a Vlad keychain. I have a Vlad bust on my desk at work. We have a Vlad wall plaque in our living room.

We scoff at "Dracula" movies. We snort at faked Transylvanian shots like those in Van Helsing. We are aghast when some rapscallion tried to pass off Czech scenery for Transylvania. (Can't remember which movie committed that faux pas.)

Myth: Jonathan Harper, in Dracula, cannibalizes when he eats mămăligă.

Truth: Mămăligă is polenta.

*Please correct me, Romanian readers.

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