Transylvania is famous the world over for being the birthplace of Bram Stoker’s fictional vampiric villain Count Dracula. It’s a beautiful and bucolic region of Romania, rich in folklore and macabre myths.
Bran Castle, Dracula
In the Transylvanian village of Bran, some folk believe in the existence of evil spirits known as ‘strigoi,’ who lead normal lives during the day but spend the night haunting the local population. It is thought that these malevolent forces cruise from house to house tormenting the villagers from midnight to the first cockcrow.
The mythological ‘strigoi’ are thought to be the inspiration for Bram Stoker’s Count Dracula, who boasts many and varied superhuman powers during the night but is weakened by the rising sun.
In the novel, the Count lives in a castle perched on a rock high above a rolling valley, which many people assume to be the glorious Bran Castle. There is little evidence to connect Stoker to the impressive fortress but its fairytale aesthetics match the description in the book and subsequently Bran Castle is known internationally as ‘Dracula’s Castle.’
It’s a beautiful place to visit but beware: there have been mysterious deaths in Transylvania over the years and the locals seem sure that it is the vampiric ‘strogoi’ who were to blame…
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Falling Boy, Black Church Brasov
The Black Church of Brasov, named after a 17th century fire that blackened the exterior walls, is a prime example of Gothic style architecture in Transylvania.
Bruised by bullets in the 1989 Romanian Revolution, the majestic church has an interesting history going all the way back to its construction in the 14th century. One of its most intriguing elements is the story of the falling boy statue on the roof.
There are three theories behind the unusual figurine, which depicts a small child leaning over one of the church’s exterior pillars.
Some believe the boy, a young builder, was ordered to check if the pillar was straight or not, but in doing so fell to his death. Feeling guilty, his boss then ordered the statue to be built to commemorate his life.
Others say the boy, the son of a priest, was sent to the church attic as a punishment for being naughty. While in the attic, the great fire started and the boy perished. In this theory, the statue is seen to depict the boy trying to escape from the flames.
While others claim that the boy, a prodigious construction worker, was murdered by a fellow builder who could not keep up with the superior skills and fast pace of the young boy. It is believed that after the man confessed to pushing the boy, the other workers decided to erect the statue in the boy’s honour.
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Bridge of Lies, Sibiu
Sibiu is one of the most beautiful and best-preserved medieval towns in Romania, and indeed the whole of Europe.
On a crisp winter’s afternoon vendors sell wooden crafts, roasted meats and mulled wine in the jovial Christmas markets. Charming terracotta roofs, orthodox church spires and the snow-capped peaks of the Carpathian Mountains provide an agreeable backdrop to the festivities.
However, not everything in the town is so wholesome. One of Sibiu’s most popular landmarks is a cast-iron bridge in the middle of town that has a nasty reputation for punishing those with a predisposition for withholding the truth.
It is believed that the bridge can sway and make alarming sounds if somebody utters a lie on it. Local legends state that the bridge evolved into a veritable polygraph test after numerous merchants were thrown off it to their deaths, as punishment for cheating customers.
In the past, it is said that young couples would meet on the bridge to discuss wedding plans. It must have been a daunting experience for the blushing brides-to-be because if the Bridge of Lies were to shake, sway or sound an alarm they would probably be pushed off the sides to a gruesome death.
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Teleki Mansion, Ocna Mures
The abandoned Teleki Mansion features in one of Transylvania’s more offbeat myths and legends because it has a relatively recent history and involves copious amounts of wine.
During World War II the villagers of nearby town Ocna Mures refused to enter the grand villa because of rumours regarding a ghostly presence. The Red Army took little notice of the stories and raided the mansion’s wine cellars one night.
It is believed that the Russian soldiers became raucous from the free-flowing wine: so much so that they began firing their rifles wildly until numerous barrels burst and they were drowned by a flood of crimson red wine.
Following the idiotic altercation, the mansion fell into disrepair but the legend of the ‘ghost who hates Russians’ is still talked about in Ocna Mures to this day.
Pied Piper, Vaghis Cave
The legend of the Pied Piper—the multicolour-cloaked rat catcher who played a hypnotic tune to lure the children of the German village of Hamelin into a cave forever—is famous the world over. However, what most people don’t know is that in Transylvania many people believe that the children did reemerge from the Piper’s subterranean abode.
Romanian interpretations of the legend state that the children entered Romania through the Vaghis Cave and settled in Transylvania. This, the storytellers say, is the explanation for the numerous blonde-haired German-speaking Saxons who have inhabited the area since the 12th century.
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