The great thing about going to Romania is that the history is so much more interesting than anything you will find in the USA. In Florida a “historical” building is any brick building built before 1920. Typically these places have a palque outside describing how Herb Hatfield Broadbottom III built the house in 1901 to commemorate the consturction of a new railroad in the county. The yanks love these places and they’re a gold mine for psychics and other quacks who love to exploit the gullible with tales of how Broadbotooms spectre can still be seen smoking his pipe on the porch each July 4th. Whilst in Romania I didn’t see any “haunted tours” advertised or any quacks masquerading as mediums or history buffs, I did however see plenty of real historical sites.
Curtea de Arges Cathedral makes the oldest bulidings in St Augustine look like a McDonalds drive through. It was finished in 1526 around the time Christopher Columbus would have been celebrating 25 years since he discovered a hurricane swept inhospitable patch of land that initially at least he thought was India. Anyway the Cathedral is fascinating to look at with plenty of Eastern style icons and enough gold in it to make the 1984 US Olympic team envious. Apparently the fellow who built it lacked inspiration and prayed to God who told him that in order to make the church he needed to sacrifice something valuable into its walls. This being the 16th century the chap in question, Mr Mesterul Manoli figured that meant one of the architects loved ones should be bricked into the walls and they decided that the next day at breakfast whoever showed up first would be sealed into the brickwork. Sadly he forgot to mention this to Mrs Manoli and so it must have come as quite a surprise to her when she awoke early the next day to find that dinner with the Popescu’s was cancelled and that she was to spend the rest of her life listening to the sound of hammering ! Either way a plaque marks the site were the poor old girl was shoved and what for her was a site of indescribable horror is today just a nice spot to get your photo taken.
Another great location for getting some lovely snaps is Rasnov castle. It is located halfway between the historic cities of Bran and Brasov in Transylvania. It is not so much a castle as a small walled city and very little remains of the actual castle part but if you like cobbled streets, old carts and great views then this is Romania’s answer to San Giminiano in Italy. It was built in the 12th century according to legend although the precise dates are about as cloudy as pint of real Ale in an Irish pub. In the central square there is a deep well which was constructed during a siege of the city. Apparently the locals were having some issues with some troublesome Turks, presumably Galatassary fans and having captured a few sent them to work on the well. Once the well was complete somebody decided it would be a great idea to throw the men down the well. Not exactly the “thank you” the men were expecting but perhaps something useful to bear in mind when trying to combat modern day soccer hooligans. I can’t imagine that the rotting corpses did much to for the purity of the drinking supply but presumably the rest of the Turks got the message and the siege was soon over. This whole business of shoving people into construction sites was obviously popular in Romania at this time and on your way out of the castle you’re directed to view the skeletal remains of another bloke believed to be Hungarian who was found sandwiched in one of the floors. Another corpse lovely ! Every home should have one.