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A Motor Circuit Through Rumania's New Province of Racial Complexity and Architectural Charm
BY J. THEODORE MARRINER, PH. D.
SECRETARY OF EMBASSY OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA
UMANIA always was a land of contrast, geographically, socially, and historically, but since the great accretions to her territory that have come about as a result of the World War the contradictory elements within her borders are even more striking.
She contains an epitome of the history of Europe from Roman times to the present, and people and places illustrative of each stage are found side by side within her confines.
One may see on the same day a shepherd in a long fleece cape, moving across the plains toward the mountains, like a quaint survival of an ancient civilization; a fiery nomadic gypsy galloping along a dusty road, with long hair streaming; a peasant like a soldier from Trajan's Column at Rome, with white, embroidered blouse and thong-bound legs, scratching the soil with a primitive plow; a nobleman in his castle gazing down into a medieval Saxon village; and an oil magnate scattering his wealth amid Bucharest's imitative charms.
TRANSYLVANIA IS THE WEST'S FRONTIER
AGAINST THE EAST
Many of these contrasts were inherent within the prewar boundaries and all of them in much enlarged postwar Rumania, due to the addition of Transylvania to the kingdom. This is because Transylvania, known in Rumanian as Ardeal (Forest Land), in Hungarian as Erdely, and in German as Siebenbürgen, has been the frontier of the West against the East for centuries.
Its inhabitants have, furthermore, successfully maintained that border against the Turks since 1700, and this history of border wardenship has given the region. its racial complexity and architectural charms.
Nowhere in Europe is the sense of pleasant remoteness more keenly felt than
in this district. Though little known to a traveling public, it is part of the stuff that all our dreams are made of, through such novels as "The Prisoner of Zenda" and "Graustark," which seem either consciously or unconsciously to have been laid in the neighborhood of some one of the Seven Castles which give the German name, Siebenbürgen, to the province and which are quartered on the arms of greater Rumania.
These towns are Brasov (Hungarian, Brasso, and German, Kronstadt), Bistrita (Besztercze, Bistritz), Cluj (Kolozsvar, Klausenburg), Sebesul Sasesc (Szaszsebes, Mühlbach), Sibiu (Nagy Szeben, Hermannstadt), Medias (Medgyes, Mediasch), and Sighisoara (Segesvar, Schässburg). They were settled by Germans from Franconia, who were locally called. Saxons and who, in all the years of their separation from Germany, have maintained a close connection with their mother country, its culture and institutions, the while efficiently keeping the Carpathian frontier.
They had likewise the coöperation of the Szeklers, close kinsmen of Magyars, who for their delight in combat had been settled along the northern portion of the mountain wall. Back of these warders the mass of Magyar farmers and Rumanian laborers, foresters, and shepherds tilled the fertile valleys between the rolling foothills that gradually ebb from the Carpathians toward the Hungarian plain.
CARPATHIANS ACCOUNT FOR TRANSYLVANIA'S HISTORY
It is this mountain wall that accounts for the history of Transylvania—a jagged, glorious barrier that dominates the land
The Red Tower once guarded the important Turnu Rosiu Pass (which
Photograph by Gustav Koch
THE TOWN HALL OF BRASOV (KRONSTADT)
Saxon colonists were brought into Transylvania in the 12th and 13th centuries, and Brasov, a city of about 60,000 people, remains to-day more Saxon than Saxony.
Photograph from Charles B. Keeler
TRANSYLVANIANS LAVISH CRAFTSMANSHIP ON THEIR HOMES
Ornate bits of wood carving and decoration, such as is to be seen on
One of the most valuable natural resources of Rumania is her oil. The kingdom ranks sixth among the petroleum-producing regions of the world and in 1925 its wells yielded in excess of 2,000,000 tons of this increasingly important commodity.
As a result of the World War this country doubled its area, making it the largest of the Balkan States. Its most important acquisition of territory was Transylvania.
unknown. The Rumanian cowherd, driving his sleek cattle along the Olt, knows that beyond those heights the brothers of his race now rule; and the Magyar farmer looks upon them and wishes they had been higher and untraversable.
ORIENTAL CONTACTS AUGMENTED TRANSYLVANIA'S CHARM
Yet, had the mountains been impenetrable, Transylvania would have been neither so picturesque nor so rich. Fear of the Turks accounts for the walled towns, fortified churches, and great castles.
Trade with the East accounts for the prosperity of the guilds in Brasov and other towns, as well as for the beauty of such structures as the Black Church, with its priceless collection of prayer rugs.
All these influences on the West were exerted by the Turk through the four passes of the Carpathians at Buzau, Predeal, Bran, and the Turnu Rosiu, the first three being mountain defiles difficult of
access and easy to defend. The last is a river valley, the principal thoroughfare since Roman days, as evidenced by ruins. of the ancient watchtower which gives the pass its name (see illustration, page 320).
Transylvania, on account of its geographic situation, like a natural fortress on the borders of Europe, has been semiindependent from early times, and was recognized among the titles of the King of Hungary as a grand principality. However, administratively, it had been since 1868 an integral part of Hungary.
Previous to that date it passed through many vicissitudes, being first a semi-independent portion of the kingdom in which Kings Geza II and Andreas II settled the Teutonic knights and Saxon colonists to keep the border against the heathen. This status continued for about two centuries, when it became practically autonomous under Turkish sovereignty, electing its own voivodes (princes) from 1526 to 1699.