We’ve all heard of Dracula but do you know any of the other fascinating legends and myths of Romania? Richly marked with medieval castles, cities, and ruins, Transylvania is home to the real Count Dracula, portrayed in fiction by Bram Stoker as a vampire. This particular myth has been milked by Hollywood to such an extent that it no longer scares anybody. Just go ask Twilight – those glimmering vampires are nothing like the original! The real story of Vlad Dracul and how he used to torture his victims is enough to curdle your blood. In fact, Romania can boast having numerous terrifying legends which will satiate the curiosity of even the truest of myth hunters.
Legends and Myths of Romania
After listening to all these fascinating tales and national folklore, one will think twice before visiting these locations in Romania to which the stories are connected. In the following paragraphs, we will shed some light on Romania’s fascinating urban myths, stories, superstitions, and even the occult. On the brighter side, let us not forget that this country is also a bustling tourist hotspot that attracts swarms of visitors throughout the year because of one reason alone. So let’s start with…
The Legendary Nightlife Scene of Bucharest
Although being amongst the lesser traveled countries in Eastern Europe, Romania reaches legendary status when it comes to partying until dawn – and then some. Mark Bucharest in particular on your travel maps because you cannot afford to miss the chance to enjoy this city’s exciting nightlife scene. Once the sun sets, Bucharest – or “Little Paris” as they call it – starts to show this contagious wild side with plenty of opportunities for amusement, particularly for the younger hip generations.
Those who want to spend an evening in a quiet manner can always head on over to the national theater to attend masterful ballets and operas. But those who like to party like there is no tomorrow can swarm the trendy dance bars and clubs for some delicious cocktail drinks and body-shaking beats. Everything is possible in the city of Bucharest and its nightlife call is almost religious. This is where urban legends are made! Some of the most popular clubs and pubs in the city include Shoteria, Bordello, Control, Bamboo, Beat of Angels, Fratelli Social, and many many more.
The Mysterious Treasures, Skeletal Remains and Nymphs of Cioclovina Cave
Of all the myths of Romania, this may be one of the most mysterious. Deep in the Carpathian Mountains of Transylvania, over rivers, streams, and beyond a waterfall lies the Cioclovina Cave, a cathedral-like home to tombs, mysterious Scandinavian and Mesopotamian treasures, skeletal remains, nymphs, and an unimaginable amount of bats. Archeologists have concluded this may have been a subterranean temple to nymphs dating back 3,300 years ago. Among the treasures found were women’s bronze and Mesopotamian and Egyptian glass jewelry, Nordic amber beads, and horse-riding gear left in three places alongside pottery and sacrificial offerings. But how on earth did all of this end up in a remote Transylvanian cave?
Well, without getting too scientific, scientists believe that Transylvania was part of a global trade route some 3,000 years ago and that these items were stored at a different location then washed into the depths of the cave with seasonal flooding. Okay cool, but what about these nymphs?
A nymph by definition is a mythological spirit of nature imagined as a beautiful maiden inhabiting rivers, woods, or other locations. Homeric texts describe these earth/spirit connections in the (Odyssey, XIII, 103-105); “At the head of the harbor is a long-leafed olive tree, and near it is a pleasant, shadowy cave sacred to the nymphs called naiads” and again (Odyssey, XVII, 209–211); “Cold water flowed down from the rock above, and on the top was built an altar of the nymphs where all passers-by made offerings“. Blue glass beads, amber beads, and bronze were female jewels. Pair that with the bones of sacrificial animals and you have yourself a site of worship of a female deity. I’m not sure if it’s true, but it most definitely is cool.
Bran Castle, Dracula
The existence of “strigoi” or evil spirits is famous folklore in the Transylvanian village of Bran. These evil spirits live normal lives by day and torment villagers by night. They are thought to be the inspiration to the famous work of Bram Stoker, who fictionalized the vampire with superhuman powers known as Count Dracula. In the famous Gothic novel, Dracula, the count lived in a medieval castle perched high upon a rock that overlooks the rolling valley below. Folklore has since tied this storybook location to Bran Castle which has given it the international name of “Dracula’s Castle”. True or not, mysterious deaths occur in Transylvania and local folklore suggests it is the vampiric doings of the strogoi. As far as myths in Romania goes, this one is probably the most sensationalized.
The WWII Ghosts That Haunt the Living
Now, let’s delve deeper into Romania’s scary side, shall we? For instance, the Teleki mansion, which is situated in the town of Ocna Mures, is presently in a rundown condition. The majority of the locals prefer to stay clear from this ruined site and for a good reason – there is an eerie tale behind the mansion itself. The craze started when the local inhabitants began to notice restless spirits residing there during World War II.
What happened is that several soldiers wanted to enter the mansion with the intention of enjoying the wine that was concealed in its cobwebbed cellars. They ended up drinking an excessive amount of alcohol and began to fire their rifles indiscriminately until the massive barrels ruptured completely. This blatant behavior drowned the intoxicated soldiers in wine, which may be one of the more dignified ways to die in a war, all things considering. Since then, malcontent ghosts started haunting this location and, according to locals, there are even some blurry images captured in 2011 to fuel the enduring superstition.
The Haunted Medieval Corvin Castle in Hunedoara (Hunyad Castle)
The construction of Corvin Castle can be dated to the 14th century, has a tower named Nje Bojsia (meaning “don’t be afraid”), and a coat of arms which is the raven. It’s famous myths? That Vlad the Impaler spent seven years in the castle’s dungeons. Other accounts of torment are of Turkish prisoners who dug a well through rock for 28 years on a freedom mission to find water for the fortress leader only to be beheaded when they reached their goal. Today in the well you can see a Turkish inscription which reads, “You now have your water, but you don’t have heart” with the names of the prisoners.
The Mystical Falling Lad
There is no doubt that the Black Church situated in Brasov happens to be among the most attractive Gothic structures in the country. You see, a fire destroyed this establishment in the 17th century, hence the name. There is a mystery behind this church centered around the statue of a small boy located at the top of a pillar just outside of the sacred property. What is curious is that the statue depicts a boy who is about to fall and its meaning is an enigma even to this day.
Some individuals claim that a child fell and died on the spot after being sent by the constructors to verify whether the wall was straight or not. This hit the builders with extreme sorrow so they erected the statue as a tribute to the boy’s sacrifice. According to yet another story, the small lad was trying to make his employer jealous by showcasing his amazing crafting skills as the Black Church was being constructed. He was then pushed by his master and killed in the incident. The whole episode was later revealed by that jealous master and this made the other builders decide to erect the statue so that the talented young boy would be remembered forever.
The Lakes Which Need Human Sacrifices
This is one of the grisly myths of Romania. According to the veterans residing in the villages of the Maramures region, the lakes of this area need human sacrifices from time to time. As a matter of fact, you’ll come across a number of mountain lakes with many dark legends one of which is referred to as Iezer.
One particular story states that several homes along with one church were submerged by floodwaters when an adjacent slope collapsed. At first, the residents of the nearby village of Tisa believed that the church bells were commemorating Easter on that fateful day. But it was later discovered that a natural catastrophe is what caused the incessant ringing.
Another lake is believed to have swallowed people after they tried to cross it during the cold winter months. Lake Vinderel has a habit of drowning even the most skillful swimmers. There are even tales mentioning that bloody pieces of human flesh are sometimes seen floating on the surface of one of these eerie lakes. Now that would be a creepy sight to behold, wouldn’t it?
Mass Kidnapping of Children
We all know the story of the Pied Piper, which is a rather shocking and spine-chilling tale to tell. Well, according to Romanian myths, the town of Hamelin was once infested with rats and this caused havoc amongst the residents of the area.
A mysterious piper agreed to fix the problem in exchange for cash. Unfortunately, when the situation was brought under control, the residents of Hamelin refused to compensate for his service. This made the piper furious and, in vengeance, he started playing a different tune which was enough to brainwash all the kids in town to follow him. Some legends state that all these children were either drowned or they “willingly” jumped from a cliff, while others aren’t even certain what happened to them, which is more troubling. One particular version is a bit optimistic though and asserts that these children miraculously reappeared from the Vaghis Cave situated in Transylvania, a legend which has been told for generations to explain the blond-haired German-speaking Saxons in the region.
Apart from all these ancient myths of Romania, the country is teeming with urban legends and modern-day witchcraft practices that both fascinate and chill the bones. You should definitely include Romania on your subsequent Eastern European itinerary. Not only will you party like royalty in its bustling metropolitan centers but you will also immerse yourself in one of the world’s most peculiar national traditions.