TRANSYLVANIA

Author: Kev Sidford FRGS

A great destination for photography.

During my travels as an expedition leader, I get to see some interesting and quite often spectacular countryside. One of the countries that I have what perhaps is an unhealthy obsession is Transylvania.

From a distance the countryside is for all intents and purposes like any other alpine country, beautiful grass filled valleys and rugged mountains. There is however, more to this country with it fascinating architecture, wildlife and people.

The wildlife that abounds in Romania is diverse and a magnetic draw to many photographers. One of the opportunities that is available to the dedicated togger is the chance of observing the odd bear if you are lucky. The Bear population worldwide is estimated to be more than 200,000 of which approximately 6000 beasties live in the Carpathian region of Romania. Not exactly the size of the Kodiak or Grizzly but will really upset your day if you get the wrong side of one of these beasties with the heaviest ever caught weighing 480kg. Grizzly’s on the other hand comes in at 770kg give or take an ounce.

Wildlife is not the only draw to the Travel Photographer there is of course the fascinating architecture and picturesques towns and villages. One of the places that should be visited is Sighisoara.

Sighisoara is one of the most beautiful and best-preserved medieval towns in Europe. Designated as a World Heritage Site by UNESCO, this perfectly intact 16th century gem with nine towers, cobbled streets, burgher houses and ornate churches rivals the historic streets of Old Prague or Vienna for atmospheric magic. It is also the birthplace of Vlad Dracula, also known as Vlad Tepes (Vlad the Impaler), ruler of the province of Walachia from 1456 to 1462. It was he who inspired Bram Stoker’s fictional creation, Count Dracula. A walk through the town’s hilly streets with their original medieval architecture, magical mix of winding cobbled alleys, steep stairways, secluded squares, towers, turrets and enchantingly preserved citadel, is like stepping back in time.

If that little gem does not entice then there is always Peles Castle a fascinating building with a steam driven sunroof, more swords than you can shake a stick at and probably the most photogenic of castles that I have visited.

Situated below the Bucegi Mountains, Peles Castle is a masterpiece of German new-Renaissance architecture, considered by many one of the most stunning castles in Europe. Peles Castle was the first European castle entirely lit by electrical current. The electricity was produced by the castle’s own plant. The furniture in the Music Room is carved of teak, a gift to King Carol I from the Maharajah of Kapurtala in India, while handmade silk embroideries adorn the ceiling and walls of the Turkish Salon. The ceiling paintings and decorative frescoes in the Theatre Hall were designed by the renowned Austrian artists Gustav Klimt and Frantz Matsch. Over 4,000 European and Oriental pieces dating from the 15th to the 19th centuries are on display in the armouries.

Romania has more than it’s fare share of historic features that will captivate the Travel Photographer with a thirst for knowledge. But it does not stop there Transylvania is also home to a significant array of of farmsteads with their colourful characters that manage the land.

A vision of what living medieval community. Horse and carts clatter down the dirt track roads and cows wander freely. There are barely any cars. And behind the tall walls of each of the old Saxon houses is a self-contained ‘courtyard farm’ complete with a wooden hay barn, livestock sheds and a small vegetable plot and fruit orchard. This self-sufficient way of life is still deeply ingrained in rural Romania.

Hay-meadows abound farmers with scythes and rakes even today continue to make hay the traditional way. The beauty of the country does not just rest in the countryside there are equally some fascinating towns and cities that attract the attention of those that wish to visit.

One of the many picturesque cities of Romania. Sibiu was the largest and wealthiest of the seven walled citadels* built in the 12th century by German settlers known as Transylvanian Saxons. Like Sighisoara and Brasov, it has a distinctly Germanic feeling. Sections of the medieval wall still guard the historic area, where narrow streets pass steep-roofed 17th century buildings with gable overhangs before opening into vast, church-dominated squares such as Great Square and Little Square. Sibiu is a pedestrian-friendly city and home to the first hospital in Romania (1292), the first pharmacy (1494).

Romania has a lot to offer the Travel Photographer those who may be interested please contact:

kev.sidford@mountainrite.com

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