Rucăr Bran Corridor, Romantic, Beautiful, Charming – Historical Uphill

Rucar Bran Pass

Strolling uphill from Rucăr to Bran is like walking through a dream-like space among villages lost in time, and under the watchful eye of millennial Bucegi – Leaota mountains on one side, and the spectacular Piatra Craiului, Prince’s Stone (like a sleeping dragon covered with a blanket of clouds) and Iezer on the other.

Rucăr is located in Arges County, the historical province of Wallachia, while Rucăr-Bran Pass and Bran Castle are located in neighboring Brasov County, in the historical province of Transylvania.

Yet the beauty of the natural passthat winds uphill from Rucăr, through a mountain corridor, to finally reach Bran Castle lies not only in the nature surrounding it, or in the history trapped underfoot, but also in the memories it carries.

Let’s rouse ourselves and allow this journey to kindle our minds and stir our imagination. Thus, we will proceed from Rucăr and make our way up to Bran.

Rucăr Bran Corridor, Romantic, Beautiful, Charming - Historical Uphill. Rucar Dambovicioara Rucar-Bran Pass Bran Castle mapp
Rucar – Dambovicioara – Rucar-Bran Pass – Bran Castle (~ 50km)

Historical, romantic Rucăr

As a teen, I was lucky to spend my summers up at Rucăr. It was a time before Eco-tourism was even a whisper. Yet I did not lodged in the charming Rucăr village, the one spread along the main road with its white and pastel houses, but up on a hill, in a farmer’s holding. Fresh, steamy milk for breakfast, roasted chickens for dinner, home-made sausages too. Surely there would have been fresh vegetables on the table, I just don’t remember them…

Rucăr Bran Corridor, Romantic, Beautiful, Charming - Historical Uphill. Romania towards Dambovicioara
towards Dambovicioara – Rucăr Bran Corridor, Romantic, Beautiful, Charming – Historical Uphill

Rucăr was inhabited by Dacians as far back as the Roman occupation as part of Dacia Inferior. Relics of a Roman castrum and even of a frontier fortification (limes) wall were unearthed in the area.

Lok at the image below. See the dotted vertical line bordering Dacia Inferior on the right side? The Roman frontier wall would have – more or less – followed it from the south, where Danube flows, towards the mountains, up to Dâmbovița Bridge, near Dâmbovicioara’s Gorge.

The Roman Empire LIMES (Breeze et al. 2009

Back then Rucăr would have been called Ruffa Arbor, Ruddy Tree – for the beech tree forests turning crimson in autumn. Over the centuries Rucăr had known many names, by the history and the people that washed over it: Slavonic Rukel, Saxon-Germanic Rothbaun, Ruckendorf, or old Romanian Rucalu.

Rucar, ruddy red - by the beech trees in autumn
Rucăr in autumn. Rucăr Bran Corridor, Romantic, Beautiful, Charming – Historical Uphill

It was not far, west of Rucăr, that the renowned Battle of Posada took place.

It was 1324 and the relations between the greatest power of eastern Europe then, the Hungarian Kingdom, and Voivode Basarab I of Wallachia, Basarab the Founder – and vassal to King Charles I of Hungary – were auspicious. The Pope himself held Voivode Basarab I in high regard for his work on the battlefield against the infidels, the Turks. Yet King Charles I, a military expansionist, had his eye on Wallachia, and tried to undermine Voivode Basarab I in the eyes of the Pope.
A military confrontation took place, lasting four long days, 9 – 12 December 1330, known in history as the Battle of Posada, although the geographical location of the combat is still unclear; in a narrow, gorge-like valley near Curtea de Arges, where Voivode Basarab I held court? Perhaps the valley of Topolog? Or further east, between today’s Podu Dambovitei, and Rucăr?
King Charles I attacked Voivode Basarab I for “[he] is the shepherd of my sheep, and I will drag him by his beard from his lair.
Outnumbered by 3 to 1, the Wallachians emerged victorious, King Charles even loosing his royal seal in battle (I wonder how much is worth today?) and escaping only after he donned a servant’s attire. (The servant, dressed as the king, was killed).
The victory of Basarab I at Posada marked the independence of Wallachia from the Hungarian crown. But not for long…

The Hungarian’s attacks prior to the Battle of Posada left the Basarab’s royal palace of Curtea de Argeș destroyed. A new fortress was built for the seat of the Wallachian principality at Câmpulung, south of Rucăr.

We’ll stick with Câmpulung for during the ruling of Basarab’s grandson, Vladislau I (Vlaicu-Voda), a border post was found here.

Yet… the new King of Hungary, Louis I the Great, Louis of Anjou, dreamed of expanding the Hungarian Kingdom over Wallachia. Why, he already had Transylvania in his pocket!
In 1354 King Louis I dangled the Banate of Severin (a territory west of Wallachia) in front of the new Wallachian ruler, Basarab’s son Nicholas Alexander. And King Louis received something for in return, a small step towards fulfilling his plan. The Wallachian Voivode, a Christian Orthodox ruler, recognized the right of the Roman Catholic Church to establish missions in Wallachia. And… the Saxon traders from Brașov were allowed to transit Wallachia without paying duties.

With time King Louis I added extra pressure over the Wallachian Voivode, added the Transylvanian fiefdoms of Amlaș and Făgăraș (inhabited by Vlachs) in the balance… And by 1369 the new Voivode of Wallacia, Vladislau I, had recognized King Louis I as his overlord…

The expansionist plan of King Louis I was taking shape…

When Vladislau I (Vlaicu-Voda) ruled Wallachia (1364 – 1377) he was known as the Transalpine Voivode (trans -Alpine = over the Alps, as the Carpathians are similar in appearance and climate with the Alps), and was also Duke of Severin, Almas and Fagaras. Vladislav I was uncle to Mircea the Elder, Vlad the Impaler’s paternal grandfather.

And this is how we have the first documented mention of Rucăr, dating from 1377 when King Louis I planned to finally incorporate Wallachia into the Hungarian Kingdom (the Kingdom of Saint Stephen).

Thus… Bran was to receive a new fortress, a privilege granted by King Louis I to the inhabitants of Brasov on 19 November 1377 … and for this reason the border post was moved from Câmpulung (Câmpulung Muscel) to Rucăr (close to the Hungarian Kingdom’s southern border).

While all these years, no matter what political plans were in place, merchants and traders still traveled between Wallachia and Transylvania – along Rucăr Bran Corridor.

Years later I took the same road and traveled further uphill, towards the mountains, past colorful homes lining a tarred road, a mere tourist lucky to only catch glimpses of quaint timber dwellings scattered across lush hills.

Dâmbovicioara, a 16th century hamlet, a gorge and some ancient caves

One of my first childhood memories places me in front of a gush of icy water running over a bed of stones. Its sparks run with the sunshine and over the smooth rock. I can see my fingers stretched in front oh me and I feel as if I want to catch the icy droplets of glitter, the sun scorching my back. Or least dig out a pebble as a memento.

Long before souvenirs ever made sense, my heart knew I was living in the moment.

child playing mountain spring Romania
My son playing in mountain spring in Romania

I was with family and friends at Dâmbovicioara’s Gorge, Cheile Dâmbovicioarei.

More memories emerge.

A narrow road lined with pebbles, bordered by cliffs that hold the sky. And the joyful knowledge that the cool gorge, after a hot August ride, meant that we were nearly there. This was the time before car air-con and safety belts, when a vehicle transported as many as could merrily fit inside.

Rucăr Bran Corridor, Romantic, Beautiful, Charming - Historical Uphill. Dâmbovicioara's Gorge, Cheile Dâmbovicioarei.
Dâmbovicioara’s Gorge, Cheile Dâmbovicioarei. Rucăr Bran Corridor, Romantic, Beautiful, Charming – Historical Uphill

Dâmbovicioara village dates back to the middle of the 16th century. Podu Dambovitei village (Dambovita Bridge) is thus named after an ancient wooden bridge built over Dâmbovita river, and well-used by those traveling along the Rucăr Bran Corridor, between Wallachia and Transylvania.

Further on, at an altitude of 861m, the secretive Dâmbovicioara Cave opens up. Only half the length of the underground grotto is open to the public. I enjoyed visiting, especially since the guides are none other but children from a local school.

Dambovicioara-Cave
Inside Dâmbovicioara Cave

The whimsy road between Dâmbovicioara and Rucăr Bran Pass

Left and right, if you know where to look, history speaks to you. Listen to these name: German’s Fortress, Cetatea Oratia, Saxon’s Hill, Dealul Sasului, Turks’ Fields, Plaiul Turcilor, German Woman’s Spring, Izvorul Nemtoaicelor.

Oratia Fortress, Rucar-Bran, Saxon Hill
Oratia Fortress, between Podu Dambovitei, and Rucar-Bran Pass, on Saxon’s Hill (Dealul Sasului)

A paved road winds now though a forest of secular fir trees. Only two lanes, at times the road’s shoulder only marked by boulders painted with limewash. Somewhere along the road, after it makes a nearly 360 degrees bent climbing the steep slope, we leave Arges County and enter Brasov.

The primordial Rucăr Bran Pass

If you close your eyes and open your heart to the wind roaring among the rising stones and to the whispers of the evergreen trees, maybe you will hear the echo of a bell, the bleating of sheep, the call of old folk. For the same path that still exists today was first used by shepherds as they moved their flock from the valleys below to the rich pastures nestled in the mountains.

It was a time before soldiers or merchants ever set foot on this very same road that we, the latest arrivals, tread on today. We label it transhumance, they called it a way of life.

cioban frm Hunedoara, Transylvania, Dacian origin
Romanian words of Dacian origin: this is a shepherd (baci), wearing a mustache above his upper lip (buză), a hat (căciulă), a wide belt (brâu). here are trees (copaci) between him and his hamlet (cătun), a brook (pârâu) too. His sheep will give milk for good cheese (brânză), whey-cheese (urdă) too. His clever dog probably doesn’t ned a collar (zgardă) and it brings the man great joy (bucurie).

Even today shepherds still graze their flocks, and still use traditional methods for making cheese in pine bark. Wooden houses are scattered over hills, their lush meadows fragrant with the scent of blackberries and strawberries.

The same road stretched underneath the same sky just a few centuries back, when traders with overflowing wagons, topped with goods, but concealed weapons too, trekked along it. Saxons from Braşov, or traders from Wallachia, just as excited to meet like-minded merchants, afraid they be robbed, and ducking when the way narrowed at Rucăr Bran Pass. Eyes darting left and right. Warriors anywhere? Armed men striding to a fight? Phew, all peaceful today!

Rucăr Bran Corridor, Romantic, Beautiful, Charming - Historical Uphill. looking at Rucar Bran Pass
looking at Rucar Bran Pass from the border line between Arges and Brasov counties. Rucăr Bran Corridor, Romantic, Beautiful, Charming – Historical Uphill

Even in the 21st century, in the sprinkle of helmets surrounding Bran, among secret mountain paths and whimsical clearances, pastoral rituals are still observed. Thus, on the last Saturday of the month of September, the sheep are brought down from the mountains, after a summer’s worth of grazing, and returned to their owners for the winter, răvăsitul oilor, ‘the outpouring of the sheep’. The shepherds also share with the owners the cheese produced during spring and summer.

view from Bran to Rucar over the pass
Looking back, the view from Bran Castle towards Rucar over the pass

We left old Rucăr, trod uphill to Podu Dambovitei, along the winding road leading to Rucăr-Bran Pass, and we made it to Bran Castle. What’s next?

A book of short stories on Bran’s history coming soon and one on Transylvania’s spectacular past.

Discover my books on Amazon.

Bran Castle’s Unique Door Knocker and a Crocus Legend

Bran Castle's Unique Door Knocker and a Crocus Legend

There is a natural progression from the medieval Bran Castle with its unique brass door knocker in the shape of a queen’s head and the crocus legend.

Bran Castle’s Unique Door Knocker

The Bran Pass was long time one of the most important trade routs in Medieval times, between Asia, Moldavia, Wallachia, and further towards the Hungarian Kingdom and the West powers of Europe, and especially after the fall of Constantinople, after which the Ottoman Empire had full control over the Bosphorus strait, thus strangling in its unfaithful hand the sea trading of Venice and Genoa…

Bran Castle, a Unique Door Knocker, and crocus legend in Spring

Thus, the intent and the need arose for a fortress to be build, as the reinforcement of this geographic location was a necessity, military and economic. Military because the Bran Pass had the potential to also become an invasion route for the Turks, if ever they were to advance northward through the Carpathian Mountains…

As they did.

A deed was issued on 19 November 1377 by Louis the Great (or Louis the Hungarian, from the house of Anjou), and this deed gave the population of Brasov (then Corona) the rights to build a stone fortress at Bran: “of their own endeavors, and at their own expense.’ A rather important note, as it reinforces the local’s rights over their fortress.

The Anjou family was involved in the initial building of Corvin Castle, Transylvania.

Bran Castle's Unique Door Knocker and a Crocus Legend, Thursday Doors

A little over half a millennium later, on 1st December 1920, the people of Brasov donate the Bran Citadel to Queen Mary of Romania:

“We, the Town Council of Brasov… hereby unanimously decide in today’s festive meeting to bequeath to Her Majesty Queen Mary of Greater Romania the ancient castle of Bran, so laden with memories of our history.”

Queen Marie of Romania, also known as Marie of Edinburgh, was the daughter of Prince Alfred, Duke of Edinburgh and Grand Duchess Maria Alexandrovna of Russia. Thus, she was granddaughter of Queen Victoria and of Tsar Alexander II of Russia. Marie married Crown Prince Ferdinand of Romania, thus giving up her place in line at the Crown of Great Britain. She was ‘lovely, with sparkling blue eyes’, he was ‘shy but amiable’.

Build on a rocky cliff, Bran Castle is, and crocuses will naturally bloom nearby.

A Crocus Legend for Spring

(This is an edited extract from my second WIP, 36 806 words in today, and a great progress during the past weeks).

‘Once upon a time,’ he says, ‘one upon a time there lived two sisters. And they were kind as they were spirited, and beautiful as they were hard-working.’
All I can do is stare at his hand, at the Autumn Crocus in his hand. It blooms a smile… By its pale mauve petals with their white center I recognize the Violet Queen.
‘Were they two princesses?’ I say.
He sucks his breath. ‘Could be, but I think they were just two girls.’
‘Like me,’ I say.
‘Like you,’ his eyes say. ‘But their mother had died, and soon enough their father remarried. And the stepmother did not like the two sisters, not one bit. So,’ he added quickly, knowing that I will open my mouth and add to his story, ‘so, he sent the one of them away. Chased her away. In autumn. It wasn’t enough for the wicked step mother and,’ he added quickly again, ‘soon enough, the following spring, she chased the other sister away. Alas, the two girls never saw each other again, and missed one another so much. No matter how far they searched, how many people they asked, couldn’t find each other. After their timely death God turned His face towards them and transformed them both into flowers, crocuses. That bloom often in the same space, yet one in autumn,’ and his right hand slides forward, offering me the Autumn Crocus, and one in spring.’ His left hand surfaces. It holds a piece of parchment he must have taken from the printing press where he helps at night. It is folded and his gesture beckons me to open it. I do so gently, as one would unswaddle a baby. And I find a perfect Spring Crocus, its pale violet still intact, but translucent, preserved in its papery cloak. It appears to be sleeping. I dare not touch its petals, so thin they are.
‘So they can finally be together,’ he ends his story, ‘in death.’

Copyright © Patricia Furstenberg. All Rights Reserved.

thursday doors, 100 words story

Thursday Doors is a blog feature everyone can take part in, hosted by Dan Antion over at No Facilities – where you can discover more doors from around the world.

As always, discover my books on Amazon.

A Door set in Stone for #ThursdayDoors

a door set in stone for Thursday Doors, short story

A Door set in Stone is a very short story I wrote to go with this week’s door image for the Thursday Doors, #ThursdayDoors, blog challenge where everyone can take part in, and hosted by Dan Antion over at No Facilities.

A Door set in Stone

It was the gurgling laughter that grabbed his attention causing him to nearly trip. It rose from behind the brick wall and floated with the wind like the bubbles kids blow at birthday parties. His eyes had left the road on their own accord, surprised as he was to hear a human voice. The toe of his right shoe hit against the raised pavement, his knees buckled downwards, his arms sprang upwards, then spun like two propellers, and for the duration of three rather large forward steps he’d been sure he was going to kiss the pavement.  

He didn’t, for he had recovered his balance by the time he had reached the next yard.

That blasted buckle in the pavement, the result of an overgrown root from a nigh tree! It had produced a hump in the ground, one he knew well. Each season he had to watch his footing here for a different reason. Exactly here, seven steps from the crossroad if he came from home and twenty-four from the traffic circle when he returned home… In wintertime, the slight downhill right past the bump became icy and slippery. In summer, the rain would make the tree overhead throw off its flowers, while the humid heat would do the rest, turning them into slimy mulch.

A Door set in Stone for #ThursdayDoors
A door from South Africa for Thursday Doors.

Yet today a human voice had laughed behind that brick wall, the wall he’d walked past every day and never noticed, focused as he always was on that bump in the road.

Halfling the wall stood an arched wooden door framed in stone and flanked by two ceramic vases, like two giants keeping watch. He stopped in the middle of the road, his mouth half-open, wondering how he’d never noticed any of these before, before the laughter.

The next day he left home earlier. Because he never liked to be late for work, that’s why. As soon as he approached the brick fence he slowed his pace, treading carefully, his eyes jumping from the road to the wall, from the wall to the road, while all the time he was listening, trying to pinpoint the instant before the laughter will bubble and rise over the wall again. He slowed his pace so much he nearly stopped, nearly, yet he didn’t. And the laughter didn’t come. And it didn’t come the following day either, nor the next. Until one day when he forgot all about it, intent as he was on the road.

A long, pink, sparkly dress the kind one would wear to a ball. A Door set in Stone for #ThursdayDoors

That day he’d caught the fold of a dress disappearing inside right before the arched doors slid shut. A long, pink, sparkly dress the kind one would wear to a ball.
Then the laughter rose again, sounding different this time. Questioning, somehow.
What? Authority?

The knocker’s thud still echoed in his ears, his hand still raised, when the door opened.

‘I was waiting for you,’ She smiled. And he was lost.

‘And had I rang the bell instead?’ was the last coherent thought to flash through his mind.

A missing report was filed a couple of weeks later. Only when files began piling on his desk had his co-workers noticed   his absence. Even then, it took them two days to figure out his name.

As for the bump in the road, it is still there, to avert the eyes of the passer-by from the door set in stone.

Copyright © Patricia Furstenberg. All Rights Reserved.

A Door set in Stone for #ThursdayDoors

thursday doors, 100 words story

Thursday Doors is a blog feature everyone can take part in, hosted by Dan Antion over at No Facilities – where you can discover more doors from around the world.

Green Are… Poem and Photography from my Garden

Green Are... Poem and Photography from my Garden - Thoughts on green and why green is good, but only if it comes in a bunch

Green Are, Poem and Photography from my Garden

Green are the leaves that grow between birds
Outside my window, playing hide and seek with the sky.
And green are the last of my vineyard’s hopes too,
Among rusty leaves, the last of a summer of grapes.

Green are my thoughts, the ones you see through my eyes –
Is my soul green? I surely hope it still is.
And green are the thoughts I keep in my heart,
For they are not ripe-green yet.

For green is good, I think,
As long as aplenty green things there are.
The singular green frightens me, envious and cold,
Therefore green is good in a bunch.

For green were the seas of my childhood tales
Of maidens who could and princes who dared, a tad.
And green were my teen years,
When I thought I could do it all, like them.

Green are the spines on my bookshelves now,
And a magic green pencil lays on my desk
For the times inspiration fails me,
I pick it and its energy handwrites me new tales.

Green Are Poem Photography

Green are my hopes that end one more decade,
And I think that’s pretty cool too.
For green speaks of more springs to come,
Of harvests of hopes, and a future in green.

Green Are Poem Photography

If you enjoyed ‘Green Are… Poem and Photography from my Garden’ you might also like to read:

Poets, Poetry and a Pandemic
As Good as Gold – Why, Hedgehog?

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Maroons, Autumn’s Chocolates

Maroons Autumn's chocolates, chestnuts on forest floor

As Autumn fades into Winter, I find myself longing for roasted chestnuts. Prickly, like the history of their maroons shades, they are Autumn’s chocolates.

Maroons Autumn's chocolates. Coffee, Silent Heroes book, quill and ink pot.

I trust my inspiration to the rich, maroon liquid I came to associate with writing and quiet introversion at home. Its many shade and richness, in the auburn Autumn, are luscious bits of legal bliss.
Coffee.

Maroons Autumn's chocolates. Chocolate speckled eggs in a nest in forest.

Perhaps autumn found inspiration for its sepia, russet and chocolates between the patterns of birds’ eggs.

Maroons Autumn's chocolates. person holding fireworks in a forest.

Did you know that before naming a color, maroon, already associated with chestnuts bursting in the fire, dubbed a firework’s explosion?

Marooned by Howard Pyle, Public Domain. Maroons Autumn's chocolates
Marooned by Howard Pyle, Public Domain

I love how the word maroon escaped from a 17th century label for unruly people… to anyone marooned on an island in 18th century & beyond. It happened because authoritative would sent the wild specimens on an island they could not escape from, nor survive on!

Maroon has richness to it, depths, warmth. It is a promise never disappointing. Burgundy roses, chestnuts, chocolates paired with a glass of wine, coffee, tulips, an aubergines. Yet in art, maroon is perceived as a shade of red, a darker red – near burgundy, carmine, crimson, fire engine red, magenta, rust (like russet?) and scarlet, terra cotta, Venetian red, vermilion… A poem of colors.

One of my favorite spots of maroon in art is in The Wedding Feast at Cana by the Italian artist Paolo Veronese, a massive painting housed in the Salle des États of the Louvre Museum, facing The Mona Lisa. The Wedding Feast at Cana tells a beautiful biblical story of the Marriage at Cana, at which Jesus converts water to wine. And… there are dogs painted right in the center and one other dog with a gorgeous maroon head… on the left side:

I leave you now with a Maroon Haiku:

Of secret islands,
It transcended centuries
Boom! In my coffee.

maroons autumn’s chocolates maroons autumn’s chocolates