Travel Through Doors, Best of 2020

thursday doors, travel to Romania

Travel Through Doors and discover the best doors as seen in my 2020 Thursday Doors blog posts. Thursday Doors is a blog feature everyone can take part in, initiated by Norm who later presented the baton to Dan.

Dan has a Badge Idea contest for Thursday Doors running until 11:59 pm Thursday, December 31st (North American Eastern Time). Check his website for rules and maybe give it a try! The last image in this blog post is my entry.

Ans so it began, my journey around Europe (okay, mostly Romania) for Thursday Doors. We first traveled to Brasov, with The Church Door, a (very) short story:

Beth Israel Synagogue in Brasov and the story of a door...
Beth Israel Synagogue in Brasov

The Village Museum of Bucharest was next, with its carved wooden doors. We looked at a few and also at what their carved symbols mean:

Village Museum Bucharest, wood carvings, symbols and meaning
Village Museum Bucharest: a wood structure brought here all the way from the north of Romania, from Breaza, from a hamlet situated at a height of 1 200m together with an entire household that belonged to a family of huțulii (huțanii, hutsuls), an ethnic group living in the very NW of Romania with Dacians origins…

My all time favorite must be this 500 years old door from Corvin Castle who even made it through the great fire of 13 April 1854:

Corvin Castle, Romania, 500 years old door original
Corvin Castle, Romania, a 500 years old door

We looked at Corvin Castle’s Coat of Arms too and at two rather grand doors embellished with jambs, tympanum and pinnacles, and at a short history of door knockingfind it all here. And we returned in a second visit here.

And on we went to travel through doors with a guessing game! Bucharest or Paris?

guessing game, Bucharest or Paris?
guessing game, Bucharest or Paris?

Small shrines can often be found in Romania, build so that weary travelers can have a moment of peace, for thought, for prayer, for palliation. This is a shrine from Brasov, before reaching the Black Church as you would stroll down a winding road from Șcheii Brașovului:

The second image above reads: ‘This cross was raised in 1761 by Gh. (Gheorghe) Anania and restored in 1992.’

Our next travel stop was at a monastery built for peace, Snagov Monastery, where we looked at medieval plots and at revenge:

Paraclisul Manastirii Snagov and its full story
Paraclisul Manastirii Snagov and its full story

Snagov Monastery has seen a long an troubled past. Monks settled on Snagov Island, this snake shaped lake, during the times of Mircea the Elder, Mircea cel Batran, Vlad Dracula’s paternal grandfather and ruler of Wallachia during the 14th century.

Next we visited Brancoveanu Monastery at Sambata de Sus, a Romanian Orthodox monastery in Brașov County, in the Transylvania region of Romania, renowed for its white-washed walls. At the end of the 17th century Constantin Brâncoveanu, Prince of Wallachia, built a stone church (1688-1714) in place of an older wooden one:

Brancoveanu Monastery in Transylvania, built by a Wallachian Prince
Brancoveanu Monastery in Transylvania, built by a Wallachian Prince

If you wonder how a Wallachian Voievode built a monastery in a different principality, know that the hamlet and the land on which the monastery was built belonged to Preda Brâncoveanu, his grandfather. Who even built a small wooden church on it in 1654.

For a chilling stop we traveled next to Fagaras Castle to see its Iron Maiden, this symbol of medieval violence:

Iron Maiden of Fagaras Castle, symbol of medieval violence
Iron Maiden of Fagaras Castle, symbol of medieval violence

Bran Castle means many things to different people. To me, it is a door to heaven.
Legend says that the Doors to Heaven are here, in Bucegi Mountains, near Bran Pass and Ialomița Cave. That is you climb that peak on a clear winter night, you will be welcomed by a meadow underneath a dome of stars. And the doors to Heaven will be revealed to you. You will know it by their starry pillars, and by the energy that will seep into your bones:

carnations on a balcony, Bran Castle history, Thursday Doors
A romantic corner at Bran Castle- a secondary entrance from the Inner Bailey, a stone column and red carnations.

It was only fit to travel to a snowy place around the day of Saint Nicholas, December 6th, and we did so through a short story about Saint Nick and the meaning of the first snow in Sighisoara:

Sighisoara, the church on the hill and the meaning of the first snow and Saint Nicholas
Sighisoara, the church on the hill and the meaning of the first snow on Saint Nicholas

We said good bye and so long to 2020 with A Winter Story for Thursday Doors:

Sighisoara, face in door, Thursday doors
Sighisoara, a face in z door, for Thursday doors

Lastly, my suggestion for a Thursday Doors badge:

Thursday Doors - Around the World
Thursday Doors – Around the World

A Winter Story for Thursday Doors

winter story for Thursday Doors

This week for Thursday Doors I have included an edited extract from my WIP calling it Winter Story for Thursday Doors. The doors featured here are from Brasov, Romania.

🙂 For Dan’s Thursday Doors blog feature over at No Facilities – do visit and you can participate too by creating your own blog post celebrating a world of doors. 🙂

A Winter Story for Thursday Doors

“The little man shook hands. Left, then right. He introduced himself and bowed in turn, first towards the girl, then towards the boy.

The girl felt a wave of heat spreading over her cheeks and thanked the stars for the hat covering her ears. She stomped her feet and exhaled with force hoping that the steam will remind all that it’s the middle of winter, enough to explain her red face. She’d been so shallow to call the old man ‘a jacket cladding a dwarf’, while all he did was dragging his body along the street, each step a wrestle with the fresh snow.

Yet she hadn’t been that wrong, had she? She lowered her gaze, her eyes sweeping over the woolly coat standing in front of her. It covered everything from above the man’s ears to the ground. Its hem was trimmed with white from having being pushed and pulled along the snow-laden streets, while its collar was lifted and secured in place by a scarf so wide that it covered both nose and mouth. But a pair of smiling eyes met hers – had he seen her studying him? – proof that a human being did live inside that coat. The eyes and the shopping bag on wheels left half a meter behind, in front of an arched red entrance mirroring the one they had tried to gain access to, were her proof of life.

A Winter Story for Thursday Doors, Brasov
Doors from Brasov for Thursday Doors and a winter story

Once again that morning they found themselves in front of a metal gate with an arched top and a small door carved into it. Above it rose a centuries old stone building that offered little protection against the weather to anyone trying to get in.

The small man retrieved a set of keys and began searching for the right one, a slow job given his thick gloves that hid arthritic fingers. Behind him, the boy scanned the names on the building’s door buzzer. Three all together. He did a quick math: two windows per apartment. They must be tiny.

‘Do you know when your neighbors open for business?’ the boy was back and had bent his knees to stoop low near the short man, his voice echoing far in the narrow street. He’d spoken loud on purpose. Aren’t all old men kind of deaf? The girl pushed her hands hard into her pockets and looked at her feet, wishing she could hide in the snow, with her toes.

The little man held up a key, shaking it like a prize. ‘Found it!’ his eyes smiled left, then right.

Ignoring the snowdrift, the boy strode around the old man, aiming for his other ear. ‘Your neighbors,’ he called pointing across the road, and more steam poured from his mouth.

The old man kept smiling and nodding, waving his gloved hand left and right, the tip of the key sticking out like a present.

The boy pressed his hands against his hat and slowly pulled it over his face. The girl turned, her eyes lingering across the road. Her eyes, big like a child’s on Christmas morning when he finds no presents underneath the tree.

The old man made four small steps towards the red gate, then stopped. ‘Come, come,’ he called and his voice, although not loud, carried well. Yet the steam remained behind the scarf, trapped. ‘We’ll have tea, warm up and talk.’ Then he added, in a softer tone, ‘we’ll talk about my neighbors too,’ while his eyes narrowed on the girl, the way a grandfather would to sooth an upset child. And he smiled again, lifting his hand that still squeezed the shiny key, like a prize, while his other hand closed slowly on the handle of his bag on wheels. Yet the bag didn’t yield. The old man shook its handle in distress, as if now he was the child. The wheels held, frozen in the ice masked by fresh snow.

The boy jumped to the rescue and freed the shopping bag pulling it towards the red metal gate, his head tilted, astonished by its unexpected weight. And the girl followed.

The first thing that changed was the snow underfoot. It remained outside the red door as they crossed its threshold. On the other side ancient cobble stones paved the ground and their pattern opened in a half a circle, shaped like the vestibule that welcomed them. Rather large, so large.

As soon as the little door closed behind silence enveloped them, only the muffled echo of their footsteps resonating against the ancient walls. The space, wider than either of the visitors expected, was equally shared by the three families living in the building, as was the small Christmas tree placed in the middle and decorated with hand made paper snowflakes and tin stars.

The ozone rich air, too dry in the icy winter to carry any scents, fell in a strong embrace with the homely scents of Christmas. It smell of pine, and of wood, but above all of vanilla and cinnamon, the warm scents of freshly baked goodies, cozonac, sweet bread, summer’s sunshine trapped in winter.

A Winter Story for Thursday Doors, Brasov
Doors from Brasov for Thursday Doors and a winter story

The small man parked his trolley in what seemed to be his side of the hallway and busied with his bunch of keys again. So many, thought the boy, and only one to open the door to his apartment. The girl remained behind, frozen by the Christmas tree, her attention on one decoration in particular. A hedgehog fashioned out of slender paper cones trimmed with silver foil. A thin string was threaded through each cone pulling them together to shape a hedgehog. Googly eyes and a bead for a nose completed the face. He was white and silver, as if covered by snow.

‘I had one just like this when I was small,’ she said and her words lifted in surprise.

There was the noise of a key turning in the lock again and of a door swinging open. And they all went inside the old man’s home.’

© Patricia Furstenberg, WIP, ‘Snakes at Midnight’ (dual timeline, medieval and contemporary) – for which I am seeking representation.

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Bran Castle, a Historical Door Kept under Key for Centuries

Bran Castle history, Thursday Doors, history

Medieval Bran Castle, located at historical Bran Pass, is a fortress turned legend yet its door had been kept under key for centuries. Discover its story and doors, for Norm’s last Thursday Doors.

Legend says that the Doors to Heaven are here, in Bucegi Mountains, near Bran Pass and Ialomița Cave. That is you climb that peak on a clear winter night, you will be welcomed by a meadow underneath a dome of stars. And the doors to Heaven will be revealed to you. Do not fear missing them, for you will know it by their starry pillars, and by the energy that will seep into your bones.

Bran Castle, a Historical Door Kept under Key for Centuries -  looking up at its entrance
Looking up at its entrance

Bran Pass, a Door to Heaven

Guarded by Bucegi Mountains on the east and Piatra Craiului Highlands, Prince’s Stone, on the west, it is through Bran Pass that, ahead of wintertime, the Dacian shepherds took their flock from the forested mountains of Transylvania down to the warmer and lush hills of Arges County in search of the same endless meadows their forefathers knew. Plains bordered by sweet, unhurried streams.  And through the same pass they returned home before the heat of southern summers, bringing along a new generation of lambs, stories of people speaking a similar tongue, and the wisdom that’s the school of life.

Bran Castle, a Historical Door Kept under Key for Centuries. A door  to Heaven
Bran Castle, a balcony door opening towards Heaven

At a time when names such as Transylvania and Arges were not even the thought of a whisper.

And in same sweet brooks Romans quenched their thirst too. When they took to the mountains of Dacia, the Bucegi, sneaking also through Bran Pass, marching uphill and building a fort at Cumidava (Râsnov today). How many sandals did they tear to shreds on these stones, I wonder?  Later they chose to set a strong hand on Bran Pass, kept it under lock and key.

Wooden carved door at Bran Castle
Wooden carved door at Bran Castle

Bran, a wooden tower

And then, after Transylvania and its Vlach population fell under the stronghold of the Hungarian tribes and Hungary grew to the size of an empire under King Andrew II, Andrew of Jerusalem, it was here, at Brand Pass, that in 1212 Brother Dietrich of the Teutonic Order, with Pope’s explicit blessing, built a wooden sentry post. Bran Pass, known then as Dietrichstein or Toerzburg, became a buffer zone, the Teutonic knights holding the fort, protecting Transylvania’s Burzenland (today Brasov), thus Hungary, against the Cumans and their gruesome raids.

On the geopolitical chessboard, Bran Pass is the pawn holding a secret, that of being promoted. Bran Pass turns now from a bucolic trail into a military Avant-post.

Lovely wood floors and a wooden door near twin windows at Bran Castle
Lovely wood floors and a wooden door near twin windows at Bran Castle

Bran Castle, a state border made of stone

Following the 14th century expansion of the Hungarian Kingdom under Ludovic I of Anjou (the same Anjou family who built the initial Corvin Fortress on a former Roman camp), the privilege was granted to the inhabitants of Brasov to “freely and unforced but in good will, generously and unanimously promised to build a new stronghold in Bran, by themselves, by their own work, by their own money and clear the wood all around,” (The National Archives). It was a good deal for inhabitants of Brasov as their custom taxes have been considerably reduced. A  castle rose in five years due to the increased threat the Ottoman Empire embodied.

Yet Bran stronghold was still Magyar Royal Crown’s property.

Sunny balcony at Bran Castle, wooden finishing offering a soft finish to this old military stronghold
Sunny balcony at Bran Castle, wooden finishing offering a soft finish to this old military stronghold

Bran Stronghold Ruled by Wallachia

We are at the end of the 14th century and the Ottoman wave rises like a tsunami over the Balkans. Hungarian King Sigismund of Luxembourg (architect of the Order of the Dragon) closes ties with Wallachian Voivode Mircea the Elder, Mircea cel Bătrân, grandfather to Vlad Tepes, against the Turkish threat. As a token of his appreciation (or a well-thought plan) he gifts Bran stronghold to Wallachia around 1412. To protect against Turkish invasions, the custom being moved back to Brasov.

Yet Sigismund took back Bran stronghold only fourteen years later, due to economic and military reasons ,and returned it to the citadel of Brasov who held it until the roaring twenties, 1920.

Bran Castle, A Royal Residence

Bran Castle, a Historical Door Kept under Key for Centuries, a heart engraved on a door for Queen Maria
Bran Castle, a Historical Door Kept under Key for Centuries, a heart for Queen Maria

At the end of World War I the Treaty of Trianon finally recognises Transylvania as a non-Hungarian region, reconciling it with Romania.

December 1st, 1920: “We, the members of the Town Council of Brasov – as it is mentioned in the deed of gift – … grant the ancient Bran castle, historically meaningful, to Her Majesty Queen Maria of the Unified Romania.” Queen Maria left Bran Castle to her beloved daughter, Princess Ileana.

Bran Castle- a secondary entrance from the Inner Bailey, a stone column and red carnations.
A romantic corner at Bran Castle- a secondary entrance from the Inner Bailey, a stone column and red carnations.

Sadly, in 1948 Princess Ileana was forced to leave Bran, the castle seized by the communist regime and introduced in Romania’s national patrimony.

Bran Castle, glass and wooden door. Closed. Saying goodbye.
Bran Castle, a stained glass and wooden door that we closed behind us. Saying goodbye.

We were lucky to have visited Bran Castle a few times, yet I am looking forward to seeing it again. It is an intimate fortress, one feels welcomed inside it, a dreamer, a princess, a soldier – at home.

Why You Must Have Transylvania on Your Holiday Destinations List

why you must have Transylvania on your holiday list

Watching over Romania, coming from eternity and traveling into history, echoing of a famous past, Transylvania belongs on any holiday destination list, be it that of a family, of a solitary traveler, or of an adventurous historian buff. National Geographic said it, and here’s exactly why you must visit Transylvania.

Why You Must Have Transylvania on Your Holiday Destinations List

Where should one start when visiting Transylvania? With its medieval cities? Its spectacular fortresses and enchanting castles? Its white or black churches? In search of Dracula, or better Vlad Țepeș, the Impaler? Admiring local art and folklore, perhaps? Or better getting lost in its secular forests? Find it the stories here, on my blog.

Cities of Transylvania for your Holiday List

Put Brașov on your holiday list

One would say, begin with the charming Brașov, an 800 years old city that will bewitch you with the charm of its eclectic architecture, its narrow, winding streets, and the picturesque surroundings that spiral all the way to the top of Tâmpa Mountain.

If you’re not feeling sporty, just let your feet wonder around its maze of streets and admire centuries old doors or slowly climb up to Șcheii Brașovului and learn its history, which began during the 14th century when the Black Church of Brașov started.

Why You Must Have Transylvania on Your Holiday Destinations List, Brasov, Scheii

There is so much to take in while in Brașov. Do remember to look up.

Why You Must Have Transylvania on Your Holiday Destinations List, Brasov, Strada Sforii, Rope Street
Looking up in Brasov, on the very narrow and ancient Rope Street, Strada Sforii

Medieval Sighișoara, a city from Transylvania that you must visit each season

If you journey through Transylvania, ‘the land across the forest’, (searching for Vlad Tepes, Vlad the Impaler or Dracula) and head towards Brasov along the banks of the Big Tarnava River, you will surely spot from quite afar the pointy towers of medieval Sighisoara City, with its centuries old fortress and churches. We traveled there by train one winter.

Once in Sighișoara you simply cannot miss it, the Clock Tower will be the first to welcome you on your journey.

Yes, visiting the house where Vlad the Impaler was born (and discovering its secret entrance) will be next on your list. But there is so much more to medieval Sighișoara, such as the medieval horns adorning one of Sighisoara’s oldest houses, or climbing a medieval staircase to Sighisoara’s hill for more amazing winter scenes and photos.

The significance of Sighisoara City? Discover it beyond its gray rampant walls shadowed by a tumultuous history, by remembering its Saxon merchants and shepherds, as well as its prominent, Draculesti leaders (Vlad the Impaler and his father before him. A journey through the medieval city of Sighisoara is sure to unravel the fortress’ high status. To it contributed its ideal location, at crossroad between Moldavia and Wallachia, and East and Western Europe.

Castles, Fortresses, and Churches of Transylvania that You simply Must See

Făgăraş Castle, Transylvania

In the vicinity of Brașov lies the rocky walls of Făgăraş Castle. The initial fortification was raised with the secular fir trees from its adjacent forests, going back to 12th century. Within its walls, rocking the modern perceptions of the Middle Ages, is the Iron Maiden of Făgăraş Castle.

Engraving of the Făgăraș Citadel by Ludwig Rohbock (~1883)

Did you know that traditionally, the duchies of Almaș and Făgăraş were fiefs of Wallachian prince. Yet John Hunyadi, appointed the Voievode of Transylvania at that time (as Transylvania, although a Romanian county today, was part of the Kingdom of Hungary during he Middle Ages to say the least) seized them. Hunyadi gave Almaș to the citizens of Sibiu and kept Făgăraş for himself. And he knew exactly why.

Brâncoveanu Monastery at Sâmbăta de Sus, a must see in Transylvania

Allow your mind be transported in a time of peace and tranquility within the pure walls of Brâncoveanu Monastery at Sâmbăta de Sus.

If you wonder how a Wallachian Voievode built a monastery in a different principality, know that the hamlet and the land on which the monastery was built belonged to Preda Brâncoveanu, his grandfather. Who even built a small wooden church on it in 1654.

Part of Brâncoveanu’s motivation behind rising this monastery was to strengthen the Orthodox presence in the region at a time when Catholicism rose together with the Habsburg domination over Transylvania (who had just escaped Calvinism). Brâncoveanu wanted to leave a legacy to the Christian religion of Romanians on both sides of the Carpathian mountains (Transylvania and Wallachia).

Corvin Castle, Hunyadi Castle or Hunedoara Castle, Transylvania

If you ever wondered how a 15th century wooden door that survived four massive fires that engulfed almost everything else looks like, then you must set a day aside to visit Corvin Castle.

If you like jambs, recesses, and coat of arms, then you will love Corvin Castle and as soon as you will leave you will find yourself planning a return visit. Built over a few hundred years, with so many ups and downs stairs that it is a 3D giant maze, one will surely admire here Gothic stone door frames of the original fortress.

Watching over Romania, coming from eternity, echoing of a famous past, Transylvania belongs on any holiday destination list. Here is why.

To visit Corvin Castle we traveled by train from Bucharest to Brasov for a night over and allowed an entire day only to visit Corvin Castle. We couldn’t have done it without the amazing support and advise of Mr Cornel and Mrs Cristina, the owners of Guesthouse Casa Cristina in Brasov, always welcoming, offering the same top accommodation and a hearty breakfast for the past ten years that we’ve been visiting them (this endorsement is not backed by any financial gain).

Did you know that Corvin Castle was featured in numerous movies?

Folktales and Art of Transylvania to take in during your holiday

It is said in local folktales ~ whispered on moonlit nights ~ that if you glance straight into its shimmering rivers, and long enough that their brightness still flashing behind your closed eyelids, then the fairies, or charmstresses, ielele, as they are known in the sweet Romanian language, have put a spell on you. Watch out, for they might lure you into Transylvania’s millennial and magical forests.

‘Blessed, alluring IELELE,
Mistresses of breeze,
Ladies of the earth and mist,
Through the air you rise,
On the grass you slide,
And on waves you glide.’

Translated from Romanian folklore by Patricia Furstenberg

Wood carving in Transylvania, as everywhere in Romania, often tells a story before becoming art. Worth mentioning is the Folk-Art ~ Romanian Symbols: when carving in wood, the Romanian folk artists puts a lot of thought. Each carving tells a story, some symbols are for protection, others to remember them of the families left behind:

A cross is for protection.
A cross in a circle symbolizes God.
A circle is for eternity, a dot for perfection.
A diamond represents the woman.

Visit Transylvania online, from the safety of your armchair, right now

You can travel to Romania and Transylvania right now via amazing photos because Romania is a country that deserves to be seen. Not many know, but its brave people have watched over the central and western Europe for centuries, acting like a breathing barrier against the Ottoman and Russian powers. Come on over.

Time stands still in Romania. Embrace it, for Transylvania has been known from Prehistory and all the way to Roman Dacia ~ do take kindly to it.

See the kneeling of the twilight,
Hear the hesitation of a footstep at dawn,
Admire old landscapes,
Growing young with the joy they give.
A light that calls
Through history,
Stories that perpetuate,
For each one of us
Is a facet of their reflection.

© Patricia Furstenberg

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A Halloween Game 13 Questions & Answers

A Halloween Game 13 Questions & Answers

The idea behind A Halloween Game 13 Questions & Answers is to have some fun. 🙂

First read each question and attempt to answer it, then, too see the answer:

* scroll with your mouse over the image – if you view from a PC
** select the image (tap and hold to select) – if you view from a mobile device.

1. What is the name of the Celtic harvest festival that many people believe Halloween is based on?

A Halloween Game: 13 Questions & Answers. halloween toothless pumpkin haiku

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2. What fruit would you go for, bobbing at Halloween?

A Halloween Game: 13 Questions & Answers 
What fruit would you go bobbing for at Halloween?

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3. Count Dracula is based on a real person. What was his name?

A Halloween Game: 13 Questions & Answers, Vlad Dracula, Romanian Voievode also known as Vlad Tepes, Vlad the Impaler

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4. Where is Transylvania located?

A Halloween Game: 13 Questions & Answers - Transylvania, Romania

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5. What was Bram Stoker’s original name for Dracula?

A Halloween Game: 13 Questions & Answers, Halloween haiku, bats goblins

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6. What is a group of witches called?

A Halloween Game: 13 Questions & Answers. A group of witches called a coven

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7. In which town of medieval Transylvania were witches executed?

A Halloween Game: 13 Questions & Answers, Strada Sforii, Rope Street, Brasov, wehre witches were executed during the Middle Ages

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8. What is the day after Halloween called?

A Halloween Game: 13 Questions & Answers

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9. Which countries traditionally celebrate The Day of the Dead instead of Halloween?

A Halloween Game: 13 Questions & Answers. Celebrating All Saints Day instead of Halloween, Romania

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10. What do we call the fear of, or the Halloween phobia?

A Halloween Game: 13 Questions & Answers. What do you call a fear of Halloween?
black and white square moon photo

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11. What does the word “Hallow” means in old English?

A Halloween Game: 13 Questions & Answers. What does the old English word “Hallow” mean?

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12. Why did Victorians put bells above the graves, attached to a string that reached inside the coffin?

A Halloween Game: 13 Questions & Answers, Why did Victorians put bells in their coffins?

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13. What do you call a ghost that moves objects around the house?

What do you call a ghost that moves things around your house?

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I hope you found A Halloween Game 13 Questions & Answers fun!
What about you? Do you know any Hallowe’en questions for me?
Write them in comments below and I’ll answer to the best of my knowledge 🙂

Christmas Haiku
Christmas Haiku

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