A Tall House, a Banknote, and a Legend on Fire for Thursday Doors

A Tall House, a Banknote, and a Legend on Fire

This tall house, a lookalike of the one depicted on the 10 Lei Romanian Banknote, comes with a legend about a fire, and about how three villages came to be.

The Tall House of Chiojdu Mic

The tall house we admired at the Village Museum of Bucharest is from Chiojdu Mic village (Little Chiojdu), Buzău County in the historical province of Muntenia, Romania. Muntenia (or Greater Wallachia, or Valachi, or Țara Românească) – where Vlad the Impaler ruled – is the southern part of Romania, where the capital city of Bucharest is also found. I was born in Bucharest, so you can say I’m a girl from Muntenia, a munteancă.

The household above is from the 18th century.

The living quarters (usually two rooms) are all on the first floor, the river-rock foundation is meant for a cool cellars, where fruits are kept throughout winter, as well as the many barrels with țuică (tzuica, a traditional Romanian spirit, 24–65% alcohol by volume, and prepared only from plums.

The four-sided roof is also characteristic for this area. It is made from fir-tree wood, and these traditional wooden roof-tiles are called şiţă in Romanian, and are arranged like fish scales.

You can see a similar house on the 10 Lei Romanian Banknote:

A Tall House, a Banknote, and a Legend on Fire
A Tall House, a Banknote, and a Legend on Fire

The Legend on a Great Fire and of How a Village Came to be

It was a time when kings grew their empires, and people grew their crops. The Kings with golden crowns and ermine capes of the west, or kings with glass beads and marmot furs of the east – they all dreamed the same fantasy. It was the people, whose hands bled, and whose children needed feeding, who dreamed of nothing else but of a roof over their heads.

That day, when apples were in bloom and farmers blessed their lambs, the army on fast horses, the army with limbs of maces and daggers, with slanted eyes and harsh goat leggings, attacked again. Their lances took without asking. Their torches fed without concern. And what they couldn’t take, they tore apart.

After their retreat, the fire burned for three days. A sprinkle of survivors sat about, waiting. Waiting to mourn and bury their families. Chiojd was one of them. A rich man that very morning, and not my his household, and his sheep, and his grains in the barn, but by the love of his wife and the smiles of his children.

When the last cross went up, Chiojd knew he’d buried his last hope. He turned his back on the ashen shadow of their village and, without looking back, he left. A pup at his heel.

It is said that Chiojd left Transylvania behind and wandered for an entire summer. His feet carried him, his eyes looking without seeing. The pup, now taller, still at his heel.

Until one day when he his feet stopped.

Ahead, sweet hills followed one another. Trees dressed in tender yellows, and hushed reds grew around gentle streams – so unlike the nature he’d known all his life. There, Chiojd build a new home. With time, a new wife appeared in his life. And three children, Big Chiojdu, Little Chiojdu and the girl, Chojdeanca, who later went to found three new villages: Starchiojd, Chiojdu and Chojdeanca.

The big doors to the cellar

Fire, a 100-Word Story

I am Life.
Contended faces surround me. They need me. Eager hands grab at my elusive energy as I pull away, then withdraw as I boldly approach them. I laugh, and I kindle the spirits around me, light the stars above. They are but my echo.
I am Power.
My vitality creates all that I see; I am but the sun on this earth. I cook their meals, melt their iron. I, I keep them alive and warm. While feeding myself. Just take what I fancy. Stretch, expand myself out of proportions, as my hunger grows.
I am their Death.

A tiny door to the cellar
thursday doors, 100 words story

For Thursday Doors weekly event over on Dan Antion’s lovely blog, No Facilities.

Transylvania’s History A to Z: 100 Word Stories

NEW RELEASE:
(click on the book)

A – Z, 100-Wors Stories are inspired by Transylvania’s history, from the Paleolithic Period to WW1
Each 100 Words Story is followed by a brief historical reference.

Bigăr Waterfall, Romania, a Legend of Love and Collapse

Bigar waterfall legend love collapse

Bigăr Waterfall, the Princess of Banat Mountains in Romania, was born out of a legend about love and collapse.

Bigăr Waterfall, a Legend of Love

It was a time of joys and of tears, a time when tomorrow could bring death or peace – and for either one they would have been grateful – therefor only today mattered. Tomorrow was given to the gods, yesterday belonged to the dead, and only today was theirs.

Such were the believes of the people of Almăj Country, a land nestled in the palm of three mountains, and washed by the springs of Nera River that bordered many lands, seen and unseen.

One such young family, especially, lived by the laws of nature, and the spiritual beliefs of their clan. It’s been the way it’s always been done. Only that… only that it hasn’t worked for them, not fully. And although they did not want to show remorse, they did. And although they did not want to feel envy, they did.

For one thing, and one thing alone missed from this life they shared. And it wasn’t something that the husband could have crafted, like a roof over their heads or a bed to rest on. Nor was it something the wife could have done to warm up their backs, or their bellies.

They had no child. No child to smile over, or worry over; no child to hold, or to feed, no child whose future to wish for.

Of course they tried everything they knew, and everything they’ve been advised – and everyone knew something! She even ate apples, and lots of them, but stayed clear of Morning Glory brews…. It still didn’t work. Until one night, one night when she dreamed, or so she thought… perhaps she was awake and only thought she’d been dreaming for it’s been such an extraordinary encounter, that scared her, but filled her with hope too… Until one night when a witch whispered in her ear what to do to have a child.

It was a simple thing, such an easy thing to do. She felt her heart soaring when she woke up in the morning to a bright, sunny day, and she was laughing and almost singing when she was telling her husband all about it, while packing a few things for the road.

‘ A drink,’ she smiled, ‘just a sip of sweet water from the spring.’

His eyebrows jumped, and his eye flew out the window.

‘From its source, where it’s the sweetest. And find it I must. At the border between lands.’

He thought he knew, for Nera River bordered their country and the Serbian land to the south. A mere day’s walk. And he smiled back.

‘Inwards, I must go,’ she said taking the sheep skin they kept for winter, ‘and follow the path through the caves.’

He frowned, then picked up the pig fat they used for candle making, and the hollow reeds, intend to join her. They’ll need light.

‘Alone,’ she smiled and hugged him and before he knew it she was out the door, jumping down the path. To hide her tears. For what she hasn’t shared with him. For if a girl was born, she could never fall in love and know the love they shared, or she will die.

She found the spring, hidden at the end of a black and frigid cave. She found it and, giddy with joy, she pushed at the back of her mind the dreary seed of a memory from a dream she’d had the night before, a dream that brought her immense hope, but also chilled her. For she’d chosen to remember only the good.

She found the spring and she drank. Forgetting about the chill from the dream. Forgetting that she was at the border between worlds… Then she returned, and happy were they for, in due course, they were blessed with a child.

A girl.

And they were now a family like any other family of their clan, while years passed, and their daughter grew. Beautiful and sweet, and surely smart too.

And nature’s law took its course, and she fell in love with a boy named Bigar. And the mother cried, and cried, and she cried some more, then told the father about the witch’s warning. So the father, who was a do-er, took their daughter by the hand, took sheep skins and food, and all he could carry, and into the cave they disappeared. The only place he knew of that was secret to the world. The only place he dared hide his daughter. To save her life.

The girl bargained, and promised, and cried. In vain.
What else could the father do? What else could the mother do now?
If they could just keep her safe till she forgot all about Bigar, and Bigar forgot all about her.
Yet the girl cried some more, and no one heard her. No one but the witch, who lived deeper still, and not on this world, but in the other world, the Land of Regained Longing.

Had the witch smiled? We don’t know. Perhaps she shed a tear at the parent’s pain and at the girl’s turmoil. She must have, for she cast a spell to ease the maiden’s sorrow.

Just like that, the girl’s long hair turned into a waterfall and her tears, instead of staining her plump cheeks, rolled outwards, till they pilled down the mountain slope and filled the valley nestled below. A waterfall weaved out of crystal-clear tears, weaved together with a fine thread of silk.

Legend says that Bigar heard of the miraculous waterfall, came to see it, but all he could hear in the falling water were his girl’s sobs. He thought she was below, he leaned to see her and collapsed to his death.

Yet they were reunited, in the Land of Regained Longing.

Copyright © Patricia Furstenberg. All Rights Reserved.

Bigăr Waterfall, Romania, a Legend of Love and Collapse
Bigăr Waterfall, Romania, Photo by Flori & Nicu Farcaș for Wikimeadia

Sadly, a part of Bigăr Waterfall collapsed on Monday, 7 June:

Built of calcareous stone, part of the waterfall – its pyramidal protrusion dressed in moss and hanging delicately like a wedding veil – collapsed under the weight of accumulated moss and rock formation debris.

Between seven and eight meters tall, the Bigăr Waterfall tells the story of a strong spring, Izbucul Bigăr how the locals fondly call it, that pours from the innards of the mountains, crosses a cave and spills outwards in Miniş River.

In 2013 World Geography website included Bigăr Waterfall on its Eight Unique Waterfalls around the World list.
The 45th parallel north crosses Romania in the vicinity of Bigăr Waterfall.

~~~

With great thanks to my husband who brought the latest news concerning the Bigăr Waterfall to my attention 🙂

As always, you can find all my books on Amazon.

The DOG and his Reflection, a fable

dog reflection bone story

Dogs must be the most unselfish creatures on earth, yet The Dog and his Reflection is a fable about a foolish, greedy mutt who was not content with what he already had – and that sounds familiar…

The DOG and his Reflection, a fable retold

Once upon a time there lived a stray dog. Now stray dogs have been around ever since man befriended the wolf, and turned him into a pet… But that is another story.

This stray dog is important because he made it on his own for many moons, while keeping his tail intact, thus long enough for him to become the hero of his own tale.

So, a stray dog with grey, shaggy fur, a rather scruffy tail – for he always got into fights – and bright, grey eyes (perhaps a dull color for some, but his just sparked with wit and a bit of mischief too), such a dog was hurrying home one day.

There was a bounce in his step and his tail was held high and it was wagging, his ears were pricked, and he was in a big hurry for he had just won a prize. That’s how he felt, for the butcher had thrown him a bone. Out of compassion, and fondness too for the shaggy, familiar dog. The butcher was a chatty, friendly fellow, and that morning he had just got a good deal from the farmer, see?

Now our dog, the stray dog, stepped so quick along the path that his paws seem to not even touch the ground. Ah, he felt so energized, the stray dog did (although he could feel his tummy sticking to his ribs), for he couldn’t wait to get home already and enjoy his prized possession. Besides, he was already drooling, the tasty bone sending such an alluring aroma into his quivering nostrils.

His home was by a pile of logs and brambles, on the outskirts of the village. A thick tree grew nearby too, so he had shelter from rain and wind, and a stream gurgled up from the ground too, so he had fresh water. What more could a young dog like him ask for?

Image by Gleb Albovsky, Unsplash

There, there was his home, he thought while peeking ahead between two stray tufts from his eyebrows. All that was left was for him to cross the bridge. And on he went, bouncing and drooling, ah, the scent of his bone!

As he made his way across the narrow bridge the dog happened to catch a glimpse into the water below. What do you expect, it was a bright, sunny day and the pond gleamed in the sunshine. Its sparks just caught his eye.

Hello…

So he slowed down to get a better look, the water as clear as a mirror. And what he saw in the water? What? But another dog! How! Carrying a bone! Really so?

Really?

Grrr… half-growled our dog, for his mouth was occupied with his juicy bone, yet his eyes narrowed. Grrrrrrrr, he growled again at the dog he spotted bellow and his fur stuck up on his neck, some drool dripping onto the bridge boards.

While the dog bellow appeared to growl back! Guarding his bone, a much bigger bone…

Is that so, thought our shaggy mutt, his eye now as big as two (empty) saucers.

Our rough dog whose tummy was growling quite loud by now broke to a halt on the bridge and dropped his bone, its heavenly scent still strong in his nose for bits of meat had stuck to his unkempt fur.

If he had only made it home, as his initial plan had been…. If he had only kept its pace across the bridge… It he had only stopped to think first, he would have been far better off.

If only…

But instead of thinking the greedy dog abandoned his tasty, juicy bone he looked forward to eating and pounced at the dog in the river. He jumped right in, mouth open to capture the bigger bone and make it his. Just because!

All he got was himself in the water, swimming around like mad and biting emptiness, fleeting water, while his bone, the real one, rolled on the other side of the bridge and was soon gone with a very soft plonk.

The shaggy and very drenched dog, albeit in a lighter shade of gray, eventually swam to shore, exhausted. After he managed to scramble out, and as he stood miserably – and quite hungry – thinking about the good bone he had lost, of which nothing was left, not even the scent caught in his woolly fur – finally realized what a silly and greedy dog he had been. And learned a lesson, we hope.

~~~

Read more like this in:

the chimp and the dog picture book

When two animals with different looks meet at a waterhole they don’t think twice about how different they are… in height, color, fur, shape of face or size of tummy… they become friends.
The Chimp and the Dog.

Bear And Travelers, A Killer Fable On Bare Friendship

Bear And Travelers, A Killer Fable On Bare Friendship

If you ever plan on going in a journey, make sure you do so with true friends, warns us ‘The Bear and the Travelers’, a timeless fable here retold for its killer advice on always considering the bare bones of a friendship.

The Bear and the Travelers, a fable

Once upon a time, when wild animals roamed the forests in peace and people mostly kept to their villages and, when forced to travel, they did so only by horse, donkey or cart… once upon a time two lads, still wet behind their ears but eager to see the world, decided to travel together. They were good friends, they could swear by it, so they started their journey relying on one another – for fun, for encouragement, and for safety.

The path ahead appeared clear, bordered by grass and flowers, winding only near streams and shady trees. It felt soft to step on it.

The two young men were merry, their journey easy. Chatting and laughing, not noticing when the path had turned narrow, stony, and that in places only one traveler at a time could step ahead. Yet they joked still, laughed, and took turns to go first. Here and there now stood a lone tree with little shade, but mostly shrubs by now.

And the path had turned hard and felt stony underfoot. Didn’t matter, for they were two at it, two friends.

Soon enough they entered the forest; dark, cool, and quiet. So quiet, that even the lads – although happy for its shade – had stopped laughing, and they had stopped chatting too. They just looked around, listened to tiny noises. What was that? A branch snapping underneath their foot? Or something else… What? Where? And they kept near one another.

They had only taken a few steps inside the shady wood when, all of a sudden, a huge bear fell on them. Jumping out of nowhere, crashing branches with his strong arms, scratching off the tree bark with his sharp, long claws. Roaring that it echoed to the end of the forest, and back again.

Bear And Travelers, A Killer Fable On Bare Friendship

‘Grrrr!’

And louder.

‘Grrrrrr!!’

The lads froze. At first. Then one of the boys, thinking first and foremost of his own safety, climbed the nearest tree. And before he knew it, before the bear could even spot him, he was up, as agile as a monkey.

And just as shameful. He did not look for his friend, left on the ground.

The second boy, not as good at climbing trees for this is not part of the human nature, found himself standing alone to face the fierce black, furry giant. For this is how the bear appeared to him, waving his forearms, shaking his head, and growling, ‘grrrr,’ spit landing everywhere. Even on the boy’s cheek. Yet he dare not wipe it off. He dare not move a muscle.

If he could have stopped his heart from beating, he would have gladly done so.

For what else could he do? When he suddenly remembered his grandfather’s advice: not to look the beast into the eyes, but to fall to the ground and lay still. As if dead. ‘For bears,’ he could still hear his grandfather’s low voice, and he could still see his eyes sparkling from behind bushy, grey eyebrows, ‘for bears are not clever beasts, although they might look fierce. And they are might strong. But clever, they are not, and can easily be tricked.’

So the second boy let himself drop to the ground where tried his best to lie very still. As if dead.

‘For bears are not scavengers. They do not feast on dead animals,’ his grandfather had said next.

Once again, his grandfather’s words proved golden for the bear ceased growling, fell on all four legs, and looked at the hip of a boy on the ground. He turned his head left, then right, then took a step forward – making sure he’s not too close either (big animals are not as brave as they seem, you know?) – and from a safe distance sniffed at the boy. Then the bear took another step – the boy could hear all this, although his eyes were closed tight – sniffed again and, appearing convinced that a dead body indeed lay in front of him, turned away slowly, for he was a heavy bear who took his time, and walked away.

The forest closed behind the bear, and soon all was silent. None of the boys dare speak and they stood like that, one up in the tree, the other flat on the ground, until they heard the first bird song. And knew all was safe.

The first boy, the one that had climbed the tree, was the first to jump to the ground.

He looked around, listening, his heart hammering in his ears, ready to climb back up should the bear return.

Finally, he turned to his friend who was just brushing the leaves off his clothes. He did not ask him how he was, nor did he explained his rushed and coward gesture. Instead, he laughed, yet not staring his friend in the eyes.

‘Say, that was some bear! Chatty too. It looked as if he whispered something in your ear. What was it?’

The second boy had just finished patting himself all over and was now adjusting his travel bag. Only when he was done did he caught his friend’s shifty stare and smiled.

‘The bear said that it was most ill-advised of me to travel with someone who is a friend just by name, but not by his deeds, for, look, he had deserted me at the first moment of danger.’

Moral of the story:

Mishap is the test of true friendship.

The BLT, the Bear, the Lion and the Tiger

The BLT, the Bear, the Lion and the Tiger is a picture book inspired by true life events, the real friendship between a BEAR, a LION and a TIGER.

Read more fables and animal stories on my blog here.

Table Mountain and the Legend of the Querulous Giant who Blasted the Cape Sea Route Free

Table Mountain Cape Sea Route

For nearly four centuries the Giant of Table Mountain watched over the only Cape Sea Route connecting the Mediterranean Sea, past Cape Town, South Africa, with the Indian Ocean.

Table Mountain and the Legend of the Querulous Giant Adamastor

Ancient Greece was not only a time where culture and philosophy flourished but a time of great tales too. Such were the Greek Myths, stories about gods, goddesses, and their daily rituals. According to the ancient Greeks, Uranus, meaning sky or heaven, was their greatest god, and his wife was Gaea, or Gaia, meaning land, or earth. Uranus and Gaia had many children, some being the twelve Titans who ruled the earth. One of the Titans was Cronus, who later fathered Zeus…

Zeus, eventually, with the aid of two of his brothers, Poseidon and Hades, won the war against the Titans – which were rather tyrannical uncles – and banished them to three places around the world. One such place was the dark and gloomy underworld of Tartarus. The second place was a British Island in the far west, probably the Outer Hebrides, or the Island of Strangers, or even Western Isles, in Scotland. The third place, where poor, old Adamastor was imprisoned, was situated at the southern end of the world,  at Table Mountain.

Although… Adamastor appears to be a mythological character created much later, and by the Portuguese poet Luís Vaz de Camões who lived in the 16th century and is, to this day, considered the Portuguese language’s greatest poet. Still, let’s hear his account as it explains superbly how the Cape of Storms, or Cape of Good Hope, near the southern tip of the Cape Peninsula (located in today’s Western Cape province of South Africa), received its name.

So, back to Adamastor, restricted under Table Mountain…

After a few hundred years of being locked away Adamastor was feelings rather bored. There he was, a strong giant once leading a busy life, now confined to a small stony place covered with shrubs and fynbos… not even mighty trees! So Adamastor, to give some purpose to his days, decided to take action and do something good: protect! Yet guard not only the area where he’s been locked up but the entire continent of Africa.

Table Mountain Cape Sea Route, Departure of fleet from Lisbon harbor by Theodor de Bry, 1592
Departure of fleet from Lisbon harbor by Theodor de Bry, 1592

This was around the time when the Portuguese navigators first sailed along the west coast of Africa all the way down… and Adamastor saw them arriving, out of the corner of his eye. He grunted but said nothing, did nothing, just kept an eye on them as one would with naughty children. Waiting for the navigators to do something wrong, and knowing well that they will. The Portuguese sailed on; busy on their route that took them for the first time through these foreign seas, further south they floated, approaching the southernmost tip of Africa. Adamastor said nothing, again, but grunted, rumbled and crossed his arms, I am watching you, and a strong wind swelled the Atlantic Ocean. Still, the navigators kept sailing on, their sails swelling with the gale, their ships angled. When they eventually attempted to approach the land, for fresh water, fresh fruits and maybe some eggs too, Adamastor had had it. He coughed and he puffed so much, that the waters of the Atlantic AND the Indian Ocean swelled, especially along the line where they meet, by the southernmost tip of Africa.

So Bartolomeu Dias, the first Portuguese sailor to attempt sailing down the west coast of Africa, around its tip and up its east coast, towards India – to buy the precious spices (ginger, black pepper, nutmeg, clover – the great Bartolomeu Dias dared not sail further, but turned back his ships and set his compass to home.

It was but a few years later when another Portuguese navigator, Vasco da Gama, showed no fear. He had seen the storm approaching, so he thought, really hard, what he can do next. He weighed his options. Run for cover, or head out to open water for some sea room? If he ran for cover, the preferred choice, the danger lied in being caught in the storm closer to shore, with no room to maneuver or runoff. Smashed against the rocky shored he could end. But if he sailed away, towards the open ocean, he could very well sail towards the middle of the storm.

So when Adamastor raised the winds, Vasco da Gama lowered his sails. When Adamastor swelled the waves, da Gama kept speeding on, aiming for flat spots of sea between the giant breakers, all the time making sure he kept the land to his left, staying on his initial course of rounding the Cape.

Da Gama did a great battle with Adamastor. Storm after storm Adamastor threw at the Portuguese ships, terrifying the sailors who were already scared for they had reached the dreaded Cape of Storms and were nearing the place where Dias had given up. And although his sailors were ready to cut a deal bargain with Adamastor, Da Gama wanted to prove that he was not Dias, and he was not superstitious either.

Table Mountain Cape Sea Route, Cape Point, southernmost tip of Africa
Cape Point, southernmost tip of Africa, photo by Clayton Cardinalli, Unsplash

But Da Gama was clever, not only brave and stubborn. He promised Adamastor a better name for his southernmost rocky spot, one that will bring more visitors over, thus increasing Adamastor’s kingdom. He shall name it the Cape of Good Hope.

Finally, a deal was struck and Da Gama sailed past and reached India, thus establishing the first sailing route there from Europe, the Cape Sea Route. And Adamastor got his large kingdom, to protect.

The Cape Sea Route below Table Mountain after the Suez Canal opened

The Cape Sea Route was in high demand until 1869 when the opening of the Suez Canal provided a much shorter route from the Mediterranean Sea to the Indian Ocean, thus rendering the long trip around Africa inefficient… Until the Ever Given cargo ship, a 400 meters long Megaship, got stuck in the Suez Canal due to strong winds (perhaps it was Adamastor?) and a sandstorm and blocked the Suez Canal in Egypt, when it ran aground diagonally on March 23rd 2021.

Etymology: The name Adamastor is an adaptation in Portuguese of the Greek word for “Untamed” or “Untameable” (Adamastos) (which the Portuguese did tame eventually).

Fynbos, a small belt of natural shrub-land or heath-land vegetation located in the Western Cape and Eastern Cape provinces of South Africa.

I hope you enjoyed my tale about Table Mountain and the Legend of the Querulous Giant who Blasted the Cape Sea Route Free.

Discover more legends and read about Cape Town and about a beloved Great Dane, the first dog to be enlisted in the Royal Navy during World War Two, in my book Joyful Trouble (available as an eBook, paperback, large print and hardcover).

Joyful Trouble, military dog WW2 novel