Welcome to the COVER REVEAL for Transylvania’s History, 100-Word Stories and Photos and Giveaway!
Many of you may remember the 100-word stories I started publishing on this blog. The idea came to mind to finish the A to Z series inspired by snippets from Transylvania’s history and, together with snapshots from my travels, to publish them in a book.
In Transylvania’s History A to Z, a collection of 100-word stories sprinkled with breathtaking photographs, Patricia Furstenberg uses the confining rules of the 100-word story form to stirringly capture Transylvania, Romania’s historical and geographical region.
Transylvania’s unspoiled natural beauty, its tumultuous history, and the people who touched it are depicted in this book. Written as snapshots, tall tales, and descriptive narratives, these 100-word stories are the espresso of creative writing.
The unique beauty of a 100-word story is in the way the words are strung together, each one a gem, and in the spaces left between the words, and between the sentences. So much can be told, with little words. It is a challenge for the writer, and a thrill for the reader, as each time the tale is read, a new detail springs to mind.
I promised you a humorous legend, this one’s from Țara Bârsei (Burzenland in German or Barcaság in Hungarian), where Brașov and Bran Castle are located.
Țara Bârsei received its name from Bârsa River that runs through it. Bârsă is an ancient word of Dacian origin and it is a part of a plow. This area of south-eastern Transylvania and Carpathians and inhabited by Romanian tribes was donated by King Andrew II of Hungary to the Teutonic Knights invited here during the 12th – 13th centuries to defend the eastern-most borders of the growing Hungarian Empire.
During the following centuries and until today Romanians, Hungarians and German Saxons cohabited here, in Țara Bârsei.
Know that Bran Pass – with Bran Castle nearby – is the narrow mountain pass that allows access from Wallachia, located in the south of today’s romania, to Țara Bârsei and Transylvania.
The right tributary of Bârsa River is Turcu River and it runs past Bran Castle.
A Humorous Legend from Țara Bârsei
It was a hot spring day, the sun blazing for spring, yet the forest shade too cool for summer. A man from Burzenland was heading towards Bran Pass and further south, to Wallachia. His cart was filled with weapons manufactured by his guild and highly thought after in Wallachia and even as far as Moldavia. With a bit of luck he’ll return before the summer rains drenched the roads, with a cart full of grains. His wife wanted spices and silks from the east and a Turkish rug too. He would have rather bought one of those sturdy horses the Wallachians breed.
Nevertheless, any trade was a good trade and any profit made a good count.
He checked the sky, bright and blue, he checked the road, rocky but dry. Perhaps rockier than he remembered. And the cart shook in the rhythm of the horses, clip-clop, clip-clop, the reins solid in his hand, his wife by his side. Her eyes half closed against the heat. Ahead, the rickety bridge over Bârsa River. The man shook the reins, the horses pulled, and the big wheels hopped onto the bridge. This bridge needs mending, thought the man.
‘Hold on tight, woman,’ he said, ‘we’re on the bridge.’
Had she not heard him? For she slipped and fell right in Turcu River. With a big splash. Droplets even landed on the merchant’s cheek, cooling him off.
The man pulled the horses onto a halt right after the bridge, the reins still solid in his hand. He looked at the empty spot by his side, he looked at the river.
Nut much later, and quite upstream, a shepherd minding his flock saw a man running along the river, every now and then stopping to check the moving waters.
‘Good man,’ called the shepherd, ‘what’s amiss?’
‘I’m searching for my wife. She fell into the river.’
‘No, how come you’ looking for her upstream? You’ll never find ‘er there,’ said the shepherd and stood, ready to land a hand.
‘ ‘Tis my wife,’ said the merchant lifting his shoulders, ‘always so twisted in her doings. Backwards all the time. So I thought I better look for her up the river,’ and off he went.
The shepherd sat back on is rock and scratched his forehead, his black hat pushed to the side, and thanked the Lord that his wife was always doing things the right way.
Bran Castle Photos for Thursday Doors
Where we return to Bran Castle for more charming doors:
Ever found yourself a traveler in the land of apes? We found ourselves in a different kind of primate land once, holidaying in Durban, on the KwaZulu-Natal coast of the Indian Ocean. We were enjoying the ocean’s breeze coming through the open balcony door when with it in jumped a monkey! Bouncing from the neighboring tree onto the balcony ledge, then into the living room and up on the kitchen island where she picked her reward, a bunch of bananas!
Had she thanked us? I think she waved – her tail.
Better the bananas than the car keys nearby…
I do enjoy a fable every now and then, more so now as a grownup than I did during my childhood. And surely, if I will ever visit the land of apes I will make sure to think before I speak.
And how interesting to notice that medieval kings and modern day dictators have so much in common with the characters from The Ape and the Travelers – a clever, timeless fable, teaching us the value of choosing one’s words wisely.
Two travelers and friends, lucky them, wanderers through the world and sharing many passions yet so different in looks, for one was tall, and one was short, one was chatty, one was quiet, one lied all the time, and one who only spoke the truth… such two travelers arrived at the Land of Apes.
Should we follow them from the safety of our chairs?
Wishing to welcome the strange travelers but also to mend his people’s reputation (for it had reached the King’s right ear that his nation was labelled as cunning and… hairy), wishing thus, as well as desiring to learn more about the foreigners, the Ape King, who was a rather curious king, invited the tourists over to his palace.
So, with great chatter all around and rather pushed than transported, the two travelers were soon brought before the King of the Apes, as the custom was in the Land of Apes.
The King sat on his monarchic throne made of banana tree stumps, with banana leaves overhead for shade, and a soft pillow made of banana leaves stuffed with dry grass (the previous pillow, made from banana peels, had turned bad rather quickly), while two young apes fanned him with great banana branches. In front of his throne were two stumps, rather short, for words had also reached the King of Apes that the two travelers, or at least one, was tall…
So, finally seated in front of the King the travelers were handed two coconut drinks and then were asked, before they could even take a sip, for their opinion of the King Ape, first, and of his subjects, of course.
The one tourist, the untruthful traveler, nearly choked on his drink as he rushed to speak first. Some of the droplets even landed on the King of Apes’ fur. Yet the King just squeezed his eyes and kept quiet. Waiting eagerly. The traveler, while remaining seated (someone even gasped at this in the back of the great hall), praised the primate sovereign saying how powerful and impressive he thought him to be as a ruler. And he praised his subjects too, the monkeys, saying how worthy they were of their amazing, unique leader (he emphasized).
The Ape King was simply delighted, he even looked taller as he sat on his high throne, and he ordered that a fine gift be offered to the first traveler.
Then, with a big smile on his round face, he turned towards the second traveler who was rather enjoying his drink. Not even paying attention to what was happening around him, nor to the gift bestowed upon his friend.
All the apes in the throne room stopped their chatter at once(for they were following their king’s gaze), curious as they were to hear what the second visitor had to say.
So they waited, while the second human slurped his drink. And the Ape King smiled, but took a deep breath to calm himself.
Finally, drink finished, it was the second voyager’s turn to speak. He glanced left, towards the primates seated on tree trunks, he glanced right, towards the ones watching from the trees, and then he looked ahead, at the Ape King who was smiling so sweetly. And he thought, he thought to himself that if his friend had benefited by telling such tall stories, such fibs, such lies, he would benefit more by simply telling the truth.
For it made sense to him.
So he stood, for although an ape he was still in the presence of a king, he stood, bowed, and said, loud and clear, that he thought the king to be a great ape, and all his subjects to be great apes too.
Oh, what a chatter, what yelling, what banter exploded all around while the Ape King bounced, hooted, grunted, and screamed in rage. Then he ordered that the second traveler (who couldn’t tell what he did wrong) be taken away and locked up in a cage made of banana tree sticks, and situated high up in the canopy.
For All to see. And learn. What not to do.
Moral of this story
Think before you speak. There are times when choosing your words wisely and being more tactful is more valuable than what we say or don’t say. (I know, harder said than done).
The quickest way to tell the difference between a monkey and an ape is by the presence or absence of a tail. Almost all monkeys have tails; apes do not. Yet both monkeys and apes are primates.
A chimpanzee, baboon, or orangutan are all apes. Mandrill or Rhesus are types of monkeys. Apes are larger and much heavier than monkeys.
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.
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.
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.
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).
The Fox and the Tigeris a fable as old as life, yet I like to imagine it taking place shortly after humans appeared on the Earth, perhaps hailing from Africa, a time when animals still spoke among themselves in a language understood by humans. A time of peace and harmony. Today tigers, in their natural habitat, live freely only in Asia, but foxes are most versatile, and we find them on every continent save for Antarctica.
The Fox and the Tiger, a fable
Once upon a time, and a long, long time ago when animals still shared the same language and spoke to one another, an orange fox with a bushy tail met a red-yellow tiger with great paws.
The tiger showed off his stripes that seemed to move like waves along with its sinuous muscles, smiled charmingly to parade his long, yellow teeth, a piece of raw meat still stuck behind one of them, then stretched one paw to admire his long, sharp claws, and prepared himself to devour the fox.
For what help is a fox that crosses a tiger’s path, but to become his snack?
Yet the fox lowered her head, avoiding direct eye contact just like Mother Fox told her a million times (and the little fox did pay attention each time), swiped her tail left, then right, and spoke softly and sweetly.
‘My dear Sir Tiger,’ she began, ‘how stripy your stripes are, how grand your teeth, and how sharp your claws are. You must think of yourself as the King of Beasts, and with a great cause’ she added quickly. ‘But does your courage compare with my own? Look at little me,’ and saying so Fox bowed, making herself appear even smaller. ‘Let us walk together and I will show you what I mean,’ and with one rounded movement of her front paw, she pointed ahead, waiting for Tiger to start moving.
‘What do you mean?’ Tiger growled low, irritated, masking a burp for he had just gulped down his breakfast, and that gave him gas. Everything seemed to cause him gas lately.
‘Let us step side by side and if Man will catch sight of me and not fear me, then it is you, Sir Tiger, who is indeed the King of Beasts, and so you may devour me on the spot.’
Tiger gave a crooked smile, his stomach rather crampy, but the thought that topping up his breakfast with a little fox might relieve his cramps appealed to him. Plus, it would be an easy task. While Fox, moving lightly, made sure she kept away (for she was rather scared of the great Tiger… and his breath was quite stinky too), yet half a step ahead of the big cat.
So, soon enough after their encounter, Tiger and Fox rambled side by side on the broad path. For the great vulture flying with the clouds they were but two flowers, one orange, and one red-yellow.
Yet any beast or traveler that as much as caught sight of them ran away in an instant, screaming with great fright.
After a while Fox lay her head low again, swished her bushy, orange tail, turned, and said sweetly, ‘See, oh great Tiger, Man and all the beasts we encountered ran away at the sight of me, before even seeing you.’
Tiger didn’t know what to make of it, all true and staring him in the face, yet not understanding little Fox’s cunning plan. So he turned, rambled in his throat, and ran away himself, losing his snack, the fox, and taking only his bruised pride with him.
Tiger had seen well that men and beasts appeared to be afraid of Fox, but had not noticed that Fox had borrowed from him, shamelessly, the terror he inspired.
Moral of the story:
Never despair, rather think of a way out and you will soon be safe.
Did you know? In South Africa the The Cape fox (Vulpes chama) is called an asse, cama fox or the silver-backed fox. It is a small fox-like animals, native to southern Africa. It is also called a South African version of a fennec fox due to its big ears.