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 Transylvania – Transilvania or Ardeal in Romanian (’beyond the forest’), Erdély in Hungarian and Siebenbürgen in German (’seven castles’, reference to the seven most important Saxon towns in Transylvania) – is situated in the northwestern part of Romania, bound by the arch of the Carpathian Mountains. It played a very important role in both the history of Hungarians and Romanians. During the past two thousand years, it was successively a Roman province under the name of Dacia, part of the medieval Hungarian Kingdom (and the birthplace of one of the most important Hungarian kings, Mátyás Hunyadi), independent state which in 1568, for the first time in history, declared the freedom of belief and guaranteed equal rights to all officially recognized nationalities (Hungarians, Saxons and the Székelys, a special group of Hungarians believed by some to be the descendants of Attila's Huns), part of the Austrian-Hungarian empire and, since the first world war, an important province of Romania

 

    Remains of its eventful history can be found all over Transylvania: the ruins of Dacian and Roman fortifications in Sarmisegetusa, the fortified Saxon churches and villages (such as Biertan and Almen, included on the UNESCO World Heritage List), the churches and fortifications of big cities built in gothic style (Brasov, Cluj), the masterpieces of the Transylvanian baroque architecture, the Hungarian and Romanian villages still preserving the traditional way of life and folk art (Corund, Izvorul Crisului, Sapinta) – all are living proof of the rich history, of the ethnical and cultural diversity of this region, sometimes called ’Switzerland of Eastern Europe’.  

     

 Traditionally, three big ethnic groups inhabited Transylvania: Romanians, Hungarians and Germans (brought to Transylvania by the Hungarian kings, starting from the 12th century, from what is today Luxemburg and Schwarzwald in Germany). This unique mixture of different cultures resulted in a very specific ’Transylvanian spirituality’, best represented by Mátyás Hunyadi, the Hungarian King who introduced the art of the Renaissance in Hungary, Béla Bartók, the world-famous collector and researcher of folk music or János Bolyai, the founder  of modern, non-Euclidean geometry.

          

The traditional folk culture is still alive in many regions and villages across Transylvania, such as Kalotaszeg, Rimetea, Székely-Land, Moti-Land and several Saxon villages. At least on Sundays you will encounter men and women dressed in beautiful traditional dresses, returning from the Mass. In several of these villages, traditional popular craftsmanship – such as pottery, woodcarving – still forms the basis of every day’s life.

             No wonder, that Sibiu, along with Luxemburg, was chosen to be the Cultural Capital of Europe in 2007 – it’s deserved recognition of the unique, multi-cultural character of Transylvania.