For Romanians, December is a month of celebrations. Having Latin blood, we love our families and love a good party, especially around Christmas and the New Year. We beginning our celebrations, however, on the first day of the month: December 1, our national holiday and the day of our country’s Great Union.
Transilvania (the Romanian spelling of Transylvania) means the land beyond the forest and it has a complicated and tumultuous history. I love this land more than any part of Romania, being a biased native of this Dracula-land (spoiler alert – the vampire thing is not real, and vampires would NOT sparkle in the sunlight…if they existed, of course). Transilvania is as beautiful as is passionate. It has castles bearing rich tales of rulers from B.C. and the brave Dacian times, to medieval times, and beyond. The ancient edifices contrast the austere concrete buildings of the communist era, against the backdrop of lush natural surroundings of meadows and mountains.
In the heart of Transilvania sit several important cities, and one of the most important ones for Romanians is Alba Iulia. One of the oldest settlements in Romania, Alba Iulia has been around since before the Roman Empire and has witnessed Romania’s first union when Mihai Viteazul (Michael the Brave) fought off the ottomans and on the 6th of July 1600 first ruled the lands of Ardeal (Transilvania), Muntenia (the southern region of Romania), and Moldova (including the portion between the rivers Prut and Nistru).
The union didn’t last, unfortunately, and a series of turbulent times passed before Romania was once again united on December 1st, 1918 with the union proclamation taking place in the same city of Alba Iulia. December 1st is when Romanians celebrate the National Day of Romania and the Great Union of our country’s lands.
I had the privilege of visiting Alba Iulia this past September and I was impressed with its beauty and quiet majestic presence. We took a slow tour of the Citadel on the top of the hill, enjoying the gentle mingling of visitors and locals with echoes of an iconic past.