“Sometimes legends make reality, and become more useful than the facts” Salman Rushdie
The novelist’s words take me back to the first part of this article. If you remember, in “People of Romania – Brasov – Part l” I mentioned Mihai’s favorite restaurant as being “Ceasu’Rau” – translated as The Bad Clock, the legend foretells that no matter how many times the locals have tried to fix it, the time was never right. What makes this legend useful is a saying I’ve heard many times from Brasov people: “We never watch the clock. We do not give it much attention.” And it is true! They are never in a hurry and enjoy every minute to the next moment!
So here I am, back with Raul, Gabriela and Mihai, to hear about their traditions and customs. In “People of Romania – Brasov – Part ll”, the story took us at one point to “Unirii Square”. One thing I did not specify is that it has the name only since 1944. Before that, it was named Prundului Square (prund- en. gravel, pebbles) after the gravel brought by the waters flowing downstream from “Solomon’s Stones”.
It is said that Solomon was a Hungarian king that was cursed by his mother for killing her other son. The spell would kill Solomon the first time he would be noticed by a commoner, and so he ran away and reached the Gates of Brasov. To his misfortune, he met a shepherd in the mountains and once he was seen, a lightning stroke the land behind him and thus he fell into the abyss along with his horse. Before the curse to be fulfilled, Solomon hid his crown close to a tree that became the symbol of Brasov. Since all legends derive from true facts, a document written in 1901 states that a villager went into the forest to gather wood and found Solomon’s crown by chance. He handed it to the village mayor and later kept in the Black Church.
Raul’s favorite landmark has stories off its own. The Black Church got its name in 1689, when its walls gained a gray-black color in a fire that nearly destroyed the whole city. Legend says that the Austrian troops failed to conquer the city and burned it to the ground out of spite. Until the fire, the Evangelic Church was known as Saint Mary since the late 14th century. On the roof of the Black Church, one can notice an unusual statue for a gothic church, a statue of a small man leaning over the buttress. The most common legend tells the story of the apprentice that surpassed his master who, out of fear of losing his job, fooled the young man to lean over the edge and then pushed him over. The master later realized the severity of his action and confessed his doing, and the statue of the apprentice was placed on the northern wall from which he fell.
Returning to the Scheii neighborhood, we will take a step back into the past and discover the roots of traditions still followed today, one of them being “Junii Brasovului” (june = young man, bachelor). Ever since “Unirii Square” was called “Prund” – most people in Brasov still recognize the area by the old name -, the St. Nicholas Church was the gathering place for seven groups of “youngsters” that align, based on the traditional rules, to parade the streets of Brasov. In the morning of the first Sunday after the Easter Holidays, known as “Thomas’s Sunday”, the residents of Scheii district remind us that Romanian traditions live on. The riders follow the same path to “Solomon’s Stones”, while encouraging the cheering public to join them. Once there, in a mesmerizing natural amphitheater, “Junii” take their forefather’s places and prepare for the traditional dance “Hora junilor” and the custom of “Throwing the Mace”. Traditional dances bring more and more people together and closer to their Romanian roots.
There are many beautiful things in Brasov. Starting with the people, to the legends and tales they speak; from historical events that turned a small village to the city you see today, to the architectural styles of the buildings that mark the ages that had passed; from the tiny streets to the surrounding hills and cliffs. In the hopes we have managed to awaken your curiosity, perhaps the thoughts, ideas and lore I gathered from Raul, Gabriela and Mihai will give you a better understanding of Brasov and everything the region has to offer.
On a different note, keeping my word from Part ll of “People of Romania – Brasov”, I left the recipe to the end but I did not forget about it. In case you want to try a quick and easy dish, Raul’s mother shared with us her way of making the Hungarian Rostelyos. The only ingredients you will need are: oil, veal meat, onions and garlic. You slice the meat, season it with salt and pepper, run it through flour and fry it in hot oil for 2 minutes on each side Take out the meat and cook, in the same hot oil, the minced onion and a bit of water. Simmer for 15 minutes until you get a tied sauce and then put back the meat along with some chopped garlic. Once the meat is cooked, the dish is ready to be served with mashed potatoes.