Those who read Bram Stocker’s famous novel, Dracula, must have wondered where Transylvania is and if it exists. And those who were not passionate about the vampire count’s story had fun watching Hotel Transylvania, the famous cartoon. And then they probably asked the above questions.
So let’s try to clarify through this article if this region exists, where it is, what its history is and for those who want to visit it, how to get here exactly.
Is Transylvania a real place?
Although it is surrounded by legend and mysteries, Transylvania is a real place, a province where people live their ordinary lives, without giving importance to the fame that surrounds this region.
Where is Transylvania located?
Transylvania is located in Romania, Europe. Transylvania or Transylvania (Latin Transylvania or Transsylvania, Hungarian Erdély, German Siebenbürgen) is a historical and geographical region located inside the Carpathian arc, one of the historical regions of Romania.
It includes the central part of Romania, respectively the Transylvanian Depression and the Carpathian slopes that lean towards it. There are 10 counties on the territory of Transylvania.
The second meaning of the name refers, by extension, also to Maramureș and Crișana. These were provinces in Romania that joined after the middle of the 16th century the historical nucleus on the Transylvanian plateau. Together they constituted the Principality of Transylvania.
Sometimes, Transylvania is given a very broad meaning, designating the Romanian territory west of the Eastern Carpathians and north of the Southern Carpathians, thus including Banat.
The total area of Transylvania, together with Banat, Crișana and Maramureș, represents 42.1% of the total area of Romania. The population living in this area represents approximately one-third of the population of Romania.
What does Transylvania mean?
The name “Transylvania” is derived from medieval Latin. It was attested in 1075. Transylvania is a word composed of the terms “trans” (“over”, “beyond”) and “silva” (“forest”) and means “(territory) beyond of the forest “.
Is Transylvania in Hungary or Romania?
Transylvania is in Romania, being a historical province of Romania. It was part of the Austro-Hungarian Empire for several years. After the First World War, it was united with Romania.
The tumultuous history of the place and the fact that historians do not agree on a part of Transylvania’s past makes this confusion occur frequently. Therefore, here is a brief history of Transylvania to understand better its past.
Transylvania – a short history
Ancient traces of material culture, discovered in various archaeological sites on the current territory of Romania, attest to the fact that the space inside and outside the Carpathian arch has been inhabited since ancient times.
The creative tribes of the bronze culture on the territory of Romania belong to the Indo-European group of Thracians.
With the appearance of the Dacians in the region, they slowly took possession of the territory and built real cities and capitals. The most important of them is at Sarmizegetusa Regia.
When the Dacians ruled here, Transylvania was part of the kingdom of Dacia. Under the rule of Burebista, the first Geto-Dacian state was formed. The Dacians and Getae were Thracians. The “Dacia” province, led by him, included today’s Oltenia and about two-thirds of Transylvania.
On the current territory of Transylvania was in antiquity the political centre of the Dacia kingdom, Sarmizegetusa Regia.
The Dacian kingdom was conquered in 106 e.n. of the Roman Empire under the rule of Emperor Trajan.
During the reign of Emperor Hadrian (117-135), the current territory of Transylvania was organized and included in the province of Dacia Superior.
The conquest of Dacia by the Romans leads to the merging of the two cultures: the Daco-Romans are the ancestors of the Romanian people.
After Dacia became a province of the Roman Empire, elements of Roman culture and civilization were imposed. This included vulgar Latin, which was the basis for the formation of the Romanian language.
Historians have agreed that this is the time when a new people begins to form, the Romanian people. They were the result of the merger between the Dacian natives and the Roman population, formed by the colonists of the empire. This was also the moment of the appearance of the language spoken by these new people, the Romanian language.
In the first millennium, waves of migrants passed over the territory of Romania.
Towards the end of the 10th century, the Hungarians and Székelys (a Hungarian ethnic group) entered the territory of Transylvania. They completely conquered it in the 12th century. The region was part of the Hungarian Empire and then the Austro-Hungarian Empire.
Later, Hungarian kings would bring Teutonic knights here and populate the less populated parts with Saxon settlers to defend the eastern border.
The Saxon settlers of German origin came first from the northwestern regions of Germany, near the Netherlands. In a second phase, they came from the east, from Saxony — whence the name of the entire German population in Transylvania remained Saxon.
This German population was meant on the one hand, in the country, to introduce more advanced agriculture, on the other hand, to set up cities like those in Germany, with their fortifications, with all kinds of crafts and with a good practice of business.
Of the cities (burgs) established, seven will be more significant, hence the name Sieben-bürgen (“the seven burgs”) given by the Germans to Transylvania.
These seven cities, the Sieben-bürgen in Transylvania are Bistrita (Bistritz), Sibiu (Hermannstadt), Brasov (Kronstadt), Cluj Napoca(Klausenburg), Medias (Mediasch), Orastie (Broos) si Sighisoara (Schasburg).
Transylvania, part of the Kingdom of Hungary during the Middle Ages, ruled by voivodes, became an independent principality.
The province had to accept the suzerainty of the Hungarian crown, and Wallachia and Moldova the Ottoman one. This was the price paid for maintaining the autonomy of the government. During this time, the Ottomans tried to take control of Transylvania, but to no avail.
In 1541 the Principality of Transylvania was recognized by the Ottoman Empire as an independent state.
The reign of Mihai Viteazu (1593-1601) represents a turning point in the history of the Romanians. During this period the union of the three Romanian provinces took place, Transylvania, Wallachia and Moldova.
After this, Transylvania was incorporated into the Austro-Hungarian Empire.
The first official census in Transylvania in which a distinction was made between nationalities (a distinction made based on mother tongue) was made by the Austro-Hungarian authorities in 1869.
For the period before this year, there are only estimates of the proportions of various ethnic groups in Transylvania. Thus, in 1842 it was estimated that the population of Transylvania in the years 1830-1840 was composed of 62.3% Romanians and 23.3% Hungarians.
On December 1, 1918, after the First World War, the Kingdom of Romania merged with the provinces of Basarabia, Bucovina, Banat, Crișana, Maramureș and Transylvania. It was happening in the Great National Assembly in Alba Iulia.
In 1939 Romania ceded northern Transylvania to Hungary, including the city of Cluj Napoca. The vast territories of Transylvania that were ceded in favour of Hungary contained important natural resources, including gold mines.
These territories returned to Romania at the end of the Second World War. Since then Transylvania is part of Romania and it is mainly inhabited by Romanians.
What language do they speak in Transylvania?
Being located in Romania, the Romanian language is spoken in Transylvania. The Hungarian minority is concentrated in 2 counties in Transylvania, Harghita and Covasna and that is why the Hungarian language is mainly spoken here.
Out of respect for this community, some names of localities are written both in Romanian and in Hungarian.
Is Transylvania safe for tourists?
Transylvania is very safe for tourism. Those who choose to visit this province come especially to discover its beautiful castles and fortresses and to explore its well-preserved villages. Tourists visiting Transylvania can experience the unaltered nature and life in a country full of traditions and customs.
How to get to Transylvania?
You can get to Transylvania if you land in one of the large airports outside the region, Bucharest or Budapest. Both of them have great connections with the major cities around the world, so it is easier to find a flight to Bucharest or Budapest than directly to Transylvania.
Once you land in Bucharest or Budapest you can rent a car and drive to Transylvania or you can book a private transfer. I recommend you book the transfer before landing because you won’t find one at the airport.
Flights to Transylvania – Airports
If you want to find flights directly to Transylvania, find out how many large airports there are in the area. However, they have quite a few international flights and are usually to destinations visited more often by Romania.
Here are the main airports in Transylvania:
Avram Iancu International Airport in Cluj Napoca
It was founded in 1932, with the first airline opened in Bucharest-Cluj Napoca in 1933. At present, the planes that leave here fly internally to Bucharest and Constanta and externally to several countries in Europe plus Israel. Germany, Spain and Italy have several cities that have a direct connection with Cluj Napoca. In summer, charters leave from here to the Greek islands. Cluj Airport calls itself the “Air Gate of Transylvania”.
Oradea International Airport
Located in one of the most beautiful cities in Transylvania, Oradea, the airport here is smaller than the one in Cluj Napoca. Regular flights depart from here to Bucharest or several large cities in Europe (Dusseldorf, Milan, London, etc.). The flight schedule can be found on the official website translated into English.
Sibiu International Airport
Sibiu International Airport is the main air traffic point located in the geographical centre of Romania.
Regular flights also depart from Sibiu to Italy, Germany and Spain, and in summer charters to the Turkish coast.
Brasov International Airport
Still under construction, but eagerly awaited, Brasov International Airport will probably receive many foreign tourists who come to visit Transylvania, Brasov being the most popular city in the region.
For tourists, the most convenient ways to get to Transylvania are either landing in Bucharest and starting a tour from there, or landing in Cluj Napoca. Any route through Romania normally includes a few days spent in Transylvania.
The mix of modern cities, ancient villages, castles and legends give a special charm to the region. It was even similar to Tuscany in Italy, but one thing is for sure, although many have heard of it, Transylvania is still one of the hidden gems of Europe.
Do you need extra details about Romania? Please read our Romania Travel blog.