September 25, 2008

Hunyad Castle
Deva, Romania

Recent travel around Deva

An easy, memorable day-trip from (the rather dull city of) Deva turned out to be one to Hunedoara—or more specifically, Hunyad Castle. It just so happened that our Peace Corps hostess had been slowly working on a project with the castle staff, and strongly recommended a visit to the site over any other castle in the region. In truth, if it wasn't for her, I doubt I would've even heard of the place.

Postcard of Hunyad Castle

Unsure if we'd actually get to where we wanted to go without much of a command of the local language, I borrowed a postcard of the castle from Laura and took it with us. Frequent shuttle buses run from Deva to Hunedoara, but we quickly discovered that the final stop terminates inside the city, at least a good twenty-something minutes walk from the castle itself.

Of course, we had no idea how far the castle was from the small bus depot we were deposited at, but somehow the combination of a baby with us and the postcard in our hands convinced a warmhearted Romanian to place us in his car and drop us at the castle's doorstep.

Castle entrance

On our approach, we were immediately infatuated with the sight of the 14th-century Gothic structure. We looked at each other, then back out the window—wow. Amazing, over two months in Eastern Europe and I think this was the first time we'd actually ever gotten around to actually visiting a proper castle.

Because of its appearance (said to be one of Transylvania's greatest architectural gems) and availability, the castle has been rented out for use in various in movies, television shows, and commercials over the years. And as luck would have it, we just so happened to catch it during such time—but as interesting as you'd think this might be, it was more of an annoyance, as section of the castle had been restricted to cast and crew only. (I snuck in anyways and snapped a quick photo of one of the rooms restricted for the television spot they were filming.)

The Legend of the Well

An interesting bit of history at the site has to do with the castle yard's well, which was dug by three Turkish prisoners to whom Ioan of Hunedoara promised their freedom if they reached water. The trio of prisoners dug in rock for 15 years, and at 28 meters deep (92 feet) they managed to find it.

In the meantime, Ioan of Hunedoara had died and his wife, Elisabeth Szilagyi, decided not to respect her husband's word—instead opting to kill the three prisoners. As a final wish the three Turks asked the permission to write on a piece of stone in the well an inscription that said: "You may have water, but you have no soul", as reproach for a promise given but not kept.

Specialists, however, have translated the mid-15th century inscription (currently on display on one of the buttresses of the chapel) as "The one who dug here is Hassan, who lives as slave of the giaours, in the fortress near the church."

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