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Romanian Essay on Connection with the Heritage of the Countries


Legends are closely related to the cultural or natural heritage that surrounds us in Europe’s towns and cities or natural or archaeological sites. The word itself, “heritage”, means “that which is inherited”. Heritage can be tangible or intangible, natural or cultural, movable or immovable. We inherit places, monuments or traditions from our ancestors and we transmit them to the future generations because they have irreplaceable value. A community or a country is strong when they engage in cherishing, sharing or continuing the stories that are interwoven with the tangible or intangible heritage they highlight. Therefore, these strong communities will do whatever it takes to preserve it.

Beautiful natural landscapes, wonders of archaeology, monuments and historical places are tied to a legend, a story or a myth which are even more famous than their real origins. The creation of beautiful mountains or rocks, the strange appearance of unusual stones, monuments that are the landscapes of a country, all of them have their legends. They offer tourists that memorable element that will make them visit the sites.

The most important type of natural tangible heritage that appear in legends consists of natural features, geological formations or sites of value from the point of view of their natural beauty, almost all of them being protected areas and natural reserves. Mountains and their formation occupy a central role in many cultures and are subjects of many legends. Although the stories revolve around the mountain on the whole, their peaks have a more important role since they are closer to heaven or gods. People do not worship the land or the rocks but their relationship with the gods or the spirits. Caves were considered sacred or magic places, shelters for mythological creatures, portals to the underground world and therefore the legends must imagine a way in which these gates, which are related to evil spirits, are forever closed. Beautiful lakes or rivers are also connected with legends, either because they were the scene of a tragedy or because they were created in an unusual way.

Cultural tangible heritage, consisting of monuments, buildings or sites with historic or artistic value are mostly related to important rulers or master builders, whose personalities were extremely influential or vital in their building or foundation.

Cultural intangible heritage is not very representative in the legends which are part of this project. It is related mainly to cultural or natural spaces associated with mythical creatures or spirituality. 

Mountains have always been associated with a mysterious atmosphere, due to the dream-like scenery, the mystic location, the closeness to the sky – and respectively to gods. Strange rock formations, similar to human figures, are tied to legends explaining their shape. Petrification is a motif that occurs in a various numbers of legends throughout the world and the stories are meant to explain the shape or the creation of different geological formations. This occurs in the Romanian legend “The Dragon Garden” and in the Bulgarian one, “Belogradchik Rocks”, in which either mythological evil creatures (dragons) or humans are turned into stone. In other legends, the formation of the mountains is the result of either a human sacrifice, like in “Lake Misurina and Mount Sorapiss” (where King Sorapiss willingly agrees to be transformed into a mountain) or of an act of jealousy, like in “Rhodopa” (where the beautiful Rhodopa is turned into a mountain). A different way of creating a geological formation occurs in “Neringa”, in which Mount Naglis, a sandy hill, was created after the hero kills the dragon and pours sand onto its beheaded body. Furthermore, majestic and unusual rock formations, which are situated in strange places they normally do not belong to, are related to legends that explain the spot they were found on. They are often associated with feelings of wonder or fear. In “Puntuko Stone” and “Devil’s Stone”, the two stones are said to have been thrown there by supernatural powers, which explains the way they managed to get in those isolated places. Other mountains that appear in legends are mystic or places of spirituality (“Legend of Mount Ślęża” and “Belintash”) or they simply are linked to a heroic story ("Bies and Czady”). 

Natural reserves and protected areas are not only of scenic beauty, but they also seem to have an aura of mystery or sadness given by the legends they are connected with. The Romanian legend “The Lady’s Rocks” presents the tragic fate of a queen who is buried together with the devil who wanted the wealth of her husband, the king, under a pile of rocks which now are the protected natural reserve “Pietrele Doamnei”. The creation or the appearance of rock formations are also related to evil powers in legends like “Puntuko Stone”, “Devil’s Stone”, to the defeat of the maleficent creatures in “Bies and Czady” and “Legend about Neringa”, to human sacrifice in “Lake Misurina and Mount Sorapiss” or to  petrification in “Rhodopa” and “Belogradchik Rocks”. 

Cultural tangible heritage is probably the most appealing to tourists. It consists of monuments, buildings, sites that are the more attractive, the more they are associated with a legend. The sadder the story is, the more fascinated the people are. These places of cultural interest can be related to human sacrifice, like in the Romanian legend “The master builder Manole” or “Devil’s Bridge”, to saints or spiritual people like in “Saint George and the Dragon”, “St Petka and the stone bread” or “The Devil’s Column”, to important rulers who founded cities, like in “ Legend about Vilnius City Foundation”, “Legend about Kaunas City Foundation”, tragic stories like in “Beautiful Alda” or just a heart-melting story like in “Legend of gingerbread”. 

In the past, caves were considered either secret passages to the underworld or places where mythological creatures lived. The aura of mystery and the stories associated with them make them be that part of the natural heritage that should be preserved and protected. A cave is a world where very few venture; the obscurity of caves led to the belief that they were inhabited by evil spirits or that they were formed during or following a tragedy or simply are associated with a tragic story. The legend “The Bride’s Cave” presents the tragic fate of a young girl who commits suicide because she was forced to marry someone she doesn’t love. The cave (The Bride’s Cave) and the salty lake (The Bride’s Lake) are part of the geological and geomorphological nature reserve The Salt Mountain, which is unique in Europe. Other attractive caves are those that are believed to have been the dwellings of frightening mythological creatures or even gates to the underworld. In “Legend about Wawel Dragon” and “The Pirin’s Dragon”, the two caves were lived by dragons, but while in the former legend, the creature was evil, in the latter, the dragon managed to be loved by the girl he kidnapped. A different type of legend associated with a cave is “Romolo and Remo and the foundation of Rome”, in which the heritage is both cultural and natural, The Lupercal Cave being thought to have been the refuge of the founders of Rome.   

Scenic beauty or strange natural phenomena are the characteristics that give value to places and explain why they were subject to many legends. In the Romanian legend “The living fire”, a unique natural phenomenon, mysterious and unusual, which occurs on a mountain, is tied to a legend in which dragons, the mythological creatures, play an important role. As it happens in many other legends, the plot revolves around mountains, mainly regarding their formation, like in the legends “Lake Misurina and Mount Sorapiss”, “Bies and Czady”, “Legend of Mount Ślęża” and “Rhodopa”.  All these mountains are natural reserves or protected areas, within the natural heritage of the countries they belong to. 

There are either events or mystical creatures that exert a spiritual magnetism upon places. Therefore these places, although they might be considered part of the natural heritage, gain a cultural value and can be considered as being part of the cultural tangible heritage. The mythical creatures, Iele, from the Romanian legend, are claimed to still appear in different parts of the country, on lonely cliffs, mountains, lakes, and meadows, where they dance the hora by joining hands and forming a circle. Similar creatures to Iele are the mermaids, who also give a sense of spirituality to the places they are believed to live in. Other legends present sacred places which are not related to mystical creatures, but to their appearance itself or people’s beliefs, like in “Legend of Mount Ślęża” or “Belintash”.

Monuments and beautiful buildings of historic value, like castles, have always been an important part of the cultural intangible heritage of every country. They are famous either because they were built by exceptional rulers or just because they were thought to have been related to them. Bran Castle, in Romania, gained its fame after Bram Stoker built his fictional character based on the life of the Romanian ruler Vlad Tepes. The castle the Irish writer described in his novel is very similar to Bran Castle and although the Romanian ruler never lived there, the building became famous mainly because of this association with Bram Stoker’s character. There is a totally different case in the Lithuanian legends “Legend about Trakkai Castle”, “Legend about Kaunas City Foundation” and “Legend about Vilnius City Foundation”, in which the stories revolving around the castles reflect the historic reality.