itself and no other, and the very same belt of wood. The explanation was
not far to seek. I was the first to wake up in our "fast coach." Every
mortal soul - and there were five of us, besides the four horses - had, it
seems, gone to sleep much about the same time that I did. The magic
sleep of eld must have fallen upon us. The simple fact was, we had
passed the night in the middle of the highroad. Was there ever anything
We were about seven miles from Mehadia; I knew the country perfectly
well. Of course we made a confounded row with the idiot of a driver, who
certainly had been hired - not to go to sleep. I have known these
Wallacks drive for miles in a state of somnolency, the horses generally
keeping in the "safe middle course" of their own accord. As there were
some awkward turns not far ahead of us, it was perhaps just as well that
the horses stopped on this occasion.
Well, we jogged on all that day, reaching Karansebes between one and two
o'clock. We had been some eighteen hours on the road!
Here F - - and I parted, my friend returning to Uibanya, while I pursued
my way to Transylvania.
I slept the night at Karansebes, rising very early; indeed I started
soon after four o'clock. I was again on my little Servian horse, who was
quite fresh after his long rest, and I saw no reason why I should not
reach Hatszeg the same evening, as the distance is not more than
forty-five miles. About two miles from Karansebes I passed a hill
crowned with a picturesque ruin, locally called Ovid's Tower. Tradition
fondly believes that Ovid spent the last years of his banishment, not on
the shores of the stormy Euxine, but in the tranquillity of these lovely
valleys. Certain it is that the name and fame of many of the great
Romans are still known to the Wallacks; and the story is told by Mr
Boner, that they have a catechism which teaches the children to say that
they have Ovid and Virgil for their ancestors, and that they are
descended from demigods!
On my way I passed the villages of Ohaba, Marga, and Bukova. On arriving
at Varhely, or Gradischtie, as it is called in Wallack language, I found
that it was worth while to stay the night, for the sake of having the
afternoon to examine the Roman remains scattered about the
The Wallack villages I had passed through were very miserable-looking
places: they are generally in the south of Transylvania. The houses are
mostly mere wattled wigwams, without chimneys; a patch of garden, rudely
hurdled in, with the addition of a high stockaded enclosure for cattle.
Some of the women are extremely pretty, and, as I have said before, the
costume can be very picturesque; but they are often seen extremely
dirty, in which case the filthy fringe garment gives them the appearance
Varhely is conspicuous for its dirt even among Wallachian villages, yet
once it was a royal town. It is built on the site of the famous
Sarmisegethusa, the capital of ancient Dacia. In Trajan's second
expedition against Decebalus, King of the Dacians, he came from Orsova
on the Danube by the same route that forms the highroad of this day - the
same I had traversed in my way hither. It is curious to reflect how
nation succeeding nation tread in each other's footsteps, through the
self-same valley, beneath the shadow of the old hills. Here they have
trudged, old Dacian gold-seekers, returning from the daily labours of
washing the auriferous sands of the mountain streams; here, too, have
tramped victorious Roman soldiers - Avars, Tartars, Turks, and other
intruders. A long and motley cavalcade has history marshalled along this
route for two thousand years and more!
The old Dacians were strong enough we know to exact a yearly tribute
from Domitian: it was for this insult that Trajan marched upon Dacia,
defeating Decebalus at Klausenburg, in the heart of Transylvania, which
was at the time their greatest strong-hold. It was after this that the
Dacian king retreated upon Sarmisegethusa, and there Trajan came down
upon them through the Iron Gate Pass. Unable to defend themselves, the
Dacians set fire to their royal city and fled to the mountains. On these
ruins the Romans, ever ready to appropriate a good site, erected the
city of Ulpia Trajana, connecting it by good roads with the existing
Roman colonies at Karlsburg and Klausenburg.
Unless the traveller had brought historic facts with him to Gradischtie,
he would hardly be induced to search for tesselated pavements and relics
of royalty amongst the piggeries of this dirty Wallack village. It is a
literal fact that a very fine specimen of Roman pavement exists here in
an unsavoury outhouse, not unknown to pigs and their congeners.
This Hatszeg Valley, in the county of Hunyad, has long been celebrated
for the richness of its Dacian and Roman antiquities. These treasures
have unfortunately been dispersed about amongst various general
collections of antiquity, instead of being well kept together as
illustrative of local facts and history. The archæologist must seek for
these remains specially in the Ambras collection of the Archæological
Museum at Vienna, the National Museum at Buda Pest, in the Bruckenthal
Museum at Herrmannstadt, also in the Klausenburg Museum. Dr H. Finály,
Professor of Archæology at the University of Klausenburg, is the great
living authority on this interesting subject. To him I am indebted for
some information, conveyed in a letter to a private friend. The
professor alludes to the fact of the treasures being all carried away,
adding that on the spot very little is to be found except the remains of
Roman encampments (_castra stativa_), Roman military roads, together
with the foundations of buildings, the materials of which however are
usually carried away by the peasants. Nor are the records of former
interesting discoveries to be found in one volume, but are dispersed
about in the various publications of learned societies, such as the
'Archælogiæi Közlemények' of the Hungarian Academy, the 'Year-Book of
the Transylvanian Museum,' and 'Verhandlungen und Mittheilungen' of the
Verein fur Siebenbürgische Landeskunde of Herrmannstadt.
That the materials of the old Roman buildings are now used for baser
purposes, one has abundant proof; even in my hurried inspection I saw
many a sculptured stone and fragment of fluted column doing duty as the
support of a wretched Wallack shanty. Another evidence of the Roman
occupation of the country occurs in the case of certain plants now found
growing wild, which are exotic to the soil. This, I am told, occurs in a
marked manner at Thorda, which was known to be a Roman colony. The
plants, it may be presumed, were brought thither by the Roman
legionaries. The most picturesque bit of Roman antiquity is the Temple
at Demsus, within a short drive of Varhely. It is on a small eminence
overlooking a cluster of Wallack dwellings, and has long been used as a
church by these people.
The Hatszeg Valley, which comprehends the district I am now describing,
is the pride of Transylvania, not less for its fertility than for its
beauty. It has the appearance of having been filled in former geological
ages by the waters of a widespread lake.
It was a lovely afternoon, but very hot, when I rode into the little
town of Hatszeg. Everywhere is to be seen evidence of the careful
cultivation of the maize and other crops. Numerous villages dot the
plain and cluster amidst the thickly-wooded hillsides. And now we come
upon the railway system again, which has stretched out its feelers into
the wilds of the Southern Carpathians. The railroad enters Transylvania
by two routes. The main line is from Buda-Pest to Grosswardein, and so
on by Klausenburg - the Magyar capital - to the present terminus of
Kronstadt, one of the chief towns of the Saxon immigrants. This includes
a branch to Maros Vásárhely. It is proposed to carry this line over a
pass in the Carpathians to Bucharest. The second line of railway
entering Transylvania starts from Arad, and terminates at Herrmannstadt,
the Saxon capital, having a branch to the mineral district of Petrosèny.
It will be seen from the above that this "odd corner of Europe," as
Transylvania has been called, is fairly well off for iron roads; and
considering how short a time some portions of them have been opened,
they have already borne good fruit in developing the resources of the
[Footnote 12: Martin Diosy, Esq.]
Hungarian hospitality - Wallack laziness - Fishing - "Settled
gipsies" - Anecdote - Old _régime_ - Fire - Old Roman bath - The
avifauna of Transylvania - Fly-fishing.
I had brought with me from London a letter of introduction to a
Hungarian gentleman residing near Hatszeg, and finding his place was not
far off, I rode over to see him the evening of my arrival.
I had merely intended to make a call, but Herr von B - - , with true
Hungarian hospitality, insisted that I should stay at his house as long
as I remained in the neighbourhood.
"What! allow a stranger to remain at the inn? - impossible!" he said with
It was in vain that I made any attempt to plead that I felt it was
trespassing too much on his hospitality. His answer was very decided. He
put the key of the stable which held my horse in his pocket, and turning
to one of his people he gave orders that my things should be brought
hither from the Hatszeg inn.
I was soon quite at home with my new friends, a young married couple,
whose _ménage_, though very simple, was thoroughly refined and
agreeable. As it was my first visit to a Hungarian house, I found many
things to interest me. Several of the dishes at table were novelties,
the variety consisting more in the cooking than in the materials; for
instance, we had maize dressed in a dozen different ways. It was
generally eaten as a sort of pudding at breakfast, at which meal there
was also an unfailing dish of water-melons. Of course we had _paprika
handl_ (chicken with red pepper), and _gulyas_, a sort of improved Irish
stew; and gipsy's meat, also very good, besides excellent soups and many
nameless delicacies in the way of sweets.
All Hungarian men are great smokers, but as a rule the ladies do not
smoke; there are some exceptions, but it is considered "fast" to do so.
The peasants in the Hatszeg Valley are all Wallacks, and as lazy a set
as can well be imagined; in fact, judging by their homes, they are in a
lower condition than those of the Banat. So much is laziness the normal
state with these people that I think they must regard hard work as a
sort of recreation. Their wants are so limited that there is no
inducement to work for gain. What have they to work for beyond the
necessary quantity of maize, _slivovitz_, and tobacco? Their women make
nearly all the clothes. Wages of course are high - that is the trouble
throughout the country. If the Wallack could be raised out of the moral
swamp of his present existence he might do something, but he must first
feel the need of what civilisation has to offer him.
The village of Rea, where I was staying, is about the wildest-looking
place one can well imagine in Europe. The habitations of the peasants
are made of reed and straw; the hay-ricks are mere slovenly heaps,
partially thatched; the fences are made up of odds and ends. As for
order, the whole place might have been strewn with the _débris_ of a
whirlwind and not have looked worse. As a natural consequence of all
this slatternly disorder, fire is no uncommon occurrence; and when a
fire begins, it seldom stops till it has licked the whole place clean - a
condition not attainable by any other process.
Fishing was a very favourite amusement with us, and Herr von B - -
several times organised some pleasant excursions with that object. One
day we went up the Lepusnik, a magnificent trout-stream.
We drove across the valley, and then followed a narrow gorge near the
village of Klopotiva. The scenery was enchanting, but our fishing was
only moderately successful; for the trout were very much larger than in
the valley nearer home, and they bothered us sadly by carrying away our
Some way up the valley we came upon a little colony of gipsies, who were
settled there. Their dwellings were more primitive than the Wallacks
even. The huts are formed of plaited sticks, with mud plastered into the
interstices; this earth in time becomes overgrown with grass, and as the
erection is only some seven feet high, it has very much the appearance
of an exaggerated mound or anthill, and would never suggest a human
A fire was burning in the open, with a tripod to support the iron
pot - just as we see in England in a gipsy's camp; and the people had a
remarkable resemblance in complexion and feature, only that here they
were far less civilised than with us.
I entered one of the huts, in which by the way I could scarcely stand
upright, and found there a man employed in making a variety of simple
wooden articles for household use. The gipsies are remarkably clever
with their hands; many of these wooden utensils are fashioned very
dexterously, and even display some taste. The gipsy, moreover, is always
the best blacksmith in all the country round; and as for their music, I
have before spoken of the strange power these people possess of stirring
the hearts of their hearers with their pathetic strains. It has often
seemed to me that this marvellous gift of music is, as it were, a
language brought with them in their exile from another and a higher
state of existence.
That these poor outcasts are capable of noble self-sacrifice, the story
I am about to relate will testify. Not far from this very gipsy
settlement, in a wild romantic glen, is a steep overhanging rock, which
is known throughout the country as the "Gipsy's Rock," and came to be so
called from the following tragical occurrence. It seems that many years
ago - about the middle of the last century, I believe - there was a famine
in the land, and the poor gipsies, poorer than all the rest, were
reduced to great straits. Some of them came to the neighbouring village
and begged hard for food. The selfish people turned them away, or at
least tried to do so; but one poor fellow would not cease his
importunities, and said that his children were literally starving.
"Then," said one of the villagers in a mocking tone, "I will give your
family a side of bacon if you will jump that rock."
"You hear his promise?" cried the gipsy, appealing to the idle crowd. He
said not another word, but rushing from their midst, clambered up the
rock, and in another instant took the fatal leap!
I see no reason to discredit the story, generally believed as it is in
the district; and, happily for the honour of human nature, it has many a
parallel, in another way perhaps, but equal in self-sacrifice and
The gipsies in Hungary are supposed to number at least 150,000. The
Czigany, as they are called, made their appearance early in the
fifteenth century, having fled, it is believed, from the cruelty of the
Mongol rulers. They were allowed by King Sigismund to settle in Hungary,
and were called in law the "new peasants." Before the reforms of 1848
they were in a state of absolute serfdom, and could not legally take
service away from the place where they were born. The case of the gipsy
was the only instance in Hungary, even in the Hungary of the old
_régime_, of absolute serfdom; for oppressive as were the obligations of
the land-holding peasant to his lord, yet the relation between them was
never that of master and slave. As a matter of fact, if the Hungarian
peasant gave up his _session_ - that is to say, the land he occupied in
hereditary use - he was free to go wheresoever he pleased, and was not
forced to serve any master. In practice the serf would not readily
relinquish the means of subsistence for himself and family, and
generally preferred the burden, odious though it was, of the _robot_, or
forced labour. This personal liberty, which the Hungarian peasant in the
worst of times has preserved, is deep-rooted in the growth of the
nation, and accounts for their characteristic love of freedom in the
present day. It was this that made the freedom-loving peasant detest the
military conscription imposed by the Austrians in 1849, an innovation
the more obnoxious because enforced with every species of official
The poor Czigany had not been so fortunate as to preserve even the
Hungarian serf's modicum of liberty. Mr Paget mentions that forty years
ago he saw gipsies exposed for sale in the neighbouring province of
There are a great many "settled gipsies" in Transylvania. Of course they
are legally free, but they attach themselves peculiarly to the Magyars,
from a profound respect they have for everything that is aristocratic;
and in Transylvania the name Magyar holds almost as a distinctive term
for class as well as race. The gipsies do not assimilate with the
thrifty Saxon, but prefer to be hangers-on at the castle of the
Hungarian noble: they call themselves by his name, and profess to hold
the same faith, be it Catholic or Protestant. Notwithstanding that, the
gipsy has an incurable habit of pilfering here as elsewhere; yet they
can be trusted as messengers and carriers - indeed I do not know what
people would do without them, for they are as good as a general
"parcels-delivery company" any day; and certainly they are ubiquitous,
for never is a door left unlocked but a gipsy will steal in, to your
The gipsy is sometimes accused of having a hand in incendiary fires; but
I believe the general testimony is in his favour, and against the
Wallack, whose love of revenge is the ugliest feature in his character.
These people seem to forget the saying that "curses, like chickens, come
home to roost," for they will set fire to places under circumstances
that not unfrequently involve themselves in ruin.
We were calmly sitting one day at dinner when we heard a great row all
at once; looking out of the window, we saw dense clouds of smoke and
flame not a hundred yards from the house. We rushed out immediately to
render assistance, but without water or engines of any kind it was
difficult to do much. However, Herr von B - - and myself got on the top
of the outhouse that was in flames, and stripped off the wooden tiles,
removing out of the way everything that was likely to feed the fire.
There stood close by a crowd of Wallacks, utterly panic-stricken it
seemed: they did nothing but scream and howl as if possessed. The
building belonged to one of them, but he only screamed louder than the
rest, and was not a bit of use, though he was repeatedly called on to
help. If the wind had set the other way, it would have been just a
chance if the whole village had not been burned down. In this instance
the fire was caused by mere carelessness.
The number of excursions to be made in the Hatszeg Valley is endless. On
one occasion I took my horse and rode off alone to inspect mines and
mining works in the mountains. While looking over the ironworks at
Kalan, I was told of the existence of some Roman remains in the
neighbourhood, so taking a boy from the works with me to act as guide, I
set off, walking, to examine the spot. He led me into the middle of a
field, not far off the main road; and here I found the remains of a
Roman bath of a very interesting character.
It was singularly constructed. I must observe first that there was a
protruding mass of rock rising about fifteen feet above the surrounding
ground, and of considerable circumference. In the middle of this there
was a circular excavation ten feet in diameter and ten feet deep. At the
bottom I discovered a spring of tepid mineral water, which flowed away
through a small section cut perpendicularly out of the wall of the great
bath; judging from other incisions in the stone, a wooden slide may have
been used to bay back the water. On the face of the rock I noticed a
Roman inscription, but too much mutilated for me to make anything of it.
An attempt had been evidently made to utilise this mineral water, for in
the field were some primitive wooden bathing-houses, and not far off
there was actually a little inn, but I fear the public had not
encouraged the revival of the Roman bath.
In poking about after game or minerals, one frequently comes upon
evidence of the former occupation of the country. Speaking of game, the
partridges are not preserved, and they are scarce; of course I was too
early, but in autumn the woodcock-shooting, I understand, is first-rate.
Quails and snipes are also common in the Hatszeg Valley.
Herr von Adam Buda, or, as one should say in Hungarian, Buda Adam (for
the Christian name always comes last), has devoted much time to the
avifauna of Transylvania. He has a fine collection of stuffed birds at
his residence at Rea, near Hatszeg. These are birds which he has himself
shot, and he is quite the local authority upon the subject.
I have alluded to the trout-fishing in the district. I went out
frequently, and had generally very fair sport indeed. Mr Danford, in his
paper in 'The Ibis,' in speaking of fishing, says: "Perhaps the best
stream in the country is the Sebes, which joins the Strell near Hatszeg.
The trout are not bad, one to two lbs. in weight; and the
grayling-fishing is really good - almost any number may be taken in
autumn, when weather and water are in good order. The Sil also, near
Petrosèny, is a fine-looking river, and used to be celebrated for its
so-called 'salmon-trout;' but these had quite disappeared when we saw
it, having been blown up with dynamite, a method of fishing very
commonly practised in the country, but now forbidden by law. Indeed
fly-fishing is gaining ground, and English tackle in great demand."
This practice of the wholesale destruction of fish by the use of
dynamite has not been stopped a moment too soon; and some time must now
elapse in certain waters before they can become properly stocked again.
It was now time for me to quit the happy valley, and I bade adieu to my
kind friends near Hatszeg. I believe if I had remained to this day, I
should not have outstayed my welcome. I had come to pay a morning visit,
and I stopped on more than a fortnight.
The Hungarian has a particularly pleasant way of greeting a stranger
under his own roof. He gives you the idea that he has been expecting
you, though in reality your existence and name were unknown to him till
he read the letter or the visiting-card with which you have just
I now sent my portmanteau, &c., on to Herrmannstadt, packed my
saddle-bags to take with me, and once more rode off into the wilds. My
destination this time was Petrosèny.
[Footnote 13: Vol. v., The Birds of Transylvania.]
On horseback to Petrosèny - A new town - Valuable
coal-fields - Killing fish with dynamite and poison - Singular manner
of repairing roads - Hungarian patriotism - Story of Hunyadi
Janos - Intrusion of the Moslems into Europe.
The history of the town of Petrosèny is as short as that of some of the
western cities of America. It began life in 1868, and is now the
terminus of a branch railway.
Before the wicked days of dynamite, and as long ago as the year 1834, a
fisherman was leisurely catching salmon-trout up the Sil; he had time to
look about him, and he noticed that in many places the rocks had a black
appearance. He broke off some pieces and carried them home, when he
found that they burned like coal; in fact he had discovered a coal mine!
Those were simple-minded days, for instead of running off with these
valuable cinders under his arm, fixing on an influential chairman and a
board of directors for his new company, this good man did nothing but
talk occasionally of the black rock that he had seen when fishing. Many
years elapsed before any advantage was taken of this valuable discovery.
At length a more careful search was made, and it proved that coal
existed there in abundance! In 1867 mining was commenced on a large
scale by the Kronstäder Company. The next year a town was already
growing up in the neighbourhood of the mines, and increased in a most
surprising manner. In 1870 the railway was opened from Petrosèny to
Piski, on the main line from Arad. The growth of the place, however,
received a check in the financial crisis of 1873.
The town itself is in no way remarkable, being a mere collection of
dwellings for the accommodation of the miners and the employés; but the
scenery in the neighbourhood is simply magnificent. In approaching