I recently made a trip to a country I had never been to before; Romania. However, while traveling to central Romania and the heart of Transylvania, the predominant language I was to encounter was Hungarian. The city I was heading for is called Miercurea Cíuc, or at least that is what one will see on an official map of Romania. Most of the locals, however, will call it by its Hungarian name; Csíkszereda.
The City is the capital of Harghita County, one of just three counties in Romania where ethnic Hungarians, known as Székely, are in the majority. In Harghita county they make up c.80% of the population, although nationally the figure stands at c.5%.
As our car moved north from Braşov, houses became adorned with a pairing of flags. The first was made of a green, white and red horizontal stripe and was easily recognisable as that of Hungary. The second flag of pale blue with a golden stripe and further decorations, I did not recognise. This was the flag of the Székely people with the additional decorations being an eight-pointed star and a white crescent.
The closer we got to Miercurea Cíuc / Csíkszereda, the more the flags seemed to flourish.
In my very first weekend, there was a folk festival with the Csékely dressed up in their traditional costumes and dances being performed on stage. The men looked as if they had just dismounted from fine steeds, shades of the Austro-Hungarian empire.
The women wore flowing skirts, many of black and red stripes, along with white blouses and aprons with intricate detail on the edges and cuffs. Not being an expert on this, I could see this being a traditional lady’s costume for numerous countries within Europe.
It’s clear that the Székely people see themselves as ethnic Hungarians, not Romanians, continue to use Hungarian as their first language and are keen to keep their own distinct identity alive. With the proportion of Székely decreasing within the province, they may also feel that their very identity is under threat.
Many of the houses in the region are fronted by impressive wooden gates, some of which are intricately carved. The gate in the image below I found particularly illustrative of the people.
Above the wooden door to the right of the main gate, the colours used are those of the Hungarian flag. If one looks carefully, there are two Hungarian flags included, as well as the Hungarian crest. The inscription above the door translates to
“God helped build this gate with Lázar Kovacs and his wife Régina Bakó 1903”
Note: All images in this post taken using a mobile phone.