Old Homes of New Americans

On the Easternmost Edge of Austria-Hungary
The Bukowina and Transylvania
Chapter 15

The Varied History of the Bukowins -- Its Many Rulers -- At the Window of the Schwarzer Adler -- The Many Sights of Czernowitz--The Dangers of Photography - Transylvania, the Switzerland of the East -- An Heroic People -- Stanch Protestants -- The Eccentricities of the Old Nobles -- A Bit of Dry Humor -- Advice to the American Globe-Girdler.


The Bukowina, though now a province of Austria, was originally a part of Transylvania, which now belongs to Hungary; so for the purposes of this book we may conisider them together in the part of the work devoted to Hungary, since they are contiguous provinces, with many of the same characteristics of climate, natural scenery, productions, and people.

The seven hundred thousand people of the Bukowina were organized as a separate crown land of Austria about the middle of the last century. For two hundred and fifty years before I777, when it was ceded to Austria, it was ruled by the Turk and suffered the unspeakable horrors of frequent wars, its soil often being dyed red with the blood of its sons.

It is a mountainous country, with the exception of the valley of the Pruth, its chief river; and its only considerable city is Czernowitz, its capital.

Come with me to the Schwarzer Adler (the Black Eagle) in Czernowitz, and let us see what is novel and interesting from the window that overlooks the principal square of the town. Do you confess that you never heard of Czernowitz before? Yet it is a city with fine public buildings, a flourishing university, an archbishop's palace, and a history stretching back for hundreds of years.

The view from our window is peculiarly fascinating, because it reveals so many types of the genus homo. There is the hobble skirt of 1912 walking the street with the sheepskin coat of 1219. There is the latest obtainable Paris peach-basket hat hobnobbing with the bright plaid shawl thrown gracefully over the head, and looking a thousand times more beautiful and comfortable than the flaunting foreign headgear.

There is a group of students with bright German corps caps, sabre scars on their cheeks, and a big dog tagging their heels. They are passing a group of barelegged peasants from the country, in woolly skin coats and caps. There are Ruthenians, Poles, Jews, Saxons, and Roumanians, the latter race probably outnumbering all the others.

The market, which is constantly in operation from early morning until midnight, is a blaze of colored costumes, highly colored fruit, and colored lamps at night. Oranges, lemons, apples, grapes, figs are displayed, while the market-women have borrowed the gold of the orange, the pink flush of the apple, and the purple of the grapes and figs with which to dye and embroider their skin coats, which are often most elaborate and costly.

There goes a primitive watering-cart, consisting of a hogshead mounted on wheels, with a long, flexible leather spout sticking out behind. As the cart is driven along the dusty street, a man walks behind, swinging the spout from right to left, and leaving a meagre trickle of water behind him.

If America does not know much of Czernowitz, Czernowitz is never allowed to forget America. Half a dozen steamship agencies flaunt the Stars and Stripes, and invite the passerby to take a steerage passage for the land beyond the great water. An "American House Pullman" directly oppo site our hotel sells "Walkover" shoes and other familiar articies of wearing apparel while American photographic establishmentS abound, where you can obtain twelve "stuck" (postage-stamp size) of your counterfeit presentment for sixty heller or twelve cents.

If you should not care to buy your pictures at the rate of a cent a copy, but wish to take photographs of the natives, you will have no easy task, for you will be besieged by a pushing, eager mob all anxious to be "took." Old market-women will peer into the finder and will pose beatifically for their pictures, until half a dozen small boys crowd in front of the lens and destroy the focus.

So alarmed was I lest my wife, who was trying to take a picture in the market square, should be crushed by these too eager aspirants for the immortality of the camera, that I had to crowd my way through, pushing boys to right and left, until I made a path for her to escape to the hotel.

Bukowina is not by any means the least interesting part of Francis Joseph's dominions. Much of it is peopled by Roumanians, who pride themselves on being descendants of the old Roman legionaries and speaking a language more like the ancient Latin than the Italians themselves. This pride of race has received a severe shock from the researches of some modern scholars, who deny the Latin origin of the Roumanians.

The compatriots of these Roumanians have established an independent kingdom of their own in the land across the border from the Bukowina. Roumania is indeed the most prosperous of all the smaller kingdoms of southeastern Europe.

Bordering on the Bukowina and also on Roumania is Transylvania, the most picturesque of all the domains of Hungary: This is the Switzerland of southeastern Europe. Here high mountains, bold granite crags, gentler hills clothed with forests to their top, rushing streams, feathery waterfalls make the region of the Carpathians exceedingly attractive. They only need to be better known, and to have more and better hotels, to rival the most celebrated mounitain resorts in the world.

Transylvania has played no mean part in the history of Europe. Like the adjoining parts of Hungary, her task was to repel the hordes of Turks who were constantly crossing her borders and ravaging her fair territory. Since the Transylvanians were the nearest neighbors of the Turks, they had to bear the brunt of the battle, and right bravely did they stand, time and time again, between the rest of Europe and the terrible armies of the Mussulmans, while Germany, Austria, and France looked on in apathetic selfishness.

All Hungary was engaged in this centuries-long conflict of Christian against Moslem, but she had to look at times to Tranasylvania for her leaders. The Transylvanians were stanch Protestants after the Reformation, and when Ferdinand II inherited the crowns of Bohemia and Hungary, and began to persecute the Bohemian Protestants, the Hungarians elected a brave Transylvanian noble, Bethlen Gabor, as their king. He flew to the rescue of Bohemia; but when at the disastrous battle of the White Mountain the Bohemians were overwhelmingly defeated, Bethlen Gabor had to give up the crown of Hungary and retreat to the fastnesses of Transylvania.

We are told that the old Transylvanian nobles were a class by themselves, retaining their old feudaI customs long after the rest of Europe had given them up. Some of them reveled in their eccentricities. There are stories of an old noble who was found dressed in ancient Magyar clothes, drilling a flock of geese as though they were soldiers. Another was accustomed to camp out in his park in summer, striking his tents in the morning and pitching them again at night; while yet another of whom we have heard, who wished to keep his guest for a longer visit, had the wheels of the guest's carriage taken off and hung up in a high tree, where only a certain gypsy could climb to get them down. The gypsy was then sent out of town, and the enforced visit of the guest was continued.

The dry humor of the old Magyar nobles of Transylvania is illustrated by a story told by Mr. Colquhoun in his book, "The Whirpool of Europe·" One of these nobles, though rich, was noted for his shabby clothes. On one occasion a young farmhand desiring another farmhand and seeing this shabby old man, cried out, "Hi! old man, do you want some work?" The old man nodded assent. "Well, you can come along tomorrow and look after some sheep. Bring any of your bits of things or animals with you; there's plenty of room on my farm." The next day, as the young farmer walked across his fields, he saw a cloud of dust coming up the road. Presently there emerged from it a herd of cows, horses, and sheep, hundreds of animals with their drovers

This cavalcade swept past the astonished man, and behind it was a huge wagon, creaking and groaning, laden with heavy furniture, in front of which sat his shabby acquaintance of the day before. "You told me to bring my animals and bits of things," said the old man; "and there they are."

While the chief landed proprietors of Transylvania are Magyars and Saxons, the bulk of the population are Roumanians, and from their ranks go largely the emigrants to America, Of the one hundred and sixty-seven thousand emigrants from Hungary in a single recent year, seven eighths of whom went to the United States, about one sixth, or nearly thirty thousand, spoke the Roumanian language. That this people has large capacity for self-rule, and thal they will Prosper wherever they take root, is shown by the extremely flourishing condition of Roumania as compared with many of her neighbors.

Brasso (or Kronstadt, as the Germans call it), the chief town of Transylvania, is a bright and enterprising little city, most beautifully situated, with fine mountains to the east, and the interminable rich plains of Hungary stretching to the west as far as Budapest. I would advise the American globe-girdler, who is seeking for new worlds to conquer, to spend a summer in Transylvania. He will find no more charming scenery and no more hospitable and likable people, no more genuinely primitive and interesting life and customs, in the five continents than among the Carpathians of Transylvania.

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