Gingerbread is one of those deliciously international foods that appears in many countries around the holidays. It is rumored to have been introduced to Europe in 992 by a monk named Gregoire de Nikopolis, and today different variations can be found in Germany, Sweden, England, France, Poland, and many other countries.
The award for gingerbread enthusiasm, however, must go to the town of Bergen in Norway. Every year they build Pepperkakebyen, a town built entirely of gingerbread. It is tradition for every child under the age of 12 to contribute towards the event, and is believed to be the biggest gingerbread town in the world.
For a great compilation of 15 Gingerbread cities around the world, check out MightyGirl’s recent post.
Although I love gingerbread my skills are not quite that advanced, so I think I’ll be sticking with this simple gingerbread house interpretations this year:
Want to make your own? You can find instructions for these here.
Transylvania is a region in central Romania, nestled next the the Carpathian mountain range to the East and South. Dating back to the Roman empire, Transylvania has a rich history of battles, monarchies, and occupations. Despite its colorful past, in the USA Transylvania is known best for the myths of vampires, werewolves, and spirits that supposedly reside there.
In 1897 Bram Stoker wrote a book he called Dracula. While stories of vampires had existed before the release of Dracula, the popularity of the novel pushed them into the mainstream through books, theater, and movies. But how based in fact are these stories of the world’s most famous vampire?
The name “Dracula” is rumored to have originated from Vlad the Impaler’s full name – Vlad III Dracula. Vlad III is heralded by Romanians as a hero for fighting off the Turkish Ottoman Empire in the 13th century, but unfortunately killed thousands of civilians in the process. Bram Stoker came across stories of Vlad when researching Romania for his novel, and borrowed the name Dracula for his main character.
What about Dracula’s castle? Transylvania has many old castles, and there are three in debate as to which is “Dracula’s” castle – Poenari Castle, Hunyad Castle, and Bran Castle. Bran Castle is marketed as the most credible, partly due to the fact that Vlad the Impaler (Dracula’s namesake) used to use the castle as a base during battles. Wanting to experience some of the legend, many tourists visit Bran Castle in search of the story of Dracula.
I always find it interesting to find out there is a little bit of truth, however tangential, in famous legends, particularly those of the spooky variety. Have a safe, fun, and happy Halloween!
Cards from Drenculture's Etsy Shop
Apple : Măr
Banana : Banană
Carrot : Morcov
Strawberry : Căpşune
Peaches : Piersici
Pepper : Ardei
Corn : Porumb
Pumpkin : Dovleac
Lettuce : Salată Verde
Pineapple : Ananas
Onion : Ceapă
Want to hear how the words are pronounced? Click here.
Interested in learning how to count to ten in Hungarian, or learn some animals in Croatian? Check out our other language posts from this season’s destination of Old World Hungary!
The Money Hat and other Hungarian Folk Tales was another great library find I discovered recently. Containing 14 Folk Tales covering such characters as witches and noblemen, heroes and soldiers, farmers and peasants, this book’s creation is a story in itself. Gyuri Biro was born in Budapest, but fled with his family to Austria after Hungary’s 1956 revolution. Biro held countless careers during his lifetime, as a cartoonist, an actor, a bartender, a professional boxer, and a draftsman. He eventually settled in the USA where he met Peggy Hoffman, and recruited her to help him write down the Folk Tales he was told as a child.
Putting together a collection of stories that has been passed down orally through generations is no easy feat, but this book has a lightness and yet very genuine feel and the stories are a pleasure to read. As a cartoonist, Biro also did all of the original illustrations:
The stories themselves are all a little too long to post here, but I highly recommend reading them. Most copies I’ve found have been at libraries as the book itself is out of print, but if you want to do further research it was published by Westminster Press in 1969.
* This is part of an ongoing blog series exploring children’s literature and folk tales from the regions of Hungary, Romania, and Croatia. Do you have any recommendations? If so please feel free to leave a comment below.
Art by Petit Collage
Slon : Elephant
Zmija : Snake
Cačak : Cat
Pas : Dog
Lav : Lion
Majmun : Monkey
Ovca : Sheep
Konj : Horse
Leptir : Butterfly
Sova : Owl
Sma : Deer
Kurjak : Wolf
Jelen : Stag
Know them all? Play this fun game here!
Have you checked out our Sma, Kurjak, Sova, and Jelen clothes this season? :
One of our readers and commenters recently told us about one of her favorite children’s book authors from Croatia – Ivana Brlić-Mažuranić. Although she passed away 1938 she is still considered to be one of Croatia’s most famous and well-loved writers for children. Born into a family of politicians and poets, Ivana homeschooled all six of her children, and became famous in 1913 for her book The Brave Adventures of Laptich. Croatian Tales of Long Ago was published in 1916 with huge success, which prompted Ivana’s nickname – “The Croatian Andersen” (in reference to Hans Christian Andersen). The stories are original, but reference characters and themes from traditional Slavic mythology.
In 2002 and 2003 an animation artist named Helena Bulaja decided to adapt some of the Croatian Tales of Long Ago into a web animation project. In her words: “The digital revolution, the Internet, and modern communications are on one side, and the world of fairytales on the other…the concept of the interactive book is so open, and unlike film, theatre, or illustration, it can take almost any form, it can be a film, an illustration, a game…” The website is a little dated, but the animation is stunning, such as in Yagor below:
Yagor from Helena Bulaja on Vimeo.
This is part of an ongoing blog series exploring children’s literature and folk tales from the regions of Hungary, Romania, and Croatia. Do you have any recommendations? If so please feel free to leave a comment below.
I’ve wanted to visit Croatia ever since I saw the PBS special Land of Falling Lakes about Plitvice Lakes National Park. I could barely believe such a majestic landscape actually existed. Sixteen bright turquoise lakes are nestled in woodland-covered mountains, and are connected by waterfalls, caverns and bubbling streams. Plitvice Lakes was named a UNESCO world heritage site in 1979 for its “outstanding natural beauty.”
Spring photo (top) by Elliot Jenko
Summer photo (2nd from top) by Jack Brauer
Fall photo (3rd from top) found here
Winter photo (bottom) found here
The documentary takes you through the seasons of the park, teaches you about the land’s unique ecology and introduces you to many of its animal residents. With fascinating explanations of animals and the landscape of the region, this documentary will appeal to all ages.
Stream the preview. Purchase the DVD. Add it to your Netflix queue. Or better yet, go visit.