A small Romanian flag hangs on every lamppost in Cluj. One of the university buildings also bears a flag flying several storeys high. Our tour of Transylvania begins just before the national holiday on December 1, and many places, such as Cluj, are adorned in the national colours. Andrei, the Romanian in our small tour group, is visibly annoyed by so much nationalism on display. The Hungarian border is less than 200kms away and a large Hungarian minority, making up to a fifth of the population, lives in the region. Also most of the Transylvanian Saxons who shaped the area for hundreds of years have now emigrated. But their villages, and their churches that were fortified against Ottoman attacks, are still there. Picturesque cities such as Sibiu, formerly known as Hermannstadt, or Sighișoara, formerly Schäßburg, are highlights of tourist itineraries. Another minority, the Roma, is often marginalised and lives in poverty on the outskirts of villages. Some have also amassed wealth and built magnificent houses, palaces that are symbols of their success. It’s a scene typical of south-eastern Europe, where ethnic groups, cultures and religions have coexisted, more and less peacefully, for centuries. However, on their national holiday, Romanians have to show who is in the majority. Blue, yellow, red.

Text:  Jasmin Jouhar
Photo(s): Nafez Rerhuf