Instagram account @transylvania.heritage pulls back the curtain on the rich heritage of Romania’s fabled western region of Transylvania, as well as the peaks, secluded villages, and stunning nature of the Carpathian mountains.
With a vast array of archival photography, breathtaking landscapes, and images of bygone eras, the account offers a historic and multi-ethnic portrait of Transylvania. “I am absolutely convinced that without regional identity, there is no national identity,” Radu Frențiu, the curator behind the account, told The Calvert Journal. “And that national identity needs to respect and honour all living and historical ethnicities within that region.”
Hailing from a Transylvanian village, Frențiu says he spent his “teens in Europe, his 20s in America, [and his] 30s in Asia” and now finds himself in Australia. He set up the account at the beginning of 2021, in an attempt to reconnect with his roots, and expand the perceptions of Transylvania beyond its mythical ties to Dracula.
“I created @transylvania.heritage so that I do not forget who I am,” he explains. “But there are other reasons too: I wanted to have something to point to and show, when people abroad asked me little-informed questions, such as, ‘Is Transylvania actually a real place?’ or even ‘Are you a vampire?’. The other day, someone asked me if we ‘make’ anything in Transylvania, or if we have anyone worthy from there.”
Among the archival material, the account features portraits of Transylvanians spanning multiple generations, all the way back to the 19th century. Other images show intricate handmade ceramics, costumes, traditional musical instruments, as well as homemade cheeses.
@transylvania.heritage also gives an insight into key historical events, such as the (failed but significant) 1784 revolt of Horia, Cloșca and Crișan, which demanded an end to serfdom and envisioned equal ethnic rights for Romanians in Transylvania, while the region was under the imperial rule of the Austro-Hungarians.
For Frențiu, who sees himself as an “ambassador” for Transylvania’s cultural heritage, the visual material is as important as the context he provides in captions, because it sparks genuine curiosity and interest in the region’s history.