I am so at home in Dublin, more than any other city, that I feel it has always been familiar to me. It took me years to see through its soft charm to its bitter prickly kernel - which I quite like too.

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A Discontinued People

Ion Ionita
Nature-lovers who chose to take a stroll last summer through the woods surrounding the Romanian Transylvanian village of Viscri might have been surprised, on some of the less-travelled paths, to bump into Britain’s Prince Charles. For locals, however, the presence of this illustrious figure is not at all a surprise, and hasn’t been for some time – in fact since the prince became a resident of Viscri a few years ago through his purchase of two pieces of real estate there. But what brought Prince Charles to Romania? The area’s German community, or rather the vestiges left behind by this now virtually extinct people. The Germans of Romania were brought to the Transylvania and Banat areas in two historic waves a few hundreds of years apart. The Saxons and the Schwaben (Swabians) had the same intention, to populate certain areas, build roads, cities and towns and develop the regions’ economy. This they successfully did. And Herta Müller, a representative of the Schwaben of Banat, received this year’s Nobel Prize for Literature, to everyone’s surprise. Nowhere was the surprise greater than in Romania itself. The event was covered by the media, but thereafter silence settled in again. For Herta Müller has a critical attitude towards the evolution of Romanian society after the fall of Nicolae Ceausescu, and her opinions are inconvenient. Anyone looking for the Saxons and Schwaben of Romania would have a hard time finding them today. Most of them are in fact in Germany. But they have left behind stones, churches, walls, towers, homes and schools. The churches no longer have parishioners and there is not a whisper of German to be heard in the schools, since their pupils and teachers vanished altogether twenty years ago. The prolonged death agony of this community, which started with World War II, ceased abruptly during the early nineties, right after the fall of communism. A single year was all it took to end eight hundred years of history. The first Germans to arrive in Transylvania, the Saxons, were brought there as colonists by the Magyar king Geza II in the twelfth century. Their mission was to defend the kingdom’s border, to build roads and cities. And not haphazardly but in a planned fashion: Transylvania was also known during the Middle Ages under the German name of Siebenburgen (seven cities). The Saxons were granted the right to administrative self-governance, judicial independence and the…

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