What & WhyAll this would be far poorer had I not exchanged countless Carpathian messages – in English - with Peterbud who lives on the other side of the Carpathian Arc, whose 'character' page has proven to be a tool of great help that I took advantage of all along the way, along with his critical remarks and the links he has provided me with.
It's not all about climbing, it's about mountains!
This article, along with the attached "child" page, is aimed at people thinking of backpacking, hiking and/or climbing in the Carpathians
. It is supposed to make you feel more comfortable while reading the non-English maps/guidebooks/TR's (with or without the assistance of the Google translator), not to mention being able to understand/use the words listed. Nearly all of these words fall into the following categories: what is usually in the map key, words that often form part of the name of a landform (e.g. window), the most basic gear, emblematic animals and plants, cardinal directions, colours, weather, seasons, pastoral life and "hi/thanks!" The words are given in English and the official languages of the seven countries the Carpathians are divided among. NB The languages/dialects of the stateless peoples/ethnic groups - such as the Rusyns
- have not been included. The same goes for the languages of the other minorities, much more numerous before World War II, whose settlements/homes are scattered throughout the Carpathians: the Roma
(who before World War II were a majority of town residents in many places, especially in the north-east), Armenians, and others. If you would like to taste the ambience, please click the Musical chapter
. Talking of the attached dictionary/album (see para. 3), I hope it will be polished over a long time since polishing things happens to be a job I've always liked, which may result from my native language being Polish.LOL
I hope this article will also be interesting for anybody feeling like learning a little about the history of the area as well as its characteristic toponyms. For years, I just enjoyed wandering through the Carpathian Mountains, but recently I got interested in the land's human history also. As the Internet has made it possible to access information that used to be hard to find, I have spent quite a while studying TR's and other pages about both the mountain ranges of the Carpathians I have been to and those I have always dreamt of visiting. Meanwhile, I have also read contemporary works on the history of the Carpathian countries and the nearby Balkans, these days often written at American, Canadian or British universities. The history is complicated indeed and just a few words is obviously not enough to understand it, but some of the rows of the dictionary do manifest the common - often forgotten as is the Poland-Ukraine case - past. (In fact just a glance at the very last row can tell you a lot.) Surely, the history has been subject to both political manipulation and folk's imagination for dozens of decades, which results in the Internet pages as well as history books being packed with the most laughable myths. It does take time to sort the wheat from the chaff, and sometimes this is plain impossible. I am far from saying I have studied everything that is to be found by clicking the history-related links I have gleaned. I can just say that I believe I have learnt the basics by reading the stuff and I would recommend it to the intrigued.
NW Carpathians: Slovakia,
between Poland and Hungary
Last but not least, a Carpathian Picture Dictionary
has been attached to this article as a child page.
|Here man's imprint on landscape is just as natural as that of its flora or fauna; we have after all, been here just as long.
The cultivated valley floors and villages of Switzerland are not part of a "designed wilderness", but are part of
man's interaction with his environment, a process which has been ongoing since the Palaeolithic.|
|Nanuls (commenting on In Defense of the Wild)|
|despite this not being a true wilderness it is possible to escape the entrapments of 'civilisation',
and be forced to rely on one's fitness, ability to navigate, and if need be, survive.
Today nearly all of the area
of the Carpathian Mountains belongs to Romania and several Slavic states: Ukraine, Slovakia, Poland and the Czech Republic in the north; and Serbia at the southern end (if we count the mountains of the north of eastern Serbia
among the Carpathians). But for several hundred years, until the First World War, the great Carpathian arc formed the frontier of a multi-ethnic kingdom of Hungary
, which occupied all of the land inside it. (From 1867 to 1918, Hungary was part of Austria-Hungary
, where 12 languagues were oficially recognised.) The very heart of what is now Romania, namely eastern Transylvania (which translates as "the land beyond the forest") is still inhabited by the Szeklers
, who speak Hungarian, and is dotted with Medieval towns and fortified villages built by the "Saxons"
. On the other hand, virtually all ranges of the Carpathian Mountains have at least for a while been home to the shepherds who spoke Romanian (or whose forefathers spoke Romanian) and migrated west as far as the Czech lands, utilising the least hospitable terrain, including the highest ridges. Outside Romania they were usually known as Vlachs
(the name derives from an old Germanic word for speakers of diverse languages; e.g. in Polish the "Vlachs" translates as "Wołosi"; similarly, the Italians are called "Włosi").
While the Slavic languages
are mutually intelligible (the tough bit can be the Cyrillic alphabet
, which is still used in Ukraine
and Serbia), Romanian
is a Latin-based language which has the same Roman roots as those of languages such as Italian, French or Catalonian. But Hungarian
is completely different and belongs to the Finno-Ugric (Uralic) family despite sharing very few, the most ancient words with the Finnish language.
in East Carpathians
By Valašská Bystřice
in Czech Republic
Carpathian Blend & History Behind It
20 years ago
Despite two languages being originally diverse, several centuries of sharing territory will lead to borrowing plenty of words from each other. A case in point can be the Romanian language, which by a renowned Romanian linguist of the 19th century was classified as Slavic since - according to his estimate – up to forty percent of its words had been borrowed from Slavic languages (see pages 53-54 here
), such as Bulgarian, Serbian and Ukrainian. As modern Romanian was created, the number of its non-Latin-sounding words decreased dramatically but many are still alive as you can tell by looking at the rows of words in the attached dictionary.Similarly, the common past of Poland and Ukraine shows clearly through the dictionary although diverse spelling systems mask the fact. Perhaps the best preserved legacy of the multi-ethnic Carpathians is the language of the Rusyns who live on the inner, southwestern side of the Carpathian arc, within the political borders of present-day Ukraine.
The ridges of the Northwestern Carpathians - a long way away from Romania – contain toponyms that sound Romanian. One of the most common, easily recognizable Romanian words is măgură, i.e. "hill". In Slovakia and Poland, magura is used to name both single mountains and groups of hills, such as Magura Spišská. In the Beskid Niski, there is a mountain named Piotruś. This word is a Polish diminutive for Piotr (i.e. Peter) and was probably created a couple of centuries ago from the original name of the hill - Pietros. Many a Carpathian summit bears the name of Pietros since this is the Romanian word for "rocky". Bryndza - a kind of salty cottage cheese made of ewe milk in all of the Carpathian countries is simply the Romanian word for "cheese".
in Low Beskid
100 years ago
German speaking people arrived in the south of Transylvania in the 12th century. (Without doubt, some of the several peoples inhabiting the area between the time that the Romans left and the Slavs, Turkic peoples
and Hungarians arrived were Germanic tribes like the Goths or the Gepids but they disappeared without much trace.) The German settlers - usually called "Saxons" by the others - were invited by the kings of medieval Hungary in order to develop the sparsely populated areas at the foot of the Carpathian ranges. After the Mongol invasion which had ravaged most of Central Eastern Europe in the first half of C13, the numbers of the German settlers in Transylvania increased, and others found their new home around the opposite high end of the Carpathians, i.e. the Tatra Mountains, and in many other locations. The names of the towns such as Kežmarok
(once Käsemarkt) in the historic land of Spiš
attest to this. Sadly, most of Transylvania's Saxons left for Germany towards the end of the communist era.
Polish Crest in C19
from the South
Polish Crest from
the "Polish" side
Contrary to the widespread stereotype, not all of the "exotic" - i.e. strange to the ear of the lowland citizen of a given country - words used by the local mountain folk are Romanian or German. Vatra
(PL spelling: watra) does translate as "fireplace" in Romanian (and Albanian), but juhas
(Polish spelling) turns out to stem from the Hungarian word for "sheep", baca/bača
(Polish/Slovak for "chief shepherd") seem to derive from the Hungarian bácsi
("uncle"), and gazda
- to Polish people known to mean the owner of a farm in the Carpathians - literally means "farm owner/householder" in Hungarian. The embroidered ornament on the highlander's trousers - known as parzenica
in Poland and commonly identified as native to the mountain folk - is actually a copy of the pattern found on the trousers of Hungarian soldiers or policemen (another interesting question is where the army took it from).
When I see a picture of the bizarre "Transylvanian wooden washing machine" (below) called either vâltoare
by the Romanians, my native Polish makes me think of a kind of "water path" and my speculation seems to be confirmed by the Serbian word for "path". Coincidence? Perhaps (just have a look at the first three letters of the Czech, Slovak and Polish words for "fog" and apart from having a laugh you'll see how easily and unpredictably letters wander through languages), but anyway Romanian potecă
for "footpath" is a copy of its Bulgarian counterpart - no wonder given the fact that the so called second Bulgaria
- founded towards the end of C12 by Peter and Asen, who may have been Romanian (then called Wallachian/Vlach) - was defined as the country of the Slavs, Wallachians and Cumans
One of the highest massifs of the South Carpatians is called the Iezer - for a good reason as there's only one decent lake in these mountains (see the "lake" row in the attached picture dictionary). The name of the highest summit of the Căpăţînii
Mountains is Nedeia. I climbed it over thirty years ago but only recently did I realize that this word, which has always sounded familiar to me, must have originated from a Slavic word for Sunday (nedelya
). The origin and meaning of the name of the highest peak in Ukraine, Hoverla
, is not known, it's usually thought to derive from some Romanian as many summits nearby bear Romanian names. But not so long ago Hoverla rose on the Hungary-Poland/Galicia border, and the Hungarian name of the peak is Hóvár, which can be easily translated as "snow castle/fort", however, this name doesn't appear until the first half of the last century. More about the mystery and my recent attempts to sort it out: here
Anyway, within the Carpathians, most of the time it is impossible to answer the question who has borrowed what, how much and who from. The only reasonable assertion can be that it all comes down to centuries of sharing the beautiful mountainous land. A very personal example of the people having migrated and mingled around the Carpathian Mountains is my surname, which is Hungarian despite containing a "w" where a "v" was, and which literally means a native of one of the countries bordering on Hungary, although the country in question is neither Poland nor Ukraine, where my parents were born.
Spellings and Sounds
This is a real pain. The problem is that the Carpathian languages use diverse characters - mostly diacritics - to represent the same, or similar, sounds in writing. For instance, the Hungarian "a"
- unlike "á"
- sounds more or less like Slavic "o"
, which is close to the British "o" sound in "pot". I must admit not until I saw the Hungarian alphabet did I realize the Hungarian word for a mountain stream - patak
- is the same word as my native Polish, or rather Slavic, potok
. The following little table displays some of the most common sound-versus-spelling problems.
|ch (church)||č||č||cz||ch||cs||c before e/i||č|
- The ways the sounds are spelt can also change. Throughout most of the second half of the 20th century the last vowel in the name of the second highest mountains in Romania was represented by "î" but now it has been replaced by the previously used "â" Still, many Romanians prefer to use the former character for the sound which - in fact - is close to the French "u", German "ü" or Greek "upsilon/ypsilon".
- The Ukrainian script is a transliteration from Cyrillic, therefore a speaker of English will find it very easy to pronounce the Ukrainian words listed below:), except for the "l" which most of the time sounds like the Polish "ł" or the English "w". The "yy" represents a cluster which is similar in sound to "ey" in "key".
- There's often an "unexpected" ending to a Romanian noun, e.g. an "-ul" for masculine nouns. Here's an explanation of the mystery.
- The Slavic adjectives are normally listed in their masculine form, whose last letter is an "y"or "i" (pronounced more or less like "y" in "happy"), whereas the feminine ending is an "a".
External Links Outside Text
YouTube Musical Videos