Dragons exist - not only in Middle-Earth or in Game of Thrones, but also here in Transylvania. At least there are dragons in Partium, along the Kraszna (Crasna) and Berettyó (Barcău) Rivers, in the Magura (Măgura) Mountain. The names of the mountains and forests also help de dragons: west from the Berettyó are the Réz (Plopiș) Mountains. I do not know anything about gold or silver forests, but I do know abou the gold of the Gepids, which was found in the Somlyó (Șimleu) area. If there are treasures in the depths, it is certain that dragons live nearby.
The gallant Bátor knew this and, after a fierce battle, defeated the vicious dragon. He ripped out three of the dragon’s teeth and placed them on the Báthory family’s coat of arms. The Báthoryans proudly wore the coat of arms. After such bravery, it is no surprise that the wealthy Báthoryans felt at home in Somlyó (Șimleu). In fact, they felt so at home here, that they built two castles: one in the mountains, later a second one in the city’s main square.
If you visit Somlyó and look behind the many modern buildings, you will know why the Báthoryans, the family of so many great rulers, chose this place as their “home” since the 1300s. The Magura Mountain is so spectacular, rising above the city, protecting it from dragons, just perfect for a Monarch Prince. The Kraszna (Crasna) River meanders peacefully at the feet of this lonely mountain.
The castle is located between the post office and the police building, near the beautiful Catholic and Reformed Churches, not far from the most impressive Northern Transylvanian synagogue and Holocaust Museum.
The Báthoryans built the quadric fort-castle (with bastions in every corner) in 1592, hiring Italian masters. As I have mentioned before, the family had another castle up in the Magura Mountain, but few years prior it was destroyed by the Ottomans. István Báthory considered that it would be more suitable and convenient to build a fort castle in the city, in order to provide shelter for all the inhabitants in times of war and danger. The people living here had an “exciting” life. The castle was attacked first by general Basta and his battalion, the kuruc “legions” also came here and during the Hungarian Revolution of 1848, general Bem and his troops also “visited” the castle.
The sight of the round bastions followed me through my whole life. When I was in middle school and read the Eclipse of the Crescent Moon (Hungarian: Egri csillagok lit. “Stars of Eger” the historical novel by the Hungarian writer Géza Gárdonyi), I always imagined these four protective bastions of Somlyó. Then, it happened that I studied here, during my highschool years. In those times, whomever wanted to skip school, could safely “take/seek refuge” behind the walls of the castle. But this was the meeting place of all the commuting students, who had to wait for their bus for longer. It was not difficult to observe how the castle and its bastions fell into ruins day by day. The falling boulders stones of the main gate and the facade did not promise much good. But the castle is still a romantic sight. I did not realize how lucky I was, spending time in its years, as the place cannot be visited and it’s been closed for a quite long time now. Its rehabilitation is always delayed because of the usual bureaucratic and political games. Maybe if the Dragon of Magura would wake up and “visit” the city some sort of miracle would happen and the castle would be brought back to its old glory.