European mountains are steeped in legend. These remote areas are traditionally the inspiration for tales of magic, mystery and horror. The gods of ancient times were said to reside on the highest mountain peaks in Europe, and many legends associated with European mountains have their origins in stories from the classical world. Some popular fairy stories also originate from mountain myths, and several infamous European mountain regions have inspired well known authors to create their own tales of terror.
• Carpathian mountains
Transylvania in the Carpathian mountainsis where Count Dracula, the most famous of all vampires, has his origins. Sighisoara in Romania is the actual birthplace of Vlad Tepes, born 1431, better known as Vlad the impaler, whose real life history is the basis of Bram Stoker's Dracula.
The Carpathian mountains are also associated with traditional tales of werewolves, and other terrors.
• Caucasus mountains
The Caucasus mountain range, where the highest mountain in Europe is situated, is also known as the site where Prometheus, a Titan, was chained for eternity in a remote and rocky place. This was his punishment for giving mortals the power of knowledge, through his gift of fire, stolen from the god Vulcan. Until we knew of fire there could be no civilization, and this gift from Prometheus became the basis of all human civilization, industry and commerce.
Previously only the gods possessed knowledge and Zeus was angry with what Prometheus had done. Prometheus was chained to the mountains with huge iron links, forged by the god Vulcan. Prometheus was made to suffer additional torment by having his liver pecked and eaten by an eagle, every day. His liver was restored each night so it would be pecked out on each subsequent day, for ever.
• Dovre Mountains
The king of trolls is said to hold court beneath the Dovre Mountains in south-central Norway. Composer Edvard Grieg features the Hall of the Mountain King in his reknowned Peer Gynt Suite.
Fierce trolls exist almost everywhere in the Norse regions, according to Scandinavian folklore, but the mountain trolls are by far the wealthiest. Mountain trolls are said to inhabit isolated caves in rocky cliffs, where they hoard their gold and silver.
It is of little surprise that Vulcan, the god of fire, is closely associated with Etna, an active volcano on the island of Sicily. This European mountain could easily be Vulcan's own giant forge, issuing sparks of fire and spreading red hot lava across the land.
According to another myth, plumes of ash rising from Mount Etna are formed by the breath of Enkelados, a giant who was buried in Sicily after fighting against the gods and being wounded in battle. When the volcano stirs during an eruption, and the ground starts to move, that is caused by the underground movements of Enkelados.
• Mount Olympus
The legendary home of the Greek gods, Mount Olympus is the highest mountain in Greece, and is a suitable location for Zeus, god of thunder and lord of the sky.
Before Zeus ruled from the top of Olympus it was the Titans, a race of divine beings, who held power. Cronus was their leader and father of Zeus, though his existence was kept secret from Cronus. When Zeus became fully grown he returned to mount Olympus and confronted Cronus, with good reason as Cronus had consumed his other children to prevent them from gaining power. Having usurped Cronus and dealt with all the Titan, Zeus made himself king of Olympus and leader of all the gods,
It is possible to base a long European trip, or a short vacation in the mountains, around some of these legends. You might not meet many trolls, vampires or gods, but it is still possible to experience some of the magic and mystery associated with European mountains.