30 June 2008. A picture from the Hungary/Romania trip.

This was a great day with three distinct, equally wonderful parts, and it is very hard to choose a picture. So it may be a surprise that this blurry thing is my choice. But it is, and for a reason. This was taken in the library at Pannonhalma Archabbey . We pilgrims and our hosts traveled to this thousand year old monastery and had a tour of the grounds. The Abbey lost a lot of land during the communist period, but was able to survive because the monks ran a school. Today,
the site is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

We toured the grounds (beautiful) and the Chapel (breathtaking) and waved at the old-folks in the windows of the old-folks home section (friendly.) Then we were led into an incredible library, which is open to the public. It was filled with books, and light and art and beautiful woodwork. The group wandered about a bit, taking in the space and the light. Then some of us began to stand on the edge of a circle in the marble floors. More and more of our group joined, both Hungarians and Americans, until we filled every spot at the edge of the circle. Brittany came last, and was dismayed to find all the spaces were taken. “You can be in the center,” someone suggested helpfully. She took her place, and slowly began to spin around. For a few moments, we were all joined in that circle in that beautiful library, overlooking the Hungarian Plain, smiling and laughing. The moment ended, and we wandered to different corners.

Traveling with groups can be a challenge. So many different needs from so many different people can be a strain. But when you are traveling alone or with only one other person, you rarely get to experience becoming part of a whole.

After lunch at Pannonhalma, we swam in Lake Balaton, which was just what the doctor ordered, as far as I was concerned, and then went to a feast in Kornye, where we ate incredible food cooked by members of the church. It was one of the most memorable dinners of my lifetime, and included much wine, and then a moonlit tour of the wine cellar. My travel journal for the day says the following about the dinner: “There were appetizers and salads and I think I ate three kinds of meat. Then a dessert tray. There was also house wine and much chatting and talking.” The day’s recollections end with this observation: “Today is a day I am in love with the world.”

It was a pretty magical day.

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