11 July 2008. A picture from the Hungary/Romania trip.

This was a very dark picture and I had to resort to harsh photo editing to make myself visible. At the airport, I unpacked all the alcohol I had carried home for the youth. Several of them bought alcohol as gifts for their parents and were surprised that they couldn’t bring it back to the states themselves. People who spend time with teenagers may be suspicious of this story, but I know that their parents did actually receive the alcohol because I handed it to them directly.

I waited for the last youth to be reunited with her mother and then I took a long Max ride back home. It was early or mid afternoon. How to stay awake until my bedtime? After I took this picture, I took a very long shower, grabbed that book you see on the table and got back on the Max. I took the yellow line to the streetcar and rode it all the way to the Spaghetti Factory where I had my favorite meal. This was the first meal I had eaten alone in two weeks. It was nice, but I missed the chatter. I realized on this trip that I don’t like the number of meals I eat alone.

Meal done, I reversed my commute, successfully killing several hours. I’m not sure what happened after that, but I’m guessing I started in on the photos. I didn’t manage to stay up for my normal bedtime, but I made it much longer than I would have if I had stayed home.

Coming home on a Friday was great. I had the better part of three days before returning to work and by that time most of my jet lag was gone and I had a good start on the photos and scrapbook.

So ended my trip.

10 July 2008. A picture from the Hungary/Romania trip.

On the back page of my scrapbook, I affixed this note:

Why I’m so tired:

9AM get on bus in Toroko
11PM get off bus in Budapest
11PM-12:30AM repack and shower and go to sleep

3AM up and to the airport
7:10AM flight leaves Budapest (slept 1/2 hour or so)
10:20AM flight leaves Amsterdam
Watch 4 movies
Play trivia challenge
(no sleep)
11:20AM arrive in Portland
Stay awake as long as possible which I’m guessing will be 7:15 or so.

Traveling is fun, but traveling to and from your destination? It can be hell. Oh beautiful ocean liners, how I mourn that I missed your era.

9 July 2008. A picture from the Hungary/Romania trip.

We left Toroko and drove to the city where King John Sigismund is buried. Sadly, my notes don’t include the name of this town, and a quick Google isn’t spitting it out either, so that town shall remain unknown. We then drove to Deva, where Francis David was martyred. (AKA, died in a cold prison cell on the top of a windy and cold hill.)

In 2005, this was a very “pilgrimage” moment of the trip. We walked up to the top of the hill silently, thinking about religious freedom. At the top, where the memorial to Francis David is, there were picnic tables, a snack bar and loud music playing. Eva got very angry and yelled at the snack bar people. They turned off the music and we had a very moving ceremony. Because of my past experience, I was looking forward to this part of the trip.

This time, instead of walking, we were going to take the brand-new funicular to the top. I would have preferred the walk, but having never had a funicular ride, I was looking forward to that. Alas, neither were to be. The entire top of the hill was closed for renovation. We didn’t even get to ride the funicular to the top. Instead we had a makeshift ceremony in the park that was not nearly as moving. Then it was back on the bus for a very long ride back to Budapest.

8 July 2008. A picture from the Hungary/Romania trip.

On our way to our final destination of Torocko we stopped briefly in Segesvar. (AKA, Sighisora & SchaBburg–with an umlaut over the “a” and an esset where the “B” is.) One of the reasons this town is currently drawing tourists is because it is the birthplace of Vlad the Impaler, but we Unitarian tourists look down on that and instead went to see the mechanism of the clock in the clock tower (very cool) and to the Church on the hill which we got to by climbing the Scholars’ Stairs (scroll down to read about them.) These were covered stairs climbing straight up the hill. Eva told us that legend says if you climb up in pairs and both count the stairs, no two people will get the same number. We took off like shots, climbing and counting. Halfway up I thought, “this has a feeling of a snipe hunt” and indeed, though we did come up with different numbers, the only reason that story is told is so people will zip up the stairs without complaining. Eva said her grandmother told her the story when she was little and so she told us.

A winding and slightly nausea-inducing bus ride delivered us to Torocko, which was a village we visited overnight in 2005. Torocko has become much more tourist-y in the interim. It improved the postcard situation, which was nice, but it was strange to see all those tour buses where previously there were none. In 2005 this was the village where we walked into the sleepy town and twenty minutes later a woman appeared with ice cream to sell. Though there aren’t enough tourists for her to have a shop, yet, I think that she must be very busy now.
Toroko is beautiful, not only because of the pretty houses, but also the huge mountain that looms above it. Legend has it that this was where the Pied Piper of Hamelin brought the children after he piped them away. The evidence is that the embroidery of Torocko is very Saxon and none of the surrounding villages show the Saxon influences. I just skimmed the article on Wikipedia and indeed, one of the theories is that the children may have been stolen/recruited to settle other parts of Europe. Also that the “children” may have not been actual children, but residents of the town who moved elsewhere.

7 July 2008. A picture from the Hungary/Romania trip.

I’m so breaking my rule. Two pictures in this post. But I can’t help myself.

In the morning, some of us went over to the dairy to move some hay bales. This was not the most active of trips and so I was thrilled to go and work. Alas, there were enough of us that it didn’t take very long and so we begged to shovel manure. We got to, and Levente, the minister and Brandon, the Peace Corps volunteer, were amused by our enthusiasm.

The dairy is part of Project Harvest Hope. This organization promotes economic development in Transylvania, with the idea being that if their are economic opportunities then more people will have the opportunity to stay in their village. You can read about and see pictures of the dairy here.

Our next stop was a visit to the salt mines. Parajdi Sobanya (aka Salina Praid) If I remember correctly, this is still a working salt mine, but we went where the other tourists were. It turns out that spending time in a salt mine can help with respiratory diseases. So entire families come for a period of several days or a week or two and spend several hours each day in the salt mine. My journal says, “They [the children] play, so there is ping pong and badminton and slides and it’s all kind of dark and salty tasting.” If you go to this link you can scroll down and then click on several pictures of the salt mine. It’s a bit bizarre to wander though and dodge the hundreds of families playing and hanging out down there. There is also a chapel and an art gallery as well as a museum. I think the visit to the salt mine qualified as the oddest stop on the trip.

But then we went to the most magical place ever. It was a mineral lake, with so much salt we bobbed around with no effort whatsoever. It was also warm. Alex and I particularly loved it and had to be motioned out. I have no idea where this place was, or what it was called, but it was wonderful.
Back in the village I caught this picture in front of the church. In the villages, many people still use wagons for transport. It isn’t unusual to see them, but I still got excited every time. As you can see, one of the men is waving at me. Hungarians are incredibly friendly and generous, a fact that makes the area a very nice place to visit.
After this wagon went by, the cows came home. They wandered up the street and one of them peeled off from the herd and stood at the gate of the house next door to where we were staying. The women of the house came out, opened the gate and in she went for the night.

6 July 2008. A picture from the Hungary/Romania trip.

We started the day with church, and everyone looking so nice. Oh wait! I just glanced at my photos and I see the embroidery at the church is red, not blue as mentioned in earlier posts. I made the mistake because the church is primarily painted blue. At any rate, the church is small, and I think we doubled the size of the congregation that day. Eva said it was summer and a lot of people were working in the fields.

After church, eating (again–we were quite well fed) and some resting, we set out for the swimming hole. It was a bit of a walk, in the US we probably would have driven. But we made it. The swimming hole was very small, more of a large hot tub size with boards built all around it. The mineral content of the water was supposed to be healing. It was kind of a breezy day, so none of our youth went in. Some of us did however, enjoy the mud hole. Dana, Eva and I wandered in and I muddied up my arms, to help with the psoriasis. Then Brittany arrived and put us all to shame. There is a picture after this one where even her hair is covered in mud.
Now think of getting all that mud off. There was no faucet, just a trickle from a stream. It took me a bit of time to wash all the mud away, but it took Brittany quite a long time. She was happy though.

Another thing to notice in this picture is the decoration on the posts around the mud hole. I like how everything, no matter how mundane is decorated. It makes so many nice places to rest your eye.

In the evening we had a campfire and sang songs.

5 July 2008. A picture from the Hungary/Romania trip.

Man, there were a lot of good pictures from today. It was a touch choice. Today was the day we “worked” in Okland, which consisted of about an hour or so of clearing wood and debris. A sudden summer downpour ended our labor, though we were pretty much finished. After resting a bit, we took a tour of the cemeteries of Okland. First we went to “the cemetery” on a hill above the village. From “the cemetary” we could see the “passersby cemetery” where anyone who hasn’t lived in the village since forever is buried. “Even if they have lived here for 100 years?” I asked. “Even if they are the minister?” Eva told me both of those groups would be in the passersby cemetery. She said she likes the view better in the passersby cemetery anyway.

We walked back to the village and had a tour of the church. Their church, unique among Unitarian churches, has painted tiles on the ceiling. Their embroidery, as mentioned before, was solid blue. We got to play the organ and go all the way up in the bell tower, where I took this picture of the village.
Isn’t it pretty? Most all of those houses have gardens in the backyard where in America the lawn would be. The road through town that you can see in this picture is a dirt road, and it is the one that the cows walk on to get back to their homes at the end of the day.

After our tour of the church we wandered up to the passersby cemetery and indeed, the view is quite nice. Next on our agenda was an incredibly long soccer game in the school yard. I played, Marcia played, Don played, the YRUU youth played, the youth from the village played. It was tremendous fun. While my soccer skills mostly involve getting in the way of things at the correct times and constant chatter, Don (our most senior member of the group) turned out to be a soccer star. So much so, I began to refer to him as “The Wall.” I was surprised to learn he hadn’t ever really played soccer. He attributed his skill to his youth playing hockey.

Our game reluctantly ended when we were called in for dinner. Post dinner, was a viewing of Juno. So ended the evening.

4 July 2008. A picture from the Hungary/Romania trip.

Today we bid goodbye to Kolosvar and began our journey to Okland. On the way, we stopped in Torda to see where the Edict of Torda was signed. We Unitarians are quite proud of the Edict of Torda.

We stopped in Marosvasarhely (you will note that the link uses the Romanian name, though references the Hungarian. Interestingly, 2002 was the first year in which Romanians outnumbered Hungarians in this city, though they were close in number in 1992.) In this city, we first visited the City Fortress, mentioned in the above link, then after lunch, the Palace of Culture. This, aside from being a lovely place where we heard a pianist practicing in the main hall (until his cell phone rang,) was also the site of our tour guide, Eva’s first date with her now-husband. It is also known for its Hall of Mirrors which is apparently very hard to portray on the Internet. The Hall of Mirrors does have mirrors on one side, but on the other is a series of stained glass windows that portray various fables from Hungarian history. If you click through the above link, you can see some of the stained glass, though alas, not the stars that I fell in love with. It was fun to go to the hall of mirrors, because we got to hear the recorded tour. It was a little hard to understand, but it was humorous to shuffle down the hall hearing about the various fables. This link also has some good pictures.

After the Palace of Culture we got back on the bus and arrived in Korond, which was a place to buy authentic Hungarian handcrafts. We bypassed the place we had stopped in 2005, with Eva remaking that they had started selling non-authentic items. In Korond (“I’ve been there!” Matt told me when I got home) we got to see a family of potters throw cups, as well as their workshop. I bought a few mugs with the traditional designs on them.

This is the gate leading into the courtyard. The gate is the traditional carved wooden gate. This one also sports a few decorated plates. Behind the gate is the shop and the workspace as well as, I think, the family home. Note the satellite dish next to the traditional gate.
We journeyed on to Okland, arriving in the afternoon. Okland is a Unitarian village of about 400 people. When googling around for information about the village, I found this article which is great because these are the exact same people we stayed with. There is even a picture of Eva, our guide, and Levente, her husband, the minister.

I had been feeling a bit homesick all day, this being the first time I was not in the US on the 4th of July. I may have not been the only one. Eva cleverly planned an American-style celebration and we sang patriotic songs. At one point Levente came in waving the flag. I was most astounded that they would have a US flag. We had watermelon and spit the seeds and there were even sparklers. And marshmallows. It was a great end to the day.

3 July 2008. A picture from the Hungary/Romania trip.

Our day began with breakfast at the High School, and then we met the Bishop and got a tour of the school, as well as the Unitarian Church. Because Unitarianism came out of the Protestant reform movement, the churches, especially in this part of the world, tend to be very white and bright with little ornamentation. What they do have is beautiful, solid color embroidery decorating everything. Apparently, if you are familiar with the styles, you can identify the embroidery by region. The church in Kolosvar had red embroidery, the church in Okland used blue.

We also saw the stone where Francis David stood and preached a sermon that converted the entire town to Unitarianism. (There has since been some backsliding.) We also toured St. Michael’s church which is the large Catholic church in the main square.

Then: swimming. I was thrilled as it was very hot and sticky and I like nothing more than to be in the water on such a day. We took the bus to the pool which was huge–they had one big pool and two or three smaller ones. There was topless sunbathing (which everyone handled most maturely) but the thing that was the most interesting to me was that the pools had no filter. They were very large cement rectangles with no outlet for all the detritus that comes along with public pools. So while swimming I brushed against all sorts of things.

Post swimming we broke up into smaller groups. Dana and I found a post office, which was thrilling as I had been trying to mail my postcards for days, and then wandered down to look at the Orthodox church, where these two women were chatting. I wonder how old they are? They could, conceivably, be in their early 60s as old people there tend to look older than their age would suggest.

2 July 2008. A picture from the Hungary/Romania trip.

Today was a very long day of travel across the Hungarian plain. We said goodbye to our host families in the morning, and climbed on the bus. The bus turned out to not really have air conditioning, and it was a very hot and long day.

Our first stop was at the Hortobagyi Pasztormuzeum. This is a small museum, but one of my favorites on the trip. Until the communist era, the area around the museum was a great range where different kinds of animals were raised by herdsmen. They have traditional costumes on display–including the very cool coats they used to wear. I am having trouble finding a picture of the coats, but have discovered what we had for lunch. It was delicious, and one of my favorite meals of the trip. I also learned at this museum, that there was a hierarchy of herdsmen depending on what kind of animal you took care of. I believe geese were at the low end of the scale and I think horses were at the top. Traditionally, the herdsmen were also great horsemen and they are famous for riding around and cracking their whips to get things moving. Ted, one of the youth really liked the whips and bought one, though everyone else who tried, seemed to be better at cracking the whip then he was.

We drove though the plain, crossing over into Romania. Our destination was Kolishvar, which is the Hungarian name for the city that is now known as Cluj-Napoca. On the way, we passed the gypsy houses with the fancy tin roofs. They are huge houses, four and five stories tall, with the most elaborate roofs. This group of Gypsies are known for their metal work and so they build their houses big, so as to maximize the roof area. The houses themselves are most often shells, with no windows, unfinished walls, open rooms. The family usually lives in a smaller house in the back.

Eventually we got to Kolishvar. Because I was traveling with ethic Hungarians, I will be using the Hungarian names for things. In Romania most cities/villages/towns have two, or sometimes three names. (Hungarian, Romanian and sometimes Saxon) Kolishvar was a major city in the Hungarian Kingdom, and today is the fourth largest city in Romania.

We were staying at Janos Zsigmond Unitarius Kollegium (which we called the Unitarian High School) in the dorms where the students live during the year. All of the girls on the trip were able to stay in one room. That is eight girls in one room, with room for four more. I could not imagine living an entire school year in one room with 11 roommates. Our rooms were on the top floor and they had skylights. At this point in the evening, we are all taking pictures of the Kolishvar skyline and each other.