August 13, 2004
Photos by James Hayes-Bohanan, unless
We spent the morning at Peles Castle, the original home of Romania's
royal family. Tourists from all over Europe had converged on this site,
the first of many fairy-tale locations we would visit. Some Romanians
complain that the royal family put too much of the country's wealth into
this castle, but our guide pointed out that local leaders had essentially
imported this royal family, which brought their riches with them from elsewhere.
One room in the castle features well over 1,000 weapons -- mainly medieval
and rather disturbing -- including an old-fashioned executioner's sword.
An architectural detail near Peles Castle. Ornate
wood carving is quite common, as is the use of lace curtains.
|Our group relaxing near Peles Castle.
|This castle had minstrels! I gave them a
donation for allowing me to shoot this very short video; I later kicked
myself for not forking over a few thousand lei for their CD!
|The Peles Castle is a major tourist attraction,
and is therefore a convenient place to buy some of the region's fantastic
A group journey of this kind is an opportunity to learn about other
places and people, but it is also a great way to bond with people from
home. Although youth tours of Transylvania have become fairly popular,
we believe we are the first PCC group to travel with youth and children.
It turned out very well!
If ever there were a time to sing, "the hills are alive ..." our
visit to the ski area at Sinaia was it!
The ride to the top of the mountain was breath-taking and
quite enjoyable. The rocking action of the cars near each tower was a
bit harrowing. When I travel in Brazil, I pretend to be unafraid of bugs.
I learned on this day that on a Carpathian ski lift, I can pretend to be
unafraid of heights!
As we drove from the ski area back to our hotel for lunch, we encountered
the only traffic delay of our entire trip (not counting Heathrow Airport!).
We learned later that a pedestrian had been struck crossing a highway
to visit some roadside shops.
While traffic was stopped, people began to get out of their vehicles,
to chat with other motorists, and to enjoy this babbling brook. One driver
who tried to race around the stopped cars met the wrath of our translator
Csilla, who admonished him for being so rude. Because the driver was Hungarian,
she gave him a little extra grief for setting a bad example! It was good
to see that road rage remains a little-known concept here.
As we rode through the city of Brasso (Brazov), I was impressed
by the young man on the left, deep in thought. I was also impressed that
nobody in our group availed themselves of the McDonalds that were to be
found in the larger towns. Even in Romania -- the last holdout behind the
Iron Curtain -- corporate penetration seems to be nearly complete, including
the widespread use of English slogans in advertizing.
The Partner Church travel program relies on the cooperation of Unitarians
throughout Transylvania. Here our driver Denes (pronounced "Danish"),
who once was an assistant to the Unitarian Bishop, stops at the main Unitarian
church in Brasov to exchange money with a waiting volunteer.
These photos were taken along the road from Brasov to Segesvar;
they are blurry, but so too is the ride! This brings to mind the motto
of PCC travel: "Denes is a good driver!" We repeat it often, because
Transylvanian driving is a special skill, and the experience can be a
bit harrowing for the unitiated.
In Segasvar, young lovers whiling away the afternoon on an ancient
wall, a bit of eclectic design, and some gratuitous cute photos of my
|Although we passed near the famous
, our guides assured us that its connection to the historical Dracul
is quite tenuous -- he might have attacked it once. In Segesvar, however,
we were able to see a house -- in the ghostly image below, right behind
the Coke machine -- where Dracul once lived. It is at the base of a functional
and ancient clock tower in this medieval walled city.
In the ancient fortified city of Segesvar, it is possible that
our young people played the first game of "Red Light; Green Light" to
take place in front of the main Orthodox church.