August 16, 2004
Photos by James Hayes-Bohanan, unless
We began Monday morning with breakfast at Sandor and Tunde's house,
followed by a brief walk around the somewhat larger village of Desfalva
(Deaj in Romanian). In their house I found this Hungarian flag, American
flag, and globe. Based on previous conversations, I do not think the American
flag was upside-down on purpose. Just to prove my point, Tundeka was still
wearing the hairband that Paloma had given her a couple of days before. She
is a very fashion-conscious and independent four-year-old, much like one
I remember in my own house a few years back. She looked especially striking
in front of her family garden.
A neighboring church is particularly beautiful in the morning light,
seen through Sandor and Tunde's grape vines. This is as good a place as
any to mention that all of the wine served locally appears to be produced
On our walk we found -- among other things -- a well for the local horses,
the same church with a different crop, and a fancy house with a combine
parked out front.
|One of our fellow travelers mentioned that aesthetics
seems to be very important. This is not a shallow aesthetic, but rather
a deeply-rooted sense of pride in one's home, work, garden, and neighborhood.
One example I noticed was that Sandor carefully and with great effort maintains
the ditch in front of his house, even though its distance from the building
meant that his efforts would have little direct benefit, other than high
"curb appeal" for his home.
Another charming example is this well-appointed gutter I noticed during
our walk about Desfalva.
To walk around Desfalva with Sandor in the morning is to realize how
important his ministry is to the entire village. The people regard him highly,
and are pleased to meet his guests. Haranglab and Desfalva each boast quite
a simple general store/cafe/bar. A sign on the wall indicates a drinking
age of 18, but it is not taken very seriously.
We spent much of Monday visiting other Unitarian churches in the vicinity
of Haranglab. Our first stop was an unplanned visit to a tire shop in Dicsoszentmarton,
which gave me a chance to roam around a somewhat urban Transylvanian neighborhood.
With its adobe and tile appearance, the tire shop itself could have been
some place in Mexico; the effect was even more pronounced because the sign
in Romanian was easily intelligible to a Spanish speaker. The linguistic
situation in Transylvania is an interesting one. Because both Communist-era
and subsequent governments have taken various measures to assert Romanian
national identity, many signs are in Romanian, which Pam and I have some ability
to read. Because the region belonged to Hungary only 50 years ago, many people
speak Hungarian, which is completely unrelated to most other European languages.
|Our driver Denes presented the cause of our delay,
which I did not mind at all, since it gave me a chance to see a bit of a
different neighborhood. It was during our idle time here that I noticed the
odd coincidence of the license plate on one of the vans.
In the neighborhood of the tire shop, I noticed a few interesting contrasts
between local vernacular architecture and the stark constructions of the
Ceaucescu era. To the left, I wonder if the Christ figure is seen to suffer
more because of the ugly, abandoned refinery in the background. Below, a
fence separates charming old homes from the noise and dust of a side street,
while a massive block apartment looms in the background. Moving ethnic Romanians
into buildings of this kind were a key means of diluting the local Hungarian
population during the Ceaucescu era.
|Our first visit was to the Unitarian church in Magyarsaros,
which has a excellent examples of several common church features, including
a free-standing bell tower (haranglab) and a garden of memorial staves.
The detail at right is of the Hungarian Unitarian symbol of the dove.
The Magyarsaros church yard includes this striking memorial for the two
The interior of the Magyarsaros church building features a wrap-around
balcony, a Hungarian flag, ornate embroideries, and a typical chandelier
of wood, in the same style as the candle stick we have in the Bridgewater
church as a gift from Desfalva. A flag in the foyer of the Magyarsaros church
honors the congregation's partner church in Victoria, British Columbia.
|From Magyarsaros, we returned to Dicsoszentmarton,
this time to visit the ancient church there. The church was organized as
early as the thirteen century, and the building includes some parts dated
to 1599. This church is partnered with the congregation in Cedar Lane, Maryland,
which I visited when I was the Director of Religious Education at nearby
Silver Spring UU.
As with most places we visited, beautiful flowers abounded.
The church entrance features one small bit of irony. The welcome mat at
the main door is the front floor mat from an automobile. This would not necessarily
bear mentioning, but the mat features the brand name, "Dacia." This small
car is the simple family car of the communist era, but its name is significant.
Dacia was a part of the Roman empire that controlled Transylvania before
the millenium of Hungarian rule. Dacian names and words are generally used
by Romanians who wish to refute Hungarian claims on the area, so it is ironic
to see the word in front of a Hungarian church.
It is the inside of this church building that is truly amazing. In addition
to the carved chandeliers, pristine organ, and lovely embroideries, there
is a symbolic haystack made of wheat, plus a ceiling of 98 intricate paintings,
a few of which are shown below.
The image above is especially meaningful to me as one who attempts to play
the violin at times, and who has enjoyed the playing of the Transylvanian
minister and physician Dr. Judit Gellerd, founder of the Partner Church movement.
To the left is a matrimonial moment captured just outside the church. We
are not certain what this figure was for, but we liked it!
Our driver Denes enjoyed posing with this flower at our lunch stop in Dicsoszentmarton.
Some of our ladies were also pleased to pose behind the flowers from the window
of the bathroom. They did so just in time -- a few minutes later an entire
troupe of costumed singers (young women and men) was occupying the room,
smoking and joking around.
Various Eastern Bloc countries were notorious for heavily polluting industries,
even after the West had developed cleaner manufacturing technologies, and
Romania was no exception. Dicsoszentmarton was among the most polluted of
Romania's cities, and Ceaucescu had a knack for locating the ugliest facilities
near the most charming places. Several people reported to me that the environment
is much cleaner now, because air pollution has been greatly reduced, but I
strongly suspect that soil and ground water contamination will need a lot
of work. This is something I intend to research in future visits. The photos
below were taken immediately adjacent to the garden restaurant where we enjoyed
a lovely lunch. Incidentally, cooling towers are common at industrial sites,
but they do not indicate any use of nuclear power.
After lunch, our group returned with our guides to Sandor and Tunde's house
in Desfalva, where we enjoyed some relaxation and where the entire group got
a chance to explore the village in which our family had been staying. Sandor
led some of us on a tour of his church in Desfalva and of the church lands
and cemeteries that overlook the town.
On the left, driver Denes is talking with Kristin while Paloma plays with
her jump rope. Denes was wearing a shirt that day with the code number of
, the infamous head of the Hungarian secret police from the Cold War days.
The stains on his left shoulder are symbolic of the stains on Medgyessy's
heart. Ironically, he resigned as prime minister of Hungary three days after
I took this photo. We were on our way to Hungary at the time, and it was an
unusual feeling to be driving toward a country whose government had just fallen,
listening to the news in a language we did not understand. Our guides were
interested but calm, so we did not worry about it, and I noticed no signs
of unrest when arrived. Apparently, the fall had been expected.
Relaxing in Sandor's yard are Julie and Rev. Georgy (background), with Chloe,
Tundeka, and Reika on the blanket. On the garden side of the house is a simple,
solar-heated shower for a quick wash after a long day of gardening.
|Like many churches in Transylvania, the Unitarian
church in Desfalva has a number of ancient artifacts that were kept hidden
(sometimes buried) during the Ceaucescu period. Among the best is this communion
cup depicting the Garden of Eden, which dates from the 1630s.
At left, Jan is holding a communion stein of similar vintage.
Sandor is shown clowning with the collection box while Reika interprets
and Csilla looks on. Unitarian churches in Transylvania rely on donations
to these boxes and rental of church lands. During the service, the minister
typically waits on a special pew near the pulpit for his turns to speak. In
Desfalva, the minister's pew is ornately decorated with tulips and the dove-and-crown
symbol of the church.
|The hymnals in the Desfalva church are covered with
lovely embroidery. The house gable to the right has a common architectural
detail that I could not help but associate with a grounded electrical outlet.
During our walks about town, we met many friendly people with horse-drawn
carts, some of whom were visiting the village well.
During our walk we met the man who carved the candlestick we light during
each Sunday service at the Bridgewater church, in recognition of our partnership.
He is shown smiling with Pam. We look forward to his visit to Bridgewater
in November (if Homeland Security allows him to come!) To the right is one
of many people I saw working with scythes, either harvesting hay or taking
good care of their home lawns. I was impressed by how much work gets done
by people of all ages and both sexes, using only hand tools. I got so inspired
that I purchased a scythe for use on a small meadow on our property in Bridgewater.
Of course, a hand mower of this kind is now a special-order item in the U.S.
Each of the three churches in Desfalva has land above the village that is
rented to farmers and is the location of their cemeteries. A cell-phone tower
has been built at the intersection of church lands. Some of the cemeteries
have a commanding view of the village and surrounding lands.
Rev. Sandor thought that the aging hippies in our group might be interested
in a certain crop grown for fiber amidst the corn on the church lands. As
you can see, he was correct. (Do not worry: we reluctantly left it on the
When we realized that we would not be going back to Haranglab, Pam and I
asked if we could make one more visit, particularly because we had not taken
any photographs inside the church. Sandor agreed to take us, but he wanted
to make it a quick trip, so he told his kids to stay home. Eight-year-old
Sandeka was not to be left behind, so he grabbed his bike and set off on the
three-mile ride. We followed him much of the way, but left him along about
a mile from the village. He made the trip back by himself, too. I was impressed
that we were in a place where a child could safely ride so far without any
|As any parent could predict, four-year-old Tundeka
was not about to be left behind on this adventure. After some family discussion,
it was decided that she would help her dad drive to town.
Although a bus does come to Haranglab from the city a couple of times per
day, traffic is extremely light on this road, the only way in to Haranglab.
Below, our family took turns getting our picture by the town sign.
We have learned from past travels that children can be friends even if they
do not speak the same language. One theory is that kids do not really listen
to each other when they play anyway, so each child can talk without the problem
of being misunderstood! In any case, by our last evening in town Paloma and
Tundeka were getting along famously. Here they are entering the Haranglab
church grounds for the last time. Paloma is wearing her UU chalice-dove shirt,
while Tundeka is still wearing the hairband that Paloma had given her a couple
of days before.
|A bit later, Tundeka fell as we returned from the
church yard. As with any parent in a church community, Pam picked up and comforted
the child of our new friends.
Our return to Haranglab for photographs of the church was impromptu. We
were fortunate that a church leader was nearby with a key! The church interior
was recently repaired and repainted. The pipe organ does not work, but a small
electronic organ works well. At right, Sandor is shown in the pulpit below
the crown, sometimes called a "preacher crusher" in jest.
Sandor and Sandeka stand in front of the "men's side," with the pulpit and
Lord's Table in the foreground. To the right is a 1936 memorial in Romanian
that is the center of the village. It appears to honor war dead from Haranglab,
but we have not confirmed this.