Haranglab Pilgrimage
August 17, 2004

Photos by James Hayes-Bohanan, unless otherwise noted

It was on this Tuesday morning that we said our goodbyes. Our time in the village was, of course, the main purpose of the trip, but we had been uncertain how we would spend three days in a place in which language and so many other things would be different. In the end, it was very hard to leave. I have heard that there were many tearful goodbyes in Haranglab, but Pam, Paloma, and I were not there. We had our own goodbyes to say with Sandor's family, whom we hope to see again in November, if the U.S. government grants them visas to visit America.

Tunde & kids
YES: Tundeka is wearing a BSO Seiji Ozawa t-shirt!
Rope jump girls

One pleasant surprise was a morning visit from Kati, a good friend of our friend Ellen from Belmont. We expected that Kati would be bringing something for us to take to Ellen. (For one thing, Ellen had sent a disposable camera with me, so that Kati could send it back with photos of her family.) We were surprised, though, that Kati had brought for us a bounty of pastries and two towels that she had woven herself! We are hoping to see her in November, too.
Food! Kati

Driving in Romania is a special skill. It often involves getting very close and waiting for just the right moment to pass. In this case, we are in the second van, while the lead van attempts to go around a combine in the center of a town along Route 1.

The pass is delayed - as often it is - by an oncoming cart. The mix of vehicles is truly amazing. Later in the trip I noticed a horse-drawn cart on a major highway -- carrying a small car!

We often found ourselves inhaling sharply as we passed oh-so-close to the slower vehicles. I tried to capture the sensation on the video clip below.

Click to animate
Click to animate

One very interesting problem throughout Europe is the relations between Roma people (gypsies) and nearly everyone else. They are typically treated with distrust and discrimination, but they also frequently do things that earn distrust. It seems to be an endless cycle. In Desfalva, as in many places, gypsies are involved in the illicit making of bricks. They settle on land they do not own and make the bricks. Everyone looks down on them for this, but people like the inexpensive bricks, so the practice continues. Having heard about this unusual situation, I happened to notice an example of such an operation as we drove along Route 1 toward Gyulafehervar (Alba Julia). Not wanting to stop our convoy, I simply took a quick snapshot through the van window. I was amazed to find that the workers noticed us and gestured toward us. Our translator confirmed my suspicion that the young man's gesture is universal.
Mining Gestures

The city of Gyulafehervar (Alba Julia) was the first place we had an opportunity to see large expanses of the infamous apartment blocks of the Ceaucescu era. The large buildings were partly an expression of the dictator's megalomania, partly a strategy to depopulate rural areas in favor of industrial centers, and partly an effort to dilute Hungarian populations with influxes of ethnic Romanians. In Gyulafehervar, it is interesting to see how landscaping and street-level remodeling softens some of the lines. In the hotel restaurant where we had lunch, inside decor and outside landscaping served to obscure this view almost entirely.
Apartment blocks Apartment blocks

Lunch Landscaping

One good thing about traveling together is the opportunity for good conversations with people from home. Here Kristen and Pam were enjoying their conversation so much that they seemed not to notice the ominous streetscape behind them -- or the pesky photographer in front of them. To the right is a statue about a revolution of some kind that neither we nor our guides fully understood.
Let's talk Memorial for ?

Paloma and Samantha found a great place ot pose in the gardens of Gyulafehervar (Alba Julia).

Contrasts in the landscape of Gyulafehervar are demonstrated in the garden photographs below, both of which were taken from the front of the yellow church building shown just below them.) The large apartment blocks have helped to transform this into an urban center, even though agricultural land is surprisingly close by. The stark lines of the buildings stand in sharp contrast to the ornate wood carvings and flowers of the church garden. Barely visible in the middle distance is another very ornate church building, which we did not have an opportunity to visit. The picteresque line of site between the two churches is not enhanced by the incongruous architecture of Ceaucescu.

Garden and apartment blocks Conrast

Churches In Gyulafehervar; I like the little turret in the third photo.
Church Tower Turret Church door

At first, the memorial below seemed merely ornate. Then I noticed the detail of a baby leaning on a skull. Our translator Reika is a student of Hungarian ethnography. She told me that this simply symbolizes death. Elsewhere in the same church, wood carved to resemble hazelnuts is used in a grave's wreath. Note that the ribbons are in Hungarian colors.
Monument Monument detail Wreath

Here are two photos primarily of interest to me. To the left is a county-line marker along the road from Gyulafehervar to Torocko (I will be looking up that county name shortly!) I noticed elaborate markers of this kind throughout the country, and I think they are great. One reason I want to do the driving on some future trip is so that I can take photos of all the county line markers, to put on my somewhat famous county map web site. To the right is a photo of our darling daughter Paloma, who had been wiggling a tooth for many weeks. We had an experiment that night to see whether the tooth fairy or the tooth mouse (which leaves no money) would find it. The experiment was a success: we learned that an American child losing a tooth in Transylvania will be visited by the tooth fairy, but she will leave her reward in Romanian lei (which are worth 33,000 to the dollar).
County line Toothless

As we drove west toward Torocko, we passed through Kokoz and the beautiful Valley of Stone. A brief stop along the road was a good opportunity to explore an alpine stream and meadow, while a castle and a campground loomed above us. The entire area is very popular with tourists from all over Europe, particularly from Hungary.
Adam and Paloma

Castle in the air Camp Chloe and Kyle

The Stone Valley comes by its name honestly. It was a beautiful place for a drive.
Note the caverns just to the right of center in this photograph.
Stone Valley

Throughout Transylvania, we noticed people working on their haystacks. Almost all of the work is done by hand or with animal power. Each haystack is elevated slightly to prevent mildew, but we had a hard time finding one we could sleep under! This trio we found above the village of Torocko were the most perfect I saw. More haystacks from Torocko and the Stone Valley are shown below.

Haystacks Haystacks

Torocko is a lovely village whose Unitarian church is partnered with the Unitarian congregation of Wellesley Hills, Massachusetts. The church maintains a guest house in the center of the village that was a lovely place for our group to stay. The communal porch was great for reading, writing, and conversation. The large bunk rooms reminded many of us of the church camps of our younger days.
Still life

Relaxing on the porch Conversation

When I saw this bus empty just behind our guest house, my first thought was, "I'm glad we staked out our rooms!" I soon figured out, though, that many of the houses in the village are actually B&B operations, and the busload of tourists were quickly absorbed into the village. Later that night, as I wandered the streets alone, I saw little gatherings of visitors in various parts of town, many of them singing by little fires. The Unitarian church has an ancient and somewhat spooky clock tower that works well and sounds all night.
Tour bus Tower

Torocko Beautiful house

The steep hills around Torocko supply an artesian well in the center of town. It is a place to water animals, wash clothes, and meet one's neighbors.
Reverse tree line Artesian well Sat dish


Girls and goats
Samantha and Paloma loved it when the goats came to the village center for water. We were all fascinated when the cows came home. Click the image below for a brief video of the event.

Finally, a few of  us enjoyed a quick hike above the village. The air was crisp, the walk challenging, the company convivial, and the views gorgeous! Notice the Unitarian bell tower in the center of the village.