August 17, 2004
Photos by James Hayes-Bohanan, unless
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.
YES: Tundeka is wearing a BSO Seiji Ozawa t-shirt!
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,
|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
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.
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.
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.
|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.
Churches In Gyulafehervar; I like the little turret in the third photo.
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.
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
|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.
The Stone Valley comes by its name honestly. It was a beautiful place for
Note the caverns just to the right of center in this photograph.
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.
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
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
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.
|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.