Haranglab Pilgrimage
August 18, 2004

Photos by James Hayes-Bohanan, unless otherwise noted

Sometimes when I travel, I enjoy a place so much that I stay up after all of my companions, and get up first. Torocko was such a place. After wandering all of the streets of the village and out into the countryside the night before, I was up at dawn to walk around again. On my second walk of the morning, I carried Paloma for a little exploration. The soft, early light was perfect, not necessarily for great photographs, but for quiet enjoyment of the place.
Church Barrow Church

Combine and dog Combine and dog

Old store

Water horse
This abandoned grocery store/cafe was the only ugly spot I found in the village. I am not sure why someone wrote "Moby Dick" on the window.

The light on the guest house porch that morning was perfect for a silhouette of Paloma.

The local artesian well was busy with animals at the top and laundry at the bottom. (So the animals would not have to drink soap!)  Laundry

Along the way, Paloma and I saw a cat jump high into a hole in the wall. It was Paloma who noticed that the cat stayed perched deep in the wall to watch us!
Hole in the wall Cat in the hole

Partners The village school is reflected in a window containing flags important to the village. These include the Hungarian flag, the European Union flag, and the flags of several cities and towns in Hungary that are considered partners of the village of Torocko. It was not immediately clear to me whether these were church or civic partnerships.

The relationship between Romania and the European Union is a bit murky at this point. Even the E.U. web site does not make it clear what the exact status of Romania is. A decision has been made to admit Romania, and E.U. flags (blue with the circle of 15 stars) are visible in many public places, but the Euro is not yet in use, and the membership in the Union is not considered final at this stage.

Similarly, it is not clear to me what Hungarians (Magyars) in Romania are hoping for. They certainly want the wrongs that they have suffered to be recognized, and they have a keen interest in preserving their language, just as some ethnic Romanian politicians have an interest in eliminating the Hungarian language. To some extent, however, they seem to be resigned to being part of the Romanian nation for the foreseeable future, and I frankly do not know whether serious consideration is being given to reunification with Hungary. This is one of those very delicate questions I hope to examine in future visits.

From Torocko, we proceeded through the Golden Valley, through a beautiful string of villages and towns and past mountain brooks and many people picnicking along the road. The valley is named for the Aranjose (sp?) or Gold River, where the metal has been found. We stopped in the village of Sinfalva for Denes to buy fruit for a wonderful picnic we were to have later in the day.
Groceries Sat dishes

For a bit of exercise and time in Transylvania's renowned woodlands, we had a hike in the Cheili Turzii gorge. It was quite a terrific spot, although Paloma and I found the trail to be a little rough for her and did not go quite to the end. While we were hiking, our drivers went to the nearest town to get the rest of what turned out to be a great picnic. As you can see, Denes took great pride in serving us this meal!

Gorge-ous x Trail
Hungarian hospitality Picnickers

When we returned from our hike, I found Meg in quiet contemplation near some cabins that could be rented at the trailhead. She said it was amusing to see a full-sized man emerge from cabin number 2, and sit on the little porch. In the middle distance, helicopters could be seen on maneuvers with soldiers, presumably part of the " coalition of the willing " headed to Iraq.
Meg 'copter

After so much hiking and touring, our guides rightly concluded that just a brief visit to Torda would be in order, even though it is considered the "cradle of Unitarianism ." On the way in to the famous church (now Catholic), we  witnessed a funeral parade.
Funeral Torda

The second-largest city in Romania is in Transylvania, and it has three names. The Hungarians (Magyars) who have been there for one thousand years call it Koloszvar. The Romanians took over the area following the Second World War, but consider themselves to have been unfairly evicted by the Magyars, only ten centuries ago. To solidify their claim, they use not only the Romanian name, Cluj, but also the ancient Dacian name, Napoca. Dacia was a section of the Roman empire two thousand years ago. Thus the hyphenated name Cluj-Napoca can be translated as "you might have been had this for a thousand years before we took it over, but we had it for a thousand years before that!" Ceaucescu did his best to dillute the Hungarian-speaking population by building these massive apartment blocks all around the city. They are like Communist-era buildings throughout Eastern Europe, but they are more numerous, more ominous, and more connected to brutal policies to reorder populations.

Shortly after Ceaucescu's demise on Christmas Day 1989, apartments in these buildings were privatized, mostly being sold to their occupants at fairly low prices with a fixed mortgage. When hyperinflation (see note below ) set in, these mortgages become very easy to pay, and many people had purchased their apartments within two years. It has already been a generation since that transition, and now a growing population of young professionals in cities such as Koloszvar are unable to find housing.

Below, our young traveler Chloe takes in the repetitive scene. Near the city center, a Dacia automobile is passes in front of apartment blocks under renovation.
Cluj-Napoca Koloszvar Dacia and towers

Even after the regime change, language is a common tool in the struggle for identity. Upon entering Koloszvar, visitors (and residents) are greeted by an enormous sign that reads:
"Welcome to Cluj-Napoca"
"Bienvenue a Cluj-Napoca"
"Willkommen in Cluj-Napoca"
... and so on, in a dozen or more languages -- EVEN RUSSIAN -- but not Hungarian.

On this day, we passed through Koloszvar only briefly, on our way to Kis-kapus (Mikapus), a tiny village on the outskirts of the city, where we were to spend our last two nights in Transylvania. We were in the most delightful panzio (B&B) operated by a Dutch family.
Transportation at our panzio: Gyorgy, driving the second van, waits for a hay wagon as he arrives. The next morning, a bicycle reminds us of the scale of the village and the pace of life, though cars are increasingly available.
Panzio arrival

In this part of Transylvania, even the tiniest villages seem to be full of bus stops, sometimes two or more in one block. Some of the benches are even sheltered. It turns out that they have nothing to do with mass transit. They are simply places for the ladies of a neighborhood (again, gender roles are pretty traditional) to gather as they work on embroidery.
Bus stop?

In Kis-kapus, when the "cows come home," half of them are water buffalo. We were warned not to get to close -- these critters are not quite as dull as cattle!
Cows and buffalo

At this point, Pam and Paloma had brought the Polaroid out just so Paloma could take a photo of the water buffalo. As in Haranglab, however, the camera turned out to be quite a hit, and we ended up making new Polaroid friends.
Polaroid magic Polaroid magic

At the end of a long day, we limited ourselves to a brief exploration of Kis-kapus.
Football Church   A bridge too far?

We had walked around the village just long enough for the cows and water buffalo to be milked. When they were finished, the animals headed back to pasture, where they would stay until the morning. Soon after they were let out, people could be seen moving through the village with their pails, taking the milk to be measured and collected.

One lady near our panzio noticed our interest in the animals, and invited us to see her water buffalo calf, which was still so feisty that her husband had difficulty bringing him out to us. They then brought us into their home, where we saw the front room that is commonly kept full of embroidery, baskets, and the rest of a young woman's dowry.
Leaving home



What a day!


Hyperinflation note:
I will post a scan of some Romanian currency here soon. It is amazing stuff, which I have not been able to resist flashing from time to time at stores in Bridgewater. A 10,000 lei note is worth about 30 cents, and an ATM withdrawal of a couple million is routine. Just prior to the fall of Ceaucescu, the lei officially traded at about 8 per dollar, with a black market value of 80 per dollar. (I learned this from an interesting Boston Globe article about travel to Romania for a chess tournament in 1988.) The former represents what the government wanted, but the latter reflected how the world market really judged the currency. I have not yet found information about the rates just after the collapse, but by 1995, a dollar would buy about 2,000 lei. Today, the rate is 33,000, which means that the currency has lost more than 90 percent of its value in less than ten years. As Romania is moving toward full membership in the European Union in 2007 , its inflation rate is gradually declining and other macroeconomic indicators are improving.