Saturday, August 6, 2011

time travel :: transylvania

crossing the border from hungary to romania is quite an experience. it is like entering into a strange third world country, a mix between india, africa and the balkans in 1984. the spectacular change that took place in the former communist countries in eastern europe seems to have missed romania. at the border my passport was taken away and i was pointed to a waiting area that was piled high with trash, stray dogs and others waiting. eventually i was re-united with my passport and we started our drive deep into transylvania.

driving in romania is, well… challenging. or we could say, suicidal. if it wasn't for the drivers who don't seem to have any concept of safety, the huge potholes on the road, the occasional horse carriage with seemingly the whole gypsy village on it trotting on the side of the road, or the dead dogs littering the asphalt everywhere - one could enjoy the stunning landscape.  as we made our way further south each bend in the road held a new even more beautiful vista.

i was relieved to finally arrive to our destination, sic or sz├ęk in hungarian. it's an entirely hungarian village with 2500 inhabitants all speaking magyar. the village is nestled among rolling hills, its center being the thousand year old church. for the next few days, i was transported back in time. instead of an alarm clocks, i was awakened by the roosters and the shepherd's horn calling the cows to the pastures. at the market, people came to buy piglets, hens and ewe cheese, along with fruit and vegetables grown in surrounding gardens. men and women still wear their traditional garments, a simpler one on weekdays and a more elaborate one to church on sundays.

most homes have a "clean room" that is only used on special occasions such as weddings. it is furnished and decorated by hand carved and painted furniture, hand woven textiles, embroidered pillows piled high, the number of pillows indicating the wealth of the family and richly adorned plates. all of this is the dowry of the wife. the embroidery and weaving takes place in the village, so does the furniture making and painting.

change is inevitable though and it has arrived to this village as well. there is tv and fast internet in the homes, most everyone has a car.  the younger generations are leaving the village and there are less and less people who continue their traditional crafts. yet, the sense of community and their belief in their belonging may preserve this place for many more years to come.

leaving the village meant not only leaving new friends behind but another grueling drive back to hungary. the difference between the tranquility  of the village couldn't be in more contrast to the madness of the road. arriving to the border in one piece was a huge relief and entering hungary created a never before felt security. yet, i couldn't be happier that i went and as usual, I'm ready to go back to discover other isolated hungarian villages in transylvania.