Transylvania Pilgrimage, Summer 2011
(Archived Blog preserved from http://firstparishtransylvania2011.blogspot.com/ -- follow the link to the original blog for reverse chronology and more flexibility with the photos -- there you can see them as a "slide show." Here you may click any photo to see it enlarged)
Saturday, June 18, 2011
Wednesday, June 29, 2011
Thursday, June 30, 2011
Buda and Pest
Meanwhile in Bucharest
John, Jo Anne, and Denisa flew on to Bucharest after that no-sleep flight to Frankfurt. We could see the snowy peaks of the Alps off in the distance to our right, and we followed the Danube past Budapest to Bucharest. Unfortunately, Hungary and Transylvania were under clouds, but when we came out of the clouds over Wallachia it was interesting to see how different the agriculture looks from the air. Romanian fields are divided up into small portions only two or three yards wide, but three to four hundred yards long. Our friends here tell us that this is because the farmers wish to make room for all of the crops they wish to grow, and their actual plots are quite small.
It was obvious that there has been a great deal of change in Bucharest since we were last here. For one thing, we saw a huge water park just a couple of minutes north of the airport as we were landing, and a many shiny new big box stores on the road in from the airport. We saw the beautiful, leafy, laky Herestrau Park, and the Arch of Triumph at Victory Square before passing in on the still elegant, 19th century Paris Soseaua Kisileff. We are staying near University Square, site of the 1989 revolution. We had dinner at La Mama, which mean's "Mother's Place," which promises what your mother would make (if she were an expert at Romanian traditional cuisine), and where the food was very delicious and very inexpensive. We saw the Athenaeum, where a concert featuring the Barber Adagio was in progress, and the Athenee hotel, a nest of spies in the early months of World War II. Night at the "Relax Comfort Suites" hotel on the Avenue Nicolae Balcescu.
Friday, July 1, 2011
Opera, Dungeons, and Churches
First stop today: the First Unitarian Church of Budapest and its minister, the engaging József Kászoni-Kövendi. The elaborate and very high pulpit is truly unique, and the sanctuary is two floors above street level. The church building was built at the same time as the Parliament building.
Other stops that we all visited were the Museum of Terror (located in the former secret police headquarters) and the Budapest Opera House. Talk about a contrast! Luckily we did the beautiful, ornate Opera House last and were even treated to a 5-minute concert. The Terror Museum was cool, but truly terrible, complete with cells in the dungeons and execution rooms with gallows. Chilling.
Tomorrow we are in for a 7.5-hour train ride to Koloszvar (Cluj), Transylvania, and I'm not sure about availability of internet connectivity there---but I'll try to post something as soon as I can.
Saturday, July 2, 2011
Sunday, July 3, 2011
Kolozsvar and Meszko
Yesterday we tweaked Marta on the subject of deep theological discussions, so today we just had to have one. After having wrestled with the fundamental problems of Being and Destiny, we went out to dinner at Agape (where else could we have gone after such a discussion?), a restaurant run by the Catholic church.
Tuesday, July 5, 2011
Aeries and Arias
First, a look at our accommodations from last night, the Melita
The guest house was almost around the corner from the ruined fortress of Deva. Francis David was brought here after his condemnation as a heretic by George Biandrata, because Deva was far from Koloszvar and Torda, where the people were sympathetic to him. David died within a short time of arriving here. The fortress was ruined when its Austrian defenders during the revolution of 1848 chose to blow up its magazines rather than turn the fort over. To reach the summit of the steep, isolated hill outside of town, we took a funicular up into the clouds. (At the base was the gymnasium where Nadia Comenici and all of the other famous Romanian gymnasts trained. It made for a strange contrast.) The shattered bastions, particularly in fog and rain, seemed haunted by David's death. The cell, which the UUA persuaded the government to set aside as a monument for David, may or may not have been his actual cell, but it was the only one to survive the 1848 explosion.
In the photo, you see Z0ltan, Michael, Denisa, and Marta in front of the Francis David cell.
Next we drove to the Hunyadi castle in the city of Hunedoara. Hunedoara was a great steelmaking center under Communism, but only one of its many mills remains operational today. The castle, in fact, is surrounded by abandoned steel mills. We visited Hunyadi's grave yesterday, and his son, Matthias Corvinus, was the last seen by us mounted heroically upon a bronze steed in Kolozsvar. The castle seemed to be every little boy's idea of what a castle should look like, also it seems more like a castle out of Wagner than out of Disney. Speaking of opera, we entered the castle to the sound of a rehearsal of La Traviata in progress, which several of us sat and watched, transfixed. The castle itself was full of reminders of the brutality of the middle ages, from the isolated defensive tower (called "Don't be afraid") which could, in its day, only be reached by a rope bridge, to the 26 meter deep well dug by Turkish prisoners over fifteen years who had been promised freedom, only to be murdered instead. They left a chilling inscription in the well: "Now you have water but you have lost your soul."
From there we drove through a beautiful, hill-bordered valley up into the mountains. The fresh green landscape looked remarkably like Bavaria. We arrived in Sibiu in midafternoon and dropped Zoltan off at the railroad station to return to Gagy to prepare for our arrival on Thursday. Sibiu was one of the cities of the Saxons, brought to the Carpathians to hold off the Turks, and the German aspect of the city's architecture has survived the departure of almost all of its German speaking inhabitants. Sibiu has been named a cultural center by the United Nations, and as a result has been spruced up considerably. We enjoyed a taste of the cafe life before setting out in quest of a restaurant we had read about in our guidebook. We searched for the restaurant for quite some time before discovering that it was the very cafe we had just left. We retired to the hotel and to a beautiful sunset over the old city.
Posted by John Burt at 3:08 PM
Saints and Martyrs
Then it was on to Alba Iulia, or Gyulafehervar, for lunch at a medieval-themed restaurant in the middle of the restored fortified town wall. You can see a few of us walking toward the entrance in the picture below. This town is also the home of the thousand-year-old St. Michael’s cathedral, where the great King John Sigismund is buried along with his mother Queen Isabella, and the Hungarian hero King Janos Hunyadi (and his sons), who defeated the Turks in the 15th century. We also visited the Orthodox cathedral next door, which was built in 1920 to commemorate the coronation of Romanian King Ferdinand and Queen Maria, granddaughter of Queen Victoria.
There was an archaeological dig in progress in front of the cathedral as well (complete with exposed skeletons), which concerned either a medieval cemetery or Roman ruins, depending on whom you asked.
Deva was our next stop on gray, cold, and rainy afternoon. We put off visiting the citadel where Francis David was imprisoned and died until the next day. After dinner, we put Zoltan on the theological hot seat and conducted the Diet of Deva.
Wednesday, July 6, 2011
Folk and Fortifications
The day started with a visit to te very large grounds of the Astra Museum of Traditional Folk Civilization in the outskirts of Sibiu. They had hundreds of outdoor exhibits mostly concerning folk industries like pottery-making, weaving, cider and oil presses, and mills of all sorts. Although most of this technology goes back to the Middle Ages, at least one of these mills was working until 1960. There were also homesteads of the characteristic styles of different regions. In the fence below, notice how the fence was woven together out of green branches and then a roof built over it to keep it from rotting in the rain.
Thursday, July 7, 2011
Spirits and Spirituality
Posted by John Burt at 3:24 PM
Dancing and Divinity
We then visited Kismedeser---a very small village a few miles from Gagy. Zoltan preaches there once a month to the handful of residents that remain. To get to the church, you must ford the Gagy River, where the bridge was washed out a number of years ago. The church seems forlorn from the outside but was charming and beautiful on the inside, and of course Marta made a beeline straight to the pulpit. The table in front of the pulpit was a masterpiece of folk art, sitting on the dirt floor of the church.
On our way out of Kismedeser, Csilla wanted to show us her uncle's old house. We ended up interrupting a pizza party that her relatives were having, and they invited us to share some pizza before we left.
Baking and Breaking Bread
Sunday, July 10, 2011
Going Back In Time (sort of)
The day before, Mary met some little boys getting water from the well outside her guest house. This morning she discovered fresh flowers on her doorstep, which the boys were embarrassed to admit was their handiwork.