Hungary to get to Romania...
Trip Start Oct 15, 2007
17Trip End Dec 20, 2007
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Right now I'm sitting on a waiting chair facing this open-doored room within which these well-dressed ladies are getting their toenails clipped. Keep in mind that even the sound of fingernails getting clipped makes my skin crawl, let alone toes, let alone stranger's toes. What am I doing here? Lisa's in the next room getting her back cracked by a bone cracker...chiropractor in our minds? His room is in the back of a hair salon and apparently a toenail salon as well. I too have pain... that sciatic issue keeps me on my toes, but as bone crunching isn't my thing, it's certainly not going to happen in the back of a hair salon.
These days in Budapest seem to just slide by. There's all sorts of touristy things to do...we keep thinking we should make a list because we haven't done any of them....we keep hanging out with people...Aniko is our new couchsurfing host....she is about as positive and full of life as a person could get....she's got us out with her friends - check out the foosball action - listening to some excellent jazz....there's a big Halloween party with all the Budapestian couchsurfers and their guests so there are people there from all over the world.... this couchsurfing concept may have the potential to create world peace...I keep meeting people all over who are in the web...if we all couchsurfed, imagine what a world community we could create....and if everyone was globally linked in understanding and friendship what a remarkable world that would be....so this party is like the UN of surfers....all bright energetic friendly adventurous people...we carve pumpkins from Romania and eat some traditional dessert that I love cause its made with cream and pudding and poppyseeds and bread and Aniko's loving touch...how could it be anything other than delicious?
Continually learning about the history of Hungary which is confusing. As I've said, its borders have changed a number of times through the years...First Austria-Hungary, then after that vanishes... various configurations up till the fascists, then siding with Germany in WWII of course did not pay off. After the war, the story goes that the US, Russia, and the UK simply parceled off parts of Hungary as the spoils of war. Stalin is in the picture until 1956 when there was a big revolution of the people....that's what they're celebrating while were here...on Oct 23, 1956 there was basically a workers revolt....lots of people got killed in trying to turn things over...but it seems the communists found their foothold there with Russians running the country until all hell broke loose - for the communists all over the world in the late 80s and communism crashed. So Hungary has really only been out of communism for a short time....i know that's a potholed filled account of Hungarian history and it's far too brief to feel accurate but it is an interesting and convoluted history, as is that of the rest of Eastern Europe...the point is you can really feel these events in the attitude and life of the people. It feels like they're still regrouping within their freedom and trying to move forward from a place that has stifled progress and creative thought for years. We had dinner with this Hungarian family and hear a personal story that could be a book. Such conversations are so useful in trying to understand how their history has shaped their lives. This same person/family has introduced me to Goncol Institute, which oversees many NGOs involved in environmental work, including Pangea and the Natural Lifestyle Institute. They do a lot of good work in envtl education and promoting conservation. I spend an enjoyable afternoon talking to a man who just completed a nature boardwalk project with Greenpeace Hungary. It's right along the wetlands on the side of the Danube and a beautiful place....except for the unconsolidated landfill also along the banks. But let's focus on the beauty....
We visit the Buda castle ... there are some musicians fiddling Hungarian music...check out the video.... and our biggest tourist venture is this place called Memento Park just outside of the city...it's the resting place of all the communist statues that were taken down, often with vehemence in the late 80s...they've gathered them in this desolate-feeling site with stories about what they stood for and the crazy things that happened during this time. It's the one tourist attraction you definitely want to see if you visit here...you feel the heaviness of the remembrance of that era. And I also get this sense that a lot of these guys started with some decent ideas about the proletariat and a voice for the workers and equity and all and then somehow things got out of hand. As though their intentions created an opening for the concept of communism to make perfect sense. There's a video on how communists infiltrated peoples lives..all about agents and keepers and manipulation and deceit....looks like its out of the 50s...but fascinating..anyway, check out some of the photos from this park...esp Stalin's empty boots...they took him right apart at the knees...
On our way to Romania...now I know very little about Romania...I have old friends who adopted a child from Romania about eighteen yrs ago...and I remember a little about Ceaucescou, the notorious leader who was killed in the late eighties and who I believe was pretty tyrannical but I have to google him and remind myself of the details....and I know that Transylvania is the motherland for Unitarians....the oldest U churches are found here and many have a sister church in the US....I'm anxious to see if their brand of Unitarianism is similar to our brand.....and the last thing...we all know about Transylvania and Dracula. And it's almost Halloween...2 more days....so of course one makes the connection...like will there be cool celebrations for Halloween at Dracula's castle? And will the towns have some wild ways to recognize the holiday? So my goal was to be there to see, but in preparing to go I've done some reading and apparently Halloween as we know it is nowhere as close to the heart of Romanians...and Dracula is thought to have been based on this count named Vladimir the Impaler...no doubt about how he got rid of his enemies...but he's no blood sucker...just a mean guy. And there is a castle...one of the many he resided in...that's pumped up as a tourist attraction, but really its all about the imagination. Just the same, I'm excited to be in Transylvania,...which I now know is a big region and not a town name.
We crossed the border and now are wailing up these roads, passing way too many people way too closely. There are lots of vehicles on this two lane-two direction road and the technique is to get right up just about under the tail end of the vehicle in front and a bunch of cars make their move at the same time, a passing cluster. Doesn't matter that there's a big truck bearing down on you....it's like playing chicken. Now we're doing some climbing....the switchbacks are pretty tight..we're climbing up into the Apuseni mountains...you've probably heard of the famous Carpathian mountains...already there's snow a couple of feet deep up there. The Carpathians form a ring around Transylvania with the rest of Romania on the eastern side...apparently Transylvania has lots of Hungarians since it used to be part of Hungary. But I'm feeling the difference from Hungary to Romania already. Romania is supposed to have less wealth...and traditional villages with their culture intact....the affluence continuum from Austria to Hungary to Romania has been described to us. Along with the friendly to strangers continuum...Romanians, although often very poor are known to be quite generous to visitors. I'll report on all that after some experience. We're supposed to pull into Cluj-Napoca at about ten-thirty PM but the way this driver is going I think it'll be way sooner. ....it's a pretty big town, supposed to be pretty cool and we'll tackle Romania from there