I have been here, in Transylvania, for almost a week. I am still at a loss for words. It is beautiful, and the hills have not yet become green. Imagine the beauty yet to unfold! I was amazed to find the climate and type of crops grown here to be almost identical to home, and yet, I am high up in the Carpathian Mountains (from 700 to 1200 meters, depending on my whereabouts).
The Szekely land of Transylvania is an almost exclusively Hungarian part of Romania. Its history, like for most of Europe, is significant, defining the culture and lifestyle of the people who live here. The difference is that the way of life is unchanged from over a hundred years ago. I had a great day with a young farmer who aspires to live and farm the traditional way and to build a traditional home. When he talks about his plans, they are not unlike a young farmer in Ontario, who wants to operate a direct-to-consumer farm.
Today, I received a history lesson about Hungarians and Transylvania. It is very much worth learning more about; its fascinating! and one entrepreneur is making a business out of telling the stories and legends of the area. You can almost see a story unfolding in the frost covered trees below. It’s magical!
I am getting to know a very special person, Barbara, who has dedicated herself to this area rich in so much from culture to rare plant speciess; the area of Pogány-havas, which includes the Csík basin and the Gyimes mountain area with deep and narrow valleys. It is because of her and her work (https://sites.google.com/site/barbaraknowlesproject/), that it is possible for me to be here. As the tourism booklet to this area states: it can be difficult for someone, who doesn’t speak Hungarian to visit and appreciate this beautiful and remote region, and all that it has to offer. Barbara’s circle is filled with remarkable people, who I am meeting, from young aspiring farmers to scientists studying this area for its biodiversity. Have a peek at the association’s website! http://poganyhavas.hu/main.php.
When I told people in Canada that I was going to Romania, I heard stories of warm, friendly and hospitable people. When I told Europeans that I was going to Romania, I got raised eyebrows. I think Europeans need to get to know their neighbours better – at least in Transylvania! I cannot speak for the rest of Romania.
As my guidebook, ‘Europe on a Shoestring’ said (I love lonely planet guidebooks!): “con artists have birthed exaggerated stories about Romanians, but in truth you’re far less likely to be the victim of crime here than in much of Western Europe.” It describes this area especially, as “singularly beautiful, beguillingly simple and utterly fascinating rural landscape, where aesthetically stirring handploughed fields, sheep-instigated traffic jams, and homemade plum brandy still endure.” And as I wrote those last words, my ‘housemate’ returned, and I asked, is this true of the brandy, and he offered me some! My first drink since leaving Canada. It is delicious. Cheers!