We started this week with a 4:30am taxi ride to the Marrakech airport, with a transfer through Bergamo, Italy, to Cluj, Romania. Our first impressions were of all the bright red roofed homes and buildings we saw as our airplane descended, and, how modern looking everything seemed.
We picked up our rental car, arriving at our AirBnB in Danesti, Maramures in northern Romania at 21:30pm, which was 19:30pm Moroccan time, or 9:30pm and 5:30pm respectively. In all, we lost two hours of time.One thing we are finding common around Europe and parts of the Eastern Hemisphere where we have visited thus far, is the prevalent use of the 24 hour clock, in addition to the metric system of kilometers, meters, centimeters, hectares and kilograms. When I worked in the computer industry I became familiar with what was referred to as military time, which ensures there is no question that the hours after 12:00 are in the afternoon and evening, but, you have to remember for example that 15:00 is 3pm, 17:00 is 5pm, 19:00 is 7pm, etc. and not confuse them with 5pm, 7pm or 9pm.
We slept well and long that first night – we never even heard the 6am church bells ring. On our first full day we met up with our AirBnB host in downtown Baia Mare for lunch, then obtained lei – also known as RUN for Romanian currency, from an ATM. Everywhere we have traveled outside of the US and the European Union, they have their own flavor of money besides Dollars and Euros. We took a gorgeous two hour drive to see Cimitirul Vesel, which means Merry or Cheerful Cemetary as advertised by either name in different places, or the Happy Cemetary as referred to by one local, in Sapanta. The only things that were not cheerful were the dark clouds and rain while we were there, and, the girl at the booth who took our five lei each admission. The headstones are all gaily decorated with photographs, poetry, or images to identify the person and how they died.
We drove a different route making a full circle on the two hours ride back. Along the drive we waved hello to the country, Ukraine, which is just across the river. We arrived back in Danesti in time to meet our AirBnB host, his wife and their two sons for a delicious Romanian dinner at a local restaurant. They enjoy hosting guests to give their children a sense of having extended family. It was a lovely evening!
We no longer find people hauling goods on donkeys, see mosques, or hear calls to prayer from the minarets, as in Morocco. Here, merchants haul their wares in horse drawn carts, while church bells ring out at 6am and the noon hour. Romanian farmers arrange their crops of hay to dry on the expanse of fields, using rakes made from honed tree branches. What is similar are the fields of sunflowers, the many nests of storks, the proudly displayed national flags. Here the flag is triple swathed blue, yellow and red, not what we have seen the past three weeks of red with a green star. We no longer see the many olive trees as in Morocco or Italy, nor do we see the duos or trios of militia patrols as we had became used to noticing everywhere in Morocco and Europe.
What we often smell here is smoke coming from plumes from the locals’ intentional burnings. Lots of rolling green hills are dotted everywhere with tall tan, red or brown haystacks, and many church steeples. We see dogs dart unfettered along narrow roads, amidst farmers driving slow moving vehicles, and speeding trucks and cars that routinely dare to pass lines of slower movers on mountain roads that are full of curves. Women wear flouncy knee length black skirts with white or white polka dot bandanas on their heads. This is some of what we have seen of the Romanian countryside thus far.
We enjoyed a nice hike in an oak forest that Loren noticed along the road, and saw so many wildflowers along our drives,
and, chased down a few of the many UNESCO protected oak churches in Maramures, decorated with well preserved paintings and intricately woven cloths.
At one of the churches, we came across a bride and groom, returning a week after their wedding to take photographs. Another church honors the two Archangels, Michael and Gabriel.
We also found somewhat familiar local artwork on an abandoned building near the market where we shopped…
Now, we are in Sighisoara, a lovely town of 30,000 people with a well preserved citadel. I must say that this word reminds me of when my brother played Dungeons and Dragons in years long past! The town boasts a beautiful clock tower that literally towers over the surrounding Medieval era structures that are home to a modern people.
We have actually learned a little Romanian, which has been a bit similar to Italian in some ways. For example Buna seara, said boonah see-ra, means good evening; or sunt incantat de cunostinta, said soont oon-coon-tat day cos-no-stenza, means pleased to meet you; which are somewhat similar to the Italian greetings. However others are more unique to Romanian, like magazin mixt means a convenience store; multumesc, said moolt-zu-mesc, for thank you; and, drum bun, said droom boon, means something like good road, but maybe good travels on the road gives a more accurate meaning.
We have seen a few different street sign references to 1st December, 1918, and have learned that this was when Romania inherited Transylvania, Bessarabia and Bukovina as part of the treaty settlement after The Great War, what is now called World War I. The region of Transylvania, in the heart of Romania, is where the protestant Unitarian religion was born. Loren and I are excited that we will be meeting some Unitarians this weekend. Hopefully some of the people we will meet will be from our former partner church in that part of the Hungarian speaking area of Romania – in Szentivanlaborfalva which is Hungarian for Saint Ivan … … – I am uncertain what the lahbor falva words mean, but, in Romanian the village is called Santionlunca.
PLEASE NOTE: While today we have an exceptional internet connection, we may not have service at times over the next three months. Please check back, I will make my weekly post when possible!